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Daniel Bryan

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I would like to include Bryan being one of the most unaffected by the pandemic wrestlers WWE had. He had a pretty fantastic 2020.

- Bryan v. Sami Zayn (Wrestlemania 36)

Aside from the odd outside stuff and the fact This was booked like a Smackdown match this was pretty fantastic. Bryan welting Sami with chops and kicks. I’m unsure if it’s Bryan’s intensity or Sami’s channeling of Terry Funk that sells me so heavily on this match. 
 

He continued to have excellent empty arena matches with Cesaro, Sheamus,  Gulak and AJ by not needing to feed off the crowd and having the ability to adapt. I think the weirdest thing WWE was making their talent do was playing to an empty arena as if there was a crowd there. Bryan still had to do his “yes” chants which was a little cringeworthy but you expect some cringe with WWE. 
 

After Bryan took the summer off he came back during the “Thunderdome” era which is still an empty arena but a tremendous visual and aural atrocity and distraction that just doesn’t work for me except for 

 

-Bryan v. Roman Reigns (Fastlane 3/21/2021)

This was the best match of the last year and change for the company because Bryan was really able to use his natural charisma and the great chemistry he has with Roman to completely suck me in. I was somehow able to lose myself in the match even if it was in an environment I find nauseating. 
 

Bryan’s strength is his ability to adapt. Every situation he is in he makes the best of it and it comes across on television. Most of his peers couldn’t adapt the same way and that’s what shined an even bigger light on Bryan for me this last year and a half. 

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Every Bryan/Roman match is great. Tremendous chemistry. Doesn't matter if it was singles or tags during the Shield/Hell No period, the 2015 Fastlane match, or the matches this year. 

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They really do have great chemistry. I actually think their most recent SD match is the best of the lot from them, but agree that everything they have done together is really good to great.

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2 hours ago, Cap said:

They really do have great chemistry. I actually think their most recent SD match is the best of the lot from them, but agree that everything they have done together is really good to great.

I have found it curious that you were so high on that last match because It was on my lower end when I watched it. Still great, because I love watching those two work together. I look forward to revisiting the SD match at the end of the year. 

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On 7/13/2021 at 11:50 AM, urbanecowboy said:

I have found it curious that you were so high on that last match because It was on my lower end when I watched it. Still great, because I love watching those two work together. I look forward to revisiting the SD match at the end of the year. 

I wont get too into the weeds because it is probably more a conversation for somewhere else, but I found the match less overthought and more attentive to detail. The Fastlane matches both accomplished a lot leading into their respective Manias, but this felt like an explosive and violent chessmatch between two legit great wrestler with great physical chemistry. Really great in-ring story too.

To bring it back to Bryan's case. I kept wanting to say in that paragraph above that it was two wrestlers at the top of their game. I feel like that is true, but I am slightly hesitant to say it. To me this is obviously Roman's best run, but I'm not sure people would consider this Bryan's "prime".  I sort of think you could lump 2020 and 2021 in with his prime work becuase... well... he is as good as anyone in the world when he is out there. Darren is right, Bryan was money in the empty arena era

I know it has been discussed, but do folks consider us still in Bryan's "peak" or "prime".... or in another peak.... or in a less than prime era for him?

Or maybe put a better way? What is his prime/peak?

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He's been in his prime for like....16-17 years, minus the injury and retirement years. He has multiple peaks, but I really think he's been in his prime since like 2005 and has yet to fall out of it.

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I would sort of agree that he has a crazy long prime, but the funny thing is, I think two of his best/my favorite matches come int he first like 2 years of his career.  I kind of have trouble thinking of any part of his career as not his prime. he has evolved and he might have had a down match or two here and there, but I can't think of a time period I think I would say doesn't constitute prime Bryan.  Maybe I am forgetting something though.

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I do think anyone who did a diving headbutt after 2007 loses points with me, that's just plain stupid.

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4 hours ago, elliott said:

His whole career being his prime is quite a take. 

I honestly think it’s a fair one. I watched King of the Indies 2001 earlier this year and he had 3 matches in the 4 star range in 2 nights. He was, I believe, 20 years old at time of those matches. He’s clearly already an elite worker there. He had really good matches with Reigns and Cesaro this year, imo. At no point in the middle, when he was active, was he not at least a contender for one of the best guys going. Even in the dead periods in the WWE mid card he was still actively really good.

