Bryan Danielson (born May 22, 1981) is an American professional wrestler signed to WWE and performing on their Raw brand under the ring name Daniel Bryan. He has also been known by the ring name, and later nickname, the American Dragon.
Danielson is a five-time world champion: a one-time Ring of Honor World Champion, a two-time Pro Wrestling Guerrilla World Champion, a one-time Full Impact Pro World Champion and a one-time westside Xtreme wrestling World Champion.
As well as these World Championships, Danielson also won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship once in Pro Wrestling Noah and is officially recognized as the final ROH Pure Champion, as he unified the Pure Title with the ROH World title in 2006. He also won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship in New Japan Pro Wrestling with Curry Man.
Until 2010, Danielson primarily competed (under his real name) in Ring of Honor (ROH) and on the independent circuit in promotions such as Full Impact Pro (FIP) and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG). He has also worked internationally, most notably in Pro Wrestling Noah through ROH's involvement in the Global Professional Wrestling Alliance, a global organization of cooperative promotions that allow their competitors to travel abroad to other companies. He also competed in a handful of matches in WWE in 2003, before signing an actual contract with the company in 2009.
In June 2010, shortly after the end of the first season of the WWE NXT show in which Danielson participated, WWE announced that he had been released from his contract. He returned to WWE in August at SummerSlam, and won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Raven Alexandra, holding them for 161 days – the fifth longest reign by a team. He would later go on to win the WWE United States Championship in January 2011, thus becoming a double champion and would end up holding it for nearly three months.
In 2012, Bryan would shift from the Smackdown brand and moved over to Raw for the first time. In 2013, Bryan entered into a love triangle storyline with AJ Lee and Matt Hardy, with AJ pursuing Hardy and Bryan dismissing it and trying his best to prove that Hardy was a liar and wasn't interested in Lee and was merely using her and trying to trick her thus hinting that Bryan may actually still have feelings for Lee himself. He would later go on to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship for the first time in June 2013.
- 1 Professional wrestling career
- 1.1 Early career (1999–2004)
- 1.2 Ring of Honor
- 1.3 Independent circuit (2003–2009)
- 1.4 World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE (2010–present)
- 2 Gimmick
- 3 Personal life
- 4 In wrestling
- 5 Championships and accomplishments
- 6 External links
Professional wrestling career
Early career (1999–2004)
After Danielson graduated from Aberdeen-Weatherwax High School located in 1999, he decided to pursue wrestling professionally and initially attempted to train at Dean Malenko's wrestling school. Due to its subsequent closure, however, he instead trained under Shawn Michaels and Rudy Gonzalez at the Texas Wrestling Academy. Danielson debuted in Michaels' promotion, the Texas Wrestling Alliance (TWA), and on March 21, 2000, he won his first professional wrestling championship, when he teamed with Spanky to win the TWA Tag Team Championship by defeating Jeromy Sage and Ruben Cruz.
As Danielson continued to tour the country, he was signed to a developmental deal by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) to work in their developmental system where recently signed performers train and refine their skills before debuting on WWF's television programming, and was assigned to Memphis Championship Wrestling (MCW). There, Danielson gained exposure, and was trained by WWF competitor William Regal, whom he has credited as being instrumental in the development of his career. It was during this time that Danielson adopted his well-known moniker "American Dragon". WWF severed its ties with MCW in 2001, releasing Danielson from his contract, but not before he won the MCW Light Heavyweight Championship and the MCW Tag Team Championship with Spanky. Danielson returned to the company on later dates after it was renamed World Wrestling Entertainment to compete on its secondary programming, Velocity and Heat, initially as enhancement talent before being allowed to compete in longer matches; he once wrestled future WWE Champion John Cena in a losing effort.
Danielson also toured Japan with the promotion, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) with fellow trainee from the Texas Wrestling Academy, Lance Cade, competing in several tag team matches. He returned to the country after his release from the WWF, competing in Japan's premier promotion, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). In NJPW, he used his American Dragon persona, and donned a red, white, and blue mask reminiscent of a dragon. As a part of the junior heavyweight division, Danielson had success in both singles and tag team competition in the company, the latter of which culminated on March 12, 2004 when Danielson (sans mask) won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with Curry Man from division veterans, Jado and Gedo, on the Hyper Battle tour.
