Bryan Danielson, formerly known as Daniel Bryan in WWE, spent roughly 12 years working in Vince McMahon's promotion before jumping to AEW. During that time he won five world championships, became the sixth Grand Slam Champion in modern company history and main evented both WrestleMania XXX and 37. And yet, despite his many accolades and accomplishments, Danielson was rarely positioned as the top star in the company. The reason behind that, as Dave Meltzer recently reported in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, was simple — they had already picked their next big star in Roman Reigns.
"Keep in mind while they absolutely liked him and saw him as a star, even as he saved a WrestleMania and sports teams throughout the country were doing 'Yes,' chants, they never thought he was the top guy and that Roman Reigns was, because they know more than the fans," Meltzer stated.
The fans' support for Danielson as their favorite star led to major changes for the main event of WrestleMania XXX as well as a massive pushback against the initial main event of WrestleMania 31 (Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, which was changed at the last minute to include a Money in the Bank cash-in from Seth Rollins). Since arriving in AEW, Danielson has already been positioned as one of the top babyfaces in the company. He closed the All Out pay-per-view with his arrival, then took Kenny Omega to a 30-minute time limit draw in his debut at AEW Grand Slam.
But however WWE may have viewed Danielson during his tenure, the former WWE Champion had nothing but positive things to say about the company once he left. He even wrote a "Thank You" letter in The Players' Tribune right before his match with Omega.
"Thank you to the many people behind the scenes," Danielson wrote. "The crew in WWE is amazing, from the folks operating the cameras to those in catering. From the producers to talent relations. Thank you to the production team, who always put together such amazing packages, and are such an underappreciated part of the stories we tell. Thank you to everyone involved in creative: for accepting me into the group, for sharing with me the lessons you've learned, and for the fun times we had talking about wrestling and non-wrestling subjects alike. It's a difficult job, writing and producing WWE television, and I'm consistently blown away by your ability to make a seamless production out of such chaos!
"Thank you to the Big Man (Vince McMahon), who I know hates to be acknowledged," he added. "I won't say much, but thank you for the conversations, the life lessons (about both what to do and what not to do), and the best hug I've ever received. I wish more people could see you how I see you."