Best(s) In The World – Bryan Danielson

At many different times in many different places many different people have claimed to be “the best in the world”.  What does that mean exactly?  Does it mean that they’re better in the ring?  Does it mean they’re more over with the fans?  Does it mean they cut better promos?  What does it take to lay claim to being the best?  I’ll be using this feature or column or whatever you want to call it to look at those that have been considered the best during a certain frame of time.

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Bryan Danielson as ROH World Champ

Before he would whip crowds into a frenzy with a single word, Daniel Bryan was known as the “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson.  He was on Ring of Honor’s debut show in 2002, but it wasn’t until a few years later that he became their world champion.  When he defeated James Gibson on 09/07/05 for the title he would go on to become the best in the world.

Going into 2006 Ring of Honor was easily one of the hottest indy promotions around.  They sort of filled a void that had been present when ECW closed its doors.  ROH focused more on wrestling than the hardcore elements that ECW is remembered for.  No one embodied this more than their champion, Bryan Danielson.  During his 15 month run at the top of ROH he turned away some other people who could lay claim to being the best in the world:  Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Samoa Joe, Chris Hero, AJ Styles, and many others.  In my opinion his two best rivals during this time period were Nigel McGuinness and KENTA.

Nigel and Danielson had a series of four matches in 2006, but their third match is the one that most people remember.  Nigel was the Pure champion in ROH where the rules were a bit different.  Wrestlers only had three rope breaks per match, no punches to the face or head, and there was a 20 count if a wrestler went outside the ring.  Nigel was very good at bending the rules a bit and had held onto his championship for nearly a year.  The two of them met twice before with each coming away with a slightly tainted victory and this led to a title unification match in Liverpool, England.  It is one of my favorite matches in ROH’s history:

Danielson’s other rival, KENTA, came to Ring of Honor via a talent exchange with the Japanese promotion, Pro Wrestling NOAH.  KENTA had been undefeated in ROH and was even able to pin Danielson in non-title matches.  The two would finally lock up in a title match at Night 2 of Glory By Honor 5 on 9/16/06.

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Danielson went into the match with a bum shoulder, but the two still put on an amazing show.  A lot of kicks, strikes, and slaps featured in the match.  KENTA would continually go after Danielson’s injured shoulder.  Danielson was somehow able to keep coming back.  KENTA’s Go 2 Sleep finisher wasn’t enough to put Danielson down as he was later forced to tap out to Danieson’s Cattle Mutilation submission. Kenta_Tapping

A few months later at Final Battle, he would lose the title to Homicide and take a few months off to heal up.  When he came back, he was still great, but that moment in time when he was the best seemed to have passed.

Bryan’s promos were never considered his strong suit, but he was able to get crowds to start chanting “You’re gonna get your fucking head kicked in” at his opponents so maybe it’s time to reassess that.  His promos felt earnest and real and were a big part in why he was able to connect with independent wrestling crowds as well as the larger WWE stage.  He never felt like a cartoon character and that this was a man whose genuine passion was wrestling.  It didn’t matter if it was in front of 5 or 50,000 and that’s one of the reasons why I think he’s one of the best.  That passion translated to so many and helped keep fans all over the world interested in seeing him work.

 

How Did You Become A Fan?

When I tell people I’m a wrestling fan they usually ask one of two things.  If they’re not a fan themselves, they’ll ask why I like something that’s fake.  I really hate that question because being a fan of wrestling is really no different than being a fan of a comic book, movie, or TV series.  It’s storytelling done in an entertaining format.  If they’re a fan, they’ll ask me how I became a fan.

I remember watching wrestling pretty early in my childhood, but it was never for very long.  I know I watched old episodes of World Class Championship Wrestling and I even remember seeing the old Piper’s Pit segment where Andre turned on Hogan.  It wasn’t until about a year later that I got hooked.

