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Timbo Slice

Four (Singles) Matches In - Punk vs Danielson

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I think it’s interesting to reflect on what each guy’s run so far has looked like after their first four singles matches, which have varied greatly and shown a lot more I think than even most were expecting, even with high expectations. Who have you enjoyed more so far in his singles run? Punk or Danielson?

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Don't think the expectations were quite the same, and how could they be. Totally different contexts. CM Punk is slowly getting back into the groove and has been mighty fine. Danielson has had two MOTYC against Omega & Suzuki, one of the best TV match of the year against Nick Jackson and yet another excellent one against Bobby Fish. He's back working at a level that makes his best WWE stuff look like playground shit.

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I think it's a case of expectations. Danielson has been put in two matches were he "had" to deliver a MOTYC caliber match and at least one of the other two was worked aiming to get that too (vs Nick Jackson). In that sense, I think Dragon has been able to meet the very high expectations people had of him, while at the same time reminding people how different his character was before going to WWE. No more "flying goat underdog", he's just a little badass that's gonna beat the shit out of you. He's also given the fans what they want and worked in a way the crowd wants him to.

Punk, on the other hand, was kind of a mystery. He's always been someone that works best when he has an angle/feud to sink his teeth in and after 7 years there had to be ring rust. But there are still fans that expected 05-11 Punk for some reason. In that sense, he's both surpassed and came short of meeting said expectations, weirdly enough. To me though, he's been good and has provided matches that the AEW crowd doesn't necessarily want, but has been able to make them invested, and that's impressive for someone that was gone for so long.

 

I'm happy with both of them but Danielson kinda wins of the strength of the matches he's had and me liking how he's worked them.

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I've enjoyed Punk's quiet matches more than Danielson's loud ones. That's probably a me thing though. I look forward to Danielson wrestling all the guys Punk did.

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I'd say Danielson's matches are better in that I give them more precious stars even if not as many stars as others do but I enjoy Punk's matches more. Part of that is the sheer joy of seeing Punk, probably my all time favorite, back and enjoying himself and working smartly to get back into things.

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31 minutes ago, Jmare007 said:

:rolleyes:

Well, I happened to rewatch some of his best WWE stuff before he showed up, including the HHH match and the Kofi match. Yeah. Not even close to the same level. It's so striking how WWE's house style is just the weakest because of how patterned and restricted it is. And really, although I thought his performance was almost magic trick level at Mania against Kofi (who is simply not that good) it changes *everything* when you work in an environment that allows you to do whatever you want, against some of the greatest workers in the world. So yeah, playground shit indeed. :P

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Bryan's matches are better by virtue of him being better and the stakes in his matches being somewhat higher, but I do find nice that Punk is getting to interact with younger talent and give them some sort of rub. It's always interesting to see how he interacts with people outside the ring, more than inside it.

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If anything Bryan seems to be stylistically limiting himself more in AEW than when he was in WWE. He's certainly cut his moveset down pretty drastically, doesn't really do much other than grappling and strikes now.

But I don't think you can really compare the two because Bryan's been launched into a main event feud the moment he stepped into the company whereas Punk's just had midcard matches. Both are delivering the goods, but Punk is the bigger story because there was never any real reason to doubt Bryan would be good in AEW, whereas who could know what 7 years out of wrestling could have done to Punk. He's getting a little better with every match and vs. Sydal especially he didn't feel much different to 2012.

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I liked Punk/Garcia the most out of all the matches either man has had so far. Punk coming back as a Bret Hart tribute act has been the most pleasing wrestling development of 2021 for me. I especially appreciate the fact that he maintains a degree of subtlety about it and doesn't quite beat you over the head with it the way, say, Eddie Kingston does with his All Japan tribute stuff.

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The striking thing about the initial responses is how much WWE vitriol fuels them. If you think Bryan was tampered down tremendously, then you have a baked-in sense of improvement in AEW. Meanwhile Punk has gone Back To Basics, incorporated a few of his old spots, but has wrestled in a style much like his WWE peak. 
 

I’m not trying to play “gotcha” here but the “WWE stench” card can only go so far when evaluating folks.

