Mike Johns Something Completely Different: My Favorite Daniel Bryan Matches... So Far
By Mike Johns
Feb 15, 2012 - 9:00 AM
I think, over the course of the last two years, I've established a few certain things about myself to you, the reader who, thankfully, continues to support the various things I do for this website. One, TNA pisses me off. Two, I'm a fan of Women's Wrestling. Three, I watch mostly Indy Wrestling these days, with Dragon Gate USA, SHIMMER and WSU being my favorite promotions at the moment. Four, I have this "thing" for Daniel Bryan...
Daniel Bryan (or Bryan Danielson, as the more Indy-Minded among you may know him), has been heralded by fans and wrestlers alike as one of the Best in the World. So much so, in fact, that during Bryan's reign as Ring of Honor Champion, he was marketed and pushed as the Best in the World, a moniker that's somehow attached itself to CM Punk these days, apparently...
What? The "Straight Edge" thing wasn't good enough for you?
Regardless of how you know of him, or where you know him from, it becomes obvious right away that Daniel Bryan is an incredibly talented individual, and has a great sense of what really works when it comes to the Art of Professional Wrestling. Having trained under some of the best wrestlers and performers in the sport today, including William Regal, Masato Tanaka, Tracy Smothers, and, of course, Shawn Michaels, Daniel Bryan has been able to hone his craft to a fine point, going on to have some of the most memorable encounters in wrestling over the past decade. Whether it was his epic encounters with the likes of Nigel McGuiness, Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, and Takeshi Morishima in ROH to his more recent classics against the likes of Dolph Ziggler, Davey Richards, and Chris Jericho, Bryan has more than proved himself as one of the best, bell to bell, inside the ring. Meanwhile, fans of SmackDown are now seeing what Bryan can bring to the table as a character, quickly becoming one of the better heels in all of WWE. Who knows? Right now, there's a 50/50 chance Daniel Bryan will walk into WrestleMania as the World Heavyweight Champion, a feat that I don't believe a single person reading this would have believed possible when he debuted on NXT in 2010. Why? Because even I'm surprised that Daniel Bryan's a World Champion now. I figured he'd have to eat sh*t for a few more years before they gave him a real shot at the Main Event. You know, like CM Punk.
So, with all that said, today, I'd like to take you through some of my favorite Daniel Bryan matches. Before we do that, I feel I need to qualify these matches by saying that these are simply matches I liked and found memorable. This is simply my opinion, and not meant to be any sort of official ranking. These are just the matches I enjoyed and matches that left a definitive impression on me. That's all. If you have others you'd like to add to this list, feel free to leave a comment below. There's a good chance you guys may suggest matches I haven't even seen, yet. So, now, on to the Daniel Bryan matches...
Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe
Pro Wrestling Guerilla -
PWG: The Musical
I own exactly one PWG DVD set, as of this writing -
PWG Sells Out. I found this set on a shelf in a Best Buy in 2008, saw that AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe and CM Punk were all advertised, and immediately picked it up. It also helps that the set was cheap. So, I get home, put in the first disc, and this was the very first match - Samoa Joe vs. Bryan Danielson.
I had heard of Danielson at this point. I knew of Ring of Honor, and I watched the occasional Video Wire, but I wasn't an ROH fan at the time, nor was I particularly interested in it. In fact, in 2008, if I wasn't watching TNA, I wasn't watching wrestling. The only reasons I got the PWG set was that it was cheap, and had TNA guys on it! So, I have this disc, I'm watching the first match, I'm sort of annoyed with the "(in)famous" commentary, which consisted of a couple of guys just talking over the match the way you and your friends do when you guys all get together to watch PPVs at your house. I then turn the commentary off (because that's actually an option on PWG DVDs), and just watch the match.
The Match itself was interesting. The room where the show was being held was pretty small, like an Office or something. The ceiling was low, everyone was right on top of the action, I defy you to tell me there were more than 50 people there, and they were all really quiet, like a Japanese wrestling audience. Needless to say, you couldn't really have Bryan and Joe calling spots, necessarily, because, even if the audience wouldn't always hear it, the damn camera was right there in the middle of the ring with them, practically standing right next to them as they tied up and tried to out-wrestle one another, and would have caught everything. So, here you have Joe and Bryan in a situation where you can't really call anything (or else expose the business something fierce), basically feeling their way through holds, brawling around on the outside for a while, then going back in the ring to wrestle again for about a half hour. Yep, it's the first match on the first DVD of a company I knew nothing about, and not only was the commentary complete sh*t, so much that I had to turn the damn thing off, but the match is basically a half-hour of counter-holds and brawling. Yet, the match never got boring. It wasn't until it was over that I ever realized a half-hour had even passed. It felt like maybe 15 minutes, and the fact I didn't have commentary actually helped the match. In all of my experiences watching wrestling shows, I've never had this. Usually, the combination of bad commentary, excessive brawling on the outside, and long matches is enough for me to turn off a show in frustration. I know I had that feeling a good 17 times when watching Austin Aries vs. Tyler Black on Ring of Honor's
Final Battle 2009, and that match still at least had Dave Prazak (a GREAT play by play man, by the way) on commentary. This match didn't even have that, yet, after watching it, I was ready to call it one of my new favorites.
