Before he was known as Daniel Bryan in the WWE, the independent wrestling world knew him as “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson. In this article, we take a special look at Bryan Danielson’s career in Southern California with various matches, promos and moments from Youtube.
To read about Bryan Danielson’s debut in Southern California, click here for Jay Cal’s article “Dragon versus Dragon: Bryan Danielson’s Debut in SoCal” to see the only Super Dragon vs. American Dragon match ever and the story behind it.
EPIC Pro Wrestling – July 14th, 2002: American Dragon & Spanky (Brian Kendrick) vs. Samoa Joe & Super Dragon
Following their one-on-one encounter at EPIC’s debut event International Collision, an angle was set up where Spanky and Samoa Joe made a run in to save American Dragon after the match when he was being attacked by Super Dragon’s stablemates Excalibur and Disco Machine. Joe ended up turning on Spanky and the American Dragon, and aligned himself with Team Chismo. At the next EPIC event, Pain & Suffering, Joe would team with Super Dragon to take on the American Dragon and Spanky in what would later become considered a classic match by many who’ve seen it.
EPIC Pro Wrestling – September 29th, 2002: American Dragon vs. Samoa Joe
A few months later at EPIC’s Bigger, Badder, Better event in Glendale, CA, Dragon would take on Samoa Joe in a great match. These two would later go on to have a storied rivalry in promotions such as Ring Of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, producing many classic matches along the way throughout the United States.
PWG – January 24th, 2004: Bryan Danielson turns Excalibur into a Human Pretzel
This one is pretty self-explanatory. From Night 1 of the PWG Tango & Cash Invitational (aka their first tag team title tournament), the team of the “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson & Super Dragon took on Excalibur & Jonny Storm in the first round. As you can see in this video, things don’t go well for Excalibur.
NJPW-USA – June 26th, 2004: The night American Dragon faced Ultimo Dragon
At the first set of NJPW-USA TV tapings, the main event was to feature a dream match between Bryan Danielson and Ultimo Dragon. This wouldn’t be Danielson’s only match that night, as he would also face Taiji Ishimori and Joey Ryan. The match with Ultimo Dragon never aired, nor has it ever been released. The only way to have seen this one time only dream match was to have been one of the 200 people in attendance that night in Santa Monica, CA.
PWG – December 18th, 2004: Bryan Danielson gets congratulated for a match he lost
After developing a rivalry in 2004 with Samoa Joe in PWG that saw them face off several times, the two wrestlers would go on to have a match to settle their feud at PWG’s Uncanny X-Mas event in 2004. Bryan Danielson didn’t come out on top against Samoa Joe, but in this promo that didn’t stop Brian Kendrick from congratulating him on a victory that happened before he was corrected.
PWG – April 1st, 2005: Danielson vs. Gibson
After being released from the WWE, James Gibson (known in WWE and WCW as Jamie Noble) faced Bryan Danielson at a NJPW-USA show that aired on Japanese TV. The match would end up making the rounds in the DVD and tape trading community, and was the first of several matches between Danielson and Gibson. At night 1 of PWG’s original All Star Weekend, Danielson faced off against Gibson in a classic PWG match that would also involve referee Rick Knox.
PWG – May 6th, 2006: Bryan Danielson makes Kevin Steen dance and sing to save his career.
Before the match, Kevin Steen (now known as Kevin Owens) put his career on the line against Bryan Danielson. Sadly for him, Kevin lost. In an effort to save himself from being fired from PWG and only working for CZW, Bryan decided to offer Kevin a chance to stay on one condition. With Danielson’s birthday being May 22nd, Bryan would let Kevin stay if he sang him “Happy Birthday” while trying to do the booty dance. After some help with Dino Winwood, Kevin did what he was asked and thus, his career was saved.
PWG – May 19th, 2007: Going the distance against CIMA
In 2007, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla announced a first time ever dream match between Bryan Danielson & CIMA that was set to take place at Night 1 of the inaugural DDT4 tournament. The match would end up being another classic and was ranked the 5th best match in SoCal in 2007. Dragon and CIMA would later go on to have another match in January 2008 that also ended in a daw.
PWG – July 29th, 2007: Danielson challenges Generico for the PWG World Championship
A month before PWG’s 4th anniversary event Giant Size Annual #4, Bryan Danielson was set to face El Generico (now known as Sami Zayn) in a singles match for the PWG World Championship. The match would end up becoming a Fatal Four Way with Generico facing Danielson, Davey Richards, & Kevin Steen. Danielson was later booked to get a singles match against Generico at PWG’s 4th anniversary. The night of the show, there was an angle that caused the card to be switched up as the card legitimately had to be re-booked when the Briscoe Brothers didn’t show up for their match. Danielson made an open challenge to anyone in the back and would end up facing the Necro Butcher. After defeating Necro Butcher, Danielson would challenge El Generico after he and Kevin Steen defeated PAC (now known as Neville) & Roderick Strong to become the PWG World Tag Team Champions. This would result in one of the most exciting moments in PWG and SoCal wrestling history. It also won the award for the 2007 Southern California Match Of The Year.
