Bryan Danielson’s wrestling career has come to an end. His career being that of one of the greatest in ring workers of all time. The fact that his amazing wrestling ability is not the first thing that comes to people’s mind as the standout attribute of his career is far more amazing than said ability. However, for the sake of format we’ll be sticking to matches and not how badly Vince McMahon squandered him until given no other choice by his rapidly dwindling customer base. Instead we will take a look at Bryan Danielson and the man who, in my opinion, was his greatest rival, KENTA.
Best In The World (Basketball City)
ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson/Samoa Joe vs KENTA/Naomichi Marufuji
In Your Face (New Yorker Hotel)
ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson vs KENTA vs Samoa Joe
Glory By Honor V Night 2 (Manhattan Center)
ROH World Championship
ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson vs KENTA
NOAH 12/2/06 (Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium)
KENTA vs Bryan Danielson
Respect is Earned (Manhattan Center)
KENTA/Nigel McGuinness vs Bryan Danielson/ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima
Driven (Frontier Fieldhouse)
KENTA vs Bryan Danielson
NOAH 10/13/08 (Hiroshima Green Arena)
GHC Jr Heavyweight Championship
GHC Jr Heavyweight Champion Bryan Danielson vs KENTA
The moral of this story is that if you keep everyone else away and give these two a good crowd they can make something special. The two tags are okay. The first one with Joe and Marufuji is overly long, and that is the anchor on that match. The second tag had this goofy thing with Nigel having to tape up his arm while KENTA was being beaten down. Plus it reminded me how little I was into Nigel when he was wrestling someone other than Bryan Danielson in a straight singles match. The threeway with Joe falls apart because everyone gets hurt. KENTA gets dropped on his face when Joe was either supposed to duck or catch him then Joe straight up slaps KENTA so hard it knocks him out. So he’s all sorts of concussed. Then Danielson got a concussion somewhere in there. Then Joe screws up either his hamstring or knee legit. I forget which. So you can see where that match fell apart.
It is the singles matches where the specialness between these two comes out. Even if a crowd like the one in Yokohama try to bring them down. Ah crowd heat. The second part of the equation mentioned in the previous paragraph. The crowd in the Manhattan Center for their first singles match was rabid. Now it helps that the booking leading to the match was spot on. Very much an old school WWWF style booking actually. You bring someone in, you have him go over the guys just under your champion, and then you have a credible challenger. That’s all Vince Sr. did with Bruno for years. Bring in say Stan Hansen. Hansen beats Jay Strongbow. He’s ready for Bruno. It also helps that the match is damn near perfect. For my money the greatest match in ROH history. Even when Danielson botches a spot his reaction is so awesome that if anything the match is better for it. Circumstance also played a big part of it. Danielson had injured his shoulder prior to the match which led to a twofold benefit. The first one being that the crowd could get behind every nearfall thinking that they might have to take the title off of Danielson because of it. The second benefit being that it gives the match a laser like focus. KENTA spends most of the match kicking Danielson in the arm as hard as he can. KENTA dominated the match with striking. Danielson made sporadic comebacks when he could get the match to the mat setting up an obvious dynamic there. It was so easy for the crowd to follow along and then the just artistically beautiful finish I will get to later. Compare that to the match they had a few weeks later in Japan. Back in the day the crowds that would come to the Big Bunka in Yokohama may have been hot for Inoki vs Fujinami, but since I started watching modern Puroresu over a decade ago that building has been uniformly dead no matter the promotion running it. Bryan Danielson and KENTA sorta flip their match from New York. It is still the striker vs the wrestler, but this time it is the wrestler who dominates most of the match. Also in the end the dominant one is the one who loses. It is a good match, but in silence it loses something. Just look at their second singles match in Japan. The crowd in Hiroshima doesn’t start out as anything special, but once they get into the match it kicks into another gear. Once that happens the crowd gets more excited. The match then ramps up even more. Like a cycle feeding off itself. Is the work that much better in Hiroshima than in Yokohama? A little bit. Is the match more than a little bit better because of the crowd heat? Yes. Yes! YES! YES! YES! Ye….Sorry got carried away for a second.
