wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Where Does Bryan Danielson Rank Among the All-Time Greats?

September 7, 2021 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Daniel Bryan

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

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Francesco should be showing up in Rampage any day now:

What do you think about Daniel Bryan’s career? Where would you rank him in a ranking of the greatest wrestlers of all time for example comparing him to wrestlers like Big Show, Kane, Batista, Edge, Randy Orton, Jeff Hardy? The wrestlers that I listed here are for sure more famous than Daniel Bryan considering the fact that their longevity and also because they were active during more popular periods. How would you compare Bryan to them considering legacy, greatness, importance?

Some readers of the column may remember that, last year, I was asked where I would rank Bret Hart among the all-time greats. In that column, I developed a system for tackling questions of this nature, which is based on the fact that, when you try to rank individual wrestlers against each other, it’s almost an impossible exercise, simply because there are so many variables and and personal preferences in play.

For that reason, I find it more helpful to organize wrestlers into tiers as opposed to ranking them individually. When discussing Hart, I identified three such tiers of greats, namely: 1) wrestlers who transcend wrestling and become cultural icons in their home countries, such as El Santo, Rikidozan, Hulk Hogan, and so on; 2) wrestlers who contributed to incredibly hot runs of promotions but did not make it through to the mainstream to the same extent as the first-tier wrestlers, including Randy Savage, Mick Foley, and Mitsuharu Misawa; and 3) wrestlers who were exceptionally talented but are not as well known as tiers one or two because they were not part of a promotion during a hot run and thus lack the same star power.

I put Bret Hart solidly in tier three, despite the fact that it did not sit well with some of his die hards.

And, given where his career is currently at, I would put Daniel Bryan there as well. Yes, he is a legendary performer between the ropes and, by most accounts, as smart a man in wrestling as there has ever been. However, even though he’s headlined a Wrestlemania, much like Bret Hart, he was on top during a time when pro wrestling was not particularly hot and did not have much if any mainstream appeal. That means he’s simply as not as big a star as a Randy Savage or a Masahiro Chono, so I don’t feel comfortable have him crack into tier two.

Really, I think that everybody listed in Francesco’s question is probably a tier three wrestler, though you could make arguments for Big Show and Kane being bumped up into tier two.

Charles from Rochester is so far underground that he’s molten:

Who would you consider the first IWC indie darling? Who do you think is the biggest to have never hit it big (whatever your definition of that might be)? Of my head, I’d think Corino would be a candidate for both but perhaps you can think of better examples.

One of the first things that I would point out here is that there were actually indie darlings before there was a strong presence of wrestling fans on the internet. Wrestling newsletters and tape traders, the culture that laid the foundation for what many would now call the IWC, have been around since the late 1980s when VCRs became more prevalent in American homes.

I would consider one of the first true non-mainstream darlings of that era to be none other than Mick Foley, though he was really wrestling in small, dying territories as opposed to what we would recognize as indies today. Foley himself has gone on record as stating that write-ups of his matches in publications like Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter got him looked at by promoters that otherwise would not have given him a second thought.

Not long after Foley, two wrestlers who gained quite a bit of notoriety through the newsletters and tape traders were Jerry Lynn and the Lightning Kid (Sean “X-Pac” Waltman), who wrestled a heralded series of matches against each other in the Midwest before taking their act across the Pacific to Japan. At around the same time, tape traders were also marveling at the early matches of a pre-ECW Sabu, and I would include him in this group as well.

As far as the first true “internet” indie darling is concerned, I would probably give that distinction to Reckless Youth, who started wrestling in 1995 and, throughout the mid-to-late 90s was always the guy who was below even an ECW level that you would hear fans who were supposedly “in the know” talking quite a bit about. I would also say that he’s a solid contender for the darling who never hit it big. As noted above, he never even really showed up in ECW (aside from a one-off), and his most notable matches were probably in Ring of Honor and CHIKARA in the mid-2000s, but even that was after the initial buzz he had from the 90s had long worn off.

