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10 Best Daniel Bryan Matches Of All Time

In WWE, ROH, and many other promotions, Bryan has forged a legacy as one of the greatest...

Daniel Bryan will be remembered as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Even before he joined WWE he was regarded as one of the very best in the world, which explains the massive hype surrounding his signing in 2009.

Bryan is one of those rare talents - like AJ Styles and Kazuchika Okada - who can have a good match with just about anyone. From hard-hitting classics on the independent scene to slower-paced, story-driven epics in WWE, he has had just about every type of good match with every type of opponent.

Of course, this illustrious history makes his impending WWE return all the more exciting - particularly with a roster full of amazing talents for him to potentially face: Shinsuke Nakamura, Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, and the man who has been a thorn in his side throughout his WWE career, The Miz.

To celebrate Bryan's incredible return to action, we're going to take a look back at ten of the best matches of his career - from small English venues to the main event of WrestleMania. Of course, a wrestler with his level of talent and experience has a very large pool to choose from - so be sure to tweet us (@Cultaholic) with your own opinions.

10. Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match - WrestleMania 31


WWE


Bryan has been a part of several excellent multi-man matches, but I wanted to limit this list to contests which featured him more prominently. However, the Intercontinental Championship ladder match at WrestleMania 31 must be regarded as one of the best opening matches in 'Mania history - as well as one of the most significant victories of his career.

Until very recently, a lot of us thought this would be the last WWE title win of Bryan's career. Although he was forced to vacate the belt due to his well-publicised health issues, the match itself was a chaotic classic.

The most memorable moment (alongside Dean Ambrose's terrifying bump to the outside) came at the end of the match. Bryan and Dolph Ziggler traded desperate headbutts atop a ladder, each desperately trying to snag the belt hanging above their heads. Ultimately, Daniel prevailed and snagged the Intercontinental Championship for the first time in his career.


9. American Dragon Vs. Low Ki Vs. Christopher Daniels - ROH The Era Of Honor Begins


Ring Of Honor


Bryan is one of the most beloved wrestlers in Ring of Honor history and appeared in a classic Three Way Dance on their first ever card in 2002.

In possibly the first great match of his career, Bryan (then known as American Dragon) faced off against Christopher Daniels and Low Ki. Both Bryan and Low Ki played the intense babyfaces to Daniels' devious heel act, at one stage trading stiff kicks to the Fallen Angel's back to demonstrate their lethal ability.

Ultimately, Bryan wasn't able to pick up the win - but almost secured victory by locking in the Cattle Mutilation on Daniels. Ki broke it up from the top rope, before nailing Daniels with his finisher and winning the first main event in ROH history.

Although perhaps more of a spot-fest than the other matches on this list, this bout really helped put Ring of Honor on the map instantly - displaying the relentless energy and technical greatness that would go on to define the promotion.

8. Daniel Bryan Vs. Triple H - WrestleMania XXX


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WrestleMania XXX was the scene of Bryan's greatest triumph, but his path to the main event was secured ahead of time (as in the cases of Randy Orton and Batista). Instead, he was forced to go through Triple H in an excellent opening match - another bout considered one of the best curtain-jerkers in 'Mania history.

The story here was twofold: would Bryan be able to defeat his much larger, stronger opponent, and if so, would he be in any state to compete in the main event?

Bryan did ultimately defeat The Game, pinning him after a signature running knee to the face. Triple H, however, would have the last laugh, attacking Bryan with a chair after the match and further injuring his bandaged arm.

7. Daniel Bryan Vs. CM Punk - Over The Limit 2012


WWE


A few years prior, Punk vs. Bryan would have been an internet-exploding indy dream match. Both men played key roles in ROH, including memorable championship reigns, before leaving for the bright lights of WWE.

The pair clashed once in ROH singles competition, but it came slightly before Bryan's heyday. Fortunately for them (and us), they went on to meet several times in WWE - a previously unthinkable turn of events, given their unconventional appeal relative to Vince McMahon's preferences.

Their best match came at Over The Limit 2012, which saw rabidly popular WWE Champion Punk defend his title against (slightly less rabidly popular, but still beloved) heel challenger Bryan. It was a match 100% deserving of main event status, but actually played second fiddle to John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis. Figure that one out...

Punk and Bryan delivered an excellent match clocking in at just under 25 minutes, featuring all the psychological mastery one would expect from the pair. The finish was very unique, and saw Punk roll Bryan into a pinning predicament while trapped in the Yes Lock - submitting just after the referee had counted three.


6. Daniel Bryan Vs. Randy Orton Vs. Batista - WrestleMania XXX


WWE


In the view of many, this wasn't even the best match on the WrestleMania XXX card (that accolade going instead to Bryan vs. Triple H at the start of the show). However, nobody can question its importance in terms of storytelling.

This was an emotional outpouring, as Bryan - so often treated as a 'B+ player' by WWE due to his stature - overcame two older, bigger, more conventional WWE Superstars.

The two heels combined to try and take Bryan out of the match, hitting a combined version of their respective finishers onto the fan favourite, and smashing him through the announce table in the process.

