wrestling / Columns

411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: CM Punk vs. Bryan Danielson, Who’s Better?

January 21, 2022 | Posted by Jake Chambers
AEW Rampage CM Punk

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

If you told me a year ago that both CM Punk and Bryan Danielson would be wrestling full-time for AEW I’d probably only be half in disbelief compared to thinking one-time resident 411 match reviewer TJ Hawke would write an entire book dissecting those matches.

The 2021 CM Punk and Bryan Danielson AEW Match Diary: Reviews of Each Match CM Punk and Bryan Danielson worked in 2021

But here we are in a 2022 where these things are a reality: the once retired-for-life Danielson is recklessly and relentlessly facing off with all comers, Punk emerged from a frustration-fuelled pro-wresting exile just as charismatic and crafty as ever, and now a robust review collection from Hawke has been published following years of brilliant yet sporadic reviews on this site.

Three auteurs working with a renewed love for their craft, and it’s my absolute honour to welcome TJ Hawke to Fact or Fiction this week.

411 readers have definitely been spoiled to read so many great match reviewers, from JD Dunn to Larry Csonka, featuring approaches literary, passionate, and gonzo, but few have ever come with TJ Hawke’s academic ability to analyze. I have literally gasped in the past when coming across some of his brisk, logical and eloquent insights on ring work, purpose, and the symbolic meaning behind the artistic recreation of a struggle. As fans of pro-wrestling, we often read and react to reviews and discourse with the bias of a sports radio caller, but reading a TJ Hawke review feels like getting real revelations into the creative mind and process of a wrestler.

Reading his long-form analysis of the seasoned AEW work of two of the most calculated artists in pro-wrestling, Punk and Bryan, is like the perfect combination of Pauline Kael, Cole Cuchna, and Bobby Heenan. You owe it to yourself as an educated wrestling fan to buy this affordable and fascinating new book.

Since he’s got the writing bug again, I wanted to get a hold of Hawke and throw some FoF statements his way, so let’s kick some f’n heads in!

Statement #1: You care who wins the inevitable first AEW match between CM Punk and Bryan Danielson.

TJ Hawke: FACT – Over the years, I have gone back and forth on whether or not I like Bryan or Punk more. More often than not, Bryan has been my favorite in all of wrestling as his style and consistency in the ring appeal to me above all. Punk sometimes though can really just take his character to the next level that he becomes the more compelling performer for periods of time. I say all that just to make clear that I love both guys a great deal. But it is time for one last run with CM Punk on top of a wrestling promotion. While Bryan’s final three years in WWE were a mixed bag to say the least, between his run against Brock, AJ, and Kofi Kingston and this most recent program with Adam Page, I can live without Bryan reaching the mountaintop again. In comparison, Punk being on top of a national company one final time is a possibility too tantalizing to pass up.

Statement #2: Between the two wrestlers, CM Punk had the better WWE career but Bryan Danielson had the better ROH career.

TJ Hawke: FACT –  For comparing both of their WWE and ROH careers, I essentially end up at the same point. CM Punk had the higher of highs in both companies, but Bryan had more good/great matches. For the sake of the question, I will deny my impulse to get into the nitty gritty of it and just concede that the statement is a fact.

Statement #3: Instead of finishing most of his AEW matches with different moves or submissions, Bryan Danielson should have one consistent finisher. 

TJ Hawke: FICTION – The idea that a wrestler should only have one or two finishers is a flawed idea that only is “good” when the vast majority of the fanbase has been conditioned over the course of years to have the lowest of low expectations for what is happening in the ring. Wrestling fans can be conditioned to not just respond to higher expectations for what happens but they can actually be conditioned demand excellence in the ring. Establishing the idea that all wrestlers can win in a variety of manners is one step of that process.

Statement #4: Although unsuccessful in the UFC, CM Punk’s MMA training has helped him become a better pro-wrestler. 

TJ Hawke: FICTION – CM Punk is arguably in the midst of the best stretch of his career. And it has nothing to do with MMA training and everything to do with the fact that he has been rewatching his Bret Hart tapes. Never before has Punk been so purposeful in everything he has been doing in the ring. Almost every match he has worked in AEW has been constructed and worked expertly to get the story over, make his opponent look as good as possible, and maintain Punk’s star status. We are very lucky to be getting this Punk run, and I will appreciate it for however long it lasts.

Statement #5: Bryan Danielson is incapable of wrestling a 1-star match.

TJ Hawke: FICTION – I honestly believe there is a pretty good chance that I have reviewed more Bryan Danielson matches than anyone. I can tell you safely that Bryan has had some very bad matches. He’s even had some bad matches with some of my other favorite wrestlers such as Samoa JoeRoddy Strong, and Brodie Lee

Statement #6: Everyone should read The 2021 CM Punk and Bryan Danielson AEW Match Diary: Reviews of Each Match CM Punk and Bryan Danielson worked in 2021.

TJ Hawke: FACT – In all sincerity, I think I offer a very unique written perspective on professional wrestling that you cannot see in too many places. If you check out the book, you will see some of my very best writing analyzing two of the very best wrestlers ever during some of the best matches they have ever done. And I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks so much to TJ Hawke for participating in this week’s Fact or Fiction.

His new book of reviews on every match CM Punk and Bryan Danielson have had in AEW so far is a great read and highly recommended. You can get it at this Amazon link.

In other news, we have a winner in the Larry Csonka Memorial Fact or Fiction Tournament!

With 56% of the vote, I’d like to congratulate Steve Cook for winning what I hope becomes an annual tradition!

See you next week with a Royal Rumble preview!