HBK’s Smile is seeing doubles in double:

In the late 1980s, there were two tag teams in two different federations that otherwise appear unrelated, except that they had the same team name. Both Stampede and the AWA had a team called Bad Company. Was this a coincidence or did one team consciously rip off the other’s name? And are there any examples of tag teams having the same name at the same time that was not an obvious ripoff or part of an angle (as opposed to both Eaton & Lane and Condrey & Rose calling themselves The Midnight Express at the same time to build a feud)?

I think that it’s a coincidence, except that it’s a coincidence based on both teams ripping off the same source material at the same time. See, “Bad Company” isn’t a name that originated in professional wrestling. Bad Company was a British rock band that was originally active between 1973 and 1982. They sounded a little something like this:

It is a bit odd that two different teams of wrestlers decided around the same time that they wanted to adopt the band’s name as their own, but, hey, Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln.

Moving on to part two of the questions, are there other instances of two teams having the same name at the same time?


One of the first instances that comes to mind is the Hollywood Blonds. Though most modern fans associate that name with Steve Austin and Brian Pillman’s tag team in the early 1990s, it actually goes back a bit earlier. Buddy Roberts (later of the Fabulous Freebirds) and Jerry Brown first started teaming as the Hollywood Blonds in the early 1970s in various southern territories of the NWA, perhaps most notably Georgia and Florida. They were active with the name for about a decade and, towards the end of their run, brought the name to the Mid-Atlantic territory, which is probably where it stuck in somebody’s head and eventually trickled down to Pillman and Austin. The original Blonds were also regulars in Japan, first for IWE and then later for NJPW.

In 1978, Jack Evans (no relation to the current Jack Evans) and Larry Sharpe, who had previously been an undercard tag team in the WWWF, had a tour of Puerto Rico in which they were called the Hollywood Blonds, while the Roberts/Brown duo was on tour with New Japan at the same time.

Interestingly, in 1984, there were once again two sets of Hollywood Blonds running around. No doubt inspired by Roberts and Brown, the team of Dusty Wolfe and Ken Timbs started using the Blonds moniker in Memphis and Florida. At almost exactly the same time, the team of Rip Rogers and Ted Oates were working together as the Hollywood Blonds, mostly in Georgia.

There were also briefly two teams called the Interns at the same time, which is confounding because that is probably the least intimidating name in professional wrestling history. (Oh no, look out, these wrestlers are here to do unpaid work in exchange for college credit!) The more prolific Intern duo was made up of Jim Starr and Tom Andrews, who also wrestled together as the Medics, probably after they finished their internships. Those Interns traveled the country between 1970 and 1977. Meanwhile, in the summer and fall of 1970, a second set of interns showed up in NWA Mid-America, a smaller territory that covered places like Kentucky and Alabama. Those interns were Bill Bowman and Joe Turner.

In the 1960s, there were at least two different teams of Assassins running around. The first and more popular duo of the Assassins consisted of Tom Renesto and Jody Hamilton (who just passed away in August of this year). They started in 1961 and teamed in territories all over the country through 1974, holding many championships along the way. During their run, a second set of Assassins formed in 1965 and wrestled in that year and 1966, mostly in the WWA promotion out of Indianapolis and occasionally in the AWA. They were Jerry Valiant and Joe Tomasso. In an interesting trivia note, the WWA/AWA Assassins were the first wrestlers ever to be managed by Bobby “The Brain” Heenan after he transitioned from being a wrestler to a manager.

Also, though this does not quite qualify as an answer to the question because of its “no ripoff” stipulation, there were multiple spinoffs of the Hamilton/Renesto version of the Assassins, some of which competed in different territories at the same time. Renesto retired from wrestling well before Hamiltion did, and, as a result, Hamilton kept the team going with a variety of different partners, including Roger Smith, Randy Colley (a.k.a. Moondog Rex/the original Demolition Smash), Kurt Von Hess, Hercules Hernandez, and Nick Hamilton (later known as WCW/WWE referee Nick Patrick). Jody Hamilton’s partners had a habit of going off and forming their own Assassins teams once they were done with Hamiltion, usually wrestling in different territories than he was. Smith and Colley, Smith and Von Hess, and Smith and Don Bass all worked as the Assassins without Hamilton at various points.

