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Bryan Danielson Is Up for the Challenge of His 60-Minute Iron Man Match With MJF

Keeping the crowd attentive and energized for a full hour at the end of a packed pay-per-view card won’t be easy.

Bryan Danielson will headline Sunday’s Revolution pay-per-view, challenging Maxwell J. Friedman in a 60-minute Iron Man match for the AEW championship.

The match, which will take place at the Chase Center in San Francisco, is set to be the main event of the evening, though Danielson—one of the most unique superstars in wrestling history—would actually prefer that the bout served as the opener to the show.

“I would love to convince Tony [Khan] to let us go first, mostly because I go to bed really early,” says Danielson. “On Sunday, my wife couldn’t believe this; I went to bed at 8:03. There is a chance I will be going to the ring at that time this Sunday. We’ll be in San Francisco, and the idea of wrestling at five is much more suited to my personality.”

Despite Danielson’s well-reasoned argument, the Iron Man match is set to close out Revolution. A 60-minute match—which Danielson has wrestled before—is an extraordinarily difficult task, and even harder within the cumulative pinfall format of an Iron Man match.

“People know it’s going an hour,” says Danielson. “We need to push the pace and push the physicality for a whole hour. That is going to test myself; that’s going to test Max. We’re going to push our limits.”

One of the most daunting challenges of this particular Iron Man match is that it will follow an intense series of matches on the card. That includes four different title matches and a Texas Deathmatch that pits Jon Moxley against “Hangman” Adam Page.

The industry’s most famed Iron Man match, the 60-minute classic featuring Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 12 in 1996, closed out a drastically different card from the one AEW has planned for Sunday.

“That was billed as these two great wrestlers wrestling for an hour, and it meant a big deal to me when I watched it,” says Danielson. “It was a slower match upfront, and I just don’t think you could do that today at the end of an AEW pay-per-view. The undercard on WrestleMania 12 wasn’t nearly as exciting as the undercard of Revolution is going to be.

“We’re going to be following a lot of great stuff, including the Mox-‘Hangman’ Texas Deathmatch. The promoters from yesteryear would say that you don’t follow blood with wrestling, but that’s exactly what we’re doing. So it presents those types of challenges. To me, that’s exciting. This is maybe the biggest challenge I’ve put in front of myself in my entire career. I can’t think of anything else with more pressure mentally or physically.”

While not connected to the Iron Man match, current AEW star Dustin Rhodes wrestled a backlot brawl at WrestleMania 12 against the late, great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. A master of the craft, Rhodes has proven to be a timeless entity within pro wrestling over the past four decades.

“Dustin still has some of the things that have been lost in the art form of wrestling,” says Danielson. “He still has them, and he knows how to adapt to the modern style. I find him one of the most compelling wrestlers. I loved his match against [CM] Punk last year. His match just recently on Rampage against Swerve [Strickland] was fantastic. I love Dustin.”

Like Rhodes, Danielson attained a level of global fame while in WWE. Right before leaving in 2021 as a free agent for AEW, Danielson’s popularity again swelled to the point where he was catapulted into the main event of WrestleMania 37. He wrestled a triple-threat match against Roman Reigns and Edge, which ended in a curious manner with Reigns pinning both opponents.

While Danielson worked a singles match against Reigns shortly after WrestleMania on a SmackDown in WWE’s crowdlessThunderDome set, he left the supposed grandest event of the year with shockingly low emotion.

“That was a match people enjoyed,” says Danielson. “It didn’t mean anything to me. I felt nothing. You have to remember—it was our first time back in front of a live crowd [since the start of the pandemic], and we were in front of thousands of people. I felt nothing during that match. I was trying my best, but it felt like I was going through the motions. Then I wrestled Roman in the ThunderDome in front of all these screens, and I loved that match. It was the perfect way for me to end my WWE career. Putting together the [WrestleMania] match, I could feel a little bit of my apathy, but that’s happened before and then I walk out there and I feel, ‘This is what I live for.’ That was very weird psychologically.

“Something was wrong. It was very glaring to me. There was one match, I was super sick when I wrestled Matt Menard on Dynamite last year. It was a pretty short match, though it did go through a commercial break, and I just wanted to get through it. Turns out, I went out there and had a blast. I went to the back, and for 30 more minutes, I felt great. Then I started feeling horrible again. The surprise for me is always when a match isn’t fun. I’ll be very surprised if I wrestle MJF for an hour and I don’t have fun.”

There are a handful of very significant goals at stake for Danielson in this Iron Man match. Ensuring that he and MJF keep the crowd engaged for 60 minutes is a top priority, as is bringing out the best in an extremely talented young wrestler in MJF.

“The biggest concern is holding the live crowd’s attention,” says Danielson. “It is very important to have statement moments scattered regularly throughout the match. Having just read two books by Cormac McCarthy, he’s a great study in minimalism when it comes to fiction. He has these incredible sentences that hit you right in the heart. We need those sprinkled throughout the match, and plot twists. Overall, it needs to be a compelling narrative where the live crowd feels it. I know, 100%, the matches before us are going to be outstanding. We’re going an hour, and we can’t have a stinker. This is the last match of the night.”

As for MJF, this is Danielson’s chance to showcase the AEW world champ in a manner that has yet to be seen.

“It excites me to push myself, and it excites me to push other people and see what they’re capable of,” says Danielson. “Even if you dislike somebody, you look for the good in them. How do you bring out the best in someone? That’s in wrestling and out of it. If you treat people in prison, for example, with dignity and respect, if you treat them as people who have made mistakes, they act differently. That’s how I think of wrestling. If I speak to MJF as if he’s beneath me, that may bring some kind of fire out of him, but he’ll react to it. The issue isn’t being great at wrestling. It’s being confident at wrestling. That’s what William Regal did for me. I met him when I was 19 years old. He got brought up to TV; then he came back to developmental and wanted to wrestle me. The finish of the match was him winning, but he changed the finish out there to me winning. I didn’t even know that—he told the referee that during the match. The way he treated me, the way he talked to me while wrestling, he made me a better wrestler. He gave me that confidence to think I am better at this than I thought.”

One of Danielson’s goals in AEW is to help it grow. A key element in that is helping top talent transform into stars.

“After this, Max will have the confidence he can do anything in wrestling,” says Danielson. “60 minutes, 40 minutes, 20 minutes, there will be no doubt.”

Back atop the card, especially during early spring, feels apropos for Danielson. There is a different type of energy at play when he is pushing the industry, unrelenting in his pursuit of creativity and precision in the ring.

For many viewers, the story is not solely about Danielson challenging MJF for the belt at Revolution. It is also the manner in which Danielson can bring new life to such an established art form.

“I’m always thinking about what I can do that I haven’t done before,” says Danielson. “I’ve been wrestling for 23 years, and this is my first Iron Man match. This is my way of creating art.”

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