Pulse Wrestling Interview with ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson

Features, Interviews

If you’re an ROH fan this man needs no introduction. In this interview, Bryan Danielson, the longest running champion in pro wrestling today, gives the Pulse Wrestling readers some words prior to his huge Final Battle title match with Homicide. One of the best wrestlers in the world, and a nominee for Best Male Wrestler, “The American Dragon” discusses his beginings, best opponents, and his future. We’ll have a podcast of the interview available for download later this weekend, but without further ado, here’s the full transcript of my chat with the champ…

Pulse Glazer: Alright, this is Pulse Glazer with Inside Pulse. I’m here with Bryan Danielson, the current Ring of Honor champion. How are you today Bryan?

Bryan Danielson: I’m very good. I’m very good. How are you?

AG: I’m doing pretty good. I’ve got a quick Web site related question to start us off.

BD: Okay.

AG: You were nominated for Inside Pulse’s Male Wrestler of the Year. Along with Joe, Angle, Finlay and Edge. Any thoughts? Any comments?

BD: That’s an honor. It’s hard to compare, like those are a real diverse group of wrestlers, but it’s always an honor to be nominated for stuff like that especially with me not being on TV or anything.

AG: Alright, thanks for that. I’m curious specifically is there anyone on that list you would like to face? Who do you think you would match up best with besides obviously Joe?

BD: I would love to wrestle Finlay. I was trained by William Regal first and he always talked to me about how great Finlay was and then after that I was able to see some of his stuff from Europe and then now he’s come back from his injury and everything. He’s doing fantastic, so I would love to wrestle somebody like that. I mean all the guys on that list are quality wrestlers I would like to wrestle, so any of them would be fine.

AG: We hear a lot about you being trained by Regal. Is there anything specific you bring into the ring with you? Anything that would be immediately obvious?

BD: I’m not sure. I guess, he taught me most was just do what is most natural to you. Like I don’t, like a lot of people think I wrestle a lot like him, but there are a lot of things I do that are different from him and he said that you have to, everybody has there own personal way of how they’re wrestling. You have to be, have your own creativity in that sorta thing and really what he taught me about wrestling is meant more than the moves he actually taught me.

AG: Right. A lot of your moves have a lot of meaning behind them. I personally really enjoy it when you work both the arm and the knee and set it up so that later in the match you go specifically after one of them. Is that something that came specifically from someone or is that something you came up with on your own?

BD: I’m not really sure. It just developed more as a strategy thing. You know watching a lot of great wrestlers like the Andersons used to do it all the time and so did Dean Malenko and when Dean Malenko first came on Nitro he was like, I’ve never seen anyone wrestle like that really on TV, and so he was like my favorite wrestler for the longest time and so seeing that really influenced how I wrestle quite a bit.

AG: Speaking of Dean Malenko, he’s another small wrestler. Do you regard your size or lack of size as being more detriment to your career or an advantage since you’re more able to operate as a pure technician?

BD: It probably has little bit of both. Money making wise it probably hurts me to be smaller because I’m so. I trained, I started with Lance Cade, we trained together, who is Garrison Cade now in WWF TV. So we trained together at the same time, we both had our debut matches the first era, the same month and everything but we each got developmental deals at the same time, but when we had developmental deals me, Spanky and the guy named Shooter Schultz all got let go, but they kept Lance and I think a lot of that reason is because of his size. I think Lance has turned into a really good wrestler and I think that bigger wrestlers have more opportunities because wrestling is really a big man’s game. It always has been and it always will be so.

AG: Well, would you consider a developmental deal if one came up now?

BD: I mean, yeah you have to consider any offers and see you know the advantages and disadvantages of them but right now like the kind of developmental deal offering most people like I make more money and have more fun during independent wrestling so that would be… it’s hard to take a pay cut to go do something you enjoy less so that would be a tough pill to swallow at the moment, but I mean it all depends on you know the offer that’s given and that sort of thing and so you know that something you would have to consider I guess.

AG: Of course there is really no way to tell, but playing a bit of “what if,” how do you think things would work out were you to sign?

