Pros and Cons of Daniel Bryan Signing with AEW over WWE
The unthinkable has happened: One of WWE's greatest performers, Daniel Bryan, has walked away from the company.
According to Cassidy Haynes of Bodyslam.net, the 40-year-old has signed with All Elite Wrestling and plans to work for the company in a limited capacity as well as returning to New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Bryan has long been considered one of the greatest wrestlers in the world. This was true even before he joined WWE for a second time in 2010 when he worked under his real name, Bryan Danielson, in other promotions such as Ring of Honor.
His natural charisma quickly made him a household name, leading to him main-eventing WrestleMania XXX and winning five world championships. He is a grand slam champion for the company and would have become a surefire Hall of Famer if he remained with WWE.
Instead, he looks to be venturing out into the world beyond Vince McMahon and Co. in search of fresh opportunities, and there is a wealth of talent left for him to face before he calls it a career.
This is a risky venture with its own pros and cons, but this is a chance for a wrestling great to solidify his legacy beyond WWE. It is all a matter of what Bryan does and how he works in these coming years.
Pro: New Matchups That Could Keep Him Busy for Years
Bryan had wrestled just about everyone in WWE. By the end, he was hyping up the next generation and was likely willing to work with almost any of them, but he did not have the story and backing to do it.
Signing with AEW opens up a wealth of new possibilities. The obvious match is against Kenny Omega, but The American Dragon could also be looking toward younger stars such as Jungle Boy, MJF and Darby Allin.
The wealth of matches to come will leave him very busy, especially since it is likely he will not travel with AEW on a full-time basis. He wants to spend more time with his family, and his injury history indicates he is no longer the kind of wrestler who can work 200 matches per year.
Instead, he can work for the next four to five years on a part-time deal with AEW, fighting whoever he wants in matches that will draw in audiences.
This is not even mentioning the freedom he has to work with other promotions as well. AEW has opened the door to that, and Bryan is sure to want to explore the wrestling landscape before he retires.
Con: Likely Lower Pay and Lacking the Same Spotlight
Signing Bryan may be one of AEW's biggest coups to date. Even Chris Jericho was out of WWE at the time he made the choice to work with the company.
However, while this should help AEW, it does not make it a legitimate threat to WWE. No promotion can defeat McMahon's juggernaut for spotlight and recognition. It has dominated the scene for far too long.
That leaves Bryan in a position where he is unlikely to receive the same spotlight that he did in WWE. He is certainly not going to walk into a stadium packed with fans as he did at past WrestleManias.
Tony Khan may be a wealthy man, but AEW is not the financial giant WWE is. There is no way Bryan will make what he was making in WWE at his peak. AEW may pay well, but it won't support him at the level his previous employer could.
Perhaps Bryan can supplement it with appearances in other promotions, but he is still working to get back to the WWE main event money.
Pro: Freedom to Work Just About Anywhere Else
The "forbidden door" opened for Omega, and many are stepping through it.
Bryan can go back to working wherever he wants with whoever he wants. NJPW has to be watching him closely with a wealth of hard-hitting talent waiting for him, including Kazuchika Okada and Shingo Takagi.
Impact Wrestling has been a perfect landing spot for anyone who wants to wrestle someone on their roster. Josh Alexander, Chris Bey, Moose and Eddie Edwards come to mind here immediately.
NWA and AAA are also a part of this agreement between promotions, leaving Bryan with many possibilities. For a man who loves wrestling as much as he does, it would not be a surprise to see him appear in a new promotion every month.
Con: Longer Travel, Less Protection
WWE allowed Bryan a certain amount of protection and freedom that other companies do not. He has a serious concussion history but still does a diving headbutt on occasion.
AEW will likely do well by Bryan, but will smaller promotions think to protect him? NJPW has been built on a strong style focus that can lead to serious injury, yet most wrestlers are expected to soldier through.
The travel will not help matters as he will go all across the globe for different promotions in a way he only did at his prime in WWE.
He could have coasted on another WWE deal. It would have been a chance to solidify his legacy and stick around with his family. Instead, he has chosen an unknown route and a danger that might make others cautious.
Pro: Creative Control Unlike He Has Had in Years
At the tail end of his time in WWE, Bryan clearly had some backstage sway. He was able to put certain stars front and center on SmackDown, but that kind of creative control is always limited in WWE.
Outside WWE, he has a creative freedom that he has not felt in a long time. The company helped him hone him storytelling to the point that he may be one of the smartest men in wrestling today.
AEW is certain to give him plenty of creative leeway, and any promotion that brings in him will likely listen to him closely. The American Dragon can forge his own path, define his legacy in a way he may never expected that he could.
So many have talked about the freedom they feel outside the WWE system. While some can be trusted more with that freedom than others, Bryan is certain to benefit. He knows himself and the competition better than most.