I swear it wasn’t intentional.
In the same week that I release my most ambitious video yet proclaiming Daniel Bryan the greatest wrestler of all time, the man gets slotted into a tournament for the now vacant Intercontinental Championship. His opponent in the first round, Drew Gulak. The two have been teaming together as an incredibly effective comedy tag team backstage (a specialty of Bryan’s) while being absolute workhorses in the ring. All this coming after their banger of a match from Elimination Chamber before the world went to hell.
Of course this was great.
Lots of early mat work from both men. It’s a delight to behold, seeing them struggle to grab holds and scramble to escape. Bryan’s the first to have to go to the ropes, making an early concession on his ground game. It’s a nice touch to the idea that Gulak has been pushing Bryan on the mat since their match at Elimination Chamber. Commentary even pays service to the idea that Bryan chose Gulak as a training partner to keep him sharp.
The main transition of the match comes when Gulak grabs a side headlock on Bryan. The GOAT uses multiple shinbreakers to try and break the hold but Gulak holds on while still selling the damage to his legs. On the third shinbreaker, Gulak finally relinquishes the hold and Bryan goes to town with some fantastic Dragon Screw Leg Whips. The rest of the match centers on Bryan going for the leg when he gets into trouble and returning to the Dragon Screw to set him up for later success. He gets some great Tanahashi-esque varieties on it too, pulling out some inverted variations deep into the match. All of this to set up the finish of Bryan getting the submission victory with the heel hook he introduced to his repertoire back after his return from retirement.
I swear I didn’t time this on purpose. But with this performance, Bryan finally finds that last push he needed to overtake Kenny Omega as the standing Wrestler of the Year. If he keeps it up, this will be the third decade in which Bryan has been the best wrestler of a calendar year.
He’s the GOAT that keeps giving.