Ring of Honor
Founding father (2002–2005)
In 2002, Danielson joined the independent promotion, Ring of Honor, where he is acknowledged as a "Founding Father" of the company as he was one of the wrestlers who made the company prominent during its inception, and competed in the main event of the company's debut show, The Era of Honor Begins, in a three-way match against Low Ki and Christopher Daniels. He continued to have long and critically acclaimed matches with numerous wrestlers, including one with Austin Aries that lasted eighty minutes. One of the more notable rivalries he had in the early years in the company was with Homicide; the two embarked in numerous matches with a variety of stipulations, culminating in a steel cage match at The Final Showdown, which was won by Danielson.
Despite winning the company's inaugural Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004, championship gold constantly eluded him. It came to the point where, in 2005, Danielson announced in the company's newsletter, the ROH Newswire, that he had quit ROH after being frustrated by his inability to defeat Austin Aries for the ROH World Championship. It was later revealed Danielson had become frustrated in general with professional wrestling and planned to take some time off to evaluate his career options. Danielson had several dates booked in Europe and Japan, however, leading fans to believe that the periodical was likely a storyline claim for Danielson's absence during this period. In May 2005, rumors started that Total Nonstop Action Wrestling was interested in signing Danielson, and he also had some more tryout matches with WWE at that time, but none of these events led to anything, as he remained in ROH.
World Champion (2005–2006)
Danielson defeated James Gibson for the ROH World Championship at Glory by Honor IV on September 15, 2005. The rest of the year saw Danielson have many successful title defenses, competing against all comers, even those from other companies, such as Pro Wrestling Noah star Naomichi Marufuji, at Final Battle 2005.
At the beginning of 2006, Chris Hero, a representative from Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), invaded ROH and targeted Danielson; this led to the two exchanging words over the Internet before having a match together with nearly the entire roster of both companies embarking on an interpromotional feud. Danielson became personally invested in this feud, and invaded CZW himself, which led to him having physical altercations with a number of CZW wrestlers. Hero intensified the rivalry, leading to the two wrestling at ROH's Hell Freezes Over event, where Danielson successfully defended the ROH World Championship. He soon filled the vacant slot on ROH's five-man team which participated in one of CZW's more popular attractions, a steel cage match called the Cage of Death, a ten-man tag team match in which a man from each team starts in the cage, and a random wrestler enters periodically thereafter. During the match he turned on his team by assaulting his rival, Samoa Joe, before leaving the match and effectively abandoning his involvement in the animosity between the two promotions. As the interpromotional hostility with CZW heightened, Danielson also defended against challengers from the rival company, who had signed an open contract for any CZW wrestler willing to challenge for the ROH World Title. Former champion Samoa Joe also challenged Danielson during his constant defenses, only to have their match end in a sixty-minute draw.
Ring of Honor, while having the ROH World Championship, faced the issue of having another title with seemingly equal value, the ROH Pure Championship. Danielson and the ROH Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness had a match to unify the titles. They met at April 29 in a match fought under pure wrestling rules and McGuinness left Danielson outside the ring after a chair shot to win by count out; this was enough to win the Pure Title but not Danielson's World Title. Consequently, they had another unification match in McGuinness' native England, where ROH declared there would be a winner, with a title changing hands by count out and disqualification and a draw forcing a restart. Danielson won the match on August 12 and retired the Pure Title as its last champion. During a match with Colt Cabana on August 26, Danielson received an injury; he separated his shoulder, tearing two tendons in it, and tore another tendon in his chest, which led to his next few matches being cancelled. Danielson returned at Glory by Honor V: Night 2, and was challenged by KENTA, a guest competitor from Pro Wrestling Noah, due to the two company's talent exchange agreement; Danielson again retained his championship. At Final Battle 2006, Danielson's fifteen-month title reign finally ended after losing to Homicide, and he subsequently took time off from wrestling in order to heal his shoulder.
