Akhilesh G. recently interviewed Daniel Bryan for Wrestling Inc. during Bryan’s promotional tour in India. Below is the full interview:
Being one of the first “Indy darlings” in the WWE, and if it was difficult initially for him in the company.
At first, I think there were a lot of misconceptions about the guys who wrestled for a long time on the independents, like, “Oh, they can’t make it in the WWE, because it’s just a different? it’s a larger arena”. I would wrestle sometimes in front of as few as 15 people, but also sometimes in front of thousands of people on the independent scene, but that’s very different from wrestling in front of ten thousand people every single night. It’s a different audience; you didn’t see a lot of kids at the independent shows. There weren’t a lot of 5 year old kids coming to the independent shows. So you have to wrestle for those people too, and the thought process was that, somebody like me ? I’m just an average size guy. That’s not what captivates the kids’ imaginations, right? When they see someone like John Cena, who literally looks like Superman; what am I going to do to capture those children’s imagination? And even when I was a kid, what captured my imagination? Jake “The Snake” Roberts, people with animals, people with fancy face paint, and all that kind of stuff.
There was a lot of hesitation, as far as like, “Wait a second, how is this 5’8″, 190 pound average person going to connect with these people”, in what they call as “superstars”? We’re called superstars, so, “How is he going to connect?” And that was the biggest question mark. They had a lot of doubts about me for a long time, but the real benchmark, for if somebody can connect with the WWE Universe, is if they connect. So it doesn’t matter if you’re big or small or whatever; if I go out there and the fans react, well then I’ve done my job.
Major independent stars such as Kevin Owens and Finn Balor doing well in the company
I think it’s a natural evolution of what happens. Because, RAW right now is three hours long, right? So what happens is, before, when RAW was two hours, you didn’t see many long matches, and there were separate brands. There was RAW and Smackdown!, and you didn’t see people on both shows very often. Well now, we have a three hour RAW and two hour Smackdown!, so guys are wrestling long matches on both shows. And who’re going to stand out on that kind of platform? Guys who know how to be different in the ring, who can go out there and wrestle a 10, 12, 15 minute match twice a week, and not have the fans get bored by it.
Because realistically, if you take wrestlers from the previous generations, and if they had wrestled as much on television as we have, they would be over exposed. But then, you won’t like them as much. That’s one of the biggest battles our generation faces; the previous generations’ battle was getting exposure, trying to get exposure. Now our battle is over exposure, and those who can handle over exposure the best are the ones who are popular, and incidentally, people who handle over exposure are the ones who’ve spent years wrestling in all the different places. So they know how to interact with people in different settings, and that kind of stuff. So I think it is natural that the independent stars are the people coming up and doing very well.
Kane’s longevity in the company:
So a lot of it is, he is very smart. He knows what he is doing. But also, you have to, and this is for all of us. The same applies for my popularity, for Steve Austin’s popularity? a lot of it depends on luck. If he gets a bad injury, at a certain time in his career when he is getting a big opportunity, all of a sudden, maybe his career in the WWE isn’t as long. If one thing happens this way instead of that way, he may not still be in the WWE. But, that said, he’s got really lucky breaks, and he’s good enough to capitalize on those breaks, and that’s why he has been here for so long. He’s smart, he’s really good at what he does, and for the most part he’s entertaining.
The North American audience and the market being saturated, with various promotions having TV deals in place, and that translating to WWE’s interest in the international, and more specifically, the Indian market:
For me, one of the cool things has been, we don’t get a lot of information as to what is going on with the TV deals and stuff in other places. I knew that we were on TV in India, but I didn’t understand to the extent, and one of the really cool things about our TV stuff here what we have, is the full live version of RAW, so I think that’s an easier entry point for people to watch a show. Because, for example, if I knew a WWE fan in the United States, and I want to watch RAW, but it’s three hours long. I heard it’s really good, but am I going to devote three hours to it every week?
You know, it’s hard; it’s a hard entry point for people who are just getting interested in it. But the really cool thing about that as far as our show is concerned, is that it’s a great entry point. So, if we see for example, because we have so much television, and so much saturation in the United States, if we see that it’s an issue, guess what? There are 1.2 billion people in India, and we have a lot of WWE fans here. And to me, that’s really cool. That, from a business perspective ? you have to understand, I don’t understand business. I’m not a business person, I haven’t gone to college. But it makes sense to me, if, okay, we stop doing well domestically, but we have all these fans in India, so, hey, let’s do shows in India! So, I think that bodes well for us.
William Regal’s influence on his career, and who he attributed his early success to:
Regal is by far the most influential person in my career. My favorite wrestler growing up was Dean Malenko. He was a very technical wrestler, and when I trained with Shawn Michaels, he wasn’t that kind of a technical wrestler. So, when I finally met Regal in 2001, he was that kind of a wrestler, and all of a sudden, I could ask him things, and he would know what I was talking about, and how to do it. You got all these rabbit holes in wrestling, right? You could go down all these avenues; when you watch English wrestling, like the “World of sports” type stuff. It would literally blow your mind as far as the technical and technique type stuff, and he knows all of that, but also how to integrate that into American wrestling. He has wrestled in Japan; before he came to WWE or WCW, he’d come to India and wrestle the Indian wrestlers and stuff!
So, his ability to integrate all that stuff was a mental shift for me, as far as how I perceive wrestling, and what wrestling could be. Because when what you’re doing is entertaining and creative, a lot of it is your own perceptions in your mind. How do you perceive this and what do you think the possibilities are? And once you open your mind to those possibilities, you think, “What can I do here?” This is an open platform; we’re in a ring, and I’m fighting another man. How will I fight this other man? And there are infinite possibilities, and he opened those possibilities up to me.
About his concussion, and how he felt when the news broke out:
I think it’s just frustrating for me, the whole injury situation. To me, I try to be transparent about it all, about the injury stuff. When people ask me, “Hey, what’s going on?” Because, my career more than anybody else’s is based on the fans, right? And I try to keep an honest relationship with the fans, and so, if something is leaked out or whatever, it doesn’t bother me. I think the frustrating part for me with the injuries is feeling like I’ve almost let the fans down, because they’re the ones who pushed me to the super high level. They were the ones who, without them, I would’ve never gotten here. They were the ones who wanted it so bad, so it’s almost like, I feel like I let them down.
Message for the Indian fans:
I just want to say thank you to all the Indian fans, because, I’ve been here for two days, and the entire time they’ve been pretty amazing. From the mall appearance to the people ? the contest winners, to the kids I’ve met from the charities and foundations; everybody I’ve met has not only been excited about the WWE coming here, or excited about meeting me, they’ve all been very nice and polite. A lot of times, when people see you on TV, they see you as this larger than life person. But here, they’ve done that, but they also treated me as just a regular human being, shaking hands and looking me in the eye, saying “hi”. Those things mean a lot because we’re all the same.
Once you break the boundaries that, this is a TV show, and I’m on TV ? okay, whatever. I’m a normal dude, who just happens to be good at something, that puts me on television. You guys happen to be good at something; what I do just happens to put me on television, we’re just all the same. So, I like it when there’s this initial, “Oh my gosh!” But then, you can just sit and be like, “Hey! We’re all cool, we’re all just the same”. And so, yes, I’m just very thankful to all the fans here, and they’ve been nothing but great.