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A Look Back: Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) vs. AJ Styles, 2004

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The match begins already in progress. The exact date isn’t noted, but after some research, it’s believed to be around 2004 in New Albany, Indiana for the IWA Mid-South promotion, in what was dubbed ‘An IWA Homecoming.’ The match is Daniel Bryan, who at the time was competing under his real name of Bryan Danielson, against AJ Styles. The commentators clearly recognize that these are two of the best wrestlers in the world. However, watching the people seated around the ring, one can see that it is a crowd of maybe 100 people, which is remarkable considering how far both these men have come and the crowds they perform in front of today.

Early on in the match they wanted to work each other down to the mat and get the better of their opponent. It was incredible to see this battle to get the better of the other on the mat, as both men jockeyed for position and tried to apply leverage against the other man. Danielson is referred to as ‘Dragon’ often in the match, which referred to his ‘American Dragon’ nickname. There was a bit of a heel like nature to Danielson, who falsely claimed that Styles was holding his tights in order to get the advantage. To see the risks these two would take without any padding on the outside area is stunning, and a far cry from what we see today.

Danielson was thrown into the ring, and Styles once again resumed control by hitting Danielson with a leaping knee. Danielson was able to kick out at two. Once the two men were back on their feet, Styles repeatedly took Danielson down with a shoulder tackle. It wasn’t until Danielson hit Styles with a belly to back German suplex that he resumed control of the match. Danielson hit an uppercut, slam, and knee to the temple of his opponent. He was punishing in this match, as he would hold Styles in an abdominal stretch and then grind his forearm into the face and temple of the Phenomenal One. Styles attempted to break the tempo of the match by, appropriately, hitting Danielson with a dragon screw leg whip only for his adversary to get back up and wipe him out. Bryan was quite vocal in this match, either trying to instigate an issue with Styles or simply telling the crowd to stop their clapping each time they tried to get behind Styles in order to encourage him to make a comeback.

American Dragon was relentless in rubbing his forearm across the eyes and nose of Styles until the referee broke it up. We then saw an homage to Tully Blanchard and the Four Horsemen as Danielson hit a slingshot suplex on Styles. After attempting to get a pin, he questioned the speed of the referee’s count stating, ‘That has got to be about as close to three as I’ve ever seen.’ When watching this match, viewers get a much more personal feel because you can hear what the athletes have to say, most notably Danielson who appears to be the heel. He made use of the European uppercut, in an apparent homage to William Regal, and his ring attire appears quite reminiscent of the current NXT General Manager. Danielson continued to work on Styles’ back using an array of knees and a backbreaker submission, reminiscent of a move Ron Simmons or the late Big John Studd may have used in the past.

Just as it appeared as though Styles was about to make a comeback, Danielson hit him with a gut wrench suplex, again putting a strain on the Phenomenal One’s back. The American Dragon was relentless, as he stretched and tried to wear down Styles. Danielson then picked him up and hit an airplane spin that would make former WWE United Kingdom champion Tyler Bate, or former WWF tag team champion Mike Rotunda, proud! The crowd in attendance, although small, still reacted quite vocally to the move, which appeared to wind both athletes by the end of it.

It is incredible to see how the two men aren’t generating much of a reaction from the crowd, as the sparse group was quite quiet. What a difference a decade can make! As the video approached the fifteen and half minute mark, Danielson set Styles up on the top rope as though he was going to hit him with a superplex. However, as Danielson attempted to execute the move, Styles twisted in mid-air and landed on the American Dragon. This took a great deal out of Danielson and gave Styles exactly what he needed in order to recover. Both men got back to their feet and Styles hit Danielson repeatedly with forearms, punches, and clotheslines. He then attempted a cover, but only got a two count.

Despite being in control, Styles was moving slowly as he attempted to get the better of Danielson. What followed was one of those cases where a planned spot didn’t work out as planned. Fans are familiar with the move where Styles will hit an Asai moonsault from the middle rope, land on his feet, wrap his arm around his opponent’s head and hit a scorpion death drop. In this case, however, as the moonsault is being executed, Danielson drops to the ground rather than holding his position. This was a simple enough mistake and didn’t hurt anyone in the process, perhaps he just lost his balance. Styles went with the spot regardless, picked up Danielson and still hit him with the scorpion death drop. Styles proceeds to go for the pin only to have Danielson kick out at two once again.

