WWE NETWORK REVIEWS: Daniel Bryan’s best WxW matches

BY SAM MCCOY, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR


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Daniel Bryan’s Best wXw Matches

Few wrestlers not only in WWE, but in the industry as a whole, have a more fabled and storied career on the independent scene than Daniel Bryan. This collection was a preexisting compilation from the Germany-based wXw as Bryan is listed as Bryan Danielson and the American Dragon throughout. If this was a WWE creation that would not happen.


Bryan Danielson vs Naomichi Marufuji

wXw 16 Carat Gold 2008 – Night 2 – March 8, 2008

This was the battle of the NOAH star against Danielson. One thing interesting to note is that current AEW referee Bryce Remsberg is officiating. The announcers are never named for this match and they are not good. Multiple times throughout one of the announcers is far more concerned with what the crowd was chanting as opposed to the action in the ring. WXW always had a reputation as being kind of Europe’s PWG and judging by this atmosphere I can understand why. As someone that was at the Legion Hall in Reseda many times, I appreciated the atmosphere and fan enthusiasm. The previous wXw show I watched on the WWE Network was in Canada as opposed to Germany and did not have an engaged crowd.

After looking up this 2008 16 Carat tournament and wow is it a stacked field of competitors. On top of Marufuji and Danielson, the tournament features El Generico (Sami Zayn), Tommy End (Aleister Black), Taiji Ishimori, (Big Van) WALTER, Chris Hero, Chuck Taylor, Doug Williams, PCO, and a few European names.

During this match, Bryan is a definite heel as there are a lot of “F*%@ You Dragon” chants throughout. This is far from the first or last time these two would go at it, most notably in Ring of Honor. While this is a fine match, I can’t help but feel like this has a definite “House Show” feel to it. This isn’t them tearing it down as they did in Ring of Honor. Lots of Bryan working the crowd and using heel tactics to slow Naomichi down and keep him grounded.

A giant Ax Bomber followed by a straightjacket suplex begins a sequence that gets the match into a higher gear. Marufuji begins to highlight the junior heavyweight style he was famous for at the time. A springboard dropkick from Marufuji onto Bryan in a Tree of Woe gets a tremendous near fall. Bryan rolls up Marufuji with a small package quickly for the pinfall. 3 out 5 stars.


Bryan Danielson vs Chris Hero

wXw 16 Carat Gold 2008 – Day 3 – March 9, 2008

Hero was the previous year’s tournament winner in this semi-finals match. El Generico is on commentary and it is a variety of simple Spanish words and phrases and exaggerated sighs and gasps. The worst moments are reserved for the commentators trying to get Generico to say inappropriate things. Sami Zayn has come such a long way in terms of promo work where he is now one of the best in WWE these days. One of the craziest things to think about is that his promo work has flourished as a heel when he is one of the best and most natural babyfaces of his generation.

The match starts with Bryan in control and making sure to not let Hero get any sort of advantage. Hero gets on the mic and tells Bryan to “Stop being a pussy and give the audience what they want”. This match had more uses of that word in commentary and the crowd than James Bond did in Goldfinger. This match picks up a lot from this point as Hero is on the offensive. Bryan continues his heel act as he finds any way to not engage Hero in a fair contest. This is just great heel work.

Hero has always been able to move around great, even when he’s been at his heaviest, but he’s pretty svelte here and is flying around. This crowd loves Hero and the incredible reactions Bryan gets when he is avoiding engaging with Hero is just tremendous. There is an amazing arm break spot with a sound that was sickening. Hero focuses on the arm after this before Bryan gains control. When Bryan gains control he is just brutal and pounding with his strikes and submissions. With the love this crowd has for Hero, Bryan milks it all he can with sheer brutality with a smug veneer. Hero looks to have Bryan done for as he locks in Bryan’s submission finisher, Cattle Mutilation.

The match ends with a lot of mat-based submission work as Hero attempts to get Bryan to submit. This goes on a bit too long and while the crowd starts hot with it, they do calm down a bit. A top-rope sequence leads to a big superplex by Bryan onto Hero. A brutal strike exchange leads to one of the best ref bumps after a headbutt by Bryan onto Hero. The ref doesn’t go fully down but does regroup while leaning on the ropes and during that time Bryan does a low blow on Hero and rolls him up with a small package for the win.

Good match. A bit longer than it needed to be, but a very solid outing between these two independent wrestling stalwarts. 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Bryan Danielson vs Nigel McGuiness

wXw Dead End VIII: NOAH European Navigation – June 8, 2008

There are few more storied rivalries of the 2000s independent scene than Bryan Danielson against Nigel McGuiness in Ring of Honor. At the time of this match, Nigel was in the midst of his ROH title reign. One has to wonder what a WWE fan that has never seen the independents thinks of Nigel if they only know him as a commentator.

One thing to note is that this match is presented without commentary, which in this case is a positive as the commentary is not good for most of these matches. The rest of the matches on the compilation are commentary-free. On the negative side, the camera work for this match is worse than the earlier matches. At one point the cameraman bumps into someone and his apology are heard on the camera mic.

