Social media was a buzz earlier today when the name “Bryan Danielson” was trending on Twitter, a reference to the real name of Daniel Bryan, who was the subject of speculation recently since he lost a “loser leaves Smackdown” stipulation when he challenged Roman Reigns for the Universal championship last week on Smackdown. Rumors swirled about his contract status, with the assumption that his deal with WWE expired in September. As is often the case with online speculation, that was incorrect, and it’s now being reported that his contracted expired last week, which is why he was written off of television.
The next question is, what does this mean for the future of Daniel Bryan, and more specifically, could this lead to the return of The American Dragon?
A student of the legendary Shawn Micheals, the real-life Bryan Danielson has a stellar twenty-year career in his own right, making his pro debut in 1999, and quickly became one of the best in-ring wrestlers in the world within just a few years. In fact, those that want to see him wrestle in his rookie year can find a masked Danielson wrestling for FMW, as he was brought along when Micheals worked as the special guest referee for a main event match between the late Hayabusa and Mr. Gannosuke on pay-per-view in Japan.
His run in Ring Of Honor as well as his legendary series of matches are well-documented, which ultimately led to the WWE offer in 2009. Of course, we know the neck injury that took three of the prime years of his career away, but still, between his incredible in-ring work throughout his career, along with the tremendous character development during his WWE run, he undoubtedly has a legendary career. Even after being on the sidelines with the neck injury, Bryan returned to continue his status as one of the most popular competitors on the roster.
That said, is it possible that Daniel Bryan ventures outside of the WWE at this point in his career?
Obviously, it depends on the perspective that is taken on the situation. Bryan will be 40 later this month, which isn’t too old to compete or even still be a top draw. To put it in perspective, Ric Flair was 40 the year he had the incredible trilogy of matches with Ricky Steamboat for the NWA title. Still, Danielson has talked about the toll on his body in recent interviews when he was asked about his status as a full-time wrestler. It might be a harsh reality, but the argument could be made that regardless of how incredible of an athlete he is, Danielson wrestled a very physical hard-hitting style, particularly earlier in his career, and then suffered a series of injuries later during his WWE stint. Twenty years of work as a professional wrestler can damage the body enough, but the argument could be made that Danielson has more miles on his body than most, based on his style for the majority of his career.
As much as it doesn’t lend itself to social media speculation, the expiration of his contract might not actually mean anything. It’s very possible that he plans to take time off and since his current deal was going to expire, it’s not necessarily a hurry to re-sign if he wanted to rest after Wrestlemania. As we know, the “loser leaves Smackdown” gimmick was phrased that way so that there’s a way to introduce him to either Raw or NXT at some point. Only Bryan knows for sure, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he already plans to sign a new deal after he takes time off.
In many ways, you could say that Bryan Danielson is a journeyman at heart because when he originally planned to leave WWE after he was cleared by his own doctors to return to the ring, he mentioned in some interviews that he wanted to schedule a hair vs. mask match in Mexico. Considering the buzz New Japan had in recent years, you’d think Danielson might want to set up a major Tokyo Dome match. It’s clear that Danielson has a passion for professional wrestling and see the opportunities outside of the WWE landscape.
That said, Bryan Danielson might be a journeyman at heart, but Daniel Bryan has the mind of a businessman. As much as passion and dedication to the sport are wonderful aspects of professional wrestling, the bottom line is, the entire point of any business venture is to make money. When Bryan pays the electric bill, he doesn’t use the stars that his match with Morishima got in 2008. Being a businessman, Danielson knows that the mere existence of All Elite Wrestling gives him a certain amount of leverage, even if he doesn’t intend to sign there. All things considered, WWE might offer him a major amount of cash to work a part-time schedule simply so that he doesn’t work anywhere else. Keep in mind, he appears on reality TV under the WWE banner so he might just take the cash to stay under a WWE deal if it’s the best option for his family.
On the flip side, if he decides to test the waters outside of the McMahon empire, there are definitely big time matches and big time paydays on the table for him. In truth, if American Dragon resurfaces within professional wrestling, I would say his best bet is to take a few key bouts in AEW and New Japan to maximize not only the stage for each other them, but also the payoff for it. A rematch against Kenny Omega from years ago, but with the AEW title on the line this time on pay-per-view would be major money for everyone involved. He could get a Jericho-level payday if he inked a deal to work with Okada, Tanahashi, and Ospreay in New Japan.
However, if I had to guess, I’d say that the speculation is moot and Daniel Bryan will probably re-sign a WWE contract to work on Raw or NXT in a few months. As mentioned, sports entertainment is a business, and Bryan Danielson already did the art aspect of his legacy with such an incredible run in ROH, as well as his rise to one of the most popular WWE performers of the modern era. At this stage of his career, with all the miles on his body, taking the biggest offer possible is the most realistic option. If Danielson signed to work with Omega or Okada, there’s no way he’s going to want to give less than 100% and with all the injuries he had, is it possible those bouts could live up to the hype? Don’t get me wrong, I think Bryan could still have incredible matches, if he doesn’t think the matches will be at a certain level, he might decide to re-sign with WWE. Plus, does he really have anything left to prove at this point? Is another great match against Omega really going to add anything to his resume?
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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