According to a report (it is behind a paywall) from Fightful.com and corroborated by Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (article written by Bryan Rose), Daniel Bryan’s contract with the WWE has expired. There have been rumors and reports circulating for a while that Bryan’s contract was set to expire in 2021. It is now being confirmed by multiple reputable sources that those rumors were true and his contract expired at midnight on Friday, April 30th.
Notably, on April 30th’s episode of Smackdown, Daniel Bryan wrestled Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship. To get this match, Bryan put his spot on the Smackdown roster on the line. Most assumed this was a storyline, and Bryan would just move over to Raw or NXT in the coming weeks. However, it looks like that was not the case.
Daniel Bryan has been working with the WWE since late 2009/early 2010, notably featured on the first season of NXT. He went 0-10 in NXT, was eliminated from the show, and would be released from the fed less than six months after his debut. He would be brought back a few months later and would remain there until recently.
His journey within the WWE has been well documented, from the 18-second squash match at Wrestlemania, to “Team Hell No” to being “Mr. Money in the Bank” to the “Yes” movement and Wrestlemania 30, to the injuries and early retirement, to the thunderous return. Daniel Bryan changed WWE forever, while WWE almost stole Bryan’s career/life.
Daniel Bryan is probably one of the most well-received WWE Superstars of the last decade, and his departure from the WWE is a huge deal.
Before WWE, Daniel Bryan was known as “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and was known across the globe for his work in the indies. Most notably, his work in Ring of Honor alongside Samoa Joe, CM Punk, and Chris Hero (ironically, all also free agents) put the company on the map and allowed for ROH to become what it did in the late 2010s.
Before his signing with the fed, he had wrestled for almost every single promotion on the planet, including Pro Wrestling Guerilla, National Wrestling Alliance, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Noah, and Dragon Gate Wrestling. He was widely known for his extremely technical wrestling style but was also praised for his ability to work at any work rate.
His departure from WWE and return to the independent scene already has fans buzzing with anticipation of what comes next. The possibilities are endless, the potential is sky high, and the results will inevitably be fantastic.
So let us break down some of the most exciting dream matches that Bryan Danielson can now have.
Honorable Mentions: Darby Allin, Eddie Kingston, Adam Page, Jon Moxley, PAC, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, Jay Lethal, Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada, Yuji Nagata, Kenta
The fact that Kenny Omega is the first name on this list should tell you how exciting the rest of this list gets.
Daniel Bryan and Kenny Omega have actually wrestled before, at least twice (the prior 2010s era of independent wrestling is really hard to track). Once in PWG where they wrestled one of the funniest wrestling matches I have ever seen, and again in ROH in a triple threat match with Tyler Black (you may know him by a different name: Seth Rollins). Both of these matches are fantastic, but both men, and wrestling as a whole, have changed significantly since then.
Since that match, Kenny Omega has become “The Cleaner” the leader of The Elite, a multiple-time NJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion, NJPW Heavyweight Champion, NJPW United States Champion, and AEW World Champion. He has put on multiple five-star matches, been around the world, and changed the wrestling landscape forever.
These two men walking into a squared circle across from each other would almost immediately guarantee a five-star match but has the potential to be much, much more. Hopefully, Tony Khan already has Danielson on the phone to make this happen.
However, if Khan can get Bryan Danielson in the building, he should not stop with just one dream match.
Daniel Bryan was the most important wrestler inside the WWE in the 2010s, while Cody Rhodes was the most important wrestler outside of the WWE.
His work with NJPW and the Bullet Club brought North American eyes and which was the birthplace for All Elite Wrestling. He created WWE’s first actual rival since WCW and is changing the way that ordinary people think about wrestling. He is helping to bust open the “Forbidden Door” which is inevitably going to raise AEW’s ratings sky high.
However, this dream match has more to do with their styles than their history.
Cody Rhodes combines technical wrestling with a flashier, more sports entertainment style of wrestling. After a decade in the WWE and his prior history with technical wrestling, Danielson will likely put together a very similar style of wrestling. This could create a masterpiece of a wrestling match and I would personally love to see it.
However, I doubt Danielson stays in the states very long.
Zack Sabre Jr.
I do not have to explain this one, do I?
This would be the most technical wrestling match in history and could give old-school wrestling fans a taste of what they used to love in wrestling. The two could twist and turn and manipulate joints for twenty to thirty minutes and still keep the audience’s attention.
Is this match for everybody? No. But is it perfect for hardcore wrestling fans? Absolutely.
This match is very similar to the Omega dream match.
Danielson and Tanahashi met back in 2008, which is essentially a lifetime in wrestling. Tanahashi was considered a young lion during their first matchup, which was for the NJPW under-30 championship. Since then, Tanahashi has become the “Ace” of NJPW, winning every championship imaginable, multiple times. He helped carry NJPW through the rough time that was the early 2010s and has earned a ton of respect and a glowing reputation with Japanese audiences.
Daniel Bryan, again, has changed significantly in that span as well. He has arguably become the “Ace” of American wrestling over the same stretch. This match is about wrestling history. This is a Wrestle Kingdom level fight and could be made so much sweeter if it were for the beautiful and storied NJPW intercontinental championship.
Although, we all know what the final name on this list is.
Could it be anyone else?
Ring of Honor veterans, WWE veterans, storied wrestlers with extremely committed international fanbases. Stars who deserved so much more than anyone could give them. Two of the hardest wrestlers in the game today have defined modern American wrestling.
In the early 2000s, these two had quite a few scraps in Ring Of Honor, with a few five-star matches spread throughout that history. The familiarity between the two is evident in almost all of their matches, to the point that there is no way it has left them, despite the decade and a half since their last matchup.
This should have been a Wrestlemania main event at the very least, but now they both get to choose their time and place for the likely final matchup between the long-time friends/in-ring rivals. If ROH can get another event at Madison Square Garden, this deserves to be the main event. I know I personally would love to see this match in person.