10 Things You Might Not Know About Daniel Bryan

The American Dolphin?

In case you've locked yourself away for the past week, Daniel Bryan has been cleared to once again compete in a WWE ring. Most fans know the big landmark moments of his career since 2010 - his release shortly after the Nexus invasion of Raw, his return at SummerSlam, his 18-second loss to Sheamus at WrestleMania XXVIII, and his glorious redemption two years later.

But Bryan's career goes far deeper than that. He enjoyed a long Ring of Honor run as one of the most influential wrestlers in the history of the promotion and popped up all over the independent scene for much of the 2000s.

He even appeared in WWE long before most fans knew his name, as well as early excursions to Japan under his 'American Dragon' persona.

It's time to take a look at some of the more surprising chapters in Bryan's incredibly impressive time as a professional wrestler, from tentative beginnings as a trainee under Shawn Michaels all the way through to his more recent years as a WWE Superstar.

We'll learn about impressive feats of endurance, surprising booking plans gone awry, and more than a little silliness along the way.

10. He Was Supposed To Be In John Cena's Role At SummerSlam 2014


Let's begin with an abandoned booking plan highlighted by Dave Meltzer in this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

Bryan, of course, won the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania XXX, defeating Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista along the way. He was sadly forced to vacate the belt due to injury shortly afterwards - but perhaps it's best that he did...

Rumour has it that Bryan would have headed into a showdown with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2014, where Lesnar - fresh from his merciless defeat of The Undertaker at 'Mania - would have destroyed the fan favourite in short order.

If that sounds a little familiar, that's because it's the role that was eventually fulfilled by John Cena. All things considered, it was probably better that things worked out the way they did. A crushing defeat for Bryan would have been massively disheartening for many fans, whereas Lesnar's utter domination of Big Match John came across as a far more shocking and exciting turn of events.

9. He Won His First Title Alongside Brian Kendrick


Bryan and 'The' Brian Kendrick have a long and storied history, growing up together as trainees in the Texas Wrestling Academy - a school ran by Shawn Michaels and Rudy Gonzalez.

TWA doubled as a promotion, and it was here that Bryan won his first wrestling championship - the TWA Tag Team Championship, to be precise. His partner was Kendrick, and the pair would both eventually end up in WWE.

Kendrick would continue to have tag success at the highest level, teaming with Paul London to win tag gold as a WWE Superstar. Bryan would do the same alongside Kane as the very popular Team Hell No. It was therefore especially heartwarming to see Bryan cheer Kendrick on during his stint on commentary at the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic.

8. He Wrestled John Cena...In 2003


Bryan and Cena enjoyed an intense rivalry in the years before Daniel's retirement, helped by an interesting dynamic that pitted the larger-than-life, archetypal WWE Superstar Cena against the smaller, indy-grown Bryan.

They even shared what could arguably be deemed Bryan's best WWE match, a world title showdown at SummerSlam 2013 (which Daniel won, before being screwed over in heartbreaking fashion by special guest referee Triple H).

However, the pair actually wrestled for the first time in February 2003. The stage? An episode of WWE Velocity.

This match was a far less spectacular affair, with Cena defeating Bryan in under four minutes. Interestingly, Bryan also had two other singles matches on Velocity - first losing to Nunzio, then to fellow future ROH World Champion Jamie Noble.

7. He Is The American Dolphin

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla

The biggest moments of Bryan's career have been serious affairs - from the emotional release of his WrestleMania XXX victory to epic wars in his ultra-intense ROH persona.

However, he's also been known to engage in a little silliness from time to time - most famously alongside Kane as part of Team Hell No, a dysfunctional pair of tag partners forced to attend anger management classes together.

On the independent scene, Bryan wasn't exactly averse to humour either. A semi-viral PWG promo alongside Paul London is hard to watch without laughing out loud. In it, London claims to have drawn inspiration from dolphin pods when deciding to choose Bryan as his tag partner. He deems Daniel 'The American Dolphin' and himself 'The Dolphin Master'.

It's well worth seeking out, if only to watch Bryan's increasingly futile attempts to keep a straight face.

6. He Won NJPW Tag Gold...Alongside Curry Man

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Bryan's wrestling style is so full-throttle and hard-hitting, it's easy to imagine him fitting in well in Japan. He actually wrestled in NJPW early in his career and even won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship in 2004.

