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Bryan Danielson: A New Beginning in New Japan?

3 years ago

Bryan Danielson: A New Beginning in New Japan?

By: James Carlin

Starting with an incredible return to the world of professional wrestling outside of WWE at All Out in September of this year, Bryan Danielson has already had incredible matches in his new home of All Elite Wrestling. He’s been wanting to challenge the wrestlers who weren’t around when he was last active within the independent wrestling scene in 2010 and he took no time in checking off up-and-coming talents on his list; Anthony Bowens, Miro and Evil Uno to name a few, as well as re-igniting feuds with old rivals such as Eddie Kingston and Bobby Fish.

However, ever since the Forbidden Door opened, wrestlers from all over the world have competed in AEW and it looks like there’s fruitful possibilities for the American Dragon outside of Tony Khan’s company – especially in the biggest wrestling promotion in Japan, New Japan Pro Wrestling. CM Punk has already teased that he would be open to working the G1 Climax tournament and Danielson has expressed interest in heading to New Japan many times to grapple with their roster.

Multiple wrestlers from New Japan’s roster have already stepped foot into an AEW ring. Satoshi Kojima faced Jon Moxley, Tomohiro Ishii teamed with Best Friends, and KENTA has tagged with Kenny Omega.

International travel has made wrestlers appearing on other company’s shows difficult due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped the American Dragon getting a small taste of New Japan, thanks to the action he’s had in AEW thus far. Danielson has already wrestled CHAOS’ Rocky Romero, former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, and the legendary Minoru Suzuki. That’s only the start of Danielson’s new beginning against New Japan talent and there’s quite a few opponents that he needs to step into the ring with before he hangs up the boots for good.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

It’s not a complete shock that New Japan’s biggest heartthrob is one of the most desired opponents for Danielson. Tanahashi has been the face of New Japan Pro Wrestling for a very long time. His own personal desired WWE opponents were always John Cena, and you guessed it, Bryan Danielson

The Ace has had multiple iconic matches, during his time at the top of Japanese wrestling. Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito, and Chris Jericho are notable feuds. A match with Danielson would only increase the “Guess Who” of opponents that Tanahashi has faced in Japan.

There really isn’t a lot you can say about a potential match-up between ‘The Ace of New Japan” and “The GOAT of professional wrestling” – it’ll be a fantastic match. We all know that. So let’s all pray that it comes to fruition one day.

Tetsuya Naito

Following a seven year story that saw the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japon become one of the most popular wrestlers in the company, Naito became the first person to hold both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships at the same time. Naito isn’t the only double championship holder around. Danielson unified the ROH Pure and the ROH World championships, after a legendary match with rival Nigel McGuinness, holding both championships, for a short period of time.

Naito doesn’t exactly have the same in-ring styles as the American Dragon, but his cockiness and ability to connect with fans is what would make an encounter between them special. For every Tranquilo that Naito has, Danielson has a “You’re going to get your fucking head kicked in!” or clap-in-rhythm kicks ready to respond with.

The ungovernable one seems to have a trend of facing off against high-profile names at high-profile events. Naito face Kenny Omega in the G1 Finals, Okada and Jay White separately during the double-gold dash, as well as an incredible run of matches in numerous G1 tournaments. If these two clash, it would be realistic and fitting to see them face off in the biggest tournament in Japanese wrestling.

Katsuyori Shibata


The Wrestler vs. The American Dragon. A wildcard pick of all the possible choices out there, but there’s no one better to compliment Danielson’s hard-hitting kicks than Shibata. Just like Danielson, Shibata was forced to retire after a career ending injury. Years later, however, he returned and had his first match back at one of the company’s biggest shows last fall

If you’ve ever seen a Danielson match from before his time in WWE, you probably know what to expect from him in a setting like Japanese puroresu, especially across the ring from someone like Shibata who can hit just as hard as Danielson. In one of Shibata’s greatest matches, he faced IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis. He headbutted the Rainmaker so hard that it caused him to bleed, and almost cost him his career. These two are almost a perfect match for each other, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Shibata was high on Danielson’s list while they both still can still go. The only question now is, when and will he return to wrestling full-time like Danielson?

The future is uncertain, but if there’s a chance, a match between Danielson and Shibata would be an easy match of the year contender and yet another showcase of how well the American Dragon would fit into the hard-hitting world of Japanese wrestling.

Zack Sabre Jr.