Both men are completely exhausted at this point. For the most part, the crowd isn’t all that loud and don’t appear engaged. It could be because there were so few people in attendance, or simply familiarity with both athletes. In any event, both men gave a tireless effort with no clear winner in sight. Styles then picked up Danielson and attempted a vertical suplex only to be hit with a knee in the head twice, resulting in a change of plans. On the third attempt at the suplex, Styles hit a backbreaker on Danielson on his way down to the mat. A battered Styles climbed the top rope, only to have Danielson push him resulting in his landing in a seated position on the turnbuckle. Danielson then climbed the ropes and hit Styles with a belly to back suplex off the top rope. He followed with a pin attempt, but Styles kicked out at two.

Danielson then proceeded to wear down his opponent again, only for the Phenomenal One to fire back, hitting Danielson with a Pele kick seemingly as a last resort. That received a smattering of applause from the crowd, who then began to clap to motivate both men. Both men got back up then knocked each other back down with matching clotheslines. Back on their feet, they continued to exchange punches, chops and forearm smashes in what seemed like a last-ditch effort to get the better of the other. Danielson attempted a German suplex, but Styles landed on his feet. It then appeared as though Styles was going to hit a powerbomb, only for Danielson to attempt to reverse it into a hurricanrana. However, even the counter had a counter, and Styles caught him and attempted to hit him with the Styles Clash. Once again that counter was met with a counter and Danielson dropped, brought Styles to the mat and used his then popular cattle mutilation submission move, only to twist him onto his shoulders for the three-count and the win. What a remarkable match up in a match that appeared to be slightly less than 25 minutes in length.

Winner via pinfall: ‘The American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan)

After the match ended, the video was cut short. It was a clean win for Danielson, and it was hard for fans to boo him or his actions. He played the heel in how he acted towards the referee and the crowd in attendance. However, as far as wrestling was concerned, there really wasn’t any heelish action that took place and no bending or breaking of the rules. Comparing this match to what fans can see today, it is fairly clear that both men could do everything then that they do now, and more.

In reading others’ views on the match, there was one negative review that said it wasn’t up to the standard that they had expected from Danielson at that time, and that particular commenter gave it only a 2* and something rating, but that shouldn’t be blamed on the competitors. Both men did a fantastic job selling each others offense. The problem is the reaction of the crowd can often help push the talent to do more and try more, leading to something truly remarkable happening. Despite the match result, both men were winners coming out of the contest. It reflected the types of workers they were and are, telling a story that hadn’t been seen in some time.

These men have faced each other several times, and in April they faced each other for the first time in a WWE ring. However, with time comes experience. They both possess the ability to craft a match that works to each of their strengths, and thus fans can sit back and enjoy their performance, knowing that no matter who walks away as the winner they can enjoy the ride along the way. If readers are interested in watching the match please see the link to the video below of the highlights.


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Cook: Don’t Bet Against Greatness

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

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Tom Brady Super Bowl Trophy

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make, but it’s an equally important lesson to remember. As Steve Cook says: don’t bet against greatness.

It would take at least a thousand columns like this one to explain the biggest mistakes we pundits make. I use the phrase “we” because I’ll never sit here and tell you I’m infallible. I make more mistakes than I care to remember. Today, we’ll talk about one that I’m guilty of pretty often.

Too often, we don’t give greatness the benefit of the doubt.

We jump to quick conclusions when the greats of a genre do things that don’t seem in character, or are different from what we’re used to. We don’t consider the idea that maybe these people, who have already accomplished many things in life, might actually have a better idea what they can do to improve their future than we do.

Hard to believe, I know. This past weekend saw great success for two of the most successful people in the world of sports & entertainment. They serve as perfect examples of my hypothesis.

Example 1: Tom Brady

Tom Brady

For years, I have resisted the idea of calling Tom Brady the Greatest Quarterback of All Time. I never like crowning current stars the greatest of anything, as it disrespects the people that came before them. Unless they just accomplish so damn much that it’d be silly to deny them the honor. Sometimes, people get GOAT status that don’t really deserve it. They seem to be on pace to get there, but never make the jump.

