Bryan Danielson is one of the best technical wrestlers in the world today. He ranks with the pure elite, including Kurt Angle, Dean Malenko, and The Ultimo Dragon. With years of extensive experience, Danielson has truly carved his niche in professional wrestling. After much success in Japan and Ring of Honor, Bryan was finally signed to a WWE development deal. In the months leading up to the deal, several of Bryan’s colleagues had jumped ship to a southern promotion, TNA wrestling. Nigel McGuiness and the Young Bucks made their way to Orlando, while Danielson prepared to invade the Big Apple. With the TNA promotion going live on Monday nights, a new ratings war was set to take place. Danielson’s former company, ROH, was also doing well on the HD network.
With the stage now set, a shocking development came out of the WWE. After years of moderate success, the ECW brand would be no more. In its place, a revolutionary show would soon debut. The new program would showcase WWE’s top developmental talent. Known as NXT, it would pair 8 rookies with 8 professionals. The professionals would mentor their upstarts, in the hope of securing a long-term contract. With the tribe of extreme now gone, the spotlight fell on Florida Championship Wrestling. As WWE’s only development territory, FCW is known to produce the stars of tomorrow. Based on generational talent, FCW has seen many of their wrestlers find true success on RAW and Smack Down. These shows, of course, are the flagship programs of the WWE.
In its inaugural season, the 8 NXT rookies were set to do battle. From fitness tests to audience appeal, WWE was really looking for its next breakout star. The rookies included Wade Barrett, Darren Young, Heath Slater, Skip Sheffield, Michael Tarver, Justin Gabriel, David Otunga, and of course, Bryan Danielson. Danielson would be renamed Daniel Brian for creative purposes. While most rookies appreciated their mentors, Danielson would have a tough time. He was matched with the ever so arrogant Mike Mizanin. Known as the Miz, the former reality television star was a mainstay on RAW. With impressive skills and a magnetic personality, the Miz felt that Bryan was simply not on par. In addition, RAW’s chief commentator, Michael Cole, also shared the same sentiment. They also felt that Danielson had no real merit. Even though Bryan had been a huge star on the independent scene, Cole simply felt he was not WWE material.
After weeks of exciting matches, Bryan had the worst win-loss record on the team. This, however, did not stop the professionals from praising his abilities. Due to a ratings system, the least popular rookie would be eliminated every week. Despite Danielson’s less than stellar record, he was ranked number one in the first week. Bryan developed a cult like following, which admired his in-ring skills no matter the outcome. As the weeks ensued, eliminations became an integral part of NXT. With no resolution in sight, Danielson, the Miz, and Michael Cole continued to clash. In a stunning development, the rebellious Michael Tarver would be released from the show. Even though the elimination did not follow its traditional format, Tarver despised the show and wanted out. On that same night, Bryan would also be released. This came as a shock to many, however, it was partly due to Danielson’s comments the week earlier. Bryan was asked who should be eliminated the following week. He humbly replied it should be him, since he had not secured a victory to date. NXT and Smack Down co-commentator, Matt Striker, reminded him of his words and showed him the door. Wade Barrett, a British bare knuckle-fighting champion, would end up winning the first season of NXT. With great microphone skills, physique, and commercial appeal, the professionals felt Barrett was simply the total package.
Barrett would soon appear on WWE programming, alongside his mentor Chris Jericho. He received a WWE contract, along with a pay-per view championship match of his choosing. For the rest of the rookies, they would either return to FCW or languish in obscurity. This, however, would soon change on a recent episode of Monday Night Raw. Claiming they had been treated unfairly, the NXT rookies launched a full-scale invasion. They obliterated WWE security, announcers, timekeepers, and especially the talent. The NXT invaders included Barrett and the returning Bryan Danielson. In the midst of their attack on WWE World Champion, John Cena, Danielson performed an outlawed chokehold. Much to the dismay of his fans, he was once again released from the WWE. The NXT invasion sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Not since the New World Order’s invasion of WCW did fans see anything like this. A week later, the legendary Bret Hart fired the entire NXT season 1 roster. Hart assumed the position of RAW GM weeks ago, and simply would not put up with their antics.
At first, many speculated that Danielson’s release was not legitimate. They felt it was part of the NXT invasion storyline, which would see Bryan return once again. This, however, was simply not the case. The firing was confirmed by WWE executives and was now official. After a few days, countless online petitions began to pop up. Each petition demanded the immediate return of Danielson to the WWE. Even Cena, who was brutally assaulted by Team NXT, called for Bryan’s return. Although much confusion still exists, Danielson has moved on to other wrestling endeavors. He is currently signed for an array of independent shows. Bryan is also in contact with his former promotion, Ring of Honor. It is truly sad that such a great talent was wasted. For many, he was the bridge between developmental and commercial stardom. With an international following, Danielson will continue to dominate the squared circle. Once a fallen hero, Bryan has now risen to iconic and future legendary status.