Thursday, February 11, 2016

The long path of Daniel Bryan: the early years

Daniel Bryan ended his career in front of WWE fans. Image credit:
Earlier this week, Daniel Bryan a.k.a. “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson announced his retirement from the WWE ring. It is a sad moment when any wrestler's career ends, but at 34, Bryan seemed to have several years ahead of him. But years of taking too many risks on the indie circuit shortened his career in WWE, a company under severe pressure to protect its workers from frequent concussions.

But while we may never see Bryan wrestle again and almost certainly not in a WWE ring, he still has a career that stretches back 18 years. With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some matches that spanned his career.

Trained by the Texas Wrestling Academy under Shawn Michaels and Rudy Gonzalez, Bryan's pedigree immediately got him attention internationally. As the masked American Dragon, he was in Japan with no more than a dozen matches under his belt. Here he is with the late Lance Cade in FMW, working a slightly less dangerous style than what Mick Foley and Terry Funk received in the same company.

Of course, he also wrestling for the Texas Wrestling Alliance, his school's home promotion Here he is in an early match with Brian “Spanky” Kendrick, featuring awful choices for entrance music for both men.

His training pedigree made him a hot commodity though, and along with pretty much every other trainee, he was signed to a WWE developmental contract in 2000. Sent to Memphis, which then served as a development territory for the company, he had a few matches with a man that became his mentor: William Regal. The two formed a friendship that would stretch for years to come, even if I suspect Regal might have given him a few more lessons on how to lengthen his career.

By the end of the year, he was back as an independent star. He was one of numerous talented competitors to wrestle in California promotion's APW as they held their King of the Indies event. These events were hot commodities for tape traders and would lead directly to the rise of Ring of Honor a few short months later. Here is an epic encounter between the young Bryan and another amazing breakout talent of the era: Low-Ki.

Less than three years into his career and Bryan was already on his path to stardom. Pretty impressive for a young wrestler in the days after the territories and before the rise of internet video.

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