Blistered and with a swollen chest, after 56:00 Bryan "American Dragon" Danielson walks out still the Ring of Honor champ, having beaten Roderick Strong, on Friday, March 31, 2006 in Chicago Ridge, Illinois.
- Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
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REAL NAME: Bryan Danielson
BORN: May 22, 1981 in Aberdeen, Washington
NICKNAMES: American Dragon
If it was a long way from Aberdeeen, Washington, where Bryan Danielson was born, to San Antonio, Texas, where he learned to wrestle at Shawn Michaels' Wrestling Academy, it was even further to Japan.
In December 1999, just weeks after his professional debut, Danielson was off to wrestle for Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling. On December 12th he teamed with Lance Cade in a losing effort against Hisakatsu Oya & Yoshinori Sasaki at Korakuen Hall.
Danielson returned to North America in 2001, and headed to the Texas Wrestling Alliance, teaming with Brian "Spanky" Kendrick for the TWA Tag Team titles, defeating beat Jeromy Sage & Ruben Cruz on March 21, 2000. Signed to a WWE contract and assigned to Memphis Championship Wrestling soon after, Danielson, by now wrestling as the American Dragon, would clash with Spanky over the MCW Light Heavyweight title (Danielson won the belt on August 12th, 2000) and team with him (winning the MCW Tag titles on December 1st).
In 2001, Danielson began to expand his base of operations, winning the NWA Canadian Junior Heavyweight title from Chance Beckett in Surrey, B.C., and teaming with Low Ki to defeat the Haas Brothers in Wilmington, Delaware for the East Coast Assocation Tag titles. No wonder that he was crowned the APW King of the Indies in October, defeating Kendrick, Doug Williams, Donovan Morgan and Low Ki to win the tournament in Vallejo, California.
In early 2002, Danielson found himself matched up against Christopher Daniels and Low Ki quite a bit. The Fallen Angel won a five-way match in January 2002 for the ECWA Championship that included Danielson, Red, Mike Kruel and Low Ki. In Ring of Honor, Daniels, Danielson and Low Ki engaged in a round-robin tournament that ended in a three-way tie over the course of the spring of 2002. Danielson teamed with Mike Modest and made it to the finals of the ROH Tag Team Title tournament, falling to Christopher Daniels and Donovan Morgan in the finals in September 2002.
Danielson returned to the Orient in October to compete in New Japan Pro Wrestling, defeating Wataru Inoue and the legendary El Samurai.
Back in Ring of Honor, Danielson would win a #1 contender's trophy, only to have to recapture it after losses to A.J. Styles and Paul London. As 2003 dawned, Danielson returned to his barnstorming ways (at least a little bit) battling Samoa Joe in Queens, New York and later, took on Paul London in a thrilling best-of-three falls match, traveling to the Orient in March and, on May 6th, captured the All Star Wrestling World Heavy Middleweight title in Croyden, England.
Returning to North America, Danielson took on A.J. Styles, Jay Briscoe among others in Ring of Honor. In addition to that, he also worked several matches for WWE, including a dark match victory over Arch Kincaid and a tag loss that saw Danielson team with John Walters in a loss to Paul London and Spanky on Velocity.
Danielson continued to wrestle in ROH, teaming with Samoa Joe for an unsuccessful run at the Tag Team titles. In addition, Danielson traveled to Japan once again, and teamed with "Curry Man" (Christopher Daniels) to win the IWGP Tag Team titles, defeating Gedo and Jado on March 12, 2004. Danielson also took part in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, losing to Koji Kanemoto in the semi-finals. He would fair better in the U.S. version of the tournament, held in Santa Monica, CA on April 16th, defeating X-Pac (Sean Waltman), Chad Collyer, and Rocky Romero.
Back in Ring of Honor, Danielson won a six-man elimination match (defeating Colt Cabana, Samoa Joe, Mark Briscoe, Homicide & Austin Aries) to win the Survival of the Fittest tournamnent on June 24, 2004. Speaking of tournaments, Danielson competed in September's IWA-Mid South Ted Petty Invitational tournament, losing to A.J. Styles in the triple threat final that also included Samoa Joe.
After losing to ROH Champion Samoa Joe in an October 2004 title match, Danielson tangled with Jushin Liger in November, in both singles and tag action. (Liger teamed with Samoa Joe, while Danielson had Low Ki as his partner.)
While feuding with Homicide in Ring of Honor, Danielson also wrestled for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, the NWA ECCW (making it to the finals of the Pacific Cup tournament) and Full Impact Pro. In the spring of 2005, Danielson engaged in a "best of five" series with Homicide, winning the series with a victory in a cage match on May 13, 2005.
