Friday 31 August 2012

Bryan Danielson: The American Dragon Review

With Bryan Danielson striving in the WWE as Daniel Bryan, for big fans of his it is good to see where it all started for The American Dragon. This 2-disc set features some of Danielson’s best matches between 2002 and late 2005.

For someone as well regarded as Bryan Danielson, it's really no surprise that some of his best matches have gone by unnoticed. We all know of or remember his classic with Nigel Guinness and KENTA, but may not remember such great bouts such as his 'Epic Encounter' with Paul London, which kicks off the DVD.

This is a thrilling match which focuses on the excellent mat ability of Danielson and even Paul London. London may just be a smug, pot smoker with not a whole lot of passion for wrestling now, but back in 2002 in showed a tone of promise, and this match showcases that.

After 40 minutes we're onto the next match which pits Danielson against the ever consistent AJ Styles. Much like the first match, this bout features some great technical wrestling, as well as some high octane action to go with it.

The DVD isn't without it's weak points of course. The match against Jay Briscoe is one to forget, even it isn't necessarily bad, and even the match with CM Punk isn't one to saviour over. Although in many ways this match with CM Punk in 2004 is almost essential viewing considering their rise to fame in the WWE, it is still a match that just doesn’t seem to click. Thankfully, in 2012 their chemistry together is something to behold.

Danielson's final moments in the Survival of the Fittest contest is Austin Aries is shown, and is a good back forth encounter. We also get to see another bout between these two at Testing The Limit, this time in its full entirety. This bout, which lasts of 70 minutes, is a fantastic watch, as both men manage to keep it exciting and engaging throughout the whole match.

On Disc 2, we're treated with a very solid bout against the dominant Samoa Joe, who was enjoying his highly rated ROH World title reign when this match took place. The mix between technical and smash mouth wrestling comes off well, and one again shows Danielson's versatility in being able to work with anybody, and in any time of match.

The second part of the DVD dips slightly when Jushin Tiger's debut in ROH for a weekend double slot is shown. While this was an historic occasion which the fans got behind on both nights, his matches were a lot to be desired. The singles bout on the first night is a bit flat, and the tag team match which sees Liger team with Samoa Joe and Danielson tag with Low Ki, never seems to pick up steam.

In terms of big moments, we're given two in Danielson's victory in the grudge feud with Homicide and his ROH World title win over James Gibson. The match with Homicide, which takes place inside a steel cage, may not be anything special, but is still worth watching just to see the blow off of what looked like an exciting feud.

Things pick up again as Danielson's ROH World title win proves to be what was a classic moment in a highly entertaining title match. This back and forth match showcases Gibson’s technically sound offence and good ring psychology, as well as Bryan Danielson's... well, usual self.

In what has to be considered a hidden gem, Danielson defends his title against Christopher Daniels in a brilliant match. If you want to see what makes Bryan Danielson the best wrestler in the world today (and back then as well), then really you don't have to look that much further than this match right here. It has Danielson putting on a flawless performance as he applies highly impressive holds on Christopher Daniels, paces the match to perfection and has the crowd in the palm of his hands as he and Daniels slug it out in an excellent final few minutes of the match.

The final match may leave things on a pretty flat note, as Danielson and Naomichi Marafuji fail to deliver anything more than a decent match for their high standards. But, overall this is a good DVD featuring smoke stellar performances from the man himself, Bryan Danielson.

The selection could have been better of course. When you see a match like Danielson vs. Jay Briscoe on the DVD, you have to wonder why such classics against the likes of Roderick Strong didn't make the cut. Also, while not a big deal, the way the matches just cut off seconds after the match finishes is pretty annoying, and doesn't do anything for the way the DVD flows.

Still though, for any big Danielson fans out there, or for any fans looking to see what gave him such a great reputation on the Indie scene, this is a DVD worth picking up. The technical side of it may be a bit poor, but the technical wrestling side of it is worth the purchase.

Match Ratings:
Bryan Danielson vs. Paul London – Epic Encounter (2003) ****1/2
Bryan Danielson vs. AJ Styles – Main Event Spectacles (2003) ****
Bryan Danielson vs. Jay Briscoe – Final Battle 2003 **1/2
Bryan Danielson vs. CM Punk – Reborn Stage 1 (2004) ***1/2
Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries – Survival of the Fittest 2004 ***1/2
Bryan Danielson vs. Austin Aries – Testing The Limit (2004) ****1/2
Bryan Danielson vs. Samoa Joe – Midnight Express Reunion (2004) ****
Bryan Danielson vs. Jushin Liger – Weekend of Thunder Night 1 (2004) ***
Bryan Danielson & Low Ki vs. Jushin Liger & Samoa Joe – Weekend of Thunder Night 2 (2004) ***
Bryan Danielson vs. Homicide – Final Showdown (2005) ***1/2
Bryan Danielson vs. James Gibson – Glory By Honor IV (2005) ****
Bryan Danielson vs. Christopher Daniels – A Night of Tribute (2005) ****1/2
Bryan Danielson vs. Naomichi Marafuji – Final Battle 2005 ***1/2

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