How Brie Bella and Daniel Bryan Became Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team Story
As with pretty much everything else in Brie Bella's life, it began in the ring.
Some two years into the WWE career she was charting alongside her twin sister Nikki Bella, the former soccer player from San Diego was placed into a 2010 narrative with fellow wrestling standout Daniel Bryan, he of the catchy "Yes! Yes! Yes!" chant and Royal Rumble Match record. After his win on an episode of Monday Night Raw that November, she celebrated alongside him, the first indication that the two athletes were to be seen as a pair.
"It actually started as a story line and then we really hit it off," the Washington native (born: Bryan Danielson) told PW Mania in 2013. "Actually it was shortly before our story line ended we kind of started dating each other. We kind of started off real slow, but now we've been together for two and half years."
No need to rush to the finish line when you're in it for the long haul.
Because a decade after the WWE inadvertently played matchmaker, the pair have cemented their tag team status in the ring, on E!'s Total Bellas—the show they film with Brie's sister—and in life.
On Aug. 1, nearly four months after they celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary, the athletes welcomed their second child, choosing to be surprised by their son's sex just as they had with big sister Birdie Joe Danielson. "We are overwhelmed with joy and everyone is healthy!!!" Brie wrote in an Instagram post Sunday. The cherry on top of the whole happiness sundae: Baby Danielson entered the world with a built-in best friend, Nikki—Brie's 16 minutes younger twin—having welcomed her son just a day earlier.
As for Mom and Dad, they've fought their way back to a relationship sweet spot after months of lamenting how their bustling careers and parenting responsibilities led to them "kinda growing apart," as Brie put it on the most recent season of Total Bellas.
A trip to Sedona, Ariz., the same spot they wed back in 2014, had them reconnecting, moving past the stage Bryan had described as "just trying to survive" and off the ropes, so to speak. "I feel like we needed to hit a really hard place of questioning if we were right for each other, if our future was right…and I needed to be reminded that marriage isn't easy and it's not just gonna be there," Brie reflected. "You do have to work on it. And I have a really good husband. He's such an amazing man."
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This is the life they were both envisioning when they stood in front of Sedona's red rocks and gushed about how comfortable they feel in each other other's arms. "I couldn't ask for a better man, best friend, father and husband to spend the rest of my life with," Brie shared, their April 2014 vows serving as the Total Divas second season finale. "Your humble heart, sense of soul has made me a better person."
And while neither half of the Phoenix-based couple is ignorant to the challenges that come with bringing another tiny human into the fold, their 10-year romance has been battle tested from the beginning, emerging with the figurative championship belt held high.
"Before we got married, we asked each other, 'Can you marry my flaws?'" the 36-year-old retired WWE legend told Health of their winning strategy. "I was fiery. He fought depression. And I feel like, because we took that into our marriage, we both knew what we were going into and how to deal with it."
As transparent as they were with each other, Brie still saw a new side of Bryan on Sept. 25, 2013 when he dropped to his knee and pulled out a 1.5-carat vintage-set, conflict-free diamond in the middle of their hike in Big Sur, Calif.
"I have never in my life seen him so nervous. I've been by him when he's gone out for WrestleMania and some really big things," she recounted to E! News. "He got really, really nervous and he started talking about how long we've been together. He got down on one knee and compared our love. He said he'll love me forever like the ocean goes on."
Her response—a resounding, "Yes! Yes! Yes!", of course—grew even more certain when she saw the rest of the surprise he had arranged. "He flew out my whole family and his family and surprised me for an engagement dinner," she shared. "That was probably the most special thing anyone has ever done for me."
And it was precisely the type of romance she imagined she'd have in a life with Bryan.
Asked how she was certain she'd found her forever partner, she told Health it was simply a gut feeling. "We were dating, and as it got serious, I just knew," she explained. "I was head over heels in love with him, but could look past that puppy-love thing and just know that he would make me the happiest wife and be the best dad. He's the nicest person who has ever walked this earth, and he treats me like a queen. Even now, there have definitely been times when Bryan and I have had some downs, but because we talk to each other like friends and don't say mean things, we work it out.
As they had once predicted, their dips included Bryan's fight with depression, a struggle that was only compounded by his decision to retire from wrestling in 2016, his history of concussions making it seem unlikely he'd ever be able to climb back into the ring.
