Last year, the WWE Network produced a brief special on Daniel Bryan. The mini-documentary followed Bryan in the days leading up to WrestleMania 30, where he was scheduled to have the biggest night of his then fifteen year career. The documentary briefly touched on what brought him to this point, talking about his days with Ring of Honor – the promotion where he made his name – as well as his struggles with being perceived as a bonafide main event performer in WWE.
YES!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania acts as a companion piece to that documentary, fleshing out and expanding on his career as an “indie-darling” (or starving artist as former trainer Shawn Michaels dubbed him) working for promotions like NOAH, Ring of Honor, PWG (Pro Wrestling Guerilla) and many other small acts throughout the world.
I have to admit, I’m kind of a WWE fanboy – not through some weird elitism, more so due to laziness. There’s SO much wrestling out there. If I were to follow it all, it would be unbelievably time consuming. So before his arrival to WWE in 2010, I knew very little about Bryan. I knew he was well regarded as an exceptional wrestler but that was about it. After reading this memoir, I’m more willing than ever to go and seek out these great rivalries and legendary matches he wrote about in this book.
My only real complaint would be the introductions to each chapter written by Craig Tello. I get what he was trying to do in writing these asides that cover Bryan’s week leading up to Wrestlemania 30, but they just come off feeling like filler. Tello is constantly referring to Bryan as the “Yes-man” or “the bearded superstar”. It read like a magazine piece and often pulled me right out of the story. At a certain point, I just started skipping them. Hopefully there wasn’t anything too vital in there but it seemed to be more along the lines of what was covered in the aforementioned documentary.
While there weren’t any stories about drugs and debauchery, there were some great anecdotes about pranks played on other wrestlers and cookie eating contests. There’s even a short look at Vince McMahon’s famed “promo classes” that shines as one of the book’s most interesting moments.
Bryan comes off as a really likeable guy. He doesn’t spend all three hundred pages telling you how great he is – a trap some memoirs tend to fall into – but he certainly has a lot of pride in his work. Aside from a particularly heartbreaking epilogue, YES!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania is one of the more entertaining wrestling memoirs I’ve read.