From Armory Buildings to the Superdome: A Reflection of Daniel Bryan’s Career
For 16 years Daniel Bryan traveled the globe performing the craft of pro wrestling better than any one else on the planet. Fortunately, I feel like I was a part of the entire journey.
As a life-long wrestling fan, two questions are always asked. First, who is your favorite wrestler? Second, you know it's fake right?
Let me start there. Growing up my favorite wrestler was Bret Hart. No questions asked. I was a Hitman fan to the point where my 7-year old self would have moved to Canada during the USA/Canada storyline in 1997. But the guy who saved my interest in wrestling as I got older? Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan). If I had to rank them today, Hart and Danielson are 1A and 1B for that reason.
As for being fake? Let's talk about a guy who suffered many concussions during his career. Let's talk about a guy who separated his shoulder and continued to wrestle to a 60 minute draw in Chicago (when most guys would call an audible and give up). Let's talk about a guy that had his retina detached in a match against the monster Takeshi Morishima because he wanted Morishima to look like a crazy monster. That guy is Bryan Danielson, and he did it all for the sport that he loves.
The news came out yesterday that Bryan was retiring. Wrestling fans around the world started wondering if this would be a "work" and if he would perform just one last time and walk into the sunset. That was quickly put away on Monday Night Raw when he did retire.
It was tough to watch. This is a guy that I have followed since a random day in 2004. My interest in wrestling was slowly going away and I randomly found Ring of Honor's The Era of Honor Begins on DVD at Last Stop CD Shop. $7.99 plus tax later and I was hooked. The main event of the show featured Low Ki vs. Christopher Daniels vs. American Dragon Bryan Danielson. Having seen Low Ki and Daniels before, I started questioning who this Danielson kid was and why he was in the main event against two well-known independent wrestlers. Well, that went away just as fast as he was very impressive from the get-go.
Fast forward, with many classic matches between 2003-2006 (plus multiple DVD purchases by me), to August 2006. Ring of Honor announced that they would be returning to the St. Paul Armory building for a show. The main event featured Ring of Honor World Champion Bryan Danielson vs. Nigel McGuinness. I made the trip up to the cities, skipping a day of high school (sorry!), to catch my favorite wrestling promotion. The show ran long and the main event didn't get introduced until 11:00 at night. Danielson and McGuinness wrestled in front of 400 people for 60 minutes.
He would follow that performance in St. Paul by traveling to Chicago the very next day to wrestle that match where he separated his shoulder in another 60 minute match. Yes, he wrestled two back-to-back 60 minute matches, plus he wrestled another 60 minute match just a week prior. Three weeks after his broadway contests, Danielson wrestled (against doctors orders) and defended his championship against KENTA (Hideo Itami in NXT) in New York for one of the biggest shows of the year.
There is so much to this story that I could write a book. Danielson received a WWE contract in 2009 and departed from Ring of Honor. Just five years later it all came full circle.
I wasn't going to miss Wrestlemania 30 in New Orleans. It was the 4th Wrestlemania weekend that I attended, but with it being a decade number it just felt like something big was going to happen. For months the Daniel Bryan vs. Authority saga raged on and it ended at the biggest show possible. At the end of the night, 70,000 fans in the Superdome chanted "YES!" as Bryan hoisted up his new WWE World Heavyweight Championship. As he reached the pinnacle of his career, I also felt like I went full circle.
In this moment, it hit me that I watched this guy grow from being relatively unknown to a mega star. My mind immediately flashed back to sitting in the St. Paul Armory watching Bryan work for 60 minutes in front of a quiet crowd. It was a surreal feeling remembering that while this was happening...
While his wrestling career is over, his impact will not be forgotten on my end. Bryan Danielson, Daniel Bryan, however you want to call him was truly the "Best Wrestler in the World" for many years.
And I can't wait to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame someday.
Thank you Daniel Bryan.