BD: I don’t know, if I were to go to WWE I mean like that’s one of those things where your career is pretty much in their hands. I mean, CM Punk has done a great job with the opportunity he’s been given, you know, and so but like he’s got a lot of skills that appeal to WWE like he’s a great interview guy and his wrestling skills make him different than a lot of the guys on the roster. I think my wrestling skills would make me different than a lot of the guys on the roster, but I’m not sure I’m the type of interview wrestler that they like to put on TV and so I mean I can always learn and I always want to learn and so I would like to think that my learning curve is sharp enough that if they wanted to teach me something or if they said “oh we don’t like the way you do this, you can do this,” then I can pick it up quickly, so you know a lot of that having to wrestle all over the world and that sort of thing so I mean if I were to go there I’d like to think I would be successful, but everybody thinks they would be successful you know when they would go, but it’s a totally different environment .

AG: Absolutely. Just a quick thought on that. Basically, everyone I introduce to your work, mostly WWE fans and stuff that’s on TV, immediately fall in love with you out of all the Ring of Honor guys. You’re my fiancé’s favorite worker, you’re several of my friends’. Just immediately the interview style, personality that comes across your matches makes you an immediate favorite. Any thoughts on that?

BD: Well, I mean it’s always flattering to hear stuff like that and see the wrestling that I do, the interview style that I do, it comes from what I think wrestling should be and not that I think everyone should wrestle like me but I think there is a big lack of wrestling, kind of the way I wrestle now and the interview style is just kind of, it’s more of me. It’s like this year I’ve really worked on my interviews and stuff because that’s always been a weakness of mine, it still is. I still need to work on it more. But now it’s more just me as a person as opposed to me trying to be something I’m not and so you know in that says like, I’m glad that it appeals to fans because I think there’s like a lot of people I know who used to like wrestling are tired of the phoniness that they see on TV like everything seems like its some sort of movie or ‘oh hey all the wrestling fans are in on the joke’ type of thing, when that’s not really what I think people are interested in, and now that’s just about what I get from wrestling fans and so I mean obviously UFC has become real popular and it’s because, well not because, but one of the things that makes it more popular is that it’s not insulting to your intelligence and it’s not over the top phony. People want to buy into stuff and be entertained and so I think that’s what a certain percentage of wrestling fans really want to see.

AG: One more out of Ring of Honor question, before we get to the ROH stuff, which is more where my personal interest lies, any thoughts on TNA? Would you like to sign there? How would you see it working out there?

BD: I hope TNA does very well. Right now it depends on the kind of offer they have for me. If it’s something where they really have big plans for me and that sort of thing, then going there would be a lot of fun. Again, a lot of the offers they’re offering people, I would make less money and it would be kind of restrictive than I am right now. I’m 25 years old; I’ve been wrestling for over 7 years now. I don’t really want to be restricted. I enjoy going to Japan and I enjoy wrestling for Ring of Honor and I enjoy the opportunity to go and spend four months in England. I didn’t get into wrestling to make tons of money; I never thought I’d make a whole lot of money. I got into wrestling because I thought it’d be fun. To go somewhere and make less money than I’m making now and then be restricted in what I can do. That’s not really where I want to do at this point in my life.

AG: You couldn’t possibly have given a better answer for a Ring of Honor and independent wrestling fan, so thanks for that. I’d like to begin with the Era of Honor Begins, it’s usually your three-way is considered a ‘mission statement’ for the company. I tend to consider your Round Robin Challenge match with Low Ki the superior match. It seems like a more impressive mission statement for Ring of Honor and what Ring of Honor ended up being about. Which one do you prefer and any specific reasons?

BD: To be fair, I don’t remember either. I’m not an avid tape watcher of my own stuff. I watch my own recent stuff to watch what I do and make myself better. The thing I remember most about that is that to that point I hadn’t really done a lot of three-ways and I was like ‘Oh okay, yeah that went really well.” The Round Robin Challenge match, I really enjoyed the match I had with Low Ki there because whenever me and Low Ki wrestled each other, it was always more of a fight than it was wrestling. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of it. So, we go out there and we’re struggling with each other and trying to get moves on each other and trying to escape and it’s fun. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of it, and I wish we could do more stylistically with the type of matches me and Low Ki did in the Round Robin Challenge. I think more of an MMA style would be beneficial to professional wrestling right now, but a lot of guys don’t know how to do it. I’m not saying I’m great at it or anything, but I think you could really draw money with that style if people were doing it correctly.

AG: What do you consider your best match from early Ring of Honor?

BD: I have no idea. I have a lot of fun matches that I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed my 2 out of 3 falls match with Paul London in 2003. I really enjoyed wrestling AJ Styles a couple times. I don’t really have a match where I’m just like that was my favorite match. I just have a lot of matches where I had a lot of fun in; I don’t have one match where I’m like ‘whoa that was my best match’ or anything like that.