These two are great with finishes. Now KENTA’s main finisher was the Go 2 Sleep that was co-opted in WWE by CM Punk. His ultimate finisher when that didn’t work was to spam Busaiku Knee Kicks which is basically the running knee the WWE named Daniel Bryan used as one of his finishers. Every match KENTA had been in for Ring of Honor up to Glory By Honor V he had won with the Go 2 Sleep. Until Glory By Honor V when Danielson got his foot on the rope leading the Busaiku spam. Danielson turns that into an O’Connor Roll with a bridge leading the Danielson pouring on the elbows. KENTA fires up for a Go 2 Sleep, but Danielson reverses into a crucifix laying KENTA out in a position for the Cattle Mutilation. KENTA powers up again but eats a Tiger Suplex and gets put back in Cattle Mutilation for the tap out. That description does not even come close to doing justice to what they did. You need to see it. Every wrestling fan does. It is just a necessary to lay out because of how they play off that finish in every one of their matches. It would always be a back a forth struggle with these moves just with who won the struggle depending on who won. At Glory By Honor KENTA manages to get on top of Danielson from the Cattle Mutilation for a flash pin attempt, but Danielson keeps the hold, but in their next match and their match at Driven he doesn’t and KENTA is able to take advantage and eventually win. In the tag match with Morishima and Nigel Danielson holds on again and wins. There are tons of tiny changes they do like that. I could go on all day, but it would get boring and I doubt I’d have the ability to do it justice. Really just go watch KENTA and Bryan Danielson wrestle each other is what I am saying.
Looking back at this whole thing the really cool thing is that you can argue when this series of match began Bryan Danielson was the best wrestler in the world. His run as ROH World Champion is legendary. His matches with Nigel McGuinness, how he threaded in and out of the CZW stuff, and my choice of greatest ROH match of all time against KENTA at Glory By Honor V. When it was over you could argue that KENTA was the best wrestler in the world. In 2009 he certainly was. Funny how the biggest company in the world decided both these guys needed “development”. Or that some of their bigger sycophants actually think that’s true. Well not sure if funny is the right word there. The side benefit of even sad events is a nostalgia that comes with them. I had not revisited this era of ROH in a long time. I had forgotten just how into that promotion I was back in 2006/2007. The stuff with NOAH, Dragon Gate, and CZW were great at a time when WWE started the decent it is fully in now, New Japan had yet to recover from Inokism, and NOAH was about to start their long fall. A light in the darkness with Bryan Danielson leading the way.
Results and Ratings
Best in the World
KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji defeated ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe at 33:34 when KENTA pinned Brian Danielson with the Go 2 Sleep (Star Rating: ***)
In Your Face
KENTA defeated ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe at 20:23 when KENTA pinned Bryan Danielson with the Go 2 Sleep (Star Rating: **1/2)
Glory By Honor V Night 2
ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson defeated KENTA via submission at 33:01 with the Cattle Mutilation . Bryan Danielson retained the ROH World Championship (Star Rating: *****)
KENTA defeated Bryan Danielson via pinfall at 25:21 with the Go 2 Sleep (Star Rating: ****)
Respect is Earned
Bryan Danielson and ROH World Champion Takeshi Morishima defeated KENTA and Nigel McGuinness at 24:55 when Danielson made KENTA tap out to the Cattle Mutilation (Star Rating: ***1/2)
KENTA defeated Bryan Danielson via pinfall at 25:33 with the Go 2 Sleep (Star Rating: ****3/4)
KENTA defeated GHC Jr Heavyweight Champion Bryan Danielson via pinfall at 33:21 with the Go 2 Sleep. KENTA won the GHC Jr Heavyweight Championship. (Star Rating: ****3/4)
Average Rating: ****
Goodbye and thanks for everything Dragon. We’ll be back with slightly less sentimental fare when we look at some good old 1990s WWF action. Next Time: Bret Hart vs Diesel