This was my first time watching Daniel Bryan in the ring, and sure, at the time, I could have seen this sort of thing as a fluke. This American Dragon guy had a good match with Samoa Joe in 2004. You know the number of people who would have had a bad match with Samoa Joe in 2004? It's not a very high one.
Then, I get to the end of Disc 3...
Bryan Danielson vs. El Generico
PWG Championship Match
Pro Wrestling Guerilla -
Giant Sized Annual #4
El Generico, then PWG Champion, alongside then partner Kevin Steen, had just taken on and defeated PAC and Roderick Strong for the PWG Tag Team Titles, replacing the Briscoe Brothers, who couldn't make the show, according to Steen. Just minutes after a grueling tag team battle, Generico is then forced to defend his PWG Title against the American Dragon, Bryan Danielson. The match was shorter, this time. It'd be considered either a short PPV match or a long TV match by today's standards. Yet, when it comes to El Generico, this is the first match I think of; because this was the first time I could see just how good Generico actually was. Meanwhile, Danielson just looked badass here, which I still think is strange. Here, in this match, Bryan is in the midst of his bald phase, so, not only do you have this guy who is paler than your average Goth in a fluorescent-lit gym (which only goes to make him look even paler), but the man also does not seem to have one hint of body hair, whatsoever. And yet, despite looking like an undead swimmer, he comes off as this total badass fighter, pulling Generico up by his mask and demanding that Generico be a man and pay attention when the Dragon's speaking to him. It gave me a new respect for both men, and would be images that'd stay with me for years to come.
Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness
ROH World Title vs. ROH Pure Wrestling Title Unification Match
Ring of Honor - Unified
This match, above all others, really encompasses not only an entire era of Ring of Honor, but, for me personally, everything I love about both of these wrestlers. This was a hard-fought, hot contest where neither combatant nor audience let up. I finally got to see this match by picking up ROH's
Bryam Damielson: Rise to Glory DVD set, a set I got specifically because it had this very match on it, and believe me when I say I was very happy with what I got. Of all of their matches together, this is, by far, their best. I also say this with quite a bit of knowledge on the subject because, looking over my collection to compile this list and make the Animated .GIFs, I realized that I may, in fact, have virtually every Bryan/Nigel ROH encounter in my collection. I'm actually a bit shocked by this, because I only started watching ROH shows pre-2010 a little over a year ago, and have to believe that at least a couple Bryan/Nigel matches were out of print by the time I finally got to picking up some of the pre-HDNet Era shows. That's one of the reasons I was so happy they put out a Best of Bryan DVD, because Unified was out of print, and I wanted to see the Title Unification Match I had heard so much about. But, looking over a few reliable sources online, it looks like I may very well have every Bryan/Nigel ROH match, including their last one at
Glory By Honor VIII. And, you know what? They're all pretty damn good. But none of them are the one they had in the UK. None of them are the Title vs. Title match. And none of them ended as bloody, violently, or as passionately as this one did. Nigel and Bryan didn't have a match in England - they had a f*cking war.
Actually, let me take this one a step further. If I were looking to rank the top 10 wrestling matches I've ever seen, this match would make that list. It would share a spot with Undertaker/Shawn Michaels at
WrestleMania 25, Rey Mysterio/Eddie Guerrero at WCW's
Halloween Havok 1997, AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels/Samoa Joe at TNA's
Unbreakable 2005, and even
Punk vs. Joe II. You know what else would make that list?
Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima
ROH World Title Match
Ring of Honor - Manhattan Mayhem II
You're damn right. This is another match I have from the
Rise to Glory DVD (seriously, just go and buy it now), because, of course, by the time I get to it,
Manhattan Mayhem II is sold out. No, really, I actually tried to order it during one of ROH's huge back-catalog sales last year when they were selling shows at $2 to $5 a pop, just to be told the show was out of stock. Instead, I end up getting
Manhattan Mayhem III, and watched Tyler Black choke, yet again, in an attempt to win the ROH Title, inadvertently helping Austin Aries steal the ROH Title from Jerry Lynn because Black just HAD to cash in his title match. But enough about Tyler Black's botched push, let's talk Takeshi Morishima...