AG: How do you consider you’ve evolved as a worker since then?

BD: That’s hard to say. I’ve evolved with the times, with what fans are sick of seeing and what fans to want to see, what people are going to like what they’re going to hate. A lot of how I’ve evolved wrestling-wise is a reaction to the fans as I think most wrestlers do. I’ve evolved quite a bit in the character and how I present myself. That’s mostly because of the time I spent in England because that’s almost all character-driven wrestling. It’s hard to say, sometimes you think you’ve gotten a little bit better and sometimes you think you’ve gotten a little bit worse in some areas. I look back on it and I’ve slacked on some of these areas and need to work on that again. It’s always about improving yourself. I’d like to think that people who watched me in 2002 would think I’ve improved a lot.

AG: That seems to be the general consensus, and you were considered among the best around then. Where did the idea for your Best of 5 with Homicide come from?

BD: That was all Ring of Honor. They really liked the match we had in April of 2004, me and Homicide had never really done anything since, so Ring of Honor decided that putting something like that together would be good for us both and give us both a bit of direction to where we were going to go. That’s how it came about.

AG: How does a series like that affect you going into this Saturday’s match for the title?

BD: It affects us in that we each know each other pretty well. It’s hard because that was in early 2005 so we’ve each developed as wrestlers since then. One of the things is you expect this when that wrestler’s changed and moved on. I think it’ll be good and it’ll be exciting because one of the things I liked most is wrestling guys I haven’t wrestled or haven’t wrestled in a long time because then it’s more physically and mentally demanding. When people see the match in Manhattan on Saturday, hopefully it should be a great match that people really enjoy.

AG: How’s your shoulder?

BD: Not so hot, in a short answer. Pain wise as I’m wrestling I’ve adjusted to that; it’s just something your body adjusts to over time. But flexibility wise and strength wise, when I’ve gone into my physical therapy, both have decreased. Just general things, like wrestling irritates it if something happens to it, it can be really painful. But what’s really irritating can be sleeping, I roll over and I roll on my shoulder, and I wake up, I have a hard time sleeping anyways, you just can’t get back to sleep. Those little things take a toll on your lifestyle, not just what you do in the ring.

AG: Any favorite opponents?

BD: Oh! Tons and tons. I’ve loved wrestling Spanky. I loved wrestling Low Ki. I loved wrestling Samoa Joe. One of my favorite wrestlers to wrestle is Robbie Brookside, who’s an English wrestler who really helped me a lot. He helped train me when I was training with William Regal. I loved training with Regal. Gosh, there’s so many guys I’ve loved wrestling in my career. I’ve only had two matches with KENTA but I loved wrestling KENTA. I’ve loved wrestling Nigel McGuinness and Colt Cabana. There’s so many really good workers. I’ve enjoyed wrestling everybody.

AG: Speaking of Nigel, he and Roderick Strong are considered two of the most improved workers lately, mostly due to their performances in matches with you. How do you feel they’ve improved, if they have? Do you believe one has come further than the public perceives? Any comments on that?

BD: I really believe Nigel will be considered a really top level wrestler in 2007. The reason why is he just has it all. He’s great at interviews. He’s always been a real good wrestler. I think that’s what people never really realized, how good he was before. He’s been going to NOAH and because of that has added more impact moves to his arsenal which impress the fans a little bit more. Because of those impact moves, he’s impressed the fans. People haven’t even seen the tip of the iceberg for what Nigel can do really. I think for Nigel 2007 will be a really big year.

Roderick has improved leaps and bounds as well, but it’s going to be harder for, to notice for him because he doesn’t immediately grab the eye like Nigel does. He’s not a huge wrestler. People have seen a lot of his moves already and he’s not great on interviews, but Roderick is a fantastic wrestler. While Roderick has really improved, it’s an improvement that’s harder for fans to see. Whereas Nigel has always been the bottom end of the card and in 2006 that has really changed, in 2007 it will become really noticeable that Nigel’s become a really complete wrestler and a real force in professional wrestling.

AG: You just mentioned NOAH. You’ve also done some work in New Japan, with Liger and so on. How would you compare working with the two companies?