As you’d expect, this is most people’s first choice when it comes to matches that the American Dragon can have in a New Japan ring. Right as Danielson was leaving the independent scene and just at the start of Zack’s career, these two squared off in a small venue in England. Since then, the Suzuki-gun submission specialist has honed his craft and Danielson continued to prove why he’s one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The American Dragon has named Sabre Jr. as one of the opponents he’d like to face, alongside the likes of Jonathan Gresham; another submission master and former Ring of Honor Pure Champion like Danielson.

Both men have become incredibly respected technical wrestlers throughout their careers and are very popular with the wrestling world. They’re both former Pro Wrestling Guerrilla World Champions and both have faced off against the very best of their respective independent wrestling scenes.

The two briefly encountered each other outside of the ring during WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic tournament, but there’s no doubt that magic can be made between the two once again if they lock up again for the first time in over eleven years. The iconic Cattle Mutilation against Sabre’s arsenal of submissions with silly names such as Orienteering With Napalm Death, Article 50, and Tesco Meal Deal. So much excitement is on tap between two premiere stars.

Kota Ibushi


Surprisingly, these two have only encountered each other in tag team matches and a single battle royal, but never in a one-on-one bout. The American Dragon was set at the commentary table while the Golden Star was wrestling in WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic tournament in 2016. Ibushi has faced off against other independent wrestling stars like Danielson in El Generico, Davey Richards and Claudio Castagnoli, but never against Danielson.

We’ve already seen Danielson wrestle Ibushi’s “Golden Lover”, Omega, in the past to a time-limit draw. But does he have what it takes to dispose of Ibushi himself on a big stage? They’ve got different styles and neither one of them is afraid to do crazy things to himself once they get into the ring..

Just under the likes of Tanahashi and Okada as one of New Japan’s biggest stars and best wrestlers, it’s shocking that the paths of these two have never crossed. However, that just makes the possibility of a match happening in the near-future that much more special and exciting.

Alexander James

He’s only made a few appearances on New Japan’s international show Strong, but on the off-chance that he may return again, Danielson absolutely has to be in the cards as one of the people he faces off with.

The “Pain Prince” started off in CZW before making his name in Germany’s wXw, honing his craft and showcasing his more technical side. James competed in the Ambition tournament against Timothy Thatcher, as well as in Europe’s biggest tournament, 16 Carat Gold.

Though not an obvious pick for Danielson, he’s a gifted submission specialist and a well-rounded wrestler. His debut for New Japan is only the start of James getting the recognition that he deserves and a match against the legendary Danielson would give him the exposure that some have been wanting for years.

Name a move and James can reverse it into a deadly submission or fatal blow. As a trainer at the wXw Wrestling Academy, he knows his stuff, and would be on equal ground to another submission expert like Danielson, who has also wrestled in wXw before.

It’s James’ time to shine and he’ll prove that one day against the American Dragon.

Shingo Takagi and Will Ospreay


It seems apt to categorize both IWGP World Heavyweight Champions in the same place. Although Shingo Takagi is the legitimate champion, Will Ospreay also holds his own version of the championship that he never actually lost.

Danielson is one of the biggest names in the wrestling world, so there’d be no shock if he instantly gunned for New Japan’s biggest stars like Chris Jericho did with Kenny Omega in the lead-up to Wrestle Kingdom 12.

Much like ZSJ, Ospreay is one of the British wrestling scene’s biggest stars and has gotten himself comfortable with New Japan through the relationship that company has with RevPro, even bringing the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship with him as he carried the biggest prize in Japanese wrestling.

The Commonwealth Kingpin has tried to tempt fate by teasing an appearance in AEW, but he might find himself dealing with an unexpected Danielson knocking on his front door in New Japan if he keeps up his antics with the United Empire by his side.

The legitimate champion, Takagi, has proven his worth during the pandemic, becoming a valuable asset to New Japan Pro Wrestling  and being a great champion during a time of uncertainty. By holding the real championship, he’s a much bigger target for Danielson. The two have wrestled before, but back in the now-defunct Dragon Gate USA division of Dragon Gate.

Takagi used to be the Ace of Dragon Gate and Danielson was by far the most talked about wrestler in 2008. It was an incredible match. But it was thirteen years ago, and time has only gone and made the American Dragon even better than before. Takagi the Japanese Dragon, is finally getting his dues from a bigger audience. If there was one title match that should main event one of the multiple nights of Wrestle Kingdom, it’s Danielson vs. Takagi.


