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What's next for the American Dragon?

An interview with Bryan Danielson...

 

Brayn Danielson, The American Dragon, first attracted regional attention with his strong string of matches against Spanky in Shawn Michael's Texas Wrestling Alliance. Bryan was able to travel to Japan and also received a WWF developmental contract which sent him to MCW. Bryan grabbed national attention this spring with his blow away performance being named MVP of the ECWA's Super 8 Tourney 2001. Bryan sat down recently to answer some questions that fans have been wondering about since the announcement of his release from the WWF developemental system.

This is a question that I usually save for last, but under the recent circumstances surrounding the WWF and MCW many people are very curious to know - what is the next step for the American Dragon in his wrestling career?

Well, right now I'm trying to get things in order. I'm going to be going to college in my hometown of Aberdeen, WA, and I'm trying to get on with the ECCW crew that runs here in WA and in Canada. The WWF office is trying to get us a deal to go over to All Japan, and if that happens it would be great. If not, that's great to. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow for these sort of things. I'm also trying to find one of those dreaded "real" jobs...like working in a mill or at Blockbuster or something. But as far as my wrestling is concerned, its pretty much up in the air.

I'd like to digress a bit now, what was it like training under Shawn Michaels and as part of a strong crew with the likes of Spanky, Shooter Schultze & Lance Cade? Did that help you to excel and were they open to the Japanese style?

Training with Shawn was probably the best way I could have gotten into wrestling. They teach you from the ground up, and make sure you're in condition to go before you even step foot in the ring. Shawn was fun to work for because he's so enthusiastic. He loves wrestling, and was a great teacher. Our crew was fun. I would have never gotten a developmental deal if it weren't for Shooter, Spanky, and Lance. We all complimented each other very well, and there were a lot of different styles represented. It’s amazing to me how different we all are being that we were trained by the same person. Another great thing about Shawn is that he let you develop your own in ring style, and as long as you worked hard and were willing to listen, he gave you a chance.

While working and training in Texas you had the opportunity to go to Japan and work for FMW – was working in Japan for the first time a major milestone for you and can you describe your feelings in getting and during that opportunity?

Working in Japan was my goal when I got into wrestling. I never thought I would have a chance with the WWF because of my size, so I always pictured one day getting a chance to wrestle over there. FMW was a great experience, because we got to train in their dojo with Masato Tanaka and the young boys. The only discouraging thing was when I wasn't invited back. Honestly though, I shouldn't have been. I wasn't good enough then to warrant bringing me back a second time and the only reason we got to go over the first time was because Shawn did a guest referee spot for them.

I've read that your favorite match during your TWA run was the Texas death cage match against Spanky - what are your memories of that match? Where did you first see the “Dragon Spike” (vertibreaker—like move) that you used on Spanky?

My memories of our cage match have more to do with the interview afterwards than the actual match. Spanky and I called out our trainer Rudy Gonzalez and then called out Shawn. It’s neat to see four guys who are supposed to be tough crying together in the middle of the ring. Shawn and Rudy gave so much to us, and it just made me proud that we could go out the way we did.
I first saw that move on a Japanese woman's tape where Megami Kudo gave it to Combat Toyoda, and I think it’s called the Kudome driver. Much thanks to a guy named Mike Lorefice who has helped me pick out so many great tapes (int note - Bryan isn't alone in those thanks - check out La Quebrada).

You moved on to work in for MCW via your WWF developmental contract and got to work with the likes of William Regal, Jerry Lynn and Reckless Youth – was that a strong learning experience for you and did you get to trade indy or Japan war stories with that crew?

Well, they shared their war stories with me, but I really haven't had any. I've been pretty pampered since I've been in wrestling, first working for Shawn, who really took care of us, and then four months after starting we got a developmental deal. I've never gotten to work too many independents, and I only went to Japan once. I found the best thing to do around the guys in Memphis was to just shut up and listen. Regal is one of the biggest influences on my career. He taught me so much about chain wrestling and about psychology, but I never got to wrestle him until he came back to do a show for us in March of this year. Reckless is one of the guys who really made me better fast, because we wrestled each other so much. One of the things I really liked about Reckless is that he could adapt to Memphis fans, and make them get with a match that wasn't necessarily a southern style match. I didn't learn that until close to the end of my stay in Memphis. I've only worked Jerry Lynn twice, but both times was a learning experience and he's a really nice guy. I'd like to see the WWF do more with him, but that's kind of selfish of me because I just enjoy watching him wrestle.

Were you unhappy that the invasion angle with Jamie Knoble (and WCW) never got a chance to play out in MCW (I would have loved to have seen those matches)?

Honestly, I don't think I was ever pegged to be in that angle. I'm sure Jamie and I would have worked somewhere down the line, but that was going to be our top angle, and I was a lower level guy. I would have loved to work with him though, but I haven't seen too many of his matches.