EPIC WAR – October 2nd, 2007: Bryan Danielson vs. Joey Ryan
In 2007, Gary Yap returned to promoting wrestling events with a promotion named EPIC WAR. At EPIC WAR’s Riah’s Birthday Bash event, Joey Ryan would end up facing Bryan Danielson in a really fun match.
NWA Championship Wrestling From Hollywood – November 2008: Bryan Danielson & Brent Albright vs. Adam Pearce & Oliver John
This match was from a set of TV tapings filmed at Columbia Square Studios in Hollywood by the people who currently produce Championship Wrestling From Hollywood on KDOC. Danielson worked a few matches at the tapings, but this is the only match I was able to find of his from those tapings.
PWG – April 12th, 2009: Join The Pod, Join the Swarm, Join Them BOTH!
At PWG’s One-Hundred, Paul London & Bryan Danielson formed the greatest tag team in wrestling history that never would never actually team up, the Hybrid Dolphins. When this promo hit Youtube, it became an instant viral hit within the internet wrestling community. Words can’t describe the greatness of this promo. Just watch.
PWG – August 28th & September 4th, 2009: Goodbye Bryan.
During 2009, rumors began to circulate that Bryan Danielson was receiving interest from WWE. Later, the rumors were confirmed and news later broke that he had agreed to a deal with WWE. At PWG’s Speed Of Sound after his match against Brian Kendrick, Bryan addressed the rumors and confirmed that he was leaving the independent scene, but he promised to give the fans of PWG one of the best performances of his life in a PWG World Championship match against Chris Hero.
The two would have a hard fought contest, and Bryan Danielson shocked the crowd by winning the PWG World Championship in his final Pro Wrestling Guerrilla match. After winning the title, he vacated it and announced that the title would be on the line at the 2009 Battle Of Los Angeles tournament. After the event, Bryan Danielson cut a farewell promo to the fans of PWG. He would end up making a one night only return in 2010 to face Roderick Strong at PWG’s seventh anniversary show.
WWE NXT – March 16th, 2010: Daniel Bryan vs. Great Khali at Staples Center
After debuting on the original version of WWE’s NXT program under the name Daniel Bryan, he would end up making his first appearance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles against Great Khali. After the match, Daniel Bryan would take a chokeslam from the Big Show. Despite the booking of Daniel Bryan’s character to be a guy who always lost and wasn’t ready to hang in the big leagues after years on the independent and international scene, he remained popular with the fans.
WWE Summerslam – August 16th, 2010: The 7th Member of Team WWE is…
Originally part of the Nexus stable in WWE, Daniel Bryan was involved in a storyline where he was released from his contract after choking ring announcer Justin Roberts with a necktie during an angle where the Nexus destroyed John Cena and CM Punk during an episode of Monday Night Raw. As the Nexus continued their path of terror without Daniel Bryan, a match was set for the main event of the 2010 edition of Summerslam, which was taking place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Team WWE would consist of team captain John Cena, Bret Hart, Edge, R-Truth, John Morrison, Chris Jericho, and a mystery 7th partner.
The Miz, who was Daniel Bryan’s mentor on NXT, was trying to become part of Team WWE, but instead John Cena announced that the 7th member of the team would be a returning Daniel Bryan.
WWE Summerslam – August 18th, 2013: Daniel Bryan wins the WWE Championship
Even if it were for a brief moment, years of hard work finally paid off when Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship in front of a sold out crowd at Staples Center in Los Angeles. While he ended up losing the title moments after the match to Randy Orton thanks to Triple H, this was still a monumental moment in the career of Bryan Danielson, and one that Southern California was lucky enough to play host to.
WWE Smackdown – March 23rd, 2015: The Final SoCal Match
On the March 26th, 2015 edition of Smackdown (taped on March 23rd, 2015) that took place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Daniel Bryan would team up with Roman Reigns, John Cena, & Mark Henry to take on the team of Seth Rollins, Big Show, Kane, & Bray Wyatt. Little did anyone know, this would be the last time the man known to the world as Daniel Bryan would perform in Southern California. He got a clean pin on the Big Show and would end up winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara, CA.
Throughout the years, Southern California was lucky enough to have seen the career of Bryan Danielson grow right before our eyes. While it hurts to see that his career has come to an end, it is still amazing to think that this scene got to watch one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time perform in our own backyard before he became famous, and that Southern California got to see one of the biggest moments of his career when he won the WWE Championship at Staples Center. At the end of the day, the career of the American Dragon is one of the greatest stories to ever play out in wrestling.
I know he won’t read this, but Bryan, thank you for sacrificing your body to entertain the fans. You’ll always be appreciated, remembered, and respected in the eyes of the fans you performed in front of.