Daniel Bryan is heading to AEW, according to multiple reports released by Cassidy Haynes of Bodyslam.net on Wednesday night. The former world champion's contract with WWE expired several months ago, and Haynes wrote on Wednesday that not only has "The American Dragon" already signed a deal but that his debut is scheduled for the AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam event in New York City on Sept. 22. The report stated Bryan asked for comparable pay, fewer dates and the freedom to also work in Japan, all of which he was granted.
It was the ability to wrestle for New Japan Pro-Wrestling that sealed the deal, according to Wrestling Observer's Dave Meltzer. While he couldn't confirm whether or not Bryan had signed, Meltzer did say Bryan was in negotiations with WWE, AEW and New Japan and wanted to make sure he could compete in Japan's most popular promotion.
In an interview prior to his departure, Bryan talked in interviews about wanting WWE wrestlers to have the freedom to work in other promotions while still under contract.
"I brought [the idea] up to a lot of people," Bryan said in an interview with Barstool. "I don't think [a hair vs. hair match in Mexico] would happen. I also think that now, more than ever, it a time when people are open to new ideas. I think I have made some headway. Whether any of it actually happens, who knows. I don't think people truly understand how great a lot of WWE Superstars are because we don't necessarily put on a pure wrestling product, we put on a sports entertainment product.
"If all of a sudden you saw Cesaro in New Japan, people would be like, 'This guy is the greatest.' If you put Otis in New Japan, people would be like, 'Holy cow, this guy is amazing.' Like, Vader from the 90s type vibe. It's just a different presentation," he continued. "I think it would be a cool and unique contribution in wrestling, as far as giving back. I also think it'd be good for WWE and wrestling in general for them to go and learn at other places. I wouldn't be the performer that I am today if I hadn't wrestled in Japan or the UK, where it was all comedy. All of those things add to your depth and when it's time to put you in a top position, you can do a number of things."
He also talked in interviews about wrestlers he wanted to face outside of WWE. The first name that came up with New Japan star and former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada.
"[New Japan's Kazuchika] Okada, from the time I got to WWE until now, he's gone from someone you didn't know much about to one of the best wrestlers in the world," Bryan told Bleacher Report. "I've actually wrestled Shingo [Takagi], and he's fantastic. I always loved him in Ring of Honor, and I wasn't even 30 years old yet, but for whatever reason, I wrestled Seth Rollins in one of his first big singles matches in Ring of Honor, and it was really the story of the veteran versus the young up-and-comer. I've always loved doing that sort of thing and those kinds of matches."