You were also able to participate and be named the MVP of the ECWA's 2001 Super 8 Tourney with your outstanding performances - what are your memories of that incredible night including the stiff as hell finals against Low-Ki?

The Super 8 was probably my greatest night in wrestling. The fans were wonderful and I got to perform with three of the best wrestlers in the country. The Haas Brothers had been telling me that I'd probably wrestle Low-Ki somewhere in the tournament, and I was excited for it. Low-Ki and I had great chemistry right off the bat, and it helped that the fans were into what we were doing. I think we both wanted to make it believable and make it a memorable Super 8 final. I'm thankful that Jim Kettner put me in that position in the tournament, and he was the one that made me look so good. I'm not nearly as good as I looked that night, but because of the way Jim booked it I was able to look like a star. If I wouldn't have gotten that opportunity in the Super 8, I also wouldn't have met Tony Kozina, who is the one helping me get into ECCW here in the Northwest.
   

"I was happy to fight someone who fights more like me... I haven't faced a lot who work my style. He brings it to the table when he gets in that ring. He knows what he's doing. A lot of guys try watching tapes and do what they see. But he puts it together very well. I have a lot of respect for him. For him to get cut, it's another lesson in life. It's not necessarily a bad thing for him. Maybe it brings him another opportunity."

-Low-Ki talking about the American Dragon (pic left) before the July 14th T-3 tag tourney in Chicago…  Courtesy of ChicagoWrestling.com

 

How did it feel to be working with Reckless Youth in an atmosphere where the Japanese style was appreciated by the fans??? Also, how brutal was the Stan Hansen tribute lariat that Youth nailed you with?

Working with Reckless in an environment like that was tremendous. I honestly don't feel that was our best match together, but it was the one that had gotten more of a reaction. The Super 8 fans were so great overall, and once again Reckless knew what those fans wanted. That's why I respect him so much is because he can go anywhere and put on a match that people will enjoy. As for the Lariat, I don't remember it much.

Would you like to have another shot at participating in the Super 8 Tourney of 2002?

Would love to.

You are obviously well versed in the Japanese style of wrestling - who are some of your major influences from Japan and also who are some of your favorite performers from Japan (if they aren't influences)?

My biggest influences are the guys from All Japan. I love Misawa, Kawada, and especially those tag matches in the late eighties-early nineties that had Joe Malenko, Dan Kroffat and a lot of the good technical wrestlers in them. I always enjoy watching tapes of Liger and Nobuhika Takada, as well as a lot of the early nineties women stuff. Some of the contemporary wrestlers I enjoy are Minoru Tanaka, Mariko Yoshida, Daisuke Ikeda and Tiger Mask IV. There's really too many to name. Oh yeah, I also forgot my favorite monster fighter in the universe, Survival Tobita.

What Japanese wrestlers would you like the opportunity to work with or train under?

I would love to be able to train with any of the major companies over there. I would enjoy wrestling Kawada, Liger, pretty much any of my heroes from the above list.

Who are some of your favorite wrestlers who you have had a chance to work with in the US?

My favorite opponents are Spanky, Reckless Youth, Low-Ki, Joey Abs, Lance Cade and Shooter Shultz. I wish Shooter and I would have been able to have more matches, because we always clicked, but we were usually both heels. My matches with Joey Abs were fun because he wasn't afraid to go in there and make it look like a real fight, and Lance is just fun to wrestle in general. I'm thankful because on my last night in Memphis I got to wrestle Lance, and he was willing to wrestle as stiff as I wanted and we had a match that was a great last match in the WWF for me. Spanky, however, is my favorite opponent, because we've gone through so much together. From going to Shawn's together, living together and having too many matches to count, I respect him a ton.

Are there any American wrestlers who you'd like to work with in a "dream match"?

I'd love to work Benoit, Malenko, Tajiri, Christopher Daniels, and Chad Collyer.

Can you name a few of the matches (or series of matches) that you have seen in your life that really stand out to you as amazing?

I enjoy Tiger Mask-Dynamite Kid, Jumbo Tsuruta-Tenryu, Liger-Sano, and of coarse Misawa-Kawada.

What matches that you've wrestled are your favorites and you feel are your best?

My Super 8 matches are some of my favorites, as well as the cage match I had with Spanky for our farewell match in Texas. I had a great match with Joey Abs in Manilla, Arkansas, a match with William Regal that went well. It would really be too hard to tell.

If you could choose where the American Dragon could work next, where would it be?

Right now, I would love to work for New Japan. There is so much going on there right now, and so many different styles, I just think it would be a great learning experience and a whole lot of fun.

I would once again like to thank Bryan for taking the time to do this interview and wish him further success as he continues to make his journey across the wrestling world.

Interview by KDB

 

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