Tom Brady made that jump a long time ago. There isn’t really a metric people can use to sell him short at this point. He’s at or near the top of every significant passing category in league history. There’s also the number of Super Bowls won, and number of rings/titles/championships always wins any sports argument, regardless of the sport. It can’t really be denied at this point.

The one thread people had to hang on to? Bill Belichick. The Patriot Way. Brady & Belichick formed a dynasty together. The other players & assistant coaches always changed, but Tom & Bill were always there. Which provided a bit of drama over the past few years whenever we needed something to talk about. Who was responsible for the success? The answer was obviously a little bit of both, but it was always a big debate.

Brady went to Tampa, and some folks thought it might not work. Many talking heads went on about how Tom was just going to Tampa because he wanted out of the cold weather. He just wanted to have fun for the last couple years of his career. They didn’t think that he could do these things and also win championships.

He’s one game away from doing just that. Are you going to bet against him? I’m not!

Example 2: Vince McMahon

Vince McMahon Laughing

How many articles have you read questioning McMahon’s mental acumen? Especially over the past several years as he’s advanced in age? It seems like everybody has dismissed the old man as a fossil that needs to step aside and let the kids run things.

We think we have evidence for this theory from WWE television. I’ll admit it, Raw most weeks is thoroughly unwatchable. You may disagree, but I’m the one typing this thing up. SmackDown is a little bit better, but Raw’s ineptitude overshadows it for the most part. Then there’s NXT, which most people seem to agree goes downhill the more that Vince pays attention to it.

A good percentage of the Internet wishes that Vince would step aside and not be all over everything.

This places us on the opposite side of most investors, who don’t watch the shows religiously, if at all, and don’t get inside knowledge from the dirt sheets & message boards. What they know is that Vince McMahon is the most successful promoter in wrestling history, and that he knows how to make a lot of money. Which, most would argue, is a lot more important than the quality of the shows one produces.

McMahon has shown an ability to make the right business moves at the right time. 1984 was the right time to go national and wipe out the territories, cable television expanding wrestling program reach made it only a matter of time. Vince was the first one to jump.

The late 1990s when the company was at a mainstream acceptance high was the right time to go public. You didn’t see him trying it in the early 1990s when he was fighting off various scandals and the company was at a mainstream acceptance low. Once people forgot about the steroid & sex stuff and saw how popular the Superstars of the time were, it was time to buy in.

Streaming was the wave of the future when WWE Network started becoming a thing. It was the culmination of nearly thirty years of Vince McMahon collecting nearly every bit of wrestling footage he could. He wanted to own wrestling & create his own history, then he wanted to get everybody else’s history too. He got most of it. There’s stuff sitting in the WWE archives that still hasn’t seen the light of day, and maybe it never will. Everybody and their brother has some kind of streaming service now. WWE was there before most, and now they got the chance to cash in from a media company trying to bolster their own streaming service.

Now, McMahon’s business record isn’t perfect. We know about the WBF & the XFL (twice). We remember how WWE wasn’t the original name. The early 90s scandals have been mentioned. And as major UFC and boxing events have shown, Vince was too quick to give up on pay per view. Left some money on the table there.

Every businessman makes mistakes. Its how they recover from those mistakes that matters. McMahon always comes out of his smelling like roses. There’s never really a long-term negative effect afterward. Vince got Dwayne Johnson to buy the XFL. His attempt to compete in bodybuilding led to no hard feelings. We all eventually got used to saying & writing “WWE”.

All those things we get mad at about Vince? They don’t keep most of us from watching his programming. Which is why WWE is so valuable to media companies. WWE has an audience that it can’t scare away, no matter what it does. People will follow them from USA to Fox to Spike TV to the WWE Network, whatever’s got some of that sweet content.

So the next time somebody wants to tell you that Old Man Vince is out of touch and doesn’t get it anymore…ask that person the last time they deposited a billion dollar check. If it was sometime in the last week, then they might have a point.

I might not be in love with most of the wrestling Vince McMahon produces these days. Are you going to bet against him making money off of it? I’m not!

Do not bet against greatness. More often than not, you will lose.