Outside of maybe his first year in the business he’s been great since basically his entire career. I don’t know how you start his peak or finish his peak at any real point when he’s still one of the best guys going now.

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There are the small sample size guys, like Han and Tamura, who were always great, but they are both very much outliers in almost every sense.  Outside of that, even the guys like Regal and Finlay, who have a rep for always being good at the very least, have fallow periods. 

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9 hours ago, elliott said:

His whole career being his prime is quite a take. 

I completely agree and it feels weird saying. That is why I asked.  My biases are known I think, so I'm really curious what others think. I just can't think of a period of time when he was active and I wouldn't call him one of the hand full of best in the world.

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I think someone can be one of the best in the world and be pre-prime or post-prime. Surely we'd consider Stan Hansen in 1993 "past his prime" but he's still amazing and having a GOAT year. 

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I would not say that about Hansen. The 1991-1994 run might have been the best of his career, so it seems ridiculous to say it wasn't his prime, even if it wasn't his physical peak. Would we say 1989 wasn't in Flair's prime because he was a better athlete in 1984? It seems like a useless semantical rabbit hole to go down.

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Bryan was always great, yeah, but he wasn't always as great as he was at his very best, so calling his entire career his prime sounds a bit too much if you ask me. 2006-09 Bryan is by far a better period than, idk, 2010-2011 Bryan or 2003-05 Bryan.

What's crazy about Bryan is that he can have a very good match, or even something definitely great, at any point in his career, but most of the times those matches are just "another very good/great Bryan match". That's his day in the office. When you look at his absolute best work, more often than not you'll have it at 2006-09, 2012-14 and/or 2018. Those are his prime years.

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I like Bryan a lot but saying that his prime is his whole career isn’t useful. I like Tetsujin’s approach. Even if you do believe Bryan has been the best in the world for his whole career we should critically think about how some periods are stronger than others. 

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If Bryan has down periods, it's because of shitty WWE booking and not his performances, which are always top notch regardless of angles, characters, or storylines.

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I wonder how Bryan would identify his prime. 

Is there anyone in the history of any field whose "prime" was their entire career? 

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Rey Jr is actually a very good call. 

Edit

Thinking more about this...meh. Even the biggest Rey Jr fanboys wouldn't claim he was a best in the world candidate in 1993 or allege that was part of his prime. 

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Bryan is still very young and even though being a top performer months after debuting and continue to be one 20 years later is an incredibly impressive feat, not sure what pinpointing his prime would tell us about him that is new or could add to his case.

Not sure I'd rate his 02-04 as his primer either. That was more of a learning phase than him being at the peak of his powers.

30 minutes ago, elliott said:

I wonder how Bryan would identify his prime. 

Is there anyone in the history of any field whose "prime" was their entire career? 

Having read or heard almost every interview he's ever done (plus his book), my guess is that he would say his prime has changed over the years. He probably say 06-07 but nowadays he'd most likely point to his heel turn and WWE Title run in 2018, as he not only was able to have a great match with anyone, in any style, he had also found his comfort zone with the mic and could cut great promos weekly, which was a weak spot in his resume he was able to overcome.

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I find it funny that the people specifying when exactly Bryan's prime was are all coming up with totally different periods!

But anyway, I find this the focus on 'prime' a bit cumbersome and not useful. I went into this a bit in the Akira Hokuto thread that people should really be assessed by how great they were at that time in general rather than in comparison to their very best, otherwise you end up unfairly penalising the very best wrestlers for not always meeting an impossibly high bar often due to circumstances outside their control. I think with Bryan some years are stronger than others, but he's still comfortably one of the best wrestlers in the world from 2003 - present (minus 2015-18 when he was out injured) and I don't think he has a single year where he's significantly below his best, and even those years it was more he had less opportunities than anything.

I also think some of his very best stuff was in that late 2018 - early 2020 run, so it's not like there's been any noticeable decline due to aging yet. And I'm only cutting it off at 2020 because I've barely watched any pandemic era WWE. If you're talking about prime in a simplistic (pre-prime > prime > post-prime) trajectory then Bryan's pre-prime is maybe 1999-03 and he's still in his prime as far as I can tell. Even just these Roman Reigns matches in 2021 there's nothing in his performances that makes me think he's a lesser worker than he was any time in his career. That he's apparently been one of the best at adapting to the no crowds situation is another feather in his cap really.

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