Renewing Hostilities: Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn Are No Strangers To One Another by Marc Madison

With the recent build-up of WrestleMania, there has been a number of uncertainties. One recent announcement has become a certainty. The Intercontinental Championship match between Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn should be special. While it is unfortunate that it isn’t in front of a crowd of 70,000+ fans in attendance in Tampa, Florida it still is special. For those following Smackdown recently, a stipulation was added to a singles match on the program. If Drew Gulak could defeat Shinsuke Nakamura than Daniel Bryan would be granted an Intercontinental Championship matchup. As things would unfold. Gulak won and it led to a championship opportunity for Daniel Bryan.

On the surface, it would appear to be the cowardly heel against the grappling face ready to stretch his competition. Armed with 1000 Hindu squats behind him, Bryan is set to face Zayn at WrestleMania this weekend. If all goes as planned the match should be a real treat as it combines two men that have something in common with one another. Other than both holding the distinction of being either current or former WWE Intercontinental Champions, they both called another place home. As many are aware that before Daniel Bryan called the WWE home, Bryan Danielson called Ring of Honor home. While he may not admit it, Sami Zayn’s believed ‘alter ego’ El Generico also called Ring of Honor home. In facing each other now it is important to reflect where both of them came. So that we can best understand where both of them are going.

From 2005 to 2012, ‘El Generico’ competed for Ring of Honor

He first came to the promotion after earning a spot in the Four Corners Survival Match. It wasn’t, however, his first encounter with Bryan Danielson. In 2007, Generico retained his Pro Wrestling Guerilla World Heavyweight Championship. Generico defeated Danielson, Davey Richards and longtime rival Kevin Steen (Owens). A little over a month later, Danielson would capture the PWG World Heavyweight Championship. At The Giant-Size Annual, Danielson had competed earlier in the evening against the Death Match Jesus, Necro Butcher. What the match did was showcase Danielson’s ability to demonstrate just how much heart he has. It is interesting to note that both men, from time to time in their careers, have demonstrated the heart necessary to be a champion.

A few months later the two would meet again

Photo / The Bryan Danielson Project. Com

This time they would do so in a collaborative show between Westside Xtreme Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Guerilla. During the European Vacation II event in Germany, Danielson once again defeated Generico. In the process, he successfully defended his PWG World Heavyweight Championship. The two wouldn’t face each other again until they were both a part of Ring of Honor. It was there where the two engaged in a match that went just over twenty minutes in length. This time around, Generico gained a bit of retribution with a win. Although no title was at stake at Proving Ground 2009, the match acted as a symbolic win for Generico.

A couple of months later in April 2009, often opponents would now be booked as teammates. El Generico teamed with Kevin Steen and Bryan Danielson as part of a six-man tag team match. The trio faced The Ameican Wolves (Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards) and Sylvain Grenier. After over twenty-two minutes, Generico, Danielson, and Steen were successful. Their collaborative effort proved to be a fruitful one. However, after that, the two never stepped into the ring again with one another in Ring of Honor. The reason for that was quite simple. In 2010, Bryan Danielson would be leaving Ring of Honor. By leaving the promotion he would also be leaving behind any potential matches with Generico. For Generico himself, as stated above he remained with Ring of Honor until 2012. Both of their times spent there proved to be invaluable.

Daniel Bryan Sami Zayn
Photo / ROH

There needed to be more for them to prove themselves and this led them both in different directions

Bryan Danielson would re-emerge as Daniel Bryan, a notable ‘indie darling’ that was simply trying to make it in the WWE. He would be a part of their original NXT program (before there was a brand). In the process, all the recognition and notoriety that Bryan had achieved in Ring of Honor was simply in the past. What stood in front of him was this undaunting task of having to re-establish himself.

For Zayn, when he first came to the WWE’s NXT brand he competed as Rami Sebei, his given name. He floated for about a month on a name, but settled on Zayn by April 2013. Zayn was brought to the Raw and Smackdown brands in 2017. When he arrived it also appeared to be the departure of Daniel Bryan, who had retired in February 2016 due to concussions. Much like two ships passing in the night, they wouldn’t face each other. At the time the belief was that they would never face one another in a WWE ring. However, that would no longer be the case.

As part of a tag team match at WrestleMania 34 in 2018, Zayn and Kevin Owens would team up to face Shane McMahon and the returning Daniel Bryan. After being medically cleared to return to the ring, Bryan would embark on a journey. Zayn would move to Monday Night Raw and Daniel Bryan would continue to call Smackdown home. That would be the first time the two stood across the ring from one another in nearly ten years. Since then the two have faced each other in tag team action on a few occasions at WWE Live house shows.

What they haven’t done for the first time since 2009 is face each other in a one-on-one matchup.

It is interesting to note that the two faced each other in one on one action at the Downtown Recreation Complex in Orlando, Florida. This weekend the two will once again face each other at the WWE Performance Centre. Where is the Performance Centre? It is located in Orlando, Florida. It may not necessarily have to do with the Florida sun that is pulling these two forces together once again.

If given the right amount of time there is no question these two longtime veterans will be capable of creating magic once again. So while there are outside forces such as Drew Gulak, Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura outside the ring it is about Sami Zayn and Daniel Bryan inside the ring. Both men are savvy in the ring with Zayn being one to take more risks in the ring. For Bryan, he will take risks, but his technical prowess is what he is highly regarded by. The new, old look by Bryan is reminiscent of his time in Ring of Honor. Zayn’s physical appearance may be the same as well minus one particular article of gear.

Both men have changed a great deal since they last faced each other one on one

For both Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn they had developed their skills as technicians. What hadn’t peaked yet for both of them is their ability to freely express themselves. This skill came with time and if both were asked they’d likely say it is still a work in progress. When the two face each other once again the stakes will once again involve a championship. While a rivalry over a championship isn’t something new for both of these men it doesn’t need to be. For both men, this could be the Intercontinental Championship match akin to Steamboat/Savage. It is 33 years since both Savage and Steamboat faced one another for the championship and we could be in store for another classic.

As they renew their hostilities, what it likely won’t need renewing is their trust in one another. When someone looