Bryan Danielson Is Wrestling At His Peak In AEW

The American Dragon has never been better.

Bryan Danielson
Source: AEW

Bryan Danielson arrived in All Elite Wrestling to a great amount of fanfare, clashing with Kenny Omega and The Elite in the concluding moments of All Out 2021. It was a great moment for wrestling fans to not only see the culmination of a very successful recruitment drive by AEW officials, but also to witness the return of a rejuvenated ‘American Dragon’. Even though Danielson’s departure from WWE has been amicable and respectful, you can tell that his lifeforce and passion for wrestling has returned in a matter of months. Danielson has already lived up to his promise of great pro wrestling and with so much more to come, we can only see this as the absolute peak of his in-ring career.

Yes, Bryan Danielson has competed in many different circles for almost two decades, but never before has he been on fire as much as he is currently. His work in All Elite Wrestling so far has been a bit of everything that makes ‘The American Dragon’ one of the best wrestlers on the planet today. His first singles match with Kenny Omega was a total spectacle, and despite certain criticisms I had of the match at the time, it lived up to every bit of promise it had going for it. Although I imagine we’ll see a return to this feud once Full Gear is wrapped, if we were to forever live with this one encounter at Grand Slam as the only time Omega and Danielson clashed on a mainstream stage, then I’d be totally fine with that.

It set the stage for Danielson’s next chapter perfectly, with fans ready for more hard-hitting, mat-based grappling that echoes legendary wrestlers like Kenta Kobashi and Dynamite Kid. Much like his former WWE colleague, CM Punk, he wasn’t wasting any time getting stuck in with the rest of the AEW roster. Danielson continued to exceed expectations in a match against Nick Jackson, going two-for-two in matches that caught the eyes of the wrestling world and received much in the way of critical acclaim. Danielson was firing on all cylinders in two successive matches that delivered on all accounts, but he wasn’t stopping there.

Bryan Danielson

Danielson was then booked into a dream match that everyone had been hoping for as soon as the news dropped of Bryan returning to the global scene, a beautiful blend of hybrid wrestling against everyone’s favourite murder grandpa, Minoru Suzuki. The announcement came out of nowhere and caught me completely off guard, but boy was I ready to tune into that week’s episode of Rampage. I’ve spoken before on how I believe this match should’ve been saved for something a little more grandiose than a free-to-watch pre-show on YouTube, but nevertheless, it did great business for AEW.

Suzuki and Danielson absolutely killed it for almost half an hour straight. Even though the two had previous history against one another, this was the ultimate return match for both wrestlers that have honed their craft to a point of being two of the very best in the world. Danielson delivered a homage to AJPW-style shoot-fests, with stiff forearms and hard chops aplenty. The match was beautiful and I urge anyone reading this to go and give it a watch if you haven’t already. Danielson performed at the top calibre and reminded the few remaining doubters that there was much more to him than what we saw in WWE.

It was at that point after the match had finished that I realised just how far Danielson had come as a performer in the short space since his AEW debut. ‘The American Dragon’ was well and truly out of his shell in a totally new environment and it only went to demonstrate just how limiting WWE can be on their performers. Danielson had never performed at this level as Daniel Bryan, aside from perhaps a couple of one-off matches with fellow wrestlers that were willing to break the mould of a typical WWE exhibition. Outside of the 5* matches with Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler and Roman Reigns, Bryan’s work in WWE was hardly as exciting as his bouts with Omega, Jackson and Suzuki. This was a coming out party for a wrestler with so much untapped potential, despite being a global sensation for the best part of a decade.

Danielson’s peak performances didn’t stop there as he then stepped into the AEW Championship Eliminator Tournament in matches against ‘The Natural’ Dustin Rhodes and Eddie Kingston, the latter of which once again turned into a glorious wrestling affair. Danielson and Kingston has already gone down as a star-making performance for both men, ‘The Dragon’ once again excelled in the Japanese style of pro wrestling, something with ‘The Mad King’ is also a dab hand at too. Watching as Danielson’s chest turned beet red throughout the match was a spectacle in of itself, showing how far he is willing to take the short amount of TV time he has to produce an instant classic. Even in defeat, Kingston was given a huge rub by Danielson, which will hopefully see him through to an AEW title challenge of his own in the near future.

But for now, Danielson moves onto the finals of the tournament at Full Gear against either Jon Moxley or Orange Cassidy. As of writing, it seems likely that we’ll see Moxley heading into the finals to meet ‘The American Dragon’, which on paper looks like a potential MOTY candidate. If it’s anything like the Kingston encounter, or even the Suzuki match, this should be an absolute banger, with both men willing to go the distance to shock, awe and cringe the fans as best they can.

Keep your eyes on Bryan Danielson. Despite being in what some are considering the twilight of his full-time career, Danielson is on fire and performing in the very best condition during the peak of his career. An all-rounded, experienced veteran with an undying love for what he does, there’s no doubt that Danielson will continue to build his legacy of being one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, if these recent matches are anything to go by.

Daniel Bryan in WWE was good, but Bryan Danielson in AEW is what every wrestler should aspire to be.

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