Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon have been both been stretchered out of arenas the last two SmackDowns by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. After it was announced last week that Bryan had been cleared to return to in-ring action, the immediate speculation was that he would team with Shane McMahon to face Zayn and Owens at WrestleMania 34.
However, on Monday Night Raw this week, it was announced that Shane is legitimately in the hospital being treated for diverticulitis and a hernia that requires surgery. That will likely keep him out of WrestleMania 34, which is just two weeks away in New Orleans.
So what does WWE do now? There are definitely some options when it comes to giving Bryan a new tag-team partner, and here are the top-five:
1. Chris Jericho
Without question, Chris Jericho makes the most sense and has the most logical tie-in to the storyline. Jericho is the former best friend to Kevin Owens, who has now aligned himself with Sami Zayn.
Jericho has made some appearances for WWE since last spring, and they seem to be on good terms despite Jericho also taking bookings for New Japan Pro Wrestling. He’s always in shape, and I would bet WWE could make a call today and he’d be ready for WrestleMania in two weeks.
The last time Jericho was on WWE television full time, he was carried out of the arena on a stretch after Kevin Owens beat him up to end their friendship. Now, Jericho returns to help Daniel Bryan get revenge, while also getting revenge of his own? It just makes too much sense.
Jericho has a Fozzy show in New Hampshire the afternoon at WreslteMania, but it’s a 3:45 in the afternoon. If it wrapped around 5:30, Jericho could be whisked away to a waiting jet by 6:00 and in New Orleans by 9:00. It would be kind of crazy to pull it off, but with the show probably going until close to midnight, it could happen if they have the match later on the show.
2. John Cena
I’d categorize this as highly unlikely, but if the plan was never to have Undertaker vs. Cena at WrestleMania, then this pairing makes a lot of sense. Cena called out Undertaker so aggressively on Raw this past Monday, that it seems almost 100 percent the match is on at WrestleMania. But, could WWE pull an audible? Maybe they get the idea was to plant seeds and have Cena vs. Undertaker at SummerSlam?
Unlikely, I know, but if they did switch some things around, Cena is, after all, Daniel Bryan’s real-life brother-in-law, and he has a past rivalry with Owens and even Zayn, who he beat in Zayn’s debut as part of the U.S. Title Challenge. So this would make a lot of storyline sense.
There are a lot of connections between Goldberg and Kevin Owens, after Goldberg beat Owens for the Universal Title last February ahead of WrestleMania 33, when he went in as champion and defended against Brock Lesnar.
Also, Goldberg is going into the Hall of Fame this year, so we know that he’ll be in New Orleans. Can WWE convince him to come out for another match?
4. Big Cass
Cass doesn’t have any history with Bryan, Kevin Owens or Sami Zayn, but he’s apparently ready for an in-ring return after suffering a knee injury last summer. Cass could come in and serve as Bryan’s “muscle” for the match against Zayn and Owens.
The problem with Cass — and Rusev — is that Shane’s role in the match was probably to get beat up. He would take the heat and then make the hot tag on Daniel Bryan to make the comeback and get the win. I’m not sure you want a returning Big Cass to get beat up for 10-15 minutes before Bryan comes in and gets the glory.
5. Samoa Joe
If Joe is back and healthy, he has an indie history with Daniel Bryan and would make a very good surprise partner. Joe would obviously come back as a babyface, unless he turned on Bryan mid-match, but a big return like that could get a great reaction from the crowd.
I liken Bryan’s tag-team partner situation to the “adding a third team” to the Tag Team Title match last year, when The Hardys returned to a big reaction.
ECIII and Bobby Lashley are free and clear of Impact Wrestling commitments. Lashley has more of an impactful name — no pun intended — and might be the bigger of the surprises with ECIII already under an NXT contract.
If Drew McIntyre is ready to return after suffering an injury at SummerSlam, he would make for a good partner. Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero) is another name that makes sense with his ROH connection to Owens, Zayn and Bryan. It was rumored WWE was talking to Rey Mysterio (he may have suffered an injury at an indie show), and his return should get a good reaction after the response he received at the Royal Rumble.
There’s a chance WWE could take this opportunity to debut Johnny Gargano, especially with so many comparisons to Bryan, but it’s probably better to debut Gargano in a match where he gets more of the spotlight.