Article written by Dylan Devine (7/25/20) *UPDATED (10/18/21) *
“THE AMERICAN DRAGON” BRYAN DANIELSON
In his time in the wrestling company Ring of Honor, Daniel Bryan was known as “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson. He won the ROH World Championship once and put on some of the best matches in company history and in his career against guys like CM Punk, Colt Cabana, Christopher Daniels, Kenta, and Austin Aries. Bryan departed from the company in 2009.
On February 23rd, 2009 Daniel Bryan appeared on the debut episode of NXT. This was when NXT wasn’t so much a separate brand and was more of a competition/game show. Every rookie on the show had a “pro” superstar from the main roster. Bryan’s pro was The Miz. From the get go The Miz and Bryan didn’t get along as Miz was a heel at the time. Bryan didn’t have much of an impact on NXT and didn’t do anything really notable. Bryan debuted on Raw with the rest of the season one NXT stars as the “Nexus” after season one wrapped.
When the Nexus debuted on Raw they caused absolute havoc. Tearing apart the entire ringside area, the ring, and attacking all WWE personnel in site. Daniel Bryan went off script and got fired for going “too far” as he choked ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie.
SUMMERSLAM 2010 SURPRISE RETURN
At SummerSlam 2010 it was Team Cena vs. The Nexus. Cena had a mystery team member that he hadn’t announced yet and told everyone he’d be at SummerSlam. Daniel Bryan shocked everyone and the Nexus and came out to a loud reaction as the mystery member on Team Cena. Team Cena went on to win this match and this was the beginning of the end for the Nexus. Bryan went on to be a low mid carder for awhile with his most notable accomplishment at the time being a United States Championship title run.
MONEY IN THE BANK 2011
At Money in the Bank 2011, Daniel Bryan won the SmackDown MITB ladder match. This meant he now had a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship anytime he decided. Bryan cashed in the briefcase and won the Heavyweight title in late 2011. Over time he became a heel that the crowd grew to hate. He joined forces with AJ Lee and began using sneaky tactics to retain his championship. Bryan went on to defend the title at WrestleMania 28 against Sheamus, and lost in 18 seconds. After he lost the title Bryan’s reaction from the fans increased big time. He would go back and forth with the crowd chanting “NO!” as the crowd chanted back “YES!”.
TEAM HELL NO
Bryan began a program with WWE legend, Kane in 2012. It was a comedic program as the duo would constantly be arguing back and forth and even attended anger management class together. This surprisingly went over great with the fans and they were the most popular tag team in the company for over a year. They won the Tag Team Championships once.
Team Hell No eventually broke up which meant it was time for Bryan to get back to singles action. Bryan was still red hot with the crowd. He got a WWE championship match against John Cena at SummerSlam 2013. Bryan ended up defeating Cena to win his first WWE championship, but was screwed over after the match by Triple H which led to Randy Orton cashing in his MITB briefcase to win the title from Bryan. This is where it pretty much all began for D-Bry vs. The Authority and the nearly year long storyline leading to WrestleMania 30. For months Bryan feuded with the Authority and was told he wasn’t good enough, he was a “B-list superstar”, and would never make it to the top. He was the most popular superstar in the company that year as the “Yes movement” became a thing and the fans were fully behind him. Everyone was lobbying for Bryan to get the title shot he deserved. It was announced that Bryan would be facing the leader of the Authority, Triple H at WrestleMania 30. If Bryan defeated Triple H, he would be put in the main event title match alongside Randy Orton (C) and Batista.
MIRACLE ON BOURBONN STREET
At WrestleMania 30, Bryan went against all odds and defeated Triple H in the show opener and went on to close the show by winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Michael Cole called this the “miracle on Bourbon Street”. All of Bryan’s hard work had paid off finally. He went against all odds and proved the Authority wrong. Due to injuries, Bryan later had to relinquish the championships two months later.
After seven months away from the WWE after being stripped of the WWE World Heavyweight championship due to injuries, Daniel Bryan returned to Monday Night Raw. Bryan went on to have a solid few months being in the upper mid card putting on good matches on Raw and Smackdown. At WrestleMania 31 he won the Intercontinental championship ladder match and was the Intercontinental champion for the first time in his career. A month later Bryan would relinquish the IC title. Two months later we all were informed Bryan would be forced into early retirement. This was truly heartbreaking for all wrestling fans, and especially Bryan. He was just entering his prime and had years left in the ring.
In 2018, Daniel Bryan returned for yet another announcement. This time it was good news. He revealed that doctors cleared him for in ring action after three years of being out of the ring. He made his triumphant return at WrestleMania 34 tagging alongside Shane McMahon to face off against Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens.
Bryan won the WWE title for the third time in November of 2018 after turning heel and defeating AJ Styles. Bryan went on to have a lengthy run as champion and even debuted a new title design, the “eco friendly” WWE championship. He ultimately lost the title to Kofi Kingston at WrestleMania 35 in what was voted match of the year by WWE. We didn’t see much of Bryan in WWE up until late 2020.
FINAL RUN IN THE WWE
Bryan won the annual Elimination Chamber match in February of 2021 and began feuding with Universal Champion, Roman Reigns going into WrestleMania 37. He went on to main event WrestleMania 37 alongside Roman Reigns and Edge. Reigns ended up retaining the Universal Championship in a very fun main event match. A few weeks later he faced Reigns in a championship vs. career match which he ended up losing. Everybody knew Bryan’s contract was set to expire soon so this was expected. After Bryan lost this match, his future in pro wrestling was the most talked about story amongst wrestling fans. The popular belief was that Bryan would be heading to AEW.
BRYAN DANIELSON IS ALL ELITE
Bryan Danielson made his highly anticipated debut in AEW at All Out in September. Danielson was immediately inserted into a program with Kenny Omega and The Elite. We finally have The American Dragon back! Danielson put on one of the best matches of all time and a five star match against AEW World Champion, Kenny Omega at AEW : Grand Slam in September. The American Dragon has been feuding with Omega since his debut and is now participating in the AEW World Championship eliminator tournament. This year Omega was ranked as the number one wrestler in the world by PWI and Roman Reigns was ranked at number two. This means Danielson has faced two of the absolute top guys in the business over the last year and put on phenomenal matches with both guys. Danielson is already having a hell of a run in AEW and he has only been with the company for two months. I have a strong feeling we will see Danielson win this eliminator tournament which will put him up against either Omega or Hangman Adam Page depending on who wins at Full Gear. No matter what, Danielson is going to continue to have a great run in AEW and put on awesome matches for the fans. We as wrestling fans are really getting to witness something special with AEW right now.