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10 minutes ago, Timbo Slice said:

If you think Bryan was tampered down tremendously, then you have a baked-in sense of improvement in AEW.

Nope. It's absolutely striking. There is no way Brian has the matches he had with Omega or Suzuki in WWE. Not even close. And it's not the same for everybody. Jericho really is not much different as an in-ring performer for instance. Ditto guys like Shawn Spears or Jake Hagger, or even FTR who mainly worked in NXT where the restrictions just weren't the same at all (but that's the thing too, NXT, well, NXT 1.0, and WWE main roster don't have the same house-style).

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Did you watch that particular match? He has had a few matches where he wasn't just a plucky underdog.

That said, I do think he is definitely presenting himself in a way he never was allowed in WWE. I think he has a few matches in WWE I prefer over the Omega match, but he was never the American Dragon in WWE. Not really. He never felt so dangerous as he does here. I have enjoyed Punk's run so far, but I have seen better versions of Punk before, while this is the first time we are properly seeing Dragon on a major stage in a big-time setting. His run has been very special so far. 

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2 minutes ago, MoS said:

Did you watch that particular match?

I think my reply kinda answered that question. ;)

It's not a matter of him playing underdog either. He's great at it. Well he's great at everything, really. It's the whole package in term of how he choses to work, the intensity, the demeanor etc...

3 minutes ago, MoS said:

He never felt so dangerous as he does here. I have enjoyed Punk's run so far, but I have seen better versions of Punk before, while this is the first time we are properly seeing Dragon on a major stage in a big-time setting. His run has been very special so far. 

Agree. And I hope we get these NJPW matches in the future too. 

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13 minutes ago, NintendoLogic said:

I recommend revisiting the 2/3 falls match against Sheamus. Off the top of my head, I'd say he looked about as dangerous there as he does in AEW.

Yup. That's the one. The smirk he gives when he notices Sheamus is down and vulnerable is just perfection. He was bullying someone twice his size, it was beautiful.

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I think there a ton of assumptions being made about both guys and how well they’ve performed relative to what most folks see them as in their idealized brain. That’s what I’m getting at essentially. The idea of WWE having such a “controlled” working environment as opposed to the “freedom” of AEW is carrying a ton of water here. New Japan has a lot of freedom, yes, but they also have 25-minute EVIL and Chase Owens matches. 
 

I’m trying to look at this objectively because I feel Punk has been under-appreciated while Dragon has been lauded to a degree few wrestlers ever get. Yet both guys have worked the same amount of singles matches, have had variety, and somewhat predictably, the action-focused Bryan work has been held in higher regard while Punk has been seen as “getting his legs under him.” My point is that these are pretty base-level assumptions that carry more weight than they should.

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I mean, we're obviously just seeing ROH American Dragon in AEW having MOYTC's nearly every time. It wasn't a case of me expecting vast improvement leaving WWE, It's a case of knowing Bryan adapted to the limits in WWE by considering it a parody of wrestling (in his own words) and now that he is no longer in that environment I fully expected ROH AmDrag back. 

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Bryan Danielson On Differences Between His Wrestling Styles In AEW & WWE, Wanting To Work G1 Climax In NJPW

Bryan Danielson on his goal to work a G1 Climax in NJPW: “One of the things I’ve always really wanted to do is I’ve wanted to do a G1. I like to push myself physically, and that’s actually one of the reasons I joined AEW is because they wrestle a very physical style. My match with Minoru Suzuki, very physical. My match with Bobby Fish, very physical. One of the most grueling things to do in professional wrestling is the G1 tournament because it’s so many physical matches and it’s night after night after night. One after another, you’re in the ring with killers, so that is something that really appeals to me. Now, it doesn’t appeal to my wife so much. She’s not bothered, but she’s like, ‘Oh, Bryan.’ She knows I’m gonna come home on Sunday and be beat up and have a big smile on my face. She just shakes my head at me sometimes, but she’s happy that I’m happy.”

