The Reality of Wrestling: Bryan Danielson in NOAH
By Phil Clark
As the awards part of the year begins, I think it is best to recognize someone who’s never been the subject of The Reality: Bryan Danielson. For those of you who have never heard of Bryan Danielson, that’s ok. As of now Danielson (also known as “The American Dragon”) is easily the best Indy wrestler in the U.S. and possibly on the planet. He also holds that honor when it comes to overall wrestling ability, but that’s really it. Danielson is also entering month 15 of his ROH Title reign, so when he was part of NOAH’s Winter Navigation ’06 Tour, needless to say I was excited.
P.C. Says: A highly publicized tour in NOAH does help Danielson’s career
Bryan Danielson’s 2006 is proof that Indy feds serve a purpose in the U.S. as well as in Japan. In Japan, it’s easier to recognize the impact that Indy feds can have on a wrestler’s career since many big names (Takayama and Minoru Suzuki mainly) choose to participate on Indy cards from time to time. In the U.S., that doesn’t happen anymore and Indy wrestlers are forced to create mesmerizing characters, spectacular interviews and match of the year candidate after match of the year candidate to get attention from any promotion higher up on the totem pole. Danielson has given people many reasons for being recognized by many this year as being the best wrestler on the planet pound for pound all promotions included.
However, it seems that one match in particular has gotten Danielson in the door of Japanese wrestling. Danielson did do a number of tours for New Japan Pro Wrestling from his debut in 2002 all the way up to December 2004 and held the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles (with Christopher Daniels as Curry Man) as well as challenged for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. Overall, those tours didn’t do much for Danielson as he was still coming along as a wrestler and none of the matches were really high-profile ones. However, after facing off against NOAH star KENTA in a number of matches during 2006, he finally put his ROH title on the line against the rising Japanese star at ROH’s “Glory By Honor V-Night Two” show on September 16. In a 40 minute Match of the Year candidate, Danielson defeated KENTA in a successful title defense. That match was aired in Japan and got a very positive reaction that could be cited as the very reason NOAH put Danielson on this latest tour at all.
Danielson’s career and overall stock got a boost from the match results of this tour. Wins and losses are dealt with a lot more seriously in Japanese wrestling as opposed to American wrestling; singles matches are given more hype and mean more thus tours are usually filled with tag matches ranging from regular to 8-man tag matches. In these matches, the young lion or gaijin (foreign) wrestlers will usually take the falls. In the nine tag matches that Danielson was involved in, his teams went 6-3 with Danielson himself scoring the fall in five of those six wins! To say that Danielson may have been given the beginning of a push by NOAH may be premature, but it is a rarity (I don’t recall this ever happening in NOAH) that a foreign star will have such a successful first tour with a promotion. Before the tour even began rumors were circulating that Danielson would be back in NOAH in ’07. With the kind of tour that he had (from a booking perspective), there is little doubt that Danielson will be back in that green ring in no time.
This Saturday’s Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium show was the tour ender. Not only that, but the December Yokohama show has always been pretty special for NOAH. It has not only served as the middle ground between the October or November and January Budokan shows, but it has been the site of some of NOAH’s more entertaining cards of the last few years. While this past Saturday’s isn’t getting the best reviews, Danielson’s match with KENTA has been. The match itself was hyped by Japanese TV; that accompanied by the fact that a gaijin in his first tour with a Japanese promotion would even get a singles match in the tour ending show are both rarities and speak to the intrigue Danielson must have with the Japanese public or the wrestling community in Japan at least. The match went 25 minutes and served as the prelim to the GHC Tag Title Tournament final that the tour had been built on. Danielson pulled out his trademark stuff and seems to have made the most of his first real big shot in Japan.
The Reality is”¦Danielson is still just an American Indy wrestler. The fact that Danielson was booked so well during this tour stems from the fact that this may be his first tour of Japan, but he has had one of the best first five years of a wrestling career in the history of wrestling. NOAH obviously sees that and foreigners are always welcome in Japanese wrestling, especially in the junior heavyweight division. Looking back at the many American juniors that got seasoned in Japan (Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, Furnas & Lafon, Christopher Daniels, A.J. Styles, Low-Ki, Paul London) makes me believe that Danielson’s career may really begin to take off in 2007. With the almost certainty that Homicide will take the ROH belt from Danielson come December 23, that will leave Danielson with more time available to tour with NOAH. Add that to the fact that NOAH does have a Budokan Hall show coming up and AmDrag may be getting his first tastes of real stardom in wrestling. NOAH would be wise to push Danielson as the next big thing in the junior heavyweight division as that division does need something new with KENTA and Marufuji now in the heavyweight division probably for good. The final win-win in this whole thing is the fact that a regularly touring Danielson could be the bridge between a bigger working relationship between NOAH and ROH; remember Morishima/Joe still can and should happen in ’07. Also, is anyone else finding joy in a possible Danielson & SUWA tag team?
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