SmackDown Live general manager Daniel Bryan has been absent from WWE TV since he and his wife Brie Bella welcomed their first child, Birdie Joe Danielson, in May - but Bryan is set to return to SmackDown for the first time as a new father on Tuesday.
On the eve of his comeback, Bryan spoke to Fox Sports about what he's learned since becoming a parent, the great advice he received from Shane McMahon, and the controversial finish to the women's Money In The Bank match on Sunday.
You can watch Bryan's return Tuesday on USA Network at 8 p.m. ET.
Fox Sports: First off, congratulations on your baby girl. What have the last few weeks been like for you?
Daniel Bryan: “I would define the new aspects of fatherhood like this: It is 75 percent amazing and 25 percent demoralizing. I think any new parent can understand exactly what I’m talking about.
There’s just these amazing moments where it’s like… she’s happy and she’s smiling and she’s playing, and then there’s the moments where you’re just so tired and she won’t go to sleep and and you feel like there’s nothing you can do, you know, to make her happy. That feeling of not… seeing your baby in pain and seeing them crying and that sort of thing, and you’re tired and you can do nothing about it, that’s like one of the most demoralizing things I can think of.”
Fox Sports: People always say that the moment you become a parent, your priorities in life instantly change. Was that the experience for you?
Daniel Bryan: “I would say so. I was gearing up - people had told me that so much that I was gearing up for this big priority change, right? But it’s interesting in how and what that really means as opposed to what you think that means in your mind.
So like, I always considered myself the world’s most patient man. And Brie considers me the world’s most patient man. Since I’ve had the baby I’ve realized ‘hey, I’m not the world’s most patient man, and I need to work on my patience.’
One of the things it’s really inspired me to do is really make… to really look at myself and [figure out] ‘how do I be the best possible father for my baby?’ And ‘how do I be the best possible role model?’ And ‘what are changes that I need to make to make her life better,’ and that sort of thing. It’s just a whole new type of responsibility.”
Fox Sports: What has been the best parenting advice you’ve received from other moms and dads within WWE?
Daniel Bryan: “The best parenting advice I actually got was from Shane McMahon. He was great with me when Brie was pregnant and all that. He said ‘when you have that baby, make sure you take care of Brie first.’
And that’s different from, like a lot of parenting advice that you get is ‘put your baby first, put your baby first, put your baby first!’ But his whole thing is like ‘listen, she just went through this very traumatic experience,’ and Brie’s labor was very difficult. But then on top of that, they’re the ones who… like I can’t feed Birdie, right? Brie’s the one who has to feed her because we’re breast feeding and all that kind of stuff.
So what can I do to help Brie the most? What can I do to make Brie’s life the easiest? And that means - like before, traditionally, Brie would do most of our laundry. You know, I would throw in loads of laundry and it wasn’t a big deal, but now I try to do as much of our laundry as I can. And I, when we’re in the hospital, try to change every diaper. I try to make Brie’s life as easy as possible.
Because she’s exhausted. She’s the one who has to get up in the night every two hours to feed the baby, all that kind of stuff. So that was the best advice I got.”
Fox Sports: How would you feel about your daughter pursuing wrestling as career?
Daniel Bryan: “I want her to pursue whatever she’s passionate about, and that’s one of the things I hope Brie and I both stand out to her for as role models. Neither of us took the expected path that people expected us to take, right? I was very good in school, and my parents really would have really liked me to go to college. Instead I went on this random journey to go be a professional wrestler.
If that’s what she’s passionate about, great. If she’s passionate about the environment and wants to go do that, great. If she wants to join the military because she’s passionate about defending our country, great. If she’s passionate about computers and wants to do that, great. I just want her to follow her own passions."
Fox Sports: The biggest storyline coming out of Money In The Bank was James Ellsworth interfering to help Carmella win, which was very controversial with fans. When you were watching that unfold, what was your first reaction?
Daniel Bryan: “I was disappointed. And I think if it were like the fifth women’s Money In The Bank match, right, I wouldn’t be so disappointed - because that’s a part of WWE, it’s a part of sports entertainment that stuff like that happens.
But I think when you build something up as far as like ‘hey, this is this really important moment for women in WWE,’ and then a man is the one who climbs up to the top and grabs the briefcase… I think that that really rubs people the wrong way and it sends the wrong message.
And I don’t have any way to gauge people’s response to that other than Twitter, which I think is not a very good metric. But it’s still one metric that we have, and so the Twitter response that I got when I was looking through it, from female fans, they didn’t like it at all. I hope we can fix the wrongs tomorrow.”
Fox Sports: A crazy moment that stood out to me from the show was when AJ Styles was dangling from the chain holding the briefcase high above the ring. When you’re in that sort of a position and you know you’re about to have a huge impact, what’s running through your mind?
Daniel Bryan: “It’s interesting, because when you’re faced with real danger, they say that you don’t really think anything. That’s when your mind is actually completely in the moment, is when you’re facing that. That’s what I feel.
There’s no words when I’m falling off a ladder, doing something like that, that I think as I’m going through my head. Other than just a guttural sound that just like an “AHHHHH!” That’s the same thing that’s going on in my brain.”
Fox Sports: Lana had her first big singles match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship Sunday, how do you think she performed in that environment?
Daniel Bryan: “I don’t know. So, watching it… it was interesting watching it, because I would have liked to have seen more of a fan reaction to it. That’s also hard - because they followed the women’s Money In The Bank match, and then the Usos-New Day match, and so I think with the Usos walking out and the James Ellsworth thing, I think people were… I don’t know, people were already kind of down. So it was hard to gauge.
I thought, technically, she did very well. But now the standard of women’s wrestling has really been elevated, so when new women come in, there’s a new bar that has been set that they need to reach. I’m not quite sure they reached it.”
Fox Sports: During your absence, it was announced that John Cena is no longer exclusively tied to SmackDown. Do you think that’s fair to your show?
Daniel Bryan: “I don’t know how it’s going to play out. Traditionally, this is what happens: Nothing is spared for SmackDown. And that’s part of what makes us the underdog, and the underdog brand, right?
The WWE, as a corporate entity, puts Raw first. They’re the flagship show, and SmackDown Live is always kind of playing second fiddle when you’re talking about the executives and how they look at the two shows. So they are always going to do what they think is best for Raw.
And sometimes, that actually makes SmackDown better. So yeah, I’ll be interested to see how it plays out, but I think the crew that we have for SmackDown Live right now is really good. And if we can optimize the men and women that we have right now, I think we can put out a product that is much better than Raw.”
Fox Sports: Luke Harper had a lot of momentum heading into WrestleMania. He had a new look, he was in really great shape, but recently he’s kind of faded into the background. How do you feel about his standing on SmackDown Live currently?
Daniel Bryan: “I think that he’s somebody that we can utilize better. When he left the Wyatt Family, I thought the fans were really starting to get behind him - and his match with Randy Orton, gosh, I loved his match with Randy Orton. It was the February pay-per-view… Elimination Chamber. His match with Randy Orton at that pay-per-view was outstanding, and every time you see him, he’s dynamic. The crowd gets behind him, and then you just kind of lose him on TV to where we don’t really see him much.
I think we’re really losing out on that, but I think that about several people. I think that specifically about Luke Harper, I’m a big Luke Harper proponent. But also of American Alpha, Sami Zayn, even The Colons. I think that we have a lot of good talent on SmackDown that we could utilize a little bit better.”