It was recently reported that Daniel Bryan’s WWE contract expired following his Universal Championship match. While WWE are reportedly pushing to re-sign the star, it is uncertain whether Bryan will remain with WWE, or wrestle elsewhere.
There has been a lot of speculation as to when we will next see Daniel Bryan in a wrestling ring. If Bryan decides to leave WWE for good, here are 8 stars that we would love to see stand across the ring from him.
8. Brian Cage
With AEW’s popularity at an all time high, it would make headlines if Bryan decided to sign with Tony Khan’s wrestling promotion. With so many talented competitors on the roster, Bryan would be able to wrestle a compelling match with pretty much any AEW star.
Brian Cage would be an amazing opponent upon Bryan’s arrival. The 270lb athlete is pretty much the opposite of Bryan, so seeing them stand across the ring from each other would present an interesting visual.
Bryan’s whole WWE career saw him fight an uphill battle, proving that you don’t have to look like a bodybuilder to reach the top of the mountain. Having to overcome The Machine would be pretty symbolic of his time in WWE.
Bryan and Cage would provide an interesting take on the “David vs Goliath” match trope. AEW are known for adding modern twists to classic wrestling concepts, so this match would be extremely fitting for a future AEW pay-per-view.
7. Will Ospreay
Up until October 2020, Will Ospreay followed a similar path to Bryan. Both men battled the odds on their way to the top of the wrestling world. Since attacking Kazuchika Okada last year however, Ospreay has been going about business differently.
In April, Ospreay won the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, whilst leading his formidable faction, The United Empire. If anybody has proven that they can tear down empires, Daniel Bryan has.
Defeating The Authority in 2014, Bryan proved that he is willing to stand up to anybody. A feud between Bryan and the United Empire would retell the “Bryan against the world” story that made him a fan favourite.
Ospreay and Bryan are both known for their distinct styles. Ospreay’s high-flying offence meshing with Bryan’s strikes and submissions would result in a unique-feeling encounter.
Bryan and Ospreay have both proven that you do not need to be a muscular heavyweight to achieve greatness in wrestling. If they ever went one-on-one, the match would be not easily be forgotten.
6. Jonathan Gresham
With Daniel Bryan gaining popularity in ROH before arriving in WWE, many would like to see him return to his former home. Jonathan Gresham would be a worthy opponent, if Bryan was to receive a ROH homecoming.
In 2020, Gresham won the newly-revived ROH Pure Championship. Seeing as Bryan was the star to unify this title with the ROH World Championship in 2006, it would be exciting to see Bryan return for the prize, almost 15 years later.
Many fans have drawn comparisons between Bryan and Gresham’s ROH runs. With Bryan previously noting that he’d love to face Gresham, a match between the two grapplers seems inevitable, if Bryan revisits ROH.
While there are bigger names that Bryan could face, post-WWE, Gresham symbolises the type of opponent Bryan is seeking. The veteran wants to give back to the wrestling world, and I think this match could inspire a new generation of independent stars.
Oh what a story these two could tell. At SummerSlam 2013, Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena with a running high knee. This championship winning move was inspired by KENTA’s Busaiku knee strike.
Bryan also popularised the Lebell lock in WWE, using the “Yes lock” to submit Batista at WrestleMania 30 for the WWE Championship. KENTA has also used this move throughout his career.
During his time in WWE, KENTA rarely used these moves, with Daniel Bryan performing them almost weekly. Since leaving WWE in 2019, KENTA has been dominating NJPW with his full move-set.
In 2020, KENTA won the first ever New Japan Cup USA. How fitting would it be for the Japanese star to take on the American Dragon?
Bryan and KENTA have shared the ring in several different promotions, from ROH to NOAH. If Bryan wanted to visit Japan, a rematch with KENTA would be an excellent use of his time.