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Grimmas

Daniel Bryan

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I am really fascinated about how high Bryan can go on this list. He's the best wrestler closest to his prime around with some form of longevity. Him and Cena, at least. He can really do it all in the ring and the 2026 poll may have him flirting with number one, but this is the 2016 poll.

 

How high can you go on this guy?

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No beef for me, Daneilson is one of the few that on first glance, I don't know how high he will land. I need to rewatch a ton of early 00's indy stuff to see how well it holds up but am optimistic that Bryan's style will hold up well. How well will be the difference between him being #50 or #5 on my list but I do see him as a strong top 10 contender for me at the very least.

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I think he has the sort of flaws that don't necessarily matter in general, but do matter for a list like this. He's had a year full of dropping selling when it was time to go offense, for instance, and some of that was to look strong on a big stage but it was all pretty blatant. If it's the sort of stuff I'll give crap to RVD for, it's also the sort of stuff that I'd give crap to Bryan for as well.

 

There are other matches I look at and really don't like, too. For instance, he tried to work vs Kamala, after the excellent opening stretch, as a Super Indy match, which was a blatantly terrible decision. I'm not sure if he thought the audience wouldn't accept anything else or if he just didn't have the range/savvy to make it work, but it absolutely didn't.

 

Again, not things that normally would be held against him, but I think it keeps him well from #1.

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I also felt his hot tag sequence while being admittedly fired up as all hell, would fall into a rut of doing the same sequence over and over again with his opponents having to put themselves into position for stuff the same exact way each time. Again a nitpick but, again, talking GOAT so nitpicks are going to separate top 10 from number 50.

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Gut reaction says top 20 feels right with top 10 a distinct possibility. Someone I watched a ton of on the ROH/Indy level and just about everything in his WWE run. When I sit down and look at just the depth of his record and extent of classics on top, it would not surprise me if he finished a lot higher than expectations. How many guys that worked as frequently had as few matches that were worse than good?

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Yeah, I haven't revisited a lot of that stuff but I remember thinking his 2006 title reign was overrated at the time because he kept trying to work his epic indie matches even against guys he should have went a totally different route with. That said it's not like he lacked for variety in the kind of matches he worked during his indie run. He has the super indie epics but also some totally unique matches vs. Morishima (the Manhattan Mayhem match I legit think is one of the best US matches ever), the first Delirious match which was worked perfectly for the story and the roles both guys occupied, and some awesome, vicious performances in multi-mans, singles and shorter matches. He definitely relied on unimpressive opening matwork/chain wrestling stuff to build his matches but once they got going he was very unique and creative. He became very dynamic when he started incorporating a lot of MMA stuff around 2007. Plus despite appearing like the quintessential "bland indie guy" when he first started showing up, I really think he's an all-time great just at getting crowds involved in his matches. His WWE record is extremely strong. Translated to WWE style very well by picking what he wanted his big spots and signature moves to be and using them perfectly all the time. I don't think there's any doubt that his resume of great matches and performances makes him a top 10 all-time WWE guy already. I'm thinking a definitely top 30 right now.

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It's hard for me to see a number one case for the guy, or even really a top ten case. Maybe if he had 10-15 more PPV main events at the level of the match with Cena, but I feel like he's short on classic WWE matches. I love the guy and he'll make my top 100 for sure, but I don't think his career has been prolific enough to be considered for the top spot.

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Top 30 seems about right -- I'll probably revisit the '05-'06 stuff to see how I value that. I know some consider the ROH title run his best on the indies, but I thought he took a pronounced step forward in '07, when he streamlined his work a bit. The way he thrived in WWE against steep odds is certainly a strong mark in his favor.

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His indy stuff holds up well against a lot of his contemporaries (Punk and Hero for sure, maybe even Joe) and while he doesn't have the big match resume a lot of the guys that will be considered above him do, I'm not sure there's been a better worker since his career began. Top 100 for sure, probably Top 50-75.

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For instance, he tried to work vs Kamala, after the excellent opening stretch, as a Super Indy match, which was a blatantly terrible decision. I'm not sure if he thought the audience wouldn't accept anything else or if he just didn't have the range/savvy to make it work, but it absolutely didn't.

 

I'm shocked that such a match even exists. Here's a video:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFCe5G361Qk

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There's only a handful of wrestlers on earth that have been as good him from 01-present. He mastered the 'indie main event' style, which is an attribute he doesn't get much credit for, and I feel that's evident when you look at the indies since he left, and when you look at those who he pulled career matches out of. Was he a victim of quality of opposition at times and/or booking (matches going 40 minutes when they should've gone 20?) sure, but I think making those matches/situations worthwhile is something that should raise his stock if anything. One of the most versatile wrestlers of this era. Had an epic indie style main event vs Nigel McGuiness, a really sweet shoot style match vs Munenorei Sawa, and an awesome David vs Goliath cage match vs Mark Henry. Was one of the best in the US as early as 2001 at a VERY young age, and by the time 2003 rolled around there was few in the world better. Great, great 'callback' guy. One of my all time favorite spots was in the Homicide match at Final Battle '06, behind the refs back he hits a low blow and a roll up for an incredible false finish as a callback to something he did against Colt Cabana a few months prior. His 2007 transformation as a twist-you-into-knots mat worker was awesome. Stepped into WWE and was one of, if not the best from day one and has gotten even better since.

