Watching Bryan Danielson Retire


AS I SEE IT: Watching Bryan Danielson Retire
Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets


Monday night was one of those nights that make me old…yet again. Watching Bryan Danielson retire…far, far before his time…really, really made me feel really old.

Despite passing multiple concussion tests by the Arizona Cardinals doctor and a doctor at UCLA, WWE’s Joseph Maroon wouldn’t clear Danielson to return. As a result, he underwent yet another brain test results which showed damage that the others had not. The new test revealed that he has a small sub acute or
chronic lesion in the temporal parietal region area of his brain that causes seizures. Danielson disclosed for the first timed that he had several post concussion seizures, but no one had been to determine why. Once the test was done, and with that information in hand, he decided it was time to retire.

As for the future… Monday night should, but probably won’t, show WWE what happens when they just let stories tell itself… when WWE doesn’t try to force fans to buy a certain wrestler, and fans accept someone for who they are.

Not every wrestler needs to be 6 ‘5 and 240 pounds. Not every wrestler needs to be 100% scripted. Some wrestlers don’t need to “fit the mold”…but are desirable precisely because they don’t. That’s the case with Bryan Danielson.

Right now, with AJ Styles in, and Shinsuke Nakamura coming in, WWE has a chance to make the transition to a model where that happens. But most of us fear WWE won’t….as long as Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn are in charge. Paul Levesque seems to get it, as shown by some of the names being brought into NXT: Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Biff Busick, Finn Bálor, Apollo Crews, Austin Aries, Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, Rich Swann, Sami Zayn, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch…and by the NXT product as a whole.

But…back to Bryan Danielson.

The Bryan Danielson I remember best is the one from Ring of Honor, where he wrestled from 2002-2009. He put Ring of Honor on the map. During that time, he also wrestled in major independents such as Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and, Full Impact Pro Wrestling.

Here are a very few of the highlights of his Ring of Honor career:

Danielson wrestled in the main event of the company’s debut show, The Era of Honor Begins, in a three-way match against Low Ki and Christopher Daniels that put Ring of Honor on the map.The show took place at south Philadelphia’s Murphy Recreation Center.

Danielson had a rivalry with Austin Aries, with one 2004 Philadelphia match lasting eighty minutes. One of the more notable rivalries he had in the early years in the company was with Homicide; the two fought numerous matches with a variety of stipulations, culminating in a steel cage match at The Final Showdown, won by Danielson.

Danielson won the ROH World Championship at Glory by Honor IV in September 2005, defeating James Gibson. Danielson defended the belt against NOAH star Naomichi Marufuji, at Final Battle 2005.

2006 saw Danielson’s involvement in a major inter-promotional program between Ring of Honor and Combat Zone Wrestling. CZW’s Chris Hero “invaded” Ring of Honor and targeted Danielson to start what became one of the best inter-promotional feuds in recent memory, owing to both promotions being willing to put over the other promotion’s talent in their own buildings to further the storyline. The program ended with Death before Dishonor IV, a July 2006 inter-promotional show at the Northeast National Guard Armory in Philadelphia. The feature match was a CZW Cage of Death match, used for the only time outside the promotion’s signature year-end event, in a ten-man tag team War Games style match. The show had one of the top three crowds in Ring of Honor’s history in Philadelphia.

In May 2007, Danielson was a part of Ring Of Honor’s first pay-per-view, Respect is Earned, where Danielson teamed with then ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima against Nigel McGuinness and KENTA. Danielson worked a program with Morishima concluding at Final Battle in a match billed as a “Fight Without Honor”; both men were allowed weapons, and which Danielson won. Danielson commented in March 2012 on how he felt validated at Final Battle 2008, because he and Morishima managed to get 2,500 people to see the show in New York City.

As part of an agreement with Pro Wrestling Noah, Ring of Honor held a show in Japan; in 2008 at Tokyo Summit, Danielson wrestled GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion Yoshinobu Kanemaru and won the championship.