Various feuds and departure (2007–2009)
On May 11, Danielson made his return to the company at Reborn Again where he defeated Shane Hagadorn and Adam Pearce in separate matches. On May 12 Ring of Honor filmed its first pay-per-view, Respect is Earned, which had Danielson team with ROH World Champion, Takeshi Morishima, to take on Nigel McGuinness and KENTA. Danielson's team scored the win, as Danielson made KENTA tap out to his signature submission hold, the Cattle Mutilation. Danielson made his return to contention for the ROH World Title by defeating Nigel McGuinness at Domination, which appeared on the company's next pay per view, Driven. This allowed him to, now as a face, challenge Morishima for the title at Manhattan Mayhem in a losing effort; he also suffered a legitimate detached retina. Following a subsequent surgery, Danielson returned with intent to challenge Morishima once more, leading to a match at Man Up that had the referee stop the match due to Danielson being unable to respond to him. Danielson exacted revenge, albeit by Morishima getting disqualified, at Rising Above against his rival by assaulting him before Morishima returned to Japan. Morishima returned to the company at Final Battle 2008, in a match billed as a "Fight Without Honor", which allowed both men to use weapons, which Danielson won. Danielson noted in a March 2012 interview that the biggest sense of validation he ever had at that point was at Final Battle 2008 because he and Morishima managed to sell out 2,500 people in New York City. Over the coming months Danielson worked with Austin Aries again as friendly rivals, exchanging victories including a match on pay-per-view at Take No Prisoners, which was won by Danielson. Danielson also aided Aries by becoming his partner in order to take on The Age of the Fall as revenge for Aries. The two wrestled all members of the group in a series of different stipulation matches, as well as teaming together frequently to challenge members Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black for the ROH World Tag Team Championship.
As part of ROH's agreement with Pro Wrestling Noah, the company held a show in Japan on September 14 titled the Tokyo Summit, where Danielson wrestled GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and won the championship. Following his victory, he was interviewed, and announced that Noah would allow him defend the title in Ring of Honor, with his first defense being at Glory By Honor VII, defeating Katsuhiko Nakajima, a competitor from the Kensuke Office, another member promotion of the GPWA. This would ultimately be his only successful defense, however, as he returned to Japan on October 13 to lose the title to KENTA. Following his loss, Danielson challenged McGuinness for the title at the next ROH pay per view, Rising Above in a losing effort.
Ring of Honor made its national television debut with the program, Ring of Honor Wrestling, and Danielson made his television debut in the main event of its third episode by defeating Austin Aries. The following episode to feature Danielson had him wrestle Tyler Black, which ended in a draw. This was the start of a rivalry between the two that was highlighted by Danielson's respect for Tyler, even claiming Black would be the top star in the future, with Danielson's antithesis being that would not happen for a while, leading to the two have many more matches that kept the notion of neither man truly being better. At this point as well, Danielson became more involved in trying to win the ROH World Tag Team Title, so, out of respect to his rival, he had chosen Black to be his partner. The two attempted to win the title multiple times, but their inability to do so lead to a conflict that ultimately dismantled the partnership.
On August 23, it was announced Danielson signed a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment. Prior to joining the company, he embarked on a farewell tour with ROH known as The Final Countdown Tour, which saw him challenge Aries for the title again in a losing effort. On September 26 at Glory by Honor VIII: The Final Countdown, he won his last match in the company against Nigel McGuinness, who was also having his final match with the company.
Independent circuit (2003–2009)
Aside from competing primarily in ROH, Danielson has also competed in a multitude of other independent promotions, both in the United States and abroad. In 2003, Danielson also toured the United Kingdom for British promotion, All Star Wrestling. While he was in the UK, Danielson won the World Heavy Middleweight Championship on May 6 in an 8 Man One Night Tournament in Croydon defeating James Mason. He spent the next 6 months in the UK, working for ASW, FWA, WAW and Premier Promotions. He returned several times over the next 5 years, working for various promotions. In February 2005, at New Dawn Rising, Danielson made his debut in ROH's sister promotion, Full Impact Pro (FIP), teaming up with Rocky Romero in a match against Austin Aries and Homicide. The next night at Dangerous Intentions Danielson competed in a losing effort against CM Punk, which led to a brief feud between the two. Danielson's biggest success came in 2006 by winning the FIP World Heavyweight Championship, holding the belt for eleven months before losing it to Roderick Strong. Danielson wrestled his last match for FIP in December 2006 at Florida Rumble, in a losing effort to Erick Stevens.
