Skip to main content

Bryan Danielson Compares ‘Hangman’ Page to Steve Austin Ahead of AEW Title Match

The Week in Wrestling: why the AEW champ reminds Danielson of a WWE legend, Cody Rhodes’s praise for Jim Ross as he goes through cancer treatment and more.

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Bryan Danielson on “Hangman” Page: “To me, he wrestles a modernized version of the way Steve Austin wrestled”

Bryan Danielson gets his first shot at the AEW world title, challenging “Hangman” Adam Page on tonight’s “Winter is Coming” edition of Dynamite.

Danielson, who wrestled a 30-minute draw against former champ Kenny Omega in September in a nontitle match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, believes he is the single best candidate to shoulder the responsibility of carrying AEW as its champion.

“AEW fans want to be able to claim that the AEW champion is the best wrestler in the world,” Danielson says. “If I am the AEW world champion, then they can make that claim.

“That happened back when I was in Ring of Honor, too. A lot of AEW fans love ‘Hangman,’ and I’m going to get a lot of boos. But no one can deny that I am the best champion in the world if I become the AEW champion.”

A clear passion defines Danielson’s work. His recent string of matches against the Dark Order’s John Silver, Alan Angels, Colt Cabana and Evil Uno have captured his distinct joy inside the ring, especially as he relishes once again playing the villain.

“I really, really enjoy what I’m doing,” says Danielson, who has brought nonstop energy to the ring since his return from retirement in 2018. “I don’t drink [alcohol]. I only started drinking coffee when we had our daughter. For me, wrestling is my high. I’m giddy about this amazing thing called professional wrestling.

“The act of wrestling is so fun. I still do a tape study two days after my matches and that’s where I look at it from an objective point of view, but I make a point to enjoy the joy of wrestling. I know I’m not invincible. Any match could be my last, so I’m enjoying every moment.”

Danielson is particularly enthused to share the ring with Page, who he quietly watched develop over the years.

“Even while I was in WWE, I kept an eye on talent, I watched ‘Hangman’ in Ring of Honor and New Japan,” Danielson says. “It’s crazy to see how much he’s grown, both from an in-ring perspective and a character perspective.”

Page’s work and persona, Danielson shares, evokes the image of a modern-age “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

“I love his updated brawler style of wrestling,” Danielson says. “To me, he wrestles a modernized version of the way Steve Austin wrestled, and that cowboy persona reminds a lot of people of Steve Austin. But in 2021, you can’t come in and be just like Steve Austin. He’s developed this nuanced cowboy character with a drinking problem.”

After tweaking his knee last week on Dynamite, Danielson put in an intense week of strength training to ensure he is ready to challenge Page later tonight for the AEW title.

“In the John Silver match [last week on Dynamite], he caught me in a leg lock,” Danielson says. “Getting out of the leg lock, I tweaked my knee. I was like, ‘What is this?’ That’s because I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been. I’m the best version of myself right now.

“There have been times at different points in my career where you could argue I was the best in the world, but the version of myself right now is better than any of those versions. My technique is the best it’s ever been. I don’t get tired in matches. I’ve been putting in work this week rehabbing my knee, doing stuff I couldn’t have done back when I was Ring of Honor champion and wrestling long, long matches.”

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends

If Danielson becomes the new champion, an immediate priority will be modifying the leather AEW championship.

“I do not understand why we are still making anything out of animal skin,” says Danielson, who dubbed himself “The Planet’s Champion” when he won the WWE title in 2019 and put a hemp strap on the belt. “We don’t need to. The synthetic fibers are just as good-looking and just as durable as leather, and we don’t harm any animals. I don’t know if I’d go all the way to the hemp and naturally fallen oak [like the “The Planet’s Champion” belt], but I’d love to get that changed.”

As the calendar hits mid-December, there is no doubt that winter is coming—and so is a main-event-PPV-caliber match. Danielson intends to create a masterpiece in his new home, constructing his first real defining moment in AEW.

“Excellent pro wrestling is f------ awesome, and my goal is to deliver excellent pro wrestling,” Danielson says. “I’m going to go out there and kick his a–. I 1000% think he’s going to kick my a–. It’s going to be a fight. It’s going to be everything we love about professional wrestling.

“If you love professional wrestling, it’s a good way to spend a Wednesday night.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Bret Hart is one of this year’s inductees into Canada’s Walk of Fame, which he discussed in an interview with the Calgary Sun.
  • Here is some wonderful news: “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is now cancer-free. 
  • That was one incredible in-ring debut for Hook on Rampage. 
  • Rey Mysterio has a new show coming to Cartoon Network. 
  • Hockey fans are fortunate to have Renee Paquette on the NHL Network. 
  • RIP, Jimmy Rave. 

Cody Rhodes on Jim Ross: “I can’t wait for his return”

AEW’s Dynamite is devoid of its signature voice.

The legendary Jim Ross is undergoing radiation treatments for skin cancer, and his absence is felt in every broadcast he misses.

Ross turns 70 on Jan. 3, but his voice on the air remains timeless. AEW star Cody Rhodes, who Ross has known for the entirety of his career, believes there are few other broadcasters in any genre with the equity, passion and talent of good ol’ JR.

“Jim is a master at this,” says Rhodes, who is also an AEW executive vice president and helped champion for Ross to be hired as the maestro of the broadcast team. “That doesn’t come easily, and that doesn’t come quickly. His contributions to pro wrestling are invaluable.”

Still recovering from a hellacious bump two weeks ago on a flaming table, Rhodes understands the great value in having Ross call his matches.

“This is the era of reality being reality,” Rhodes says. “It’s no longer a perception-based business. So when you’re doing it right, you hear that in Jim’s passion and you hear it in his praise. That’s telling you you’re doing it right, straight from someone who’s done it right.”

In order for AEW to continue moving forward and reach new heights, it needs its signature voice. And while a fight against cancer can be tenuous, Ross’s return, whenever that occurs, will be celebrated.

“We’ll miss Jim, and Jim will return with great impact, as he always does,” Rhodes says. “I never count JR out. If anyone does, just wait until you hear the reaction when his music plays. I have genuine respect and admiration for Jim. I want him to get healthy, and I can’t wait for his return.”

Tweet of the Week

Prepare for an emotional read, but one that’s well worth your time.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.