Speaking of doing things in duplicate, let’s go to Shaun:

Is at least one match a year for the last 51 years the longest consecutive streak of matches? That 51 year streak is by Jerry Lawler.

I actually tried to answer this question last week, but, as approximately 550 people pointed out in the comment section, I had a total reading comprehension fail and somehow read this as “one match a week for the last 51 years,” when, in reality, it clear says a match a year. Whoops.

In any event, Lawler’s 51-year streak does appear to be legitimate, but it’s still not the longest one out there. As Kyle Lai pointed out in the comments, Dory Funk, Jr. wrestled at least once a year for each year between 1963 and 2018, which beats out Lawler by 4 years for a total of 55.

Tyler from Winnipeg is getting self-referential:

What and when was the first question I sent you for your excellent column?

The first question that I received from perhaps my most prolific questioner was:

“When WCW had the THQ license for wrestling games did the WWF just outbid WCW to get the better developer or did THQ know WWF was the future?”

I answered that question in the October 27, 2018 installment of Ask 411 Wrestling.

CJ is taking us in a completely different direction:

Why does Steve Austin’s history of domestic abuse never get brought up in the same way that other wrestler’s behaviour does?

To this day there are people who still hate on Shawn Michaels for his backstage behavior in the 90s, and people -quite rightly- haven’t forgiven Hulk Hogan for his racism, yet Austin still seems to be held in the highest regard with no mention of the fact that he beat his wife.

I’ve always found this very odd and wondered if you had any thoughts.

First off, I think that you’re overstating the number of people who are still critical of Michaels for the way that he behaved during his first run on top of the WWF. I certainly see people who still talk about how his behavior was wrong at the time it happened, but, given everything else he’s accomplished in the last twenty-plus years, I’ve not seen people who still consider him to be a jerk, with the exception of a couple of wrestlers who were directly affected by the behavior when it happened . . . and even those guys are starting to die off. (It’s harsh, but it’s true.)

I do generally tend to agree with the proposition that Steve Austin’s run-ins with the law are largely forgotten about, though. In my mind, there are a few reasons for this:

These incidents occurred during a time when, generally, society was more willing to forget about these sorts of transgressions. There were primitive forms of social media in the early 2000s when these stories were unfolding, but they were far from what they have become in more recent years. Individuals’ access to publish their own content, experiences, and reactions in forums like Twitter and YouTube – as well as mainstream media’s willingness to pay attention to those self-published narratives – are a large part of what keeps individuals’ problematic behavior in the spotlight after it has happened, and those tools simply were not around when these stories about Austin were breaking.

In addition to the technology involved, I believe that there has been a change in culture over the course of the past twenty years, in which people generally care more about the personal lives and failings of entertainers that do not have a direct impact on the entertainment media that they are involved in. Whether you want to call it “cancel culture” or whether you simply want to call it facing consequences for your actions, people are more interested in making sure that they do not have moral qualms with the behavior of people whose work they financially support.

Meanwhile, Hogan’s racist tirade landed firmly within the time where the attitudes and technology not prevalent during Austin’s arrests had come into full effect.

I think that there is also an appreciable difference between how the two men handled the follow-up to their respective incidents. Hogan has attempted to apologize for what he did, but his efforts came off as ham-handed and self-serving, being widely criticized. Austin, meanwhile, has never publicly apologized for any past behavior. However, if you have listened to comments that he has made about that period in his life, he has made it clear that this was a dark time where he was doing things he regrets and ought not to have done. It’s enough of an admission and expression of remorse that, if you know the backstory, you can see it as redeeming Austin but not so much that, if you don’t know the story, you aren’t going to look into it any further and find out about the skeletons in his closet.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.