Former WWE Star Daniel Bryan Reveals Why He Left For AEW

Daniel Bryan doing the Yes chant with his arms raised.

After months of rumors following the expiration of his contract, WWE legend Daniel Bryan made a return to the squared circle last night, only it wasn’t for his longtime employer. Wrestling under his real name Bryan Danielson, the Yes legend showed up at the AEW All Out pay-per-view and thrilled fans, prompting plenty of Twitter chatter about how WWE has its first real competitor since WCW went bust. After the show, Danielson talked candidly about how he ended up in AEW.

Let the record show there doesn’t seem to be any animosity between the performer and WWE. In fact, he spoke mostly positively but said he really wants to push himself and will be able to do that in AEW, which is less “overprotective.” You can take a look at a portion of his quote below, courtesy of Fightful...

WWE was so gracious with me as far as the offer that they gave me. They were gonna let me go do some other stuff on the outside, but, I hate to say this, Vince (McMahon) sometimes -- He and I have a great relationship. I love him, I do. Sometimes he's overprotective of me. I want to be able to push my limits. That's one of the things that I love about this, is like the physicality of what we do out there and being able to push my limits and being able to do that here in a safe manner is one of the things that really drew me here.

There’s always a fair amount of turnover in the wrestling business. Fans want to see new characters and new storylines. Performers get injured or need time off. A steady amount of change is important, but even as wrestling shake-ups go, the past year or so has been particularly chaotic. WWE has been, with all apologies to various smaller promotions, the only real competition in town for what feels like a decade. AEW, however, has steadily grown in popularity over the past few years and over the last six months especially, has sharply increased its pursuit of top talent.

In addition to Daniel Bryan, AEW also surprised fans with an appearance from Adam Cole last night. The two are just the latest buzzy names and pair perfectly with CM Punk who recently came out of retirement and generated huge headlines. Joined with other popular AEW performers like Jon Moxley, Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes and the ageless Sting, there’s an incredible roster of talent and one that actually has the chops to compete with what WWE is offering.

It’s probably a bit early to start making comparisons to the Monday Night Wars, the period in the late 90s and early 00s in which WWE and WCW competed head-to-head, but it is worth pointing out that wrestling is better and attracts more attention when there is real competition. All of this might be exactly what the WWE needs to innovate and reassert its dominance, and it might be what wrestling needs to bring back the fans it has been slowly bleeding off since the glory days of The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and more.

There’s an excitement right now around wrestling. It’s one that hasn’t been consistently seen in a long time. Bryan Danielson has picked up on that excitement, and he talked about it when explaining his decision to leave…

I just think there's an excitement, you know what I mean? There's just an excitement. You see the crowd. I mean I think you all see it, probably were all out there and you felt it. You felt how excited people are about this product and it feels vibrant. Even just watching it through a TV screen in a trailer. I'm sitting there going, ‘God this is awesome. I want to be a part of this.’ So that was it. Although it was -- I don't know, I really battled back and forth because there's a lot of people there that I consider family, that actually are legitimately my family, and you know, people that I love there so it was a really tough decision.

I don’t know where any of this is going, but I am so excited to watch what happens. Brock Lesnar is back in the WWE. Roman Reigns is in the middle of an all-time spectacular run as a heel champion. AEW has never been more compelling, and there are a ton of great free agents still out there. It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan.

Editor In Chief

Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.