Bryan struggled his way back into the match and delivered his running knee to the face of Orton - only for Batista to cart him out of the ring and cover Randy himself. It was a masterful nearfall, one which put Bryan's victory in just enough doubt. He eventually clamped the Yes Lock on Batista and forced him to tap out, sparking some of the wildest celebrations in WrestleMania history.

5. Daniel Bryan Vs. John Cena - SummerSlam 2013


WWE


When discussing Bryan's best WWE match ever, few could argue with his war against John Cena in the main event of SummerSlam 2013. The challenger's popularity had reached fever pitch by this stage of his run, and Cena (a pure babyface at the worst of times) did the noble thing. He voluntarily granted Bryan a match for the WWE Championship, and the pair did not disappoint.

This bout is largely remembered for its aftermath, as special guest referee Triple H turned heel, Pedigreeing Bryan and allowing Randy Orton to cash in his Money in the Bank Contract.

However, the quality of the match itself should not be forgotten. Nowadays, it's reminiscent of Cena's classics against AJ Styles - as well as the landmark showdown with CM Punk at Money in the Bank 2011.

Cena is at his best when he's the larger Superstar taking on a smaller, more technical wrestler - and Bryan's struggle against the odds was so well sold, it almost seemed as though the fans had willed him on to that climactic running knee.

4. Bryan Danielson Vs. Takeshi Morishima - ROH Manhattan Mayhem II


Ring Of Honor


When Bryan signed with WWE in 2009, the hype was immense. His exploits on the independent scene had made him one of the most sought-after stars outside of WWE, due mostly to his unbelievable matches.

I don't want to suggest that Bryan didn't have any good WWE bouts - as this list should have proven by now - but the remaining entries are all from his earlier days. Again, this isn't to take away from his time in WWE; his indie career was just that damn good.

In the mid-2000s, Bryan was pretty much untouchable. One of his best matches came in 2007 against reigning ROH World Champion, Takeshi Morishima. The hulking NOAH star combined with Bryan so well, their bout was voted the Wrestling Observer Newsletter's match of the year - a fitting reward given its blend of technical prowess and sheer brutality.

Bryan's eye was genuinely injured in this match, which admittedly added to its sense of MMA-style legitimacy. He would ultimately lose, but not before pushing himself to breaking point and delivering one of the finest matches of his career.


3. Bryan Danielson Vs. Chris Hero - PWG Guerre Sans Frontières


Pro Wrestling Guerrilla


This match came shortly before Bryan's departure for WWE, so a Chris Hero victory seemed a sure thing. Still, fans expected a war between two of the best wrestlers in PWG history.

Bryan certainly signed off from the promotion with a bang, putting on a 40-minute epic with the reigning champion. The story of the match saw Hero throw absolutely everything at Bryan - including some wicked elbows from one of the best strikers in the business - only for the challenger to hang in there through sheer determination.

The finish came when Hero attempted to reverse a Triangle Choke, lifting Bryan into a powerbomb - only for the American Dragon to cling on and force his opponent to unthinkably tap out!

The shock factor of this result obviously served the match well, but even had Hero picked up a predictable victory, it would still be rightfully regarded as one of the greatest in either man's career.

2. Bryan Danielson Vs. Nigel McGuinness - ROH Unified


Ring Of Honor


With blows to the head far more heavily regulated in wrestling these days, some matches are much harder to watch in hindsight. Bryan's title unification match with Nigel McGuinness is certainly one of those bouts, but it's still worth taking a look at due to the amazing quality of the surrounding action.

With a partisan UK crowd firmly behind McGuinness, this match was contested under specific rules. Both men were allocated three rope breaks throughout the bout, after which their opponent would be allowed to use the ropes to their own advantage during submission holds.

Playing his role as a cocky (but undeniably dangerous) ROH World Champion, Bryan quickly forced McGuinness to use two of his rope breaks - setting up the twists and turns of the remainder of the match very nicely indeed.

The infamous moment came on the outside, where Bryan pulled McGuinness headfirst into the ring post, busting him open in horrendous fashion. It's a shame, because the bout is undeniably one of the finest of either man's career, and would have been even without this spot. Still, it's fitting that one of Bryan's best ever matches came against the man with whom he perhaps shared the most natural chemistry.

1. Bryan Danielson Vs. KENTA - ROH Glory By Honor V


Ring Of Honor


Of all Bryan's best matches, this is perhaps the closest to perfection. In the midst of a historically great ROH World Championship reign, he took on KENTA (now known as WWE's Hideo Itami) in the main event of Glory By Honor V.

The stakes were high. Not only was Bryan's title on the line, but KENTA was undefeated in Ring of Honor. The match didn't just live up to the hype - it surpassed it by far.

It sounds like hyperbole, but this match really did have a little bit of everything; technical wizardry, high spots, and lots of lovely, beefy strikes.

I won't spoil the finish because I really do recommend checking the match out, but from start to end, this bout is pure wrestling brilliance from two absolute naturals.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]