Is Bryan in the top 5 considered a big shocker?
It shouldn't be, he's had a long and awesome career.
Recency bias + US mainstream bias (and before people get worked up, I of all people am guilty of it with Bryan, so I speak for *myself* first). I absolutely don't believe all the people voting for Bryan had scrutinized his ROH career. I for one sure didn't do it, as ROH is a black hole that I'm not I ever want to get into. Too afraid I might just blast the whole company (for the record, I *hated* everything about Samoa Joe vs Kobashi, to give you an idea). Maybe one day. When I'l done with TNA.
I think people started going back and looking at high points for sure. I have kind of seen references to some of his early matches pop up her and there.
I followed his career pretty closely since about 2004, so i was following the ROH stuff as it happened. I recently went back and watch quite a bit it and admittedly some of it didn't hold up so well and I found some flaws with him that I didn't see before. However, I still think his ROH stuff is an overall positive for his case. He played lots of rolls, he put on lots of interesting and unique matches, showed versatility, excelled with the belt and without it, worked with so many different types of wrestlers, and very rarely had a bad match. His work holds up A LOT better than most during that time.
I think you are right though. He is the beneficiary of some potential biases you mentioned, probably benefits a little from the sentimentality around him lately, and also gets a bump for the reasons I discussed above (easily accessible career, appealing to multiple types of fans). I think he MIGHT lower a bit should this ever be done again, but I a can also see him gaining some positive evaluations elsewhere. I think his high end indy stuff will be thought of more fondly down the road. How unique his run to WMXXX was will stand out as time goes by. His relentless consistancy will stand the test of time. I can also imagine more gems of his popping up or gaining some recognition from other indy companies too.