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Andrew’s Top 5 Matches: Week Ending 1/24/2021

Well even on a quiet-ish week, all of the bigger NA companies get a version of representation and even AJPW found their way into the Top 5! Let’s see what we’re working with!

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Well now, we didn’t have much that really stood out on North American television, but we did get a few additions from All Japan Pro Wrestling!

Last week’s voting was pretty cut and dry, NXT UK: NXT UK Championship: Walter (c) vs A-Kid, managed to control the voting narrative. Now we get this week, and it’s definitely a little more interesting.

Which match will get the most support? Let’s find out!

Quick Top 5:

  1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino
    Rating: **** 1/4
  2. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)
    Rating: *** 3/4
  3. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles
    Rating: *** 3/4
  4. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)
    Rating: *** 1/2
  5. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher
    Rating: *** 1/2

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • NXT UK: Dave Mastiff vs Rampage Brown
    Rating: *** 1/4
  • NXT: Imperium vs Lucha House Party
    Rating: ***
  • WWE Raw: Asuka vs Alexa Bliss
    Rating: ***
  • AEW Dynamite: MJericho vs Sammy Hager vs Santana & Ortiz
    Rating: ***
  • NXT: KUSHIDA & Leon Ruff VS The Way
    Rating: ***

4t. NXT: Fight Pit: Tommaso Ciampa vs Timothy Thatcher

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

The ref checks on Thatcher but Thatcher grabs at Ciampa over the ref’s back! Ciampa uses the leverage for WILLOW’S BELL!! But Ciampa can’t win off a cover, he wants to know if that knocked Thatcher out! The ref starts a count, Thatcher is still conscious but he has to get up before 10! The count is 5, then 6! Thatcher uses the cage and drags himself up at 9.9! But Ciampa CLOBBERS him, underhooks, but Thatcher spins out to throw EuroUppers! Ciampa forearms, they’re brawling back and forth with fury! The fans are fired up as Ciampa CHOPS but Thatcher tackles him into steel!

Ciampa throws elbows, has a facelock, and he RAMS Thatcher into steel! FAIRYTALE ENDING!! And then a SLEEPER HOLD!! Ciampa wants Thatcher to pass out, but Thatcher fights up! And scoops Ciampa to RAM him into the steel! Thatcher gets Ciampa in a sleeper hold of his own, but Ciampa uses the corner to go up! Thatcher shoves Ciampa into the corner! Thatcher CLUBS Ciampa over and over and over, then has the leg trapped in the girder! HANGING STRETCH MUFFLER!! Ciampa shouts in pain, he TAPS! THATCHER WINS!!

Winner: Thatcher Hanging Stretch Muffler

 

4t. IMPACT! Private Party w/Big Money Matt Hardy vs Beer Guns (James Storm & Chris Sabin)

From My Results:

Fast paced as expected, but early on we see Tony Khan and Jerry Lynn walk out to sit at ringside and watch the match. Storm didn’t slow down too much, which is surprising since aside from his brief stint back in Impact at the end of 2020, we saw him tagging with Eli Drake in much slower, less workrate dependent matches.

Private Party were their usual high flying, fun having, break dance inspired flourishes to some offense we’ve seen for years. Beer Guns had a cool tandem move with Sabin Sunset Flipping from outside in, Quen rolled right into the Backstabber from James Storm. Lots of signature spam, a few dives, highlighted by a nice Fosbury Flop from Quen.

Sabin looked to be setting up for the finish, when Jerry Lynn hops the familiar guardrail, grabs Sabin’s foot while Matt Hardy distracted the ref; and Private Party hit Gin & Juice for the heel tactic upset! Interestingly, Private Party still comes off as great babyface kids who are being swindled by scummy adults. So they aren’t playing heel, but everyone around them is doing it for them.

Winner: Private Party via Gin & Juice

 

2t. WWE Raw: Ricochet vs AJ Styles

From Mitchell’s Coverage:

Ricochet is frustrated but Omos is relieved as Styles survives. Ricochet fireman’s carries but Styles fights out. Ricochet mule kicks a leg then back flips into the DEAD LIFT GERMAN! Bridging cover, TWO! Ricochet grows further frustrated but he watches Styles stand. Ricochet runs out from the corner but Styles dodges. Styles runs in, Ricochet elbows back, QUEBRADA into a LARIAT! Styles gets Ricochet up, SNAP BRAIN BUSTER!! Cover, TWO!! Styles fireman’s carries Ricochet for USHIGOROSHI! Cover, TWO! Omos says it’s alright but Styles is still surprised Ricochet survives!