The GHC NOAH title was defended in the United States at that year’s Glory By Honor VII, where Danielson defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima. Danielson went back to Japan on October 13 and dropped the title back to KENTA. Ring of Honor made its national TV debut in 2009 on HDNet (now AXS TV, the channel that now airs New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “World Pro Wrestling” show, which ironically enough) with the program Ring of Honor Wrestling, with Danielson as one of the early mainstays. Danielson debuted on the show in the main event of its third episode in a match with Austin Aries.

In fall 2009, Danielson signed WWE. His farewell tour with ROH concluded with two matches, a final challenge to Austin Aries, and Nigel McGuinness at Glory by Honor VIII: The Final Countdown.

The “Daniel Bryan” character might be best known for a 13 month period where the WWE fanbase told WWE what they wanted…in the loudest possible terms, in an most unprecedented way.

2014 saw a world class, incredibly talented wrestler who was told he wasn’t tan enough, was too small, didn’t “look” like a WWE wrestler ready to be relegated to a supporting role. WWE had no intention whatever of putting him in the main event slot at Wrestlemania. But “Daniel Bryan” won the hearts of the WWE fanbase, and they became determined to see him get a push to the top.

Forget storylines. The real life twists and turns in his path to the Title included fan rejection of Batista (hand-picked as the non-Cena top babyface), saw unending support of Danielson no matter what lamebrain storylines were thrown on air, then saw a very real walk-out of CM Punk after the Royal Rumble.

It started in earnest with the closing segment of the December 9, 2013, Raw in Seattle prior to crowning the new “undisputed WWE World Heavyweight champion”. HHH introduced a collection of former champions, Fans didn’t care…really didn’t care, and were insulted that this was being done in Seattle, Danielson’s home. The fans totally hijacked the segment with loud, continuing Daniel Bryan chants that silenced HHH’s promo. The chants saw Mark Henry, Rey Mysterio, Booker T, CM Punk, The Miz, Big Show go out of character, chuckling along at how the crowd was taking over a show. Shawn Michaels tried to shush the crowd, and Mark Henry tried to diffuse the chants by lifting up Bryan’s hand in a bid to stop the chants, but that only resulted in more and more chants.

WWE seemed determined to not put the title on Danielson, and stuck him in bizarre storylines, including temporarily putting him in The Wyatt Family; only to have it explained Danielson did it to take them down from inside, which didn’t help it make any sense.

At the 2014 Royal Rumble PPV, Danielson lost to Wyatt in a one on one match, and was not inserted in the Royal Rumble match; infuriating the fan base, WWE Network audience, and live audience, which again hijacked the PPV, chanted Bryan’s name throughout the Royal Rumble match and the WWE World Heavyweight Title match.

Post-Rumble, Danielson was supposed to be stuck in a WrestleMania XXX match with Sheamus. Then CM Punk walked out. Things suddenly changed…slowly.

Danielson qualified for the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight title, teaming up with John Cena and Sheamus to defeat the Shield. At the same time, the seemingly unending feud with the Authority continued, as they sent Kane as their hit man to injure Danielson before his Elimination Chamber match. At Elimination Chamber PPV, Danielson was one of the final two, but lost to Randy Orton.

The online anger continued, finally on the March 10 Raw, WWE did the #OccupyRAW storyline as Danielson and “fans” occupied the ring and refused to leave until HHH agreed to give Danielson a match at WrestleMania XXX, with the stipulation that the winner would be inserted into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.

Finally at WrestleMania XXX, Danielson defeated HHH and was put in the main event title match. Despite HHH attacking Danielson, interference from the Authority, and “crooked referee”, Danielson finally won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Batista and champion Randy Orton in the WrestleMania main event.

Post WrestleMania XXX, Danielson had to beat HHH the night after the PPV, with Orton, Batista, and Kane interference, helped when The Shield made the save. Then more real life intrusion. Danielson was married to Brie Bella, they went on their honeymoon, only to have Danielson’s father die unexpectedly days later. A storyline injury was set up with Kane injuring Danielson in storyline…and reality. While Danielson defeated Kane at Extreme Rules match to retain, he’d apparently been injured and eventually had to vacate the title for what would begin the succession of injuries that would end his WWE career.

Until next time.
Bob Magee