Remembering the query they had once posed to each other, Brie never wavered in her support, even when he told her he was unable to attend her final WrestleMania match. "I just have to go through this hard spot to make the rest of my life good," she explained to Nikki. "Bryan's an amazing catch and that's why I'm willing to fight with him through all of this, because I see the light at the end of the tunnel."
He, in turn, was at her side during that stretch in 2016 when her period dealt her disappointment after disappointment. "Since I retired from the ring, which was in April, I've been trying to conceive," she shared on an episode of Total Divas. "My period's always been on time, never had anything abnormal. Since I've been trying my period's either two weeks late, it's a week late, it's three days late, five days late, it's crazy."
In the end, though, the struggle just made the news they received later that year all that much sweeter. "Now that it is finally real, it fills me up with so much happiness," she told E! News. "I can't wait to see my husband, Bryan, be a father to our child. I am so excited for this new chapter in our lives."
Though the couple were some seven years deep into their romance when Birdie arrived in May 2017, their baby chick cemented them in ways they could have never imagined.
"Somehow, and I didn't think it was possible, like when she was giving birth it made me love her more," Bryan told E! News of remaining glued to his wife's side as her 22-hour labor ended in an emergency c-section.
Afforded eight weeks of paternity leave from his role as SmackDown LIVE general manager, he hunkered down at their Arizona home, perfecting his diaper changing technique and getting his fill of baby gurgles.
"My favorite thing ever is when she smiles and she grabs my finger," he told E! News at the time. "She's not even six weeks yet, so she doesn't do a whole lot. But we can kind of play and I can sing to her. That's my favorite thing."
And as devoted as he was to his new addition, he managed to direct just as much attention to his marriage. "I would read a lot about how to be a dad," he explained to E! News. "And one of the things that they talk about is it can be very hard on a marriage, on a couple, when you had a child. Because there's all these needs you have to take care of. But if you know that and you know that going in and, 'OK, I'm going to put my partner first.' That sort of thing. And it feels like our relationship has become stronger because of it."
So it made sense then, after they both went back into the ring—a series of sporadic matches for Brie and a triumphant 2018 return for Bryan that left him in tears—that they'd be eager to build on their rock solid foundation.
"I hope it happens soon," Brie admitted last February, revealing they were fully focused on baby number two.
Instead, each month brought her bad news. "We were trying for eight months, and I couldn't get pregnant. I was stressed, and it wasn't happening," she shared with Health. "There were a couple times that I was so late and was sure I was pregnant. Then I would get my period and bleed really badly. I think the universe was telling me something—like, it's not a great time to have another baby."
So she let the dream go, embracing a new life as a devoted mom of one who somehow manages to juggle a growing empire—she and Nikki share clothing brand Birdiebee, beauty-product line Nicole + Brizee and wine label Belle Radici along with their reality show and podcast—and a daughter Nikki describes as "so well-educated, kind and funny."
Then, just like before, the moment she stopped fixating on her future, it all fell into place.
"I felt in my heart it was a sign from God, like, 'You guys are good with one,' so we stopped trying," she explained to People in January about shifting her focus. Then, while in France getting acquainted with the family of Nikki's now-fiancé Artem Chigventsev, "I felt a little off. I was irritated and uncomfortable in my body. When we got home, I took a test two days before Thanksgiving, and when I saw the positive sign, I was like, 'Oh, s–t!'"
Of course that was nothing compared to the shock she received weeks later when Nikki revealed she was pregnant as well, the twins realizing they were expecting cousins just a week-and-a-half apart. "People are going to think that's a joke. We both are shocked," she shared. "People are going to think we planned it, but you can't really plan pregnancy!"
They can, however, talk about what might come next.
While Brie told E! News she just wants Birdie to "find her own thing," if that thing just happens to be the newest star of the WWE, that wouldn't be the worst.
"When your child grows up and they want to be who you are—it just makes you feel like you did everything right, like you left a big impression," she noted. "And I think it would be really neat for her to all of a sudden, you know, one day be a superstar and be like, 'Yeah! My mom was Brie Bella, my dad [was] Daniel Bryan."
Sounds like the start of a wonderful storyline.
(Originally published Feb. 12, 2020, at 3 a.m. PT)
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