His partner, however, may come as something of a surprise. Fans of independent wrestling in the mid-2000s may be familiar with Curry Man, a mysterious masked figure based entirely around the dish in question.

The identity of Curry Man (spoiler alert) was actually Christopher Daniels, a pretty surprising answer given the Fallen Angel's usual intensity under normal circumstances.

5. He Once Wrestled Austin Aries For Over 70 Minutes

Ring Of Honor

Like many independent stars of the mid-2000s, Bryan once specialised in astounding feats of endurance, and - like CM Punk, Samoa Joe, and many others - boasts a number of marathon matches in his career history.

The most notable could well be his epic two out of three falls match with Austin Aries in the summer of 2004. The bout took place at Testing The Limit and saw Aries take the first and third falls en route to a 74-minute victory.

The rest of the card reads as a real who's who of indy wrestling at the time and features the likes of Roderick Strong, Nigel McGuinness, Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal, and The Briscoes.

4. He Went Against A Huge Wrestling Tradition

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla

Speaking of epic Bryan matches, his PWG World Championship match with Chris Hero in 2009 may not have stretched on as long as his bout with Aries, but still clocked in at over 40 minutes.

However, that's not what the match is chiefly remembered for, as Bryan shocked everyone in attendance by breaking one of wrestling's biggest traditions.

The fact that Bryan would soon be leaving the independent scene for WWE was known by many at the time, so everybody naturally expected him to lose on his way out of PWG. Instead, Hero shockingly tapped out, making Bryan a two-time PWG World Champion, and breaking from tradition in startling fashion.

Ultimately, this was a great booking decision. Not only did it provide a shocking and raucously-received result, but Bryan was forced to vacate the belt pretty much immediately. This meant that the winner of the annual PWG Battle of Los Angeles tournament would become the next champ, raising the stakes of an already exciting event.

The winner? A certain Canadian named Kenny Omega...

3. He Has Won 12(!) Slammy Awards


Despite being regarded as one of the best wrestlers in the world when he signed for WWE in 2009, many doubted that he'd be able to make a real impression in the big leagues. Nobody doubted his ability, but it was more a question of how casual fans (and indeed WWE themselves) would view the smaller, technical newcomer.

We now know that those fears were proven to be absolutely false, but if there's any stat that proves Bryan's ability to strike a chord in WWE, it's perhaps the fact that he has won 12 (twelve!!!) Slammy Awards.

Some of the more notable accolades include Beard of the Year (obviously), Catchphrase of the Year ("Yes! Yes! Yes"), Couple of the Year (alongside Brie Bella, twice), and perhaps most importantly, Superstar of the Year (2013).

2. He's Been In A Match Of The Year (But Only Once)

Ring Of Honor

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter's 'Match of the Year' is one of the most highly-regarded awards in all of wrestling - and while it's a fantastic accolade for Bryan to hold, it may come as a surprise to learn that he's only won it once.

That bout came in 2007 at Manhattan Mayhem II, where he took on the gigantic Pro Wrestling Noah star Takeshi Morishima.

Morishima was, at the time, the first ever foreign ROH World Champion, having defeated Homicide for the title. Incidentally, Homicide was the man who had ended Bryan's own critically-acclaimed reign after 462 days!

The match remains an excellent one, with the smaller Bryan attempting to chop down his much larger foe - and taking some tremendous punishment as a result. Despite arguably going into the match the favourite, he lost to Morishima, who would eventually lose the title to the second non-American ROH World Champion - Nigel McGuinness.

1. He Has An Award Named After Him


While we're on the topic of awards, let's end with a fact that perhaps justifies Bryan's reputation as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. He has - perhaps predictably - won the Wrestling Observer's 'Best Technical Wrestler' award a boatload of times.

Bryan scooped the prize every year from 2005 to 2013, demonstrating the way in which he managed to transition from an indy way of wrestling to the WWE style - without sacrificing his signature technical expertise along the way.

So dominant was Bryan in this category, the Observer eventually changed its name to the 'Bryan Danielson Award' - a very fitting decision given Daniel's greatness in this regard.

Interestingly, since 2013, only one other wrestler has won the award - mirroring Bryan's early streak. That man is Zack Sabre Jr., another wrestler who could be regarded as atypical in terms of appearance and style.

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Jack King

Written by Jack King

[email protected] Twitter: @JackTheJobber