Styles goes to a corner, goes to the apron, and takes aim. Styles springboards, but Ricochet hits the RECOIL!! Both men are down, Ricochet crawls to the cover, TWO!! Styles survives and Ricochet is beside himself! Ricochet goes to the corner, climbs up top, but Styles trips him up! Ricochet lands hard on his stomach and flops to the apron! Omos coaches Styles as Ricochet drags himself up. Styles goes to the corner, brings Styles up, but Ricochet hotshots! Ricochet aims, slingshots, but into Styles’ suplex, that rebounds off the ropes! Into the STYLES CLASH!!! Cover, Styles wins!

Winner: AJ Styles via Styles Clash

 

2t. AJPW New Years Wars Final Round: World Junior Championship: Fuminori Abe vs Koji Iwamoto (c)

Iwamoto has finally started to blossom as the Ace of the current Junior Division. Fuminori Abe on the other hand, is a freelancer who can do anything and everything. This should be a great test for the Junior Ace, since Abe can hit you from every conceivable angle.

There’s a brief period of feeling out we saw the versatility of Abe. He delved into a little bit of his comedic side with the long set up on a Penalty Kick to the back, but he also snapped off some great Frankensteiners and high spots. He also worked over the upper body well to try and go for his signature Octopus Hold, but Iwamoto was able to get the rope break.

Iwamoto’s saving grace was his Judo background. A few Dropkicks to get distance and just catching Abe with multiple Judo Throws, set up beautifully for the Koko no Geijutsu, because it is also a fast snapping Judo Throw, but he uses the ropes for the added momentum to make it a finish.

Smooth as butter, and only rated under a 4 because of how fast the match was. If it had a longer build or another back and forth, this could’ve been epic. But it was still a damn great match.

After the match Cima challenged via video.

Winner: Koji Iwamoto via Koko no Geijutsu

 

1. AJPW New Year Wars Final Round: Triple Crown Championship: SUWAMA (c) vs Shotaro Ashino

Suwama’s hand picked opponent because of their similarities. Ashino being the former ace of Wrestle-1, a disciple of Keiji Mutoh and an accomplish amateur style wrestler; this all rings true with Suwama. So we get part two of the Mutoh’s favorite son challenge!

This match did have a few of the same issues as their first one, since a slower mat based style doesn’t resonate well with no crowd or a muted crowd. Suwama did keep up with Ashino for the most part, and the match had many similar elements as the first match. Ashino worked over the Ankle and went for the Ankle Lock; where Suwama showed he could counter most of it and apply his own submissions.

Smartly, Ashino did his best to avoid the Last Ride Powerbomb, which is how he lost his first challenge, and force Suwama to dig deeper. Ashino was explosive with German Suplexes, but he fell into the SANADA trap. Ashino drags Suwama to position him from the corner, even commentary is confused since Ashino is no high flier, but Ashino goes for the Mutoh Moonsault, and hits nothing!

After the miss it felt like Ashino was looking for something he didn’t have to take down Suwama. Suwama did have to pull off numerous Backdrop Drivers and finally the Backdrop Suplex Hold to retain the title. A very solid defense that built off the previous matchup, and would’ve been much better if the mat wrestling didn’t feel like it dragged because of the world situation.

Kohei Sato comes out after to challenge.

Winner: Suwama via Backdrop Suplex Hold

 

Thoughts:

Now I’m really intrigued at how this vote will shake out. A few matches from the lesser view AJPW, a match from Raw, a crossover with AEW & Impact and a gimmick match from NXT.

My vote personally will go to Private Party vs Beer Guns, because this is the first interaction that really does feel interesting for the invasion/war/crossover/takeover whatever story. Great use of former Impact talent, great screwjob and ideally should lead to bigger things. Plus it’s nice to see a younger/undercard team like Private Party getting their star elevated a bit.

Do I think any of these matches touch the first week of the year? No, not at all. But they weren’t stinkers, so let’s make the month interesting before Royal Rumble!


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