 

On the differences between his wrestling styles in AEW and WWE: “They can expect it to be very aggressive and very physical. I love smashmouth wrestling, and that’s what I want to do in AEW. For years in WWE, I was portrayed as the underdog, and they wanted me to wrestle a certain style and that sort of thing. Now, I can do what I like to do and wrestle with a higher degree of physicality. I think that scares some people [laughs]. But that’s one of the things I enjoy about wrestling the most. That’s something I really enjoy.”

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Yeah, I mean it isn't a presumption based on an image in my idealized brain that Danielson feels more dangerous and badass here than he did in WWE, or that Punk has had better runs than he has had here. It is simple reality. Point to individual matches and little things Danielson did all day long, it doesn't change his overall booking pattern. 

5 hours ago, Timbo Slice said:

 

I’m trying to look at this objectively because I feel Punk has been under-appreciated while Dragon has been lauded to a degree few wrestlers ever get. Yet both guys have worked the same amount of singles matches, have had variety, and somewhat predictably, the action-focused Bryan work has been held in higher regard while Punk has been seen as “getting his legs under him.” My point is that these are pretty base-level assumptions that carry more weight than they should.

I am honestly not sure what this means. Nor the point about EVIL. Yeah, freedom when misused by bad workers is bad. What does that have to do with Danielson? Danielson doesn't need base quality control. He can actually make good use of the lack of restrictions, unlike EVIL. 

The reason people say Punk is trying to get his reps back in his matches, is because he is clearly trying to get his reps back in. There have been numerous times when he has blown up and needed to grab a hold, or when his opponent has been working around him, etc etc. He isn't doing a back to basics approach, he is getting his basics in order. It isn't about moves either; as mentioned, Bryan hasn't come close to utilizing his full moveset in WWE. I honestly don't see how you can watch Punk move and feel he is anywhere near his best. For Bryan, he has had two matches right out of the gate which have been considered MOTYcs. Is it a surprise that his run has been more lauded? You can think the matches are overrated, but that's an argument about the merits of WWE house style vis a vis the modern AEW/NJPW style; that's a larger point beyond Punk and Danielson.

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Because there’s more to a match than the moves and the action. That’s what I meant by the base assumptions holding too much water. Dragon has had matches that are very much catnip to these fans. He’s played up the striking and showing a diverse move set because that’s the expectation of him at this point. The idea of him being unleashed from the shackles of WWE. It does him a disservice for what he DID do in the company even with both the implied and actual limitations placed on him. To lean on that as the main reason his work in AEW has been so well-received is flimsy at best, and confirmation bias at worst. 
 

Meanwhile, Punk has undoubtedly worked a smarter style than Dragon has, and what everyone has perceived as issues with him have actually been strengths and a model for match efficiency. In all four matches, he knew as soon as he had his best shot to end it, he ended it. Darby or Sydal trying to speed him up later in the match? Better figure out a way to hit the GTS. Hobbs’ strength making things worse the closer they got to that 15 minute mark with Hook looming? Have to swing for the fences at the best opening he could get. Knee taken apart by Garcia because he’s at the absolute top of his game? Pull out the piledriver and the Vice and don’t look back.

Dragon has been more performative and has had points in his matches that really scream fan service (especially in the Suzuki match), whereas Punk has really leaned into coming across as a guy who is probably way over his head and is getting by on guile alone, even if he has a rep for being a GOAT candidate. I know that fans have been more conditioned to a wrestling style much more like Bryan’s than Punk’s since Punk left, but historically, the way Punk is working is in some ways a better brand of pro wrestling than just being able to do what you want when you want, even if the guy being unleashed is the best wrestler ever. It’s just incredibly fascinating to me and is why I brought it up in the first place, because I’m hearing more about the settings being more influential than the work itself, and that’s not nearly as compelling to me. 

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I don't view it in relation to what they did in WWE. I was excited to watch Danielson wrestle whenever he got the opportunity there, even if I was frustrated with the way he was booked. I'm excited to watch him every time he gets in the ring here. I've enjoyed him more than Punk because he's better at wrestling than Punk. Always was. Which is not to say I'm down on Punk. He's working smart matches based on his re-entry story and his realistic need to shake off a little ring rust. Good on him for that. I look forward to seeing where he takes it. But I'm not going to feel bad for preferring the superior intensity and execution of a generational talent. 

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