I’ve been listening to a lot of Foo Fighters recently. The Dave Grohl-fronted band has this feeling to them, this feeling that they’ve never lost – the passion the members of the band have carried since their early days of becoming musicians. The feel of a garage rock band, that set out to do one thing: rock and roll. In their songs, I feel the sensation that this is what they live for. Sure, that’s present in pretty much any band that keeps the love for what they do, but through and through, the band never lost sight of what those teenagers that taught themselves to play those instruments had started.
Do you know what wrestler reminds me of the Foo Fighters and that same feeling they give me? Well, you’ve seen the title, so you already know but I’m going to say it anyways because I’m Corey freaking Michaels, gosh darn it!
As I’m writing this, I’m still trying to get used to this version of the man formerly known as WWE’s Daniel Bryan. The more I learn of past Bryan Danielson, the less ready I feel for what the American Dragon has in store now he’s signed to All Elite Wrestling.
In Bryan Danielson and Daniel Bryan, there was this sense that he lives for professional wrestling. That there is this undeniable love that can’t be locked away and cannot be restrained. This is a man who can get you to hate him or love him, and all the while he will make you forget that you are watching fiction.
Bryan is someone I feel is akin to Bret Hart in that regard, despite being trained by Shawn Michaels – but that just goes to show how much a student of the game he is. Whether it was his classic bouts against Nigel McGuinness in ROH, facing off against KENTA in NOAH, or holding his own against Randy Orton and Batista at WrestleMania, it is undeniable that Bryan is one of the greatest of all time.
A particular instance that captivated me, and I feel this is going to be an unpopular declaration, was his Survivor Series 2018 masterpiece against Brock Lesnar. In storyline, Bryan simply aimed to beat the old Daniel Bryan out of himself so he could become this hateful gremlin of a person. To start things off, Bryan used in-ring psychology to enrage Lesnar with mockery and evasion, delaying the inevitable. With a grin that made him look like an evil wizard, Bryan and Brock put on something more than the expected dominant performance for someone with the Beast’s caliber. And at first, it looked to be that way. This match played up to our expectations, that Brock would annihilate the Planet’s Champion, only for these beliefs became subverted as Bryan turned the match against the former MMA fighter.
Held in submission moves sold amazingly by Lesnar, or getting near pinfalls, Bryan was breaking not just himself, but Brock Lesnar. Suddenly, this match could be anyone’s game. To this day, I remember being on the edge of my seat at home, everything else in life becoming just an afterthought. This is among my favorite matches, and I can confidently say that anyone can understand where I’m coming from here.
In his time in WWE, Bryan had never lost sight of his prowess that he carried with him through the indies, even if his style felt neutered for it. The fact that he has no ill will towards the company and went so far to say that he liked where he worked, says as much. He’s a man that is proud of his work.
I don’t know the man personally, but it looks clear as day that Bryan’s love for the business exudes out of his every pore. He has that garage-rock energy borne out of the post-grunge movement that I attribute to the musical stylings of the Foo Fighters. Like the Fighters, there is a plethora of work that could easily be recommended to someone or be thrown on if there’s great wrestling you want to watch.
What sets the Foo Fighters and Bryan Danielson apart from contemporaries is that, while the landscape changes, they hold fast to this style that has not betrayed them once, yet they adapt if need be. One needs to look only to Danielson’s match with Kenny Omega at PWG 100 – where Bryan changed up his style to show a comedic side to himself as Kenny tries to get the better of him, from arm wrestling to John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.
When Bryan Danielson had to retire from in-ring competition between 2016 and 2018, the wrestling world felt dimmer – and we had those damn injuries to thank for that. Yet, as always, he wasn’t one to surrender. He fought for his dreams so that his dreams could fight for him, a recurring theme in his career. In a comeback befitting of the Foo Fighter’s “Walk”, Bryan had made his comeback many in the industry and fanbase thought would not be possible, going so far as to return to in-ring competition at WrestleMania 34. This was a godsend, for it was too soon for someone like Bryan to be taken out of his career this early and even set a precedent to not count someone out too soon, for as seen with Edge, Christian, Sting, and CM Punk, comebacks after injuries are very much on the table in this day and age.
What Bryan accomplished in the indie scene will be remembered for years to come, as well as his work in WWE. His value as a wrestler was so great, that he got to headline WrestleMania 38, night two with Hall of Famer Edge and current Universal Champion Roman Reigns, the latter of which Bryan put over in his final match in the company. WWE tried to move heaven and earth to try and satisfy him in letting him work in New Japan Professional Wrestling, but as that fell apart, Danielson decided to shed his Daniel Bryan skin and explore the wrestling world he hadn’t been able to before. Who on earth knows what’s next?
Now that Bryan Danielson is all elite with All Elite Wrestling, we are very well going to see the culmination of his career as he puts out magnum opus after magnum opus, in a period I’d like to call the Colour and the Shape phase, and his “Everlong” is soon to come.
I regret the years I spent not in his corner. I regret not paying attention to him when I was a WWE or die kid, not knowing his greatness beyond the company. I regret not being as familiar with him to the point that I didn’t get the excitement and hype for him and his monumental win at WrestleMania XXX, as I cheered for Batista and was upset when the Animal didn’t get the big win.
But am I glad that I became a fan while Bryan Danielson is still with us?