I had a discussion with a friend the other day over whether WWE should pull an “Edge” and elect Daniel Bryan to the Hall of Fame immediately following the announcement of his retirement. While I am in awe of Bryan and all his accomplishments in the ring and what he has done for the company and the business, my answer was a resounding, “No!”
I’m pretty sure my friend, who I respect for his wrestling knowledge and candor,” was not happy with my answer. I am pretty sure there will be fans who read this column and disagree with me as well. One of the great things about professional wrestling is everyone has an opinion and everyone lets everyone know what they think. It’s that kind of interaction that keeps the IFC and writers like myself on the Internet constantly. Bryan’s legacy will be one that is defined by the common man, the wrestler who was too short, too small and way in over his head to amount to anything other than a mid-card title holder or a very good jobber. But there is something about having an indy following, followed by a catch phrase and a goat beard that brought the masses to him. Bryan was the right wrestler at the right time. While he was great during his time in WWE, is he one of the greatest of all time? That’s up for debate and I am not one who will put him in the same category as Jack Brisco, Harley Race, Terry and Dory Funk or even Kurt Angle. It’s hard to decipher what is great over a short span and great over a long period of time.
Bryan’s career in WWE lasted about five years. The accomplishments don’t lie – he was great and achieved plenty in the time he was in the ring. But was it good enough to be placed amongst the greatest who every grappled? His bio looks like a man well-traveled, but his pre-WWE accomplishments might outweigh his time in Vince McMahon’s circus.
Bryan held the WWE World Heavyweight Championship three times and the World Heavyweight Championship once, in addition to being a one-time United States Champion, a one-time Intercontinental Champion, and a one-time WWE Tag Team Champion as part of Team Hell No (with Kane). He was also the 2011 SmackDown Money in the Bank winner and the 2013 Superstar of the Year Slammy Award winner. He is the 26th Triple Crown Champion and the 15th Grand Slam Champion in WWE history and headlined several major pay-per-view events including SummerSlam in 2013 and WrestleMania XXX.
Prior to joining WWE, he wrestled for various companies internationally using both his real name and the ring name (and later nickname) "American Dragon". He wrestled for Ring of Honor (ROH) from 2002 to 2009, being recognized as a "Founding Father" of the promotion, where he was a one-time ROH World Champion, as well the final Pure Wrestling Champion (unifying the Pure title with the World title). He was the first winner of ROH's annual Survival of the Fittest tournament in 2004. Along with CM Punk and Seth Rollins, Danielson is one of three men to have won both the WWE World Heavyweight and ROH World Championships. Danielson also wrestled extensively in Japan, winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship in Pro Wrestling Noah (NOAH) and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (with Curry Man) in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Between WWE, ROH, and Japan, he has held 11 total championships, including five world titles.
My friend pointed out that Bryan’s career was much like Edge – one that was cut short by injuries and tried to draw the comparison of greatness. I’m not sure how the two can be walked about in the same breath other than they overlapped in time in WWE, but were never rivals and never met. It’s true injuries ended their careers abruptly, but that’s where the comparisons stop. I do not agree with Edge’s immediate induction into the Hall of Fame, but he would have been up for consideration soon enough. Now, it’s a moot point. Bryan will one day be inducted in WWE’s highest fraternity, but personally, I do not think it should come any time soon. There are too many other wrestlers who had an impact on the promotion and the business who are still have not received an invitation. Until Ivan Koloff, Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude, Ray Stevens and any number of tag teams get the nod, we cannot expect contemporary stars to hear their name called. A case could be made Owen Hart and the Hart Foundation should be placed in the hallowed Hall before Bryan.
I could go on and on about this, debate anyone who finds fault with this column and still there would never be a resolution. Bryan means a great many things to many fans, which shows how he is respected around the globe. Some day he will be honored for his accomplishments and the invite will be well deserved. But until that happens, let’s not get caught up in the moment and anoint him as the greatest of all time. Personally, I am a huge fan. As a writer, however, I am not sure if his time in WWE stacks up with others who meant just as much to the company for a longer period of time.
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