AEW could be going through the motions with Bryan Danielson en route to his match against MJF at Revolution. What they’re doing instead is awesome.
When it initially became clear that All Elite Wrestling intended for Bryan Danielson to run the gauntlet ahead of his match against MJF at Revolution, the angle seemed predictable. The AEW World Champion gave The American Dragon a title shot, but with one condition: Danielson had to win a match on every Dynamite between January 4 and February 8. Then, and only then, would he get a match against The Salt of the Earth Bryan goaded MJF into agreeing to a stipulation of his choosing—a 60-minute iron man match—and that was that. Fans could safely assume that MJF Vs. Danielson was a go, despite the latter needing to go 5-0 in his next five matches.
A setup like this could have sapped all the willing suspension of disbelief out of Danielson’s next handful of AEW bouts, making his matches predictable and boring. That isn’t the way these fights have been pieced together, though. So far, he’s wrestled Konosuke Takeshita and Bandido in back-to-back weeks, and both outings have stolen their respective Dynamites. Danielson has always liked to give back to the younger, up-and-coming talent on the roster, but he’s taken it to a new level over the last two weeks. This wasn’t him trying and ultimately failing to turn Daniel Garcia into the next big thing. This has been AEW making the absolute most out of one of the best wrestlers on its roster.
Bandido & Konosuke Takeshita Both Look Like A Million Bucks
Danielson has a reputation for being able to carry guys in the ring; to some degree, that’s true. He’s the kind of wrestler who can automatically add at least half a star to any given match. Or a full letter grade, if that’s more your thing. A three-and-a-half star match can suddenly look like a four-star banger if Bryan Danielson is involved. A bout that might be hovering in the B- range is bumped up to an A. To get the most out of his capabilities, however, wrestlers have to be able to meet him 40 or 45 percent of the way. Over the last two weeks, Bandido and Takeshita have both managed to do that.
It’d been a while since fans had seen either man inside an All Elite wrestling ring. Bandido hasn’t wrestled a singles match on television since losing to Ethan Page on November 16. Meanwhile, Takeshita last wrestled an AEW singles match on December 7 against Jon Moxley—also a losing effort. If audiences had forgotten just how talented these two were, then Danielson helped remind them.
Takeshita and Bandido both managed to turn crowds in their favor despite the stipulation involved. Fans know that if Danielson loses, he can’t go on to face MJF at Revolution. Despite that, audiences were openly cheering for and chanting Konosuke and Bandido’s names during their respective matches. That could partly be attributed to them knowing that Bryan wouldn’t be losing, but the crowd was still red-hot for each despite an obvious outcome. That’s a testament to these two 27-year-olds pushing the pace and putting on four-plus star bangers with one of the best wrestlers in the world.
AEW Should Showcase Bryan Danielson As Much As Possible
What can be written or said about Bryan Danielson that hasn’t already been penned or spoken? Generational talent. Once-in-a-lifetime superstar. Best wrestler of all time. The accolades go on and on, and with good reason. He is one of the best wrestlers of this generation, and sometimes, Tony Khan has struggled to figure out how to utilize him. Against wrestlers like Bandido and Takeshita is precisely how you leverage talent like his every week. You don’t slap him into a faction with a few other ex-WWE guys and call it a day, leaving him languishing in the background for a year. Instead, Danielson should be wrestling as much as he wants to, elevating young talent along the way. Combining those two factors makes AEW’s recent booking of him brilliant.
As Danielson is scheduled to wrestle Brian Cage, things might get dialed back a notch on next week’s Dynamite. This is where Danielson’s extra letter grade factor will come into play. Unlike Bandido and Takeshita, The Machine is 38 and the best years of his career are firmly behind him. To Cage’s credit, he’s recently done an excellent job of making smaller wrestlers like Ricky Starks look strong while losing. Perhaps he taps into that a bit after MJF kayfabe paid him to break Bryan Danielson’s arm, win or lose.
Every match can’t be six-star Tokyo Dome classics, but Danielson’s ability to elevate the surrounding talent has been fully displayed in 2023. This will culminate in an iron man match that AEW fans might be sleeping on. Pundits have expressed concern about MJF’s ability to hang in a match like that with Bryan Danielson. Those same pundits should pay more attention to what The American Dragon has been doing on Dynamite these last few weeks. Friedman has a large enough gas tank, and Danielson has enough stops to pull out to make All Elite Wrestling‘s Revolution pay-per-view a can’t-miss event for this match alone. This booking has been excellent, and Tony Khan and Co. deserve credit for getting the most out of arguably their most talented in-ring performer.
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