I love Daniel Bryan. How much do I love Daniel Bryan? So much that one of my favorite wrestling moments ever was having that guy (still wrestling under his real name of Brian Danielson) land his taint directly on my chair at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City.

It was during the final match of Danielson’s “Final Countdown” tour with Ring of Honor - right before being signed to WWE and joining the roster of the inaugural season of WWE NXT. At “Glory by Honor VIII: The Final Countdown” Bryan squared off against another one of my ROH favorites, Nigel McGuinness, who was also having his last match with the company before joining a larger promotion (in his case, TNA as Desmond Wolfe).

But yeah, back to Daniel Bryan’s taint. I was fortunate enough to be seated in the third row on the floor at the event, and McGuinness had been knocked to the outside. As he groggily held himself up on the old wrestling style metal barricade, Danielson bounced off the ropes on the opposite side of the ring and dove straight at McGuinnes, knocking him over and through the barricade, with both men landing in a sweaty, bloody heap on the folding chair where I had been seated not a moment earlier.

Though I was a devoted ROH fan during that period, I was, embarrassingly, relatively late to the Brian Danielson Appreciate Society. Apparently, I had managed to catch the only two kind of lackluster matches that guy had against Takeshi Morishima, giving me a skewed perspective on Danielson’s many talents.

Danielson’s final match with Ring of Honor was an absolute classic, and McGuinness stayed right there with him every step of the way. If you haven’t ever seen the guy’s pre-Daniel-Bryan work, it’s definitely worth tracking down a copy of this pay-per-view, or hell, pretty much anything else that guy did with the company.

But aside from the fact that the match was incredible, it was memorable for another very important reason. The fact that Bryan - an internet favorite 5’10” submission-based grappler - was getting signed by WWE was huge, encouraging news at a time when the company was still pushing musclebound former bodybuilders almost exclusively. Yes, people were nervous that Bryan would be misused, and for a time, he absolutely was (how anyone could ever think Bryan wasn’t charismatic is completely beyond me), but since then, the wrestler has proved himself to be an indispensable part of the WWE roster.

And since that moment, WWE has begun looking more and more to the independent scene - especially the Northeast, technical, puroresu-influenced world I’m particularly fond of - signing guys like Claudio Castignoli (Antonio Caesaro), Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno), Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose) and others, while putting their top title on another ROH Alumni, CM Punk. Even TNA has gotten in on the action, putting their version of the World Title around the waist of Austin Aries.

Wrestling is in a really fascinating, exciting place right now - if you can’t find happiness in the fact that CM Punk and Austin Aries are the top champions of WWE and TNA, then I’m thinking that maybe you just don’t like wrestling anymore. I love the increasing influence of the American indies on larger promotions, and am excited to see what comes next, but for me, the whole thing started with Brian Danielson’s taint on my chair.

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