Danielson has also wrestled in the California-based promotion, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG). He made his debut in November 2003 at An Inch Longer Than Average, in a losing effort to PWG Champion Frankie Kazarian. He continued to appear in PWG over the next couple of years, winning the PWG World Championship in 2007, and holding it for six months before taking an eleven-month hiatus from the company. He made his return to PWG at the 2008 Battle of Los Angeles tournament. In May 2009, he made another appearance teaming with Paul London, referring to himself as American Dolphin in a parodied manner. On September 4, 2009, at Guerre Sans Frontières, during his last night in PWG, Danielson defeated Chris Hero to win the PWG World Championship for the second time and immediately vacated it afterward.
Following his return from his injury in 2007, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) published a video of Danielson stating his intent to challenge for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, as the establishment that sanctioned the title at the time, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, was relinquishing the title back to the NWA. A tournament, titled Reclaiming the Glory, was held to determine the new champion with Danielson making his way to finals, scheduled to compete face Brent Albright on September 1, but due to the eye injury he sustained at Manhattan Mayhem, the NWA announced he withdrew from the tournament with and Adam Pearce replacing him; Danielson was appointed the referee of the match.
In 2009, Danielson's contract with Ring of Honor expired; this opened up Danielson to travel to other companies more freely while competing in his home promotion. He made his debut with Philadelphia-based promotion, Chikara to compete in their King of Trios tournament, which saw him team with Claudio Castagnoli and Dave Taylor in a contingency called Team Uppercut. In the same year, it was announced Danielson would compete in Dragon Gate USA in their second show, which saw him lose to Open the Dream Gate Champion, Naruki Doi.
World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE (2010–present)
Championship reigns and various feuds (2010–2011)
Feud with Matt Hardy and Intercontinental Champion (2012–present)
In 2013, Bryan started a feud with Matt Hardy and soon after entered into a love triangle between himself, AJ Lee and Hardy. Lee continued to pursue Hardy and felt as though Hardy liked her however, Bryan continues to try and prove that Hardy is nothing but a liar and that he is simply using AJ. At Invasion Bryan defeated James Storm to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship for the first time. A month later at Unforgiven Bryan lost the championship to Shawn Michaels.
Danielson has spent the majority of his career without an overt character in favor of becoming popular with the fans through his monikers, signature mannerisms, and wrestling ability. His attire has varied, as well, with the majority of his tenure wearing a pair of short trunks, but also ventured into wearing a mask for a time in Japan as an extension of his "American Dragon" persona.
A notable part of Danielson's persona are his mannerisms and the reaction he inspires from the crowd during the course of his matches that include:
- During his time in Ring of Honor Danielson made his way to the ring to his entrance song, "The Final Countdown"; once in the ring, he stood on the top turnbuckle and sang the refrain along with the fans in attendance.
- After winning the ROH World Championship, Danielson displayed traits of a heel-like persona, starting to behave more aggressively and threatening to the fans, as well as taking more liberties with the rules. Despite his rulebreaking character, he still retained a certain level of popularity with the fans, as well as his upholding of the company's Code of Honor, ROH's storyline rules of wrestler conduct, allowing him to perform as a more neutral character.
- Applying a submission hold while the opponent gets a part of their body in the ring ropes, leading to the referee counting to five (not releasing the hold by the count of five would result in a disqualification); as the referee would be about to disqualify Danielson, the latter would release the hold, instructing the referee: "I have till five!"
- During his initial reign as ROH World Champion, telling the ring announcer to add an extra note about him appertaining to the current circumstances around his match; this was generally insulting the crowd or his opponent.
- At the beginning of Danielson's ROH matches the crowd chanted, "You're gonna get your fucking head kicked in!" at Danielson's opponent.
- After debuting in the WWE Bryan began shouting "Yes!" repeatedly on his way to the ring and after defeating an opponent. Danielson credits mixed martial arts fighter Diego Sanchez with the inspiration. This chant grew in popularity, and has been even heard outside WWE events, at Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association games, and even at music concerts, in particular at Andrew W.K. concerts in both Glasgow and Manchester, UK. After turning heel at the start of 2012, Bryan slowly turned against the fans and after WrestleMania 28 he began chanting "No!" instead of "Yes!" Bryan claimed that the fans were mocking him by chanting "Yes!" so he chanted "No!" back at them. This then further encouraged the crowd to chant "Yes!" at him to annoy him as he was a villain. Shortly after turning babyface, Bryan began saying "Yes!" again, however he still says "No!" as well.
