In an appearance on WFAN’s Moose & Maggie to promote AEW Grand Slam, AEW’s Bryan Danielson talked about his injury history with WWE. Danielson revealed the worst he ever felt was around the time of his greatest triumph, winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 30, and that lying about his medical history was what led to his first retirement in 2016.
“My lowest point was right around WrestleMania 30, which most people would consider the high point of my career,” Danielson said. “I was, at the time, I had some nerve issues due to my neck, so I was in tremendous pain. Then I ended up losing all the strength in my right arm. One of the things I was very proud of was I main evented WrestleMania, and my wife and I shared a 2010 Honda Fit that didn’t have automatic locks. A couple weeks after WrestleMania 30, I couldn’t unlock the car with my right hand. They said ‘the nerve pain is one thing, we can mitigate that. But once you start losing strength, we’re risking permanent damage.’ So then I had to have neck surgery. That was the worst I’ve ever felt.
“But even with the other stuff, the other stuff was concussion related. And when I was forced to retire, it was more based out of because I lied to them. That’s a good lesson to a lot of people. When you’re talking your medical history, be very honest. Because some things were uncovered. There was this ‘wait a second. It’s not that we don’t think you can wrestle, we just can’t trust you any more with your body.’ That sort of thing. On the flip side of that, I feel like a machine who can do anything. I feel great right now. I’m 40, and I feel better, infinitely better, than I did before WrestleMania 30.”
After discussing how techniques learned from Tom Brady’s TB12 program had helped him improve his health, Danielson then went into the differences he’s noticed between WWE’s locker room and AEW’s. He focused on the youth of AEW’s locker room, the potential of mentoring some of the younger talent, and what makes a good mentor.
“There’s a lot more people in the locker room, I’ll tell you that much,” Danielson said. “I walked in and I was like ‘oh this is crowded! I’m going to change in the shower.’ I liked the WWE locker room and I thought it was a fun locker room and all that kind of stuff. But there’s a lot more young people in the locker room (in AEW). I would never personally take on the response of ‘hey, I’m here to be a mentor.’ And neither is Punk. But we’ll naturally form those relationships. My mentor is William Regal with WWE, and that doesn’t happen overnight. There has to be a trust established, there has to be a bond established. That sort of thing. To name one person is to leave out so many people. When I look at the youth in AEW, that’s one of the things that’s very exciting about it. But there’s obviously people like Darby Allin who are already incredible, there’s people like Jungle Boy, there’s MJF who’s from around here.
“But then there’s people like Dante Martin, who’s 20 years old. There’s people like Daniel Garcia. Dante Martin and Daniel Garcia are two opposite ends of the spectrum, if you don’t know who they are. Dante Martin does the most (spectacular things). I watch all sorts of wrestling and I’ve watched it since I was a kid. Wrestling from all over the world. I feel like I’ve seen every move that’s ever been, until I saw Dante Martin and he did something I’d never seen before. I was like ‘oh my god! And he’s only 20 years old!’ And then on the flipside, Daniel Garcia, as opposed to doing the high flying stuff, is a more technical based wrestler. I was like ‘oh, that reminds me of myself when I was his age.’ But really, one of the things with mentorship I feel like is the personalities have to bond together. And it doesn’t matter if the styles of wrestling are the same, it’s more how you handle somebody and how you deal with situations. I would’ve had many more mental breakdowns if it weren’t for William Regal. He was like ‘hey, if you change your perspective like this, this will help you.’ And I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”
Finally Danielson was asked if he believed there was a AEW vs. WWE competition, similar to what fellow AEW star CM Punk feels. Danielson sees it as a competition more so on the business side of things, and believes overall it’s better for wrestlers and the fans for that.
“I’m sure,” Danielson said of competition. “Especially at a higher level. I’m not talking about a higher level of performance, I’m talking about business. In a couple of years when both TV deals come up, and that’s how both companies make most of their money through their TV deals. There’s going to be some competitive bargaining going on as far as who gets what? And the person who has the better ratings is going to get the most money. And that’s better for everybody. So obviously there’s that level of competition. One of the things that I love is that Tony’s view of wrestling comes from a wrestling fan’s perspective, and it’s really a modernization of professional wrestling. But what WWE does is more entertainment. And you can see it in the way the shows are presented. The very first segment in most WWE shows is an interview setting up the entertainment for the rest of the night. AEW almost always starts off with a wrestling match.
“And one of the things that I love about both of them, rather than being competition, it gives wrestling fans ‘hey, what do you like better?’ It gives you that. Some people are going to like both. I also think it’s great for the wrestlers in that you look at someone like Malakai Black in AEW or Ruby Soho, who weren’t able to get many opportunities in WWE. Now they’re in AEW and Ruby’s in an AEW Women’s Championship match. Also on Rampage on Friday, her and Britt Baker were like the greatest promo ever. It was so good! So giving talent opportunities, and eventually, it’s going to go the other way. Someone in AEW is underutilized, they’re going to go to WWE and people are going to see what they can do. I just think there’s a competitive nature. For me, myself, I’m more competitive within myself as far as being the best I can. But I’m not going to lie, if I see someone do something incredible in WWE, I’m going to be like ‘yeah, I can do better.'”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WFAN’s Moose & Maggie and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription