Much like you and a some other BODers I fell away from the product around 05 till 2011. It was the Summer of Punk and the rise of Daniel Bryan that brought me back into the mix around then.
Since I wasn't following during that time and I was never much of an indy fan, the only stuff I had to go on about Bryan was the little snippets from people on the blog and what I saw on TV. Plus the poor booking of the mid 2000s is part of the reason why I stopped watching so it was easy to buy into this "burying" of Daniel Bryan idea. I never thought it was as bad as some people thought. But it did seem like at times that the "B Plus Player" comment was based on how the company really felt about Byran overall.
So after watching the Bryan "Road to Wrestlemania" doc it got me thinking. I went back and watched the Summerslam 2010 match when Bryan returned and then the next three PPVs.
Here is my question: How did Bryan go from some Indy geek who's 10 years of experience wasn't good enough for more then a developmental deal and an NXT spot, to getting fired for being too violent to getting resigned and being put in the main even of the second biggest PPV of the year?
Then that is followed up by winning the US Belt by beating The Miz clean with a submission. The Miz, the guy who would be WWE champ a few months after that, headlining Wrestlemania and BEATING JOHN CENA!
Bryan follows that up with a clean submission win over Ted Dibiase From everything I've read Dibiase was a guy they wanted to push huge,and the next PPV Bryan makes Miz tap AGAIN in a threeway with John Morrison.
That's quite the return for a short guy with supposedly no charisma who was "too Indy". Cena mentioned in the doc vaguely that he was some how involved in Bryan's return at Summerslam. I could understand that now since they are practically brothers in law. But I don't think either of them were dating the Bellas at that point. Was Cena just a fan of his work? Did he really have something to do with Bryan's return and initial push?
And it wasn't like the extent of his run was a little mid-card push with a meaningless title. The next year he wins the Money in the Bank, then goes on to become World Heavyweight Champion. The year after that he gets a multiple match run with Punk for the WWE title, a 200 plus day run as tag champ with Kane in a solid mid card comedy angle. And then of course the Summerslam main event with a clean victory over John Cena for the WWE title and finally the Wrestlemania main event with another clean title victory. Punk never got to main event Wrestlemania.
And that's not to say there hasn't been some odd booking moves by the WWE when it comes to Bryan. But even before I realized all this I thought the whole "burying" theory was a stretch.
That's exactly what they WANT you to think so that it'll be all the more satisfying for them to bury him even further.