It was a Saturday morning episode of either WWF Superstars or WWF Challenge, I can’t remember which, but they were spotlighting a recent episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event.  They were highlighting a recent match between the Honky Tonk Man and this man:

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Macho Man Randy Savage and his manager Miss Elizabeth

They showed some highlights from the match, but mainly the end of it.  Macho Man had the match won and Honky’s buddies, The Hart Foundation, broke up the pin and the three of them beat the Macho Man down.  Honky got his guitar and was about to smash it over Macho Man’s head when his manager, Miss Elizabeth, came in to prevent him from getting hit.  She eventually left and Macho got smashed anyway.

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Ouch

A few minutes later Miss Elizabeth came back with reinforcements:  the current WWF champ, Hulk Hogan.  The two of them cleared the ring and faced off.  Eventually they shook hands and this led to the creation of the Mega-Powers.  This was also the angle that absolutely hooked me: the rise, fall, and redemption of the Macho Man Randy Savage.

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The formation of the Mega-Powers

To this day I still don’t know why this particular moment was what hooked me, but it did.  I became a huge fan of the Macho Man and this led to me being a lifelong wrestling fan.  What keeps me hooked and what keeps me coming back varies over time.  It might be a killer storyline that draws me back in, like the several years’ long feud and friendship of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn or Kevin Steen and El Generico as they were formerly known.  It might be something like finally discovering how cool an indy promotion is like Progress Wrestling.  All I know is I love it and I’ll probably always be hooked.  So now I’ll ask you, how did you become a fan?

Introduction

So this is the obligatory getting to know you blog post.  Let me start by saying I’m a lifelong wrestling fan.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I hope I can provide some unique points of view on the past, present, and future of this crazy thing we love.

I think I’ll start with a few things I’ve done this year that have been pretty fun and also a bit terrifying.  I had been going through a period of sort of being burnt out with wrestling.  I had been following WWE and the indy feds I followed a little less and I figured that this was going to be another “down period” year.  My wife and I flew out to New Jersey to visit a few of our friends on January 4th this year, so of course I missed out on watching Wrestle Kingdom as it aired.  It was only during our layover did I hear about the amazing match that Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada had for the IWGP Heavyweight title.  I did check it out when we got back and I loved it, but that’s not the story I’m telling.

We were in New Jersey to go to a convention that was in the area, Magfest, which is a video game/music convention in Maryland.  On one of the days they had a retro video game tournament for WWF No Mercy for the Nintendo 64 that was being run by Botchamania.  I figured what the hell, I haven’t played the game in about 5 years or so maybe I should get embarrassed in front of a bunch of strangers.  Quite a few people signed up and one of the local promotions, NOVA Pro Wrestling, sent a couple of their guys to participate as well.  Well things didn’t go exactly as planned though…

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Post wipe-out pic with John Kermon

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I got wiped out and all I got was a shot glass.

In case you’re wondering, I’m the bald dude in the One-Punch Man shirt that got wiped the fuck out at the end by John Kermon.  It was super rad to be that close to the action and I had to track down John afterward and get a pic with him.  John and one of the other NOVA guys gave me a shot glass which was pretty cool.  I also didn’t do too badly in the tournament; I made it to the last 16 out of 64 people.  The crowd popped pretty hard for a match between Mae Young and Cactus Jack which Mae Young won via Jackhammer.

Fast forward a few months and I find myself at C2E2 on a panel about wrestling.  This was a bit nerve-wracking since I was a last-minute replacement.  My friends Chris and Carrie were kind enough to play host to another friend and I for the weekend.  I haven’t really done any major public speaking since high-school so it’s been a very long time.  I was nervous, but I think I did alright once it got started.  Feel free to give it a watch:

So after all of that I can safely say this hasn’t been much of a “down period”.  In fact, I’ve been trying to check out as much wrestling as I can.  I’ve been working my way through Progress Wrestling from the UK and trying to watch more New Japan Pro Wrestling.  I’m hoping I’m able to get up early enough to watch Omega/Okada 2 in a few short days.  Plus I’m trying this whole wrestling blog thing so we’ll see how that works out.