AEW's Bryan Danielson on Knee Injury, 'Feral Animal' Jon Moxley, and More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2022

AEW's Bryan Danielson on Knee Injury, 'Feral Animal' Jon Moxley, and More

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    Bryan Danielson has momentum on his side heading into AEW Double or Nothing this Sunday.
    Bryan Danielson has momentum on his side heading into AEW Double or Nothing this Sunday.Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    You would be hard-pressed to find a performer firing on all cylinders anywhere in wrestling right now quite like Bryan Danielson.

    The American Dragon has long been recognized by fans and fellow wrestlers alike as one of the best in the business. However, it isn't a stretch to say he's doing some of his strongest work ever right now in All Elite Wrestling—both inside and outside of the ring.

    Danielson been among the most must-see parts of the company's programming in recent months as part of Blackpool Combat Club with Jon Moxley, William Regal and Wheeler Yuta.

    Representing the group, Danielson and Moxley are set to team with the unpredictable Eddie Kingston, Santana and Ortiz to take on The Jericho Appreciation Society in an Anarchy in the Arena match at Double or Nothing this Sunday.

    Also this weekend, he'll be making his return to Carpool Karaoke when the show's fifth season drops on Apple TV+ on Friday. The 41-year-old is no stranger to the road life, but it's a slightly different dynamic when CM Punk, Christian Cage and Britt Baker are in for the ride as well.

    From Punk's return to wrestling to his relationship with Regal to Double or Nothing expectations, Danielson had plenty to say in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report. Check out the complete audio of the interview on the next slide and read on for the highlights.

Riding with CM Punk, Christian Cage and Britt Baker for 'Carpool Karaoke'

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    AEW fans have a lot to look forward to on the fifth season of Carpool Karaoke when Danielson guest stars on an upcoming episode alongside CM Punk, Christian Cage and Britt Baker. MJF, Powerhouse Hobbs, Ruby Soho and other notable names from the company's stacked roster are also set to appear.

    His last appearance on the program came in early 2020 when he rode with The Bella Twins: wife Brie and sister-in-law Nikki. Although riding on the road comes naturally for Danielson, having the red light on for Carpool Karaoke reminded him more of his time on Total Bellas and Total Divas than anything else.

    "It's very different from being on the road from when I first started in WWE and was riding with Sheamus, Ted DiBiase Jr., William Regal and occasionally Cody Rhodes," he said. "We're in a mini van and it's way different than that. It's a bit of a different experience where the topics go into a wild, uncharted territory that may not be suitable for TV. But it was a lot of fun."

    Five years ago, the idea of Danielson, Punk and Christian all wrestling for the same promotion again would have been unfathomable. Not only have they been reunited, though, they're also sharing a car with a bright up-and-comer in Britt Baker, who has already had an accomplished career despite being relatively new to the business.

    Danielson had plenty of praise for his three AEW cohorts during the filming process for the show.

    "I think Punk is so witty, but you have Christian in the car, too, who is also very witty," he said. "There's almost a generational gap between me, Punk, Christian and Britt. We were filming it in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the winter and it was freezing cold. Those are the two things I remember."

Why Punk Being Back in Wrestling Brings Him Joy

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    The illustrious careers of Danielson and Punk have been intertwined for decades.

    Their early battles in Ring of Honor and elsewhere on the independent scene were iconic, along with their many memorable matches in WWE years later. And it's more a matter of when and not if they'll cross paths again in AEW.

    The two last interacted on television in late 2013 and teamed up once or twice before Punk abruptly departed WWE shortly thereafter. His dissociation from wrestling has been well-documented, but he has since returned in remarkable fashion and is also doing exceptional work.

    Danielson is ecstatic to have his longtime confidant back in the business with him.

    "The CM Punk story is really interesting and it's one of the things that has brought me a lot of joy just seeing how happy he is wrestling," he said. "You'd hear occasionally after he left WWE how he...I don't want to say hated wrestling but he had no interest in wrestling. That makes me sad.

    "The first time I met him, he fractured his skull on an independent show. This is a guy who has spent a huge part of his adult life getting excellent at professional wrestling, and I'm glad to see his love of it come back.

    "It's hard to take that sort of time off, but it seems like he's come back [better]. The MMA training has helped, too, and he's super-athletic and super-agile, and I think he's doing a lot of great work right now. It's a lot of fun for me to watch."

William Regal's Influence

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    An alliance between Danielson and Jon Moxley would have been outstanding no matter what, but throwing William Regal into the mix at Revolution in March was one of the smartest booking decisions AEW could have made.

    The three have tremendous on-screen chemistry together, and their history with one another from the last decade-plus has a lot to do with that.

    Regal played a pivotal role in Danielson's development as a performer early on and now he's thrilled to have him as a mentor again in AEW.

    "To be fair, I never thought WWE would let him go because of he's such a valuable commodity and all of the talent loves him," he said about whether he considered the possibility of Regal joining him in AEW. "He's helped a lot of talent more than with just in-ring wrestling."