 

Could see him as high as #1 on some lists, and as low as the bottom half on others. Don't know where exactly where he'll be on my list but it's fair to say that he'll most likely be the highest ranked 'modern' guy on it.

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Daniel Bryan will rank really high for me. Kept me interested in the Indys when my interest was waning. Kept me interested in the WWE when I had no other reason to be interested. Top 20 would not be out of the possibility. Depends how many Memphis guys and luchadors I squeeze ahead of him.

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Danielson's 2005-2006 run was insane. There was a certain amount of repetition, yes. It would be nearly impossible not to be repetitive when wrestling so many 20+ minute singles matches in that timeframe. What's astounding is how much he managed to mix things up while on the indies. Different finishes, different approaches, seeking the right balance between continuity and freshness. He carried wrestler after wrestler to new career heights in the ring.

 

He's effective as a face or heel, as an underdog or an ace, as a headliner or a show-opener, in intense feuds or comedy. He's got good strikes, impact moves, and is excellent on the mat. I saw a lot of doubters when he signed to WWE, but sure enough he was effective at all aspects of that game as well.

 

I was the high vote for him in the SC vote. I suspect I'll have more people backing me up this time.

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Out of curiosity, anyone here watch his FIP run as champion? Don't remember where I read this, maybe here or DVDVR, but read someone saying that because of the difference in crowds between ROH and FIP, that his matches, crowd interactions and heel act felt very different from his ROH title run. If this is true, could be a plus for his case.

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He's a Top 50 guy as of right now. Though I'm hopeful his case will be slightly boosted come the deadline, I'm afraid that his resume may end up being mostly the same. And yet I'm going back and forth in my brain and if he makes his comeback work then I'd feel pretty darn comfortable with Top 25.

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Tim, any idea when the best of the 2000's indy project is going to be rolled out? That is something I am really looking forward to and think it will compliment the discussion in here quite a bit.

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I’ll probably have more to say on Bryan when Tim and I get to writing up all the 2000’s indies stuff we re-watched, but if I had made my list today Bryan would be in my top 10.

 

Speaking generally, he has the long resume of quality matches (almost 14 years as an excellent worker); the stylistic variety I tend to enjoy (though don’t necessarily penalize for not having); success in different environments/contexts; and the high end matches to make him a strong top 10 candidate. As Tim mentioned, his early work holds up very well. I am not sure there are many wrestlers who have a 14 year match resume that has quite the variety and quality that Bryan’s does.

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Off the top of my head he's a lock in the top 15 and may end up much higher once I start really thinking about it and we have 2 more years of him as a WWE top guy.

 

Really interested on reading this board's opinion on him once people start revisiting his indy days, specially 05' to 08'.

 

Not sure how many people in here saw him in the 2008 16 Carat Gold Tournament but what Bryan does in those three days against Quackenbush, Marufuji, Hero and Bad Bones is something to behold. Specially considering how he was working at the time. Dude just said fuck the beloved indy king schtick, went full heel and my god. Those German fans can be annoying as shit but Danielson is too damn good and makes it work.

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Before this is all said and done, I'm going to break down a lot of Bryan matches. I enjoy him a lot but I think people are giving him passes on things in certain areas that they would never give to other people.

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He makes my top echelon and it's his WWE stuff that bumps him into it. First time I saw him in ROH he was this bland babyface who was obviously a great wrestler but nothing about him made me give a shit about him. During his one week heel turn when Liger came in , he suddenly became interesting. Then came the awesome heel turn that was cemented at the COD show and suddenly this guy was coming together and showed that he could do character work.

Then you had his character evolution in WWE that in hindsight is fucking spectacular , if at times unintentional from a creative team standpoint. By the end of Mania 30 he was a full and awesome Pro Wrestler. Every aspect of what makes someone a Greatest of all time top tier guy.

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I also felt his hot tag sequence while being admittedly fired up as all hell, would fall into a rut of doing the same sequence over and over again with his opponents having to put themselves into position for stuff the same exact way each time. Again a nitpick but, again, talking GOAT so nitpicks are going to separate top 10 from number 50.

 

That's how the company he works for wants babyfaces to structure their hot tags & closing stretches.

 

Bryan altered his style tremendously with WWE, and while he's obviously been very good in that environment, his best & most interesting stuff was from 2006-2009 when he had the freedom to work as he pleased.

 

I feel like so much of his prime was wasted in that shitty comedy tag team with Kane. And I still don't think he's ever had a WWE run where he truly had a chance to work a varied style with more creative license. He's a happy go lucky guy who goes to work and does what he's told. He notoriously never speaks up to shitty booking, so he doesn't strike me as a guy who is going to approach Trips or Vince or an agent or Randy Orton to suggest trying something outside the box (Orton would have a heart attack anyway, based on his performances under any circumstance where things fall apart or fans don't react properly). And he may never get that chance now anyway.

 

The bottom line is this. He was probably the best wrestler on Earth for three to five years before he came to WWE (maybe longer). He never reached those heights in WWE, but being the best worker in that company was still a tremendous achievement. He'd be a contender for #1 on my list. He'd be a lock if I liked his WWE stuff better, or if his career defining match at Mania wasn't an overbooked piece of shit.

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