Well, where do we start with KENTA? He’s been responsible for one of Danielson’s best matches probably ever, and have fought each other three times; twice in Ring of Honor and once in KENTA’s own Pro Wrestling NOAH. They’ve been on the opposite ends of tag team matches plenty of times between 2007 and 2009 thanks to the partnership between ROH and NOAH at that time.

It’s been over twelve years since the two tangled in tag-team action and fourteen since they’ve had a singles match. Although KENTA isn’t as amazing as he used to be all those years ago, he’s still a great wrestler to watch. With his recent win of the IWGP United States Championship from Hiroshi Tanahashi, the American Dragon would want to reignite his rivalry with the Saitama native in a bid to win championship gold in New Japan just like fellow AEW wrestler Moxley did with the same championship.

Kicks, kicks and lots of kicks would ensue between these two yet again. But would KENTA be able to hit the G2S for the victory to retain the IWGP United States title, or would Danielson come out on top, and etch his place into New Japan’s history books as part of their international expansion?

Two of the best wrestlers in their respective companies twelve years ago clashing once more in the biggest wrestling company in Japan for a championship is money. No matter how much time they’re given or the circumstances that’ll lead to the match becoming reality, it’s sure to be a barnburner of a fight.

Kazuchika Okada

Undoubtedly one of the best professional wrestlers in his generation, “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada is one of the more obvious choices for a match against Danielson. A career-defining 720 day IWGP Heavyweight Championship run totaled over twelve defenses and a multitude of Meltzer-scale breaking matches for Okada. The 34 year old has made an incredible mark on the world of professional wrestling, both abroad and in his homeland of Japan.

Matches with Kenny Omega, Shibata, Minoru Suzuki, Naito, and Tanahashi have all proved that the Rainmaker is the Ace of New Japan. Okada was the one to show that the world was finally catching up to the phenomenal joshi wrestling of the 1990s and that a more physically demanding match approach was becoming popular across the industry. He’s never been one for short matches and Danielson could match Okada’s endurance and make the best of it in every single way possible.

The Rainmaker has faced many international talents abroad before, but nothing will compare to the challenge that the American Dragon would bring. The only disappointment that this match would bring is that both men aren’t in their primes. Okada has had lingering issues for a long time now, having worked his pants and shorts off as one of New Japan’s biggest names. Danielson has always been consistently phenomenal, and the time period for when he was in his prime would be “always”, because the American Dragon can have a match with anyone and make it watchable.

A match between two of the greatest male wrestlers on the planet would be a sight to behold and would only benefit New Japan in the long run, with Danielson’s massive popularity around the world being able to bring more eyes back to the company than have ever before. After Okada faced off against Buddy Matthews at Battle in The Valley, it seems as though the Rainmaker may step through the Forbidden Door into AEW and the prospect of that alone is exciting to any hardcore wrestling fan.

The G1 Climax

While very obviously not a wrestler, or a group of wrestlers, the most likely way that the American Dragon would end up wrestling in a New Japan ring is through the most prestigious wrestling tournament in the world – The G1 Climax.

The chances of Danielson winning are almost at zero, but seeing as Kenny Omega was the first gaijin to win back in 2016, it’s not impossible and a win could potentially lead to a match with current IWGP World Champion/s Shingo Takagi or Will Ospreay down the line.

The round-robin structure of the G1 would mean that we could get a multitude of dream matches in a short period of time, most already mentioned above. The American Dragon isn’t afraid of going the distance, meaning endurance wouldn’t be a problem, but the endurance of others may play a part. If he were to enter the tournament, would he also be entered alongside CM Punk, or would some of the dream matches be on the opposite block, to allow room for his return in the future?

It wouldn’t be a surprise if New Japan would want Bryan Danielson to wrestle for them. He’s undoubtedly one of the most popular and influental independent wrestlers of all time and his appearances would bring a lot of eyes back to the company after a less-than-savoury two years due to the pandemic. Danielson would absolutely flourish not only in the G1 Climax, but in New Japan in general because it’s a style of wrestling that he embodies in his entire moveset – hard-hitting attacks, painful wear-down submissions, and not holding back on pace. If it happens, expect it to be one of the most exciting weeks or months for a single wrestler in a very, very long time.

Written by:

Initially hired for social media management and Joshi coverage, I lead the coverage of joshi between May 2023 and March 2024, and worked behind the scenes in multiple roles since August 2022 that allowed Monthly Puroresu to smoothly operate.