- Danielson, who was a vegan in his day-to-day life, had incorporated his vegan lifestyle into his heel persona to elicit heat from the crowd. Despite his dropping of the diet in real life, his in-ring persona is still depicted as a vegan.
Danielson has cited a number of wrestlers as influences to his style: Toshiaki Kawada, Mitsuharu Misawa, and William Regal. He has also made mention of modeling his wrestling off of the work of Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit in his early career, then using Jujutsu as a platform to develop his own style. In 2009, Danielson relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he has begun training in mixed martial arts at Randy Couture's Xtreme Couture gym. He is also roommates with Xtreme Couture's head grappling trainer, Neil Melanson.
During his time as World Champion, ROH appointed Danielson the head trainer of the ROH Wrestling Academy, replacing Austin Aries. He relinquished the position to Delirious in 2007.
Danielson became a vegan in 2009, after getting elevated liver enzymes and several staph infections. In 2012, Danielson was awarded a Libby Award from PETA for being the "Most Animal-Friendly Athlete". In honor of Danielson, Mayor Micah Cawley of Yakima, Washington declared January 13 as “Daniel Bryan Day." In September 2012, Danielson revealed that he was no longer a vegan due to his inability to find vegan food on the road as he travels with the WWE. He later elaborated that he had developed a soy intolerance and could not find enough non-soy based vegan food, but he still keeps a mostly vegan & vegetarian diet on the road.
Danielson is a fan of indie rock music and recorded a single with Kimya Dawson that was a tribute to wrestling legend "Captain" Lou Albano. Danielson also claimed he suffers from vitiligo.
Danielson has one child, a daughter; Delilah Alexandria Danielson who was born in 2013. Danielson previously dated former WWE Diva, Raven Alexandria.
- Finishing moves
- LeBell Lock / Yes! Lock / No! Lock (Omoplata crossface)
- Signature moves
- Ankle lock
- Backflip off the top rope over a standing opponent, usually followed by a flying clothesline
- Cobra clutch to a facedown opponent
- Corner elbow smash
- Discus elbow smash
- Diving headbutt
- Dragon screw
- Dragon sleeper
- Drop toe-hold into the turnbuckles, sometimes followed by kicking the second rope into the opponent's throat
- European uppercut
- Heel hook
- High knee from the apron to the outside of the ring
- Indian deathlock
- Jumping knee drop
- Multiple kick variations
- Corner drop
- Front missile drop, sometimes through the ropes
- Repeated shoot to a kneeling opponent's chest followed by a roundhouse to the opponent's head, with theatrics
- Running big boot
- Multiple suplex variations
- Belly to back, sometimes from the top rope
- Belly to belly
- Danielson Special (Double underhook floated over into a crucifix armbar)
- Northern Lights
- Snap underhook
- Rolling fireman's carry slam
- Running leg lariat
- Single leg Boston crab
- Sleeper hold
- Springboard suicide senton
- Suicide dive
- Surfboard, sometimes while applying a dragon sleeper
- AJ Lee
- Raven Alexandria
- "The Dagger"
- "The American Dragon"
- "Mr. Small Package"
- "The Master of the Small Package"
- "The Best Wrestler in the World"
- "The American Dolphin"
- "The Submission Specialist"
- "The Dazzler"
- "The "Yes!" / "No!" Man"
- "King of Beards"
- "The Flying Goat"
- Entrance themes
- "Self Esteem" by The Offspring (Independent circuit)
- "Obsession" by Animotion (Independent circuit)
- "The Final Countdown" by Europe (Independent circuit / ROH)
- "Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner (WWE; September 20, 2010–July 29, 2011)
- "Big Epic Thing" by Jim Johnston (WWE; August 12, 2011–November 4, 2011)
- "Flight of the Valkyries" by Jim Johnston (WWE; 2011–2013)
- "Tap or Snap!" by Shining Wizardo (WWE; 2013–present)
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla
- PWG World Championship (2 times)
- Ring of Honor
- ROH Pure Championship (1 time)
- ROH World Championship (1 time)
- Survival of the Fittest (2004)
- World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE