He’s arguably the most popular WWE performer of our modern era. Bryan Danielson, who wrestles under the name Daniel Bryan in the WWE, was in Singapore yesterday teaching children of the Central Singapore CDC’s Nurture 2.0 Programme how to build terrariums. The crowd favourite (who’s also famous for his “yes” chant), spent the afternoon with kids of Nurture 2.0, a StarHub-sponsored programme that endows less privileged children with opportunities for character, personal, and academic development.
A very friendly and personable gent, Danielson is as well known for his brutal, unbridled wrestling style as he is for his love for social and environmental causes. Popspoken spoke to him about his favourite colleagues, improving health and love for nature.
Popspoken: Hi Bryan, let’s first address what’s at the forefront of your fans’ minds. Are you cleared to compete? Will viewers get to see you in another WWE run?
Bryan Danielson: “Well, the doctors have yet to clear me. I’ve passed every test, but the doctors haven’t cleared me yet.”
How is your eyesight and your hearing now?
“I detached my retina in my right eye in 2007 (while wrestling against retired Japanese wrestler Morishima). My vision in my right eye is still a bit blur. I’m a decent kickboxer, but I will never be great, because I can’t see the punches coming from the right that fast. However, neurologists say that I have excellent reaction time. I can get my eardrum (also ruptured in 2007) fixed just liked that, but I will have to take a lot of time off to let it heal.”
How do you feel about wrestlers like Sasha Banks subjecting themselves to such rough matches as young as their early 20s?
“I can’t say they shouldn’t, because I started wrestling when I was 18. By the time I was 23, I was wrestling pretty intense matches in main events and in Japan I was doing stuff that was riskier. There’s a flipside to it though. I needed to do that to get people’s attention. If you’re not the kind of guy where they (management and creatives) go, “he’s a star”, they did that with The Rock, then you have to work really really hard.”
You grew up during the era when WWE CEO Vince McMahon wouldn’t make you a star in the WWE unless you were huge and tall, so when you started wrestling, did you ever envision yourself one day working in the WWE or did you think you’d work in independent wrestling circuits forever?
“It’s interesting because I got signed to the WWE when I was 18. After being trained by Shawn Michaels, I envisioned a long career in Japan, where smaller guys I look up to like Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko spent their formative years. I didn’t imagine myself in the WWE because I’m 5ft 8 and 185 pounds. I thought Japan would be a good idea, because wrestlers working in Japan can melt back into their environment when they go back (to the United States) and nobody knows you.”
Speaking of long careers, how do you feel about up-and-coming wrestlers having to compete with veteran wrestlers for spots?
“Some wrestlers have long careers and wrestle long into their 40s. Sometimes young wrestlers get left off cards (the show line-up) like WrestleMania because of old guys coming back. In my opinion, if they had brought back guys like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage back when The Rock and Stone Cold were starting out, The Rock would have never become The Rock, and Stone Cold would have never become Stone Cold. At WrestleMania, people still wanna see The Undertaker. This is kind of a balancing act. Although we are bringing back part-time wrestlers like Brock Lesnar and older wrestlers, I would like to see more young guys in higher positions in the card.”
Which old wrestlers do you idolise?
“My idols have changed over time. When I was a kid, I liked the Ultimate Warrior. When I watch the Ultimate Warrior now, I don’t think he’s a technically good wrestler. He doesn’t have a good hammerlock, but I realise when watching him now that he had an incredible energy and an incredible intensity. That’s what draws you to him.
Later on, I liked anybody who came out with an animal, like Jake the Snake and Koko B. Ware, because I love animals. And then I moved to like smaller wrestlers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Then WCW started bringing in international wrestlers. Rey Mysterio is 5ft 3 and he was the cruiserweight champion at 135 pounds. Watching him at 15 years old gave me hope that I could be a wrestler too. After I trained with Shawn Michaels, I was trained by William Regal, and I respect his willingness to embrace comedy stuff. He’s such a great technical wrestler, but he doesn’t have an ego. I, too, eventually went through the same cycle – when I was in Team Hell No with Kane, I was the butt of jokes, but that was a lot of fun.”
You play a super-loveable babyface on WWE live shows, but a crazy environmentalist on WWE Total Divas, even asking for your family’s faeces to apply to your garden’s plants. What spurs your passion for environmentalism?
“We have to take care of the earth because nature is what sustains us. We are destroying the earth and depleting natural resources. Singapore has done a really wonderful job of incorporating environmental stewardship into the city landscape. My style is not to plunge ahead with issues like global warming like how Leonardo DiCaprio does. I like to lead by example. I’m noticed for my wrestling. If people like how I wrestle, then they can also check out the causes that I’m involved in.”
Who in the WWE today has given you your best match as of late?
“Sheamus. I love his wrestling style. He wrestles a very physical style. I remember we did a European tour together and we were booked to wrestle each other every night. Our best match was right after my 18-second loss to Sheamus at Wrestlemania.”
I loved that match because it was so different and unexpected. How memorable it was, is now a landmark in your career.
“I hated it – we wanted to put on a big spectacle at Wrestlemania but were told to put on that 18-second match. The very next month, we were both hungry and wanting to prove something, and we put on a great two out of three falls match.”
If you could pick someone from the independent wrestling circuit, who would you love to bring to the WWE to work a great match with?
“I wouldn’t call the Japanese promotions “indie”, but I’d love to bring Shinsuke Nakamura over.”
Well, that will both stir and answer many rumours. What do you like about Nakamura?
“I love Shinsuke and I’ve known him for ages. What I love about his style is that he incorporates facets of reality into his matches.”
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