Bryan Danielson: Invaluable

All Elite Wrestling has had a plethora of important figures in its history. We could do this eternal dance from Cody Rhodes to Jade Cargill to Brodie Lee to Jon Moxley to  Kenny Omega to CM Punk. But we won’t because that would take forever, treading the same old ground.

We could also go into the many accolades and praises as to what makes Bryan Danielson great as if nobody has done that before, but we won’t. We know how great he was in Ring of Honor and WWE. We know the stories.

Hell, we’ve seen The American Dragon make impact after impact since signing with the company. Honestly, it’s somehow blown me away because I thought he was going to be done with wrestling after his loss to Roman Reigns that very year. Maybe he did too, especially since he implied that he practically sleepwalked through his main event bout against Reigns and Edge at WrestleMania 37 Night 2

He’d been around a while, his body had taken numerous beatings, and he’d done almost everything. Well, he’s still around and he’s living his best life. The Blackpool Combat Club member certainly lives, breathes, and sleeps this business. Without any anchor weighing him, he floats so freely across the ring.

When he debuted at 2021’s All Out, the moment he stepped foot into the ring to confront The Elite cemented the fact that this company arrived, and he’s certainly been among the names that have made the company increasingly viable. For those who made the product go viral, matches and storylines that involved him have kept those who hold on to every hold, every kick, every dramatic fall and rise.

Credit: All Elite Wrestling

The moment he stepped in the ring for that epic time limit draw against Kenny Omega was somehow but a glimpse as to what was to come, with his subsequent feud against Adam Page being a high spot in what was an otherwise overlooked championship reign, and then following that up with the feud with Jon Moxley that served as a genesis to Blackpool Combat Club’s memorable run, we were in for a thrill ride.

We’ve seen the high spots, with Daniel Garcia, MJF, and Kazuchika Okada, the Anarchy in the Arenas, and that marvelous showing with Ricky Starks in the highly-praised Strap Match at All Out, we know he’s still got it, as if there was nothing to lose.

But behind the scenes, there have been fingerprints of his contributions across the All Elite product. If you’ve seen the progression in the style of Jade Cargill, you have him to thank for he was her trainer. Though it’s had its ups and downs, Danielson has had a hand with running Collision, and when drama festered in the company, he was there to join Jon Moxley and Chris Jericho in being locker room leaders to rally the roster together. 

It has been mentioned by Tony Khan himself that this bond between the two has grown to such a degree that should he be incapacitated, his father Shahid could turn to Danielson to run things in his stead. 

With this, it feels Danielson had already put the machinations in place to transition to this type of role long ago, by making the moves that make him, him and becoming such a trusted entity not just in the ring, but backstage. The American Dragon has been around bookers, promoters, and the various minds that keep the wheels of professional wrestling turning. 

Credit: Denise Salcedo

See, wrestling is this constantly shifting thing. So many things to consider – emotions, money, illness, injury, contracts, egos, you name it. There have to be contingencies and a deep knowledge of what makes things work. Change is imminent and inevitable, and there is no room for echo chambers and yes men (heh). One must keep their finger on the pulse, certainly, but don’t neglect the rest of the body. Gauge what the fans want, while knowing how to build stars, present them, and see the story to their rightful ends. 

Danielson has likely seen a lot of what to do and what not to do, and for that, I feel the quality of AEW has been refined into a well-oiled machine with more hands on deck. Sure, things will go wrong and there will be displeasure on some level or another, but to have someone who’s seen and done so much and is an expert in knowing who or what certain talents are supposed to be. 

Honestly, Bryan’s story is beyond inspirational; it’s legendary. Going from an ace of an independent promotion to a beloved underdog for wrestling’s biggest stage to becoming a key player both in the ring and backstage for a satisfying alternative, the imprint Bryan Danielson had, has and will have on this industry will be one that will be felt throughout time, among the big names who have shaped the business throughout history.

This is what makes Bryan Danielson invaluable.