BD: Well, so far I’ve only done one tour with NOAH and wrestling in Japan has changed quite a bit. I guess the biggest difference between the two is when I was with New Japan I was wrestling almost exclusively juniors. There were very few matches where I’d team up with a heavyweight and wrestle another junior and a heavyweight or get teamed up with a heavyweight and we’d wrestle two heavyweights, whereas this last tour with NOAH it was rare that it be an all juniors match. It was me teamed with Bison Smith against another junior and another heavyweight, so I’ve always enjoyed wrestling heavyweights. There’s a lot of things you can do with heavyweights and it’s a nice mixture because there’s different things you can do against each guy. I’ve enjoyed working for both companies. New Japan was great to wrestle for and I had a great time wrestling for NOAH this last trip.

AG: You’re nominated for our Match of the Year for your Glory by Honor V, Night 2 match with KENTA and you’re getting a lot of praise for your Nigel match, which has been called a Match of the Year contender. Do you prefer either and is either your favorite of the title run?

BD: I like them each for different reasons. I really like the Nigel match because you could feel the emotion from the people. I don’t know if it comes across on the DVD, I haven’t really seen it. But being in the ring, during that match, there’s almost a vibration that comes up from the ground and you just really feel it. That sort of feeling is really rare and so I really like that.

And then the match with KENTA, I really enjoyed that match because it’s sort of a source of pride because my arm was in such bad shape at that time. And then two, my girlfriend was there, and she cried. Whenever you can make a family member cry you know that’s kind of fun. The KENTA match really did quite a bit of damage to my arm and that was the first match after I hurt my arm. Mentally it felt like an accomplishment. And for the New York fans to react like they did to that match was really special too. Each different for different reasons, but I can’t pick which one I like more.

AG: I’ve got a follow up question for that, but first. How did you manage to go 50 minutes after you hurt your arm, the shoulder came out? That’s amazing.

BD: Most athletes and probably most wrestlers would agree with this too. When you get hurt, you don’t really realize what you did, you just try to get through. You say to yourself “can I do this?” And you answer “no I can’t” or “yes I can,” and if you decide you can you just go out and do it. It’s not as difficult as people make it out to be. The idea is more difficult than that. The KENTA match was more difficult, knowing how bad my shoulder was going in, then thinking “oh God, I’ve got to do this match.” It wasn’t as difficult as people think.

AG: Another one of Inside Pulse’s Match of the Year contenders is the Do Fixer vs. Blood Generation match. Who would you compare them to? Would you even be able to or are they just too different?

BD: It’s just too different really and there’s tons of different styles in professional wrestling. I think as a former fan, I can appreciate most of them. I saw that match and was in awe. The things those guys were doing are things that I can never do. Watching that is like “Wow, oh wow!” There are lots of ooohs and aaahs. I feel in my matches the emphasis is on the drama as opposed to the ooohs and aaahs. There are different types of wrestling that appeal to different fan bases and I think it says a lot for Ring of Honor as a company that they can have both of those types of matches.

AG: You have been drawing criticism of late that your matches have been too long and run around the same lengths and that’s long. How would you respond to those criticisms?

BD: If my matches are too long, hey. Nobody ever really criticizes me directly. I don’t really read the Internet, but I assume that this would be Internet criticism. It still seems to me like the fans are reacting at the shows. Some people probably don’t like it, and people aren’t supposed to like me. I’m not a person catering to being liked. And Ring of Honor probably has a tougher time than anybody with this, a lot of times I just do whatever I want. One of the great things about being an independent wrestler is that I can go out there and do whatever I feel like; I have the freedom to do that. If you want to criticize me for that’s fantastic, everybody has an opinion and the right to express that opinion. That’s part of what’s fun about wrestling, people can complain about whatever, but really it’s up to the performers themselves.

AG: Since you don’t read the net much, Dave Meltzer of the Observer said you’re the best heel since the late 80s Flair. Any comments on that?

BD: I kind of think that’s a little ridiculous. I don’t know, I get a mixture of cheers and boos. It’s hard to say people hate me more than they’ve hated a lot of the best bad guys in wrestling since then. You know who I think is the best heel is a guy from the Heartbreak Express in Florida. I don’t know if he gets much press on the Internet or not. His name is Shawn, I forget what his wrestling name is, but he gets people to hate him.

AG: Well, you just did wonders for his career.