Basically, Morishima was brought in to be the new dominant monster champion, so to speak. Samoa Joe was on his way out of ROH, as TNA once again decided to play its trump card in 2007 and pull its contracted talent from future ROH shows, including Christopher Daniels, Homicide, the Motor City Machine Guns, and, of course, Samoa Joe. Without Joe to play the dominant monster who mowed over his competition, ROH exported that job to Pro Wrestling NOAH star Takeshi Morishima, who, upon his ROH Debut, not only mowed over Pelle Primo in about 10 seconds and got into a brawl with Nigel McGuinness, but he also lost clean to Samoa Joe by submission. Yeah... that probably wasn't a smart move. In fact, ROH could have very well killed Morishima, right there. But, the very next night, in Philadelphia, Morishima regained his momentum immediately by defeating Homicide for the ROH World Championship. He would then go on to hold that title for the next 8 months before ultimately losing it to Nigel McGuiness in October of 2007.
Meanwhile, Danielson, just coming off an injury suffered during his match with Homicide, where he lost the ROH Title, was just coming back to competition. Danielson finally got his chance to regain the championship he had lost just months earlier, taking on the Japanese Monster, Takeshi Morishima, in the Manhattan Center, the very building where Bryan lost his title. So, you have the former champion, coming back from injury, looking for redemption and a chance to once again prove that he is, as he would say, the Best in the World. Meanwhile, you have the dominant powerhouse of a champion in Takeshi Morishima, the near-unstoppable force, standing in Bryan's way. To say this was a dramatic, hard-hitting encounter would be an understatement...
The moment that really draws me into this match is this one, right here -
Morishima has just brutalized Bryan in the ring, nailing him with a running Yakuza Kick in the corner, a move which injured Bryan's eye. Morishima then takes Bryan to the outside, nails him with yet another running Yakuza, as Bryan's propped up in a chair at ringside, followed up by another running attack by Morishima. Bryan is then fortunate enough to gain some offensive, just enough to be able to push Morishima over the guardrail and into the crowd. He then climbs back into the ring and dives on Morishima, sitting in the crowd (pictured above). As people are chanting in approval, Bryan tosses Morishima back over the rail into the ringside area, then does this -
From here, I'm hooked. The mark in me takes over, and now, all I want is to see Bryan win, even though I know damn well he doesn't. And that's the thing. What makes a wrestling match great is, even when you know what happens, it doesn't matter. You're so engrossed in the story and everything going on that all the spoilers and insider knowledge in the world ceases to matter. For those few minutes, this fight is real. Everything Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima is doing in and around that ring matters, and despite the fact that you know damn well Morishima's walking out of this match with the ROH World Title, you still want to cheer Bryan on and see him win.
You want suspension of disbelief? That's it, right there.
Bryan Danielson vs. Davey Richards
Ring of Honor - Final Countdown Tour: Boston
In 2009, during the final months of Bryan Danielson's tenure in both Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA, Bryan was on a mission. He was dead set on making Davey Richards the heir apparent to Bryan's self-proclaimed title of "Best in the World". In Ring of Honor, Bryan would continually remind fans who were chanting "Best in the World" at him that he, in fact, didn't feel he was having the best matches on ROH cards at the time - Davey Richards was. In DGUSA, they went so far as to create a rivalry out of this, as Davey felt offended by the very idea that Bryan was endorsing him. Davey didn't need Bryan's endorsement. He was already the best in the world, and could prove it, on his own, in the ring, and didn't need Bryan Danielson sucking up to him on his way to WWE. Unfortunately, not much came of the matter, as Bryan would leave DGUSA before they could ever schedule a match between him and Davey. ROH, on the other hand, did have the ultimate Davey/Bryan showdown DGUSA wanted to have during the
Final Countdown Tour in 2009, the final shows of Bryan Danielson's ROH career.
Davey, at the time, was half of the ROH World Tag Team Champions, the American Wolves, along with Eddie Edwards. Meanwhile, as Bryan was saying goodbye, Davey was looking to make his name by beating a former ROH World Champion and perceived "Best in the World" by the ROH fans. The heat between the two seemed palpable, as if the two were secretly playing out their DGUSA storyline in an ROH Ring, knowing they'd never get to finish their business in Dragon Gate - Davey Richards, the disrespectful heel, versus Bryan Danielson, the departing hero. The match ended the only way Bryan, at the time, would have likely accepted - Davey Richards made him tap out with the Kimura, but not before both men let it be known that, on any given night, either one of them could easily lay claim to the title "Best in the World".
Daniel Bryan vs. Chris Jericho
World Wrestling Entertainment - NXT, Episode 1
Finally, we come to Daniel Bryan's debut on the Main Stage, WWE. Originally slated on the Rookie Try-Out Show, NXT, Bryan was immediately saddled with the Miz as his supposed mentor, a relationship which didn't settle well with almost anyone, be it the characters on TV or the fans watching at home. Fans that knew of Danielson's past balked at the idea that the Miz, with literally half of Bryan's experience, was somehow supposed to teach Bryan anything. Meanwhile, as the story played out in the following months, it was clear that neither Miz nor Daniel Bryan were particularly happy to be forced together, either. It was also clear throughout the first season of NXT that, for whatever reason, Daniel Bryan was the one guy that the show mercilessly dumped on, whether it was a deliberate attempt by those in charge of the show to book nonsensical challenges that were specifically designed to make him look stupid, the outright burial of Daniel Bryan by Michael Cole week after week after week on commentary, or the simple fact that, until Bryan was ultimately eliminated from NXT, he had not so much as won a single match. Yes, that's right, Bryan won exactly one match in the entire time he was on NXT, his last. But we're not talking about that mess of a match. Today, we're talking about his first...
When NXT debuted on the SyFy Channel, Chris Jericho was the reigning World Heavyweight Champion, looking to defend his title against Edge at
WrestleMania XXVII. For some reason, though, it was decided that the Main Event of the first-ever episode of NXT would be Chris Jericho against Daniel Bryan, in Bryan's debut match on WWE TV. Now, obviously, in this situation, there was no way in hell Bryan was going over. He was wrestling the World Champion going into a WrestleMania showdown with Edge, after all. But what happened in this match was something I certainly didn't expect, especially after all the negative reception to the Miz as Bryan's WWE Pro, and the fact that, up to this point, the entire NXT program was already starting to look like it was going to suck.
In a word, it was magic. Chris Jericho didn't appear, for a second, to "pull rank" on Daniel Bryan, or intentionally squash him, or do anything you'd normally expect a champion to do to a perceived "rookie" on TV. In fact, he did the complete opposite - he did everything he could to showcase Bryan's talents and show him in the best light. Meanwhile, Bryan had the match he was supposed to. He went in there, made his mark, came close to making the World Champion tap out, then he got caught in the Walls of Jericho and tapped out, making the champion look even stronger going into his WrestleMania match than before he went in. Afterwards, you saw a stronger champion for having beat a rather talented competitor, as well as a very impressive rookie who could very well have beaten Jericho that night.
If anything, I'd actually compare this to the
Clash of the Champions match between Ric Flair and Sting that went up against
WrestleMania IV. Both matches accomplished the same feat, albeit both in different ways. With Flair/Sting, Flair made Sting look his equal by allowing Sting to take him to his limits, just barely squeaking by with a time-limit draw. With Jericho/Bryan, you had a short, balls-to-the-wall match, where both men put everything they had into it. This is the match that should have made Daniel Bryan an instant star. Instead, they kept having him lose, now to his fellow rookies, none of which seemed to impress fans with their supposed skills, while Michael Cole kept talking about how much of a nerd Daniel Bryan was. Amazingly enough, I didn't
really start to hate NXT until Season 3, when the Divas came along...
Fortunately, for Daniel Bryan, things got better after NXT, for the most part.
So, there you go - a look at some of my favorite matches from one of my favorite wrestlers, the American Dragon and Vegan Superstar, Daniel Bryan. If you want to check out any of these matches, go to ROHwrestling.com and look to see if any of these shows are still in stock, as, sadly, a lot of them aren't now. ROH went to a lot of trouble before Sinclair bought them to try and liquidate as much of the back catalog as possible, so you may not be able to find a lot of these shows now, unfortunately. If you can't find them through ROH, you can always check out Highspots.com, as they still have quite a few of the older ROH DVDs. Also, for fans looking for more of the Daniel Bryan fix, you can check out Full Impact Pro, Dragon Gate USA, and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, as he was featured regularly for them prior to his WWE deal.
And now, I leave this list to you. If you have any matches you think I should have included, like the Dolph Ziggler match from 2010 (which I actually still haven't seen yet), his matches with KENTA or Roderick Strong, or perhaps his work in FIP or DGUSA, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
Now, to leave you with this musical tribute to Daniel Bryan, courtesy of the Shining Wizado -