Lots of very crisp in-ring work to start, which is exactly what you’d expect from these two. But similar to the Marufuji match from earlier, this has a definite “house show” feel to it. They aren’t killing themselves as you see from their matches in Ring of Honor from the United or Sixth Anniversary Shows. The crowd seemed a bit disappointed they weren’t getting one of those encounters as there is quite a bit of singing and chanting that didn’t seem to be about what was going on in the ring. Part of the problem seems to be an issue with the ropes as anything done with the ropes or turnbuckles is done with great hesitation and difficulty.

The crowd gets more into the match once Nigel finally lands one of his signature lariats. Some sloppy encounters lead to Bryan winning with a small package roll-up.

Of all the Bryan vs Nigel matches I’ve seen this is easily the worst and was a disappointment. Go watch United or any of their Ring of Honor matches for a better example of this fantastic rivalry. 2.5 out 5 stars.


Bryan Danielson vs Zach Sabre Jr.

wXw Carat Gold 2009 Day – Day 2 – March 7, 2009

This is the quarterfinals of the 2009 Carat Gold tournament with a Bryan against 21-year-old Zach Sabre Jr. This is just a few years into Sabre’s career and he hadn’t got near the attention stateside several years later. Sabre also has longer hair here, a look I had never seen before as I’m unfamiliar with his only days.

Lots of mat work as you would expect from these two. Sabre’s style is still developing at this time, the beginning of this match is largely Bryan in control and just milking the crowds while putting Sabre in holds. Sabre’s astonishing flexibility makes these holds look just killer. There is a great sequence where Bryan has Sabre in a Mexican surfboard and then rolls it around the ring before finally locking in a dragon sleeper.

Watching Sabre start his comeback is pretty interesting to see how he has refined and perfected his style as it is very raw and unrefined here. His usually great kicks just look sloppy and soft. Bryan gets cocky with some slaps and spitting in the face before Sabre surprises with a fun surprise win.

This match is a little over 13 minutes which was really about the perfect length for it. The crowd was a bit more divided on this, but I’m guessing part of that was Sabre not quite winning them over at the time. The crowd did go nuts for his surprise win. 3.5 out of 5 stars.


Bryan Danielson vs Claudio Castagnoli

wXw Dead End IX Alpha – May 1, 2009

Bryan is the wXw World Heavyweight Champion for this contest with the future Cesaro. Funny I’m watching this now as they’ve recently been tagging on Smackdown.

Bryan begins the match by spitting on the World Title which gets a great reaction. For as good and natural of a babyface as Bryan is, it never ceases to amaze how good and nasty of a heel he can be. The first few minutes of this match are the crowd chanting and Bryan refusing to engage Claudio. This isn’t a big surprise as these two always found ways to have unique and different matches in their independent days, maybe most famously/infamously the “Headlock Match” in PWG.

Like a lot of the matches on this compilation, it was first and foremost intended for the live crowd. At times the beginning just drags but the crowd is surely and engaged and it was probably a blast to be there live. Sometimes that experience doesn’t translate to video all that well. Some great action at the end takes away from a bit of a slog in the beginning and middle. Bryan wins with a roll-up after a ref collision when Bryan slid out of Ricola Bomb. All of the heel cheating for Bryan to win in this compilation are executed to near perfection which is made all the more apparent of how so many finishes like these are bungled sometimes multiple times a show.

These two have had some better matches in the WWE as of late due to the pure fact that they are shorter and edited down. Once this match got going past the midway point it was excellent. The playing up and slog of an open was great for the live crowd, but not the crowd watching at home. 3.5 stars out of 5.


Bryan Danielson vs Absolute Andy

wXw Dead End IX Beta – May 2, 2009

Of all the talent on this compilation, there was one I hadn’t even heard of before and it was Bryan’s opponent for this match, Absolute Andy. Andy looks to be a wXw stalwart and is still involved with the promotion including a tag title reign that ended last year.

And while he seems serviceable enough but there is a definite feeling of this is the best of the hometown guys that are going against the bigger traveling star. Bryan is at a much higher level skill-wise and it shows. Bryan is in control the majority of the match. There were some run-ins from what appeared to be some wXw talent that Andy thwarted before a failed pin attempt by Bryan. Bryan locks in cattle mutilation before Andy rolls out leading to a poorly done ref bump and low blow by Andy. Bryan dives off the ropes into a spinebuster by Andy which leads to a sharpshooter. Bryan submits and loses the wXw World Heavyweight title to Absolute Andy to the roar of the crowd.

Overall an okay match between Bryan and Andy. With no context of the journey Andy was on and the run-ins it was hard to get that invested. 2 out of 5 stars.


In the end, this is an interesting look at Bryan in the atmosphere of the independents overseas. Against almost everyone on this collection, there is a better match elsewhere be it Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, or even WWE. That said, it’s always fun to see the journey of how wrestlers develop over time, especially when looking at one of the greats of his generation.


NOW CHECK OUT MORE WWE NETWORK REVIEWS: WWE NETWORK REVIEWS: WWE The Day Of on Royal Rumble 2014 and Booker T’s WWE 24

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