BD: This is what I’m saying, in FIP, and we never draw a lot in FIP, but Shawn makes people hate him so much that this last Friday in Crystal River Florida, which is just a town in the middle of nowhere that no one would drive to, to see a show. It’s not like a Ring of Honor show where people are driving from all around, this is a really small town. I think they drew 500 people to see a Cage Match Main Event, with the Heart Break Express against a team called the Black Market, purely because, his name is Shawn Davis now that I think of it, purely because people want to see Shawn get the crap kicked out of him. He’s a great promo and when he gets in the ring he knows exactly what he’s doing. When they got in the ring, they tore the house down. This is a show that has me on it, Roderick Strong, Delirious, Austin Aries and out of all those people those two teams are who people came to see. There a lot of people who just look at WWE, TNA, Ring of Honor, and less Ring of Honor than the other two companies, but there are a great number of wrestlers out there who really know what they’re doing. It’s a shame that people don’t get exposed to those kind of things just because they aren’t a Ring of Honor type of wrestler or something like that. For my money, he’s probably 50 times better of a heel than I’ll ever be. I’d love to draw the kind of hate he does; I’ve never seen anything like it.

AG: Anyone else you consider underrated or underutilized?

BD: There’s tons. Chad Collyer is one of the best wrestlers on the planet and for some reason he doesn’t get a lot of opportunities. Puma and Rocky Romero from LA are both fantastic and underutilized. There’s so many out there that are really good, it’s hard to just limit them to a few. There’s a lot of great tag teams, in Florida, but a lot of guys really know how to wrestle but they’re not the Ring of Honor style per se, so they don’t generate a lot of independent buzz. The Black Market team who just wrestled the Heart Break Express, those guys know what they’re doing in tag team wrestling, they’ve been to Puerto Rico and done some good wrestling. I think Bison Smith is a great wrestler. I was just on a NOAH tour with him. He’s a huge guy, just not a Ring of Honor style wrestler. There’s a lot of great wrestlers out there who aren’t necessarily what Internet fans want to see, so they don’t get that buzz.

AG: Who would you consider the best around right now?

BD: Gosh, being that I haven’t wrestled anyone out there. From a viewers standpoint, guys I’ve never wrestled that I just think really really know what their doing are guys like Chris Benoit. I watch Chris Benoit and I think “Jesus, he’s a machine.” Fit Finlay. Triple H still amazes me when he wrestles, just all his mannerisms. Guys that I’ve wrestled, maybe the best guy that I’ve wrestled is Robbie Brookside. That’s just because he knows exactly what the fans want, and he gives it to them. I guess you can’t ask for a better wrestler than that.

AG: I have a quick question that one of my fellow writers had actually given to me. It’s a little off-base, so it might be fun. “If you had the option of having your own action figure or being in a video game, which would you prefer?”

BD: Action figure, I hate video games. I don’t actually hate video games, I hate that other wrestlers talk about games so much. That’s made me hate video games. I have no interest in a video game, but having my own little action figure would be cool.

AG: Sounds good to me, and that will make him (PK) very happy. You were quoted as saying you’d like to stop wrestling and join the Peace Corps. Any update on that?

BD: If they’ll accept me, I’ll go. It’s also something where I need my degree first in college or I need to learn a second language. I’m not really disciplined enough to learn a second language right now so once I get my degree. I applied in 2005, and they rejected me, which I didn’t even know they could do, since they said I didn’t really have any skills since I was wrestling since I was 18 and that’s one of those things I’d like to join the Peace Corps when I can. Whenever I have to take some time off for my shoulder I’ll apply again and see where it goes from there.

AG: You’ve said you were taking chemistry courses. Are you still doing that?

BD: I actually finished off my chemistry classes, so I took a full year of chemistry. I would have liked to have done more, but when I moved out to Philadelphia to teach the Ring of Honor wrestling school I had to switch to online classes so I didn’t have to pay out of state tuition. So, when I did that, they don’t really offer many science courses online. So I had to shy away from that.

AG: Good luck. Last question. You’ve got a big match this Saturday. Any parting thoughts? Things you’d like to say to fans coming to the show?

BD: I would like to say to the fans that I think they’re in for a treat, not just for my match but for the entire show. Every time Ring of Honor has come to New York, they’ve really delivered. I think the show on Saturday will be just as good as the shows we’ve had before.

AG: That’ll be all, thank you for your time and good luck this Saturday!

BD: Thank you and goodbye.

Photo credit: Ring of Honor (for more information, go to www.rohwrestling.com)

Glazer is a former senior editor at Pulse Wrestling and editor and reviewer at The Comics Nexus.