    Danielson explained that he hated being around wrestling as the SmackDown general manager when he was forced to retire from the ring in 2016, but Regal was the one who "talked him off the ledge."

    He raved about the former NXT GM's great advice and perspective on things, specifically with non-wrestling-related matters. 

    "I don't think I've ever said this before, maybe not even to him," Danielson said. "My family has a history with addiction stuff, especially my dad, and he really helped me with that because of his past problems. When somebody brings up that stuff, it gets to my heart a bit because it reminds me how his perspective on it helped me love my dad through his addiction. It was weird because I was almost always trying to change my father, and the way that William Regal... we had a lot of long conversations about it, it helped me love my father as he was. That was such a blessing.

    "My dad died in 2014, so it was essentially 10 years after William Regal and I had had those conversations. I got to live those 10 years fully loving my dad, as opposed to the half wishing he would change. He had such a great perspective on it. There's some things that make your wrestling life better. He's made me a much better wrestler in many different ways, but there's also ways that he's just made my life better."

Thoughts on Mox, Anarchy in the Arena and Status of Knee Injury

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    Regal isn't the only Blackpool Combat Club member Danielson has heavy praise for. In addition to calling Wheeler Yuta's match with Moxley on Rampage last month a star-making performance, he also referred to the former Dean Ambrose as a "feral animal" he loves to watch.

    “Mox may be my favorite person to watch in pro wrestling right now," he said. "It's funny because I like the way he's wrestling right now. At first, I was thinking he was wrestling wild. Then I thought he's not wrestling wild, it's almost as if he's wrestling feral. He's just a feral animal! It's really fun to be out there when it happens."

    He added that their different styles complement each other in a variety of ways, which will be on full display in their Anarchy in the Arena match against The Jericho Appreciation Society at Double or Nothing.

    "I like doing different things and this can venture throughout the entire arena," Danielson said about the bout. "I like the improv of wrestling, and sometimes you don't know what you're going to do until you get there and you're in a specific situation or until you're on a flight of stairs fighting somebody. That's a lot of fun and I think it's a lot of fun for the fans, too.

    "I think variety is key both as a performer to keep yourself interested in everything you're doing but also from a fan perspective, I think AEW and Tony Khan have done a great job in that I look at this card up and down and every match seems different. It's going to be a fun show."

    As far as his own status for the show is concerned, he's confirmed to compete despite appearing to suffer a knee injury following last week's Rampage taping.

    Although the pain was noticeable while hiking on his birthday last weekend, he admitted to feeling invincible whenever he has his ring attire on.

    "I laugh at myself because I just turned 41 and I'm like, 'I'm just this old man who falls into these cracks and I can't get up,'" he said. "All that was going through my head when I was in there was, 'I've fallen and I can't get up.' My ankle and just below my knee are a little it swollen, but it's interesting.

    "In my life, I like physical things. Even when I'm not wrestling, I like kickboxing and jiu-jitsu or hiking or whatever it is, so I'm just used to things being swollen and that sort of thing. I'll see at Dynamite on Wednesday just to get the trainer to look at and make sure everything's OK."

Altering Entrance Music as a Heel and Who He Wants at Forbidden Door

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    Everyone expected Danielson to arrive in AEW with his old entrance music from Ring of Honor, "The Final Countdown" by Europe, but that wasn't possible for a variety of reasons.

    Instead, he recruited close friend and songwriter Elliott Taylor to come up with a new walkout tune for him. That led to the debut of "Born for Greatness," which he used in his debut at All Out last September.

    Fans who pay close attention may have noticed that it wasn't until after Danielson turned heel on television that he started coming out to the lyrical version of the song.

    The American Dragon had an explanation for the change.

    "Tony Khan and I were debating back and forth about the lyrics," Danielson said. "His opinion was, 'If you were to go heel, the lyrics would be great, but I don't know if they're great for a good guy.' And I get it. Saying you're born for greatness is kind of an antagonistic thing to say. Once I became more of an antagonistic character, it fit perfect.”

    The song will be heard during Double or Nothing this Sunday as well as at next month's Forbidden Door pay-per-view, AEW's first super-show with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

    Plenty of names come to mind as potential opponents for Danielson at the event, but Zack Sabre Jr. is the one he wants more than any other.

    "There's so many New Japan guys I would like to wrestle, but one guy [who stands out] is just so good and I called some of his matches for the cruiserweight classic is Zack Sabre Jr.," he said. "I think that's a match people would be really interested in in the sense that Zack's progressed since I last wrestled him, which was in 2008.

    "Now, as far as for me, I love the technical style of wrestling and he's doing some of the coolest technical wrestling I've ever seen. Doing that would be a lot of fun. Obviously, [Kazuchika] Okada. Obviously, a guy like [Hiroshi] Tanahashi or [Tomohiro) Ishii, those sorts of matches are right up my alley. Somebody like Will Ospreay. You look at the New Japan roster and you look at the AEW roster, you can mix and match, and either way it's going to be awesome."

    Catch AEW Double or Nothing live this Sunday at 8/7c live on Bleacher Report and pay-per-view.


    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.