After losing a Ring of Honor championship match to Austin Aries on May 17th, Danielson took some time off to take stock of his career. He took a few dates over the summer of 2005, including a Warrior 1 Wrestling show in Ontario, before returning to Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in September. His return to Ring of Honor on September 17th netted him the ROH Championship, defeating James Gibson for the title.
Although being ROH Champion has not completely curtailed his independent dates, Danielson spent the end of 2005 and early 2006 focusing on defending the Ring of Honor Championship, retaining it against everyone from Steve Corino to Chris Sabin to Christopher Daniels to A.J. Styles to Jimmy Rave to Lance Storm. Danielson also is the head trainer of the ROH wrestling school and attending college.
In January of 2005, Danielson defeated Roderick Strong and Homicide to win the FIP Championship as well. He defended the belt against challengers such as Alex Porteau, Colt Cabana, and Roderick Strong. His feud with Strong, which crossed over with Ring of Honor, resulted in Strong challenging Danielson to a match on November 11th. Strong said if he lost the match he would leave FIP. Strong defeated Danielson for the title, ending The American Dragon’s title reign at 11 months.
Dragon’s title run continued throughout the summer as Ring of Honor Champion. Dragon defeated ROH Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness on August 12th, 2006 in England to unify the titles. Dragon would truly show his grit and determination when he made a challenge for back-to-back 2 out of 3 falls title defenses. On August 25th he went to an hour-long draw with McGuinness in St. Paul, MN. The next night in Chicago he wrestled a one-hour draw with Colt Cabana, a match that eight minutes in saw him separate his shoulder – an injury that he worked through for the rest of the year.
After two pinfall non-title losses to Pro Wrestling NOAH star Kenta, Danielson put the title on the line in Ring of Honor’s debut at the Manhattan Center – former home of Monday Night RAW in Manhattan on September 16th. After forty minutes Danielson finally defeated Kenta to retain the belt. Dragon continued to earn fans respect by continuing to wrestle while injured. His next test was a feud with former ROH champion Samoa Joe. The two fought to a twenty-minute draw at the annual “Survival of the Fittest” event on October 6th. Joe choked out Dragon in a No-DQ No Time Limit non title match on October 28th and teamed with Nigel McGuinness to beat Danielson and Jimmy Rave on November 4th. The two met with the title on the line in a Steel Cage Match on December 8th in Chicago. Joe had a sleeper hold on Danielson as they hung out the door, and Danielson fell to the floor to retain.
Danielson also made his debut for Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan on November 17th, 2006 teaming with Bison Smith and Eddie Edwards to defeat KENTA, Ricky Marvin and Akitoshi Saito. Danielson’s tour continued until December 2nd when he lost to KENTA in a singles match.
Back in the US, Danielson’s final battle loomed on the horizon. After defeating Homicide on June 3rd, Homicide made it his goal to win the ROH title by years end or he would leave the company. Overcoming several obstacles in his path from commissioner Jim Cornette, Homicide came home to New York City on December 23rd. After nearly thirty minutes Homicide connected with a lariat and ended Danielson’s 14 month reign as champion. After the match Danielson handed Homicide the title.
Danielson has won several wrestler of the year awards for 2006 in light of his work ethic, fighting through a serious injury, and consistently putting on great matches. After losing the belt to Homicide Danielson took time off from wrestling to heal his shoulder. He is expected to return to the ring in late spring of 2007.
Aug. 14, 2013: Daniel Bryan: SummerSlam 'biggest opportunity that I've ever had'
Jan. 25, 2013: 'Yes! Yes!' Daniel Bryan on top of the world
Aug. 14, 2012: Daniel Bryan DVD cries out for more
Mar. 14, 2012: Daniel Bryan prepares a new catchphrase for Montreal
Jan. 6, 2011: Bryan reflects on WWE return and Cena match, anticipates future feuds
Oct. 18, 2010: Bryan looking forward to Winnipeg and Calgary shows
Oct. 16, 2010: Daniel Bryan loving WWE roller coaster ride
July 27, 2010: Danielson eyes NWA's top prize
June 19, 2010: WWE Bryan fiasco real or fake?
June 12, 2010: WWE releases Daniel Bryan
Sep. 21, 2006: Fiery words from American Dragon
Sep. 15, 2006: Danielson epitomizes ROH's evolution
Sep 20, 2005: Danielson new ROH champ at emotional show
--- compiled by John M. Milner and Jason Clevett
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