AEW’s Bryan Danielson joined WFAN’s Moose & Maggie to promote AEW Grand Slam in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Danielson went to a draw against Omega on the show, and matches like that ultimately played a big part in the American Dragon picking AEW over WWE.
“One of the big things is AEW just seems like a lot of fun,” Danielson said. “There’s a lot of matches, including the match that I have tomorrow, that I looked at and I was like, ‘oh man, I would love to do this.’ The match with Kenny Omega, to me, feels like the biggest match of my career. Kenny and I had wrestled before, like ten plus years ago, before I was in WWE, and he wasn’t where he’s at now.
“I watch all sorts of wrestling. I love wrestling. So I’d watch him while I was in WWE and I was like, ‘whoa!’ He was doing the lighter weight division while he was in Japan and I was like ‘whoa, Kenny’s getting awesome.’ Then he moved to heavyweight, and he was just doing some of the best wrestling in the world. So I saw that and when I was able to come to AEW, I was like, ‘this is the match I want.’ And then doing it at the first show in New York City, in Arthur Ashe, it just feels like it could be a huge momentum shift for AEW.”
Despite the move, Danielson has nothing but positive things to say about WWE, even thanking them Tuesday morning in an article for the Players’ Tribune. He talked about why he felt the need to thank the promotion where he worked for over a decade.
“I felt like I needed to say thank you to WWE publicly,” Danielson said. “I’ve said things to people privately, but I needed to say it publicly because not only the people in WWE but the WWE fan base, I think some of them felt betrayed a little bit. There’s a level of tribalism where it’s like ‘hey I’m WWE!’ or ‘hey I’m AEW!’ And I just wanted to transcend that a little bit and say ‘thank you, because you guys have given me these incredible moments.’ And not just that; I wasn’t able to say goodbye to everybody.
“As far as like camera people that I love, the creative team that I love, all these different people. The catering people, who specifically made vegan meals for me for years and years and years, and I’d go up and ask them ‘oh, I’m sorry, I’m shy. Could you make me something?’ And they did it without any hesitation every week for years. I’m talking about good people that you form great relationships with. Not to mention the people you form more complex but very deep relationships with, like Vince McMahon, like my friends, the wrestlers I spent so much time on the road with.”
Danielson was also asked about the differences between his old boss, Vince McMahon, and his new boss, Tony Khan. He believes there are several similarities between them, though also some key differences, specifically when it comes to communication.
“There’s huge similarities and there’s huge differences,” Danielson said. “I think if you were to speak to both of them, if you were to interview both of them, I think you would be like ‘wow. You could not meet two more different people.’ But I see a lot of similarities in them. And one of the things I think they would both respect about each other is the hard work. Neither of them sleep much, and they take on so much, and I think that’s incredible. One of the things that’s very different is communicating with them. When you first communicate with Vince McMahon, it’s very intimidating because he’s somebody who speaks deliberately. You ask him a question, he won’t answer right away, and not because he’s trying to impose his will on your or anything like that, just because he doesn’t want to give you a thoughtless response.
“When you talk to Tony, you can feel Tony’s excitement. I don’t remember meeting Tony, but we had met previously several years ago. It was probably just a ‘oh hi!’ or something like that. But I was walking out right before walking out before All Out, and Tony was like ‘Bryan! It’s so great to see you!’ He gives me a big hug and literally, before I’m about to walk out he’s like ‘Bryan! LET’S GO!’ It was just wild, you know what I mean? I really enjoy talking with Tony on the phone and all that kind of stuff, and all our interactions have been great.”
Perhaps the biggest revelation Danielson was that AEW and WWE weren’t the only options on the table. Danielson stated that he also considered wrestling as an independent performer, and even thought about taking several years off to spend time with his wife, WWE star Brie Bella, and two children.
“There wasn’t any convincing that Tony could do. I’d already seen the product. It was a different situation (than Punk). I was under contract with WWE,” Danielson said when asked if he needed convincing to join AEW. “The big, the hard thing for me is my loyalty to specifically Vince McMahon. I have a great relationship with him. I love that man. And he’s done so much for me and my family, and the things I’ve learned, and that kind of stuff. So that was the hard thing. There was also, a lot of people look at it in terms of two options. ‘You’re either going to be with WWE or AEW.’ But part of me was like ‘or I could just do like an independent schedule where I don’t sign with anybody.’ And I also thought about not coming back to wrestling at all, in the sense of at least the next couple of years.
“I wanted to take the summer off because my daughter started preschool. And just being at home with her every day. Her whole life, she’s four, I’ve left every week, almost every week. Just being able (to be home), I loved it, she loved it, me being home every single night. And now that I’m gone, she’s like, I Facetime her every night, and it’s just like ‘daddy, I miss you. I miss your cuddles. Mama doesn’t cuddle me like you do.’ And all that kind of stuff. That was part of the thing and the idea of maybe stepping away until my son starts preschool, so I could be there every day for him and every day for my daughter, and that sort of thing. But then you’re just like ‘well then, you’re missing the last four years of your productive career. And you might not be the same at 45 that I am at 40.’ So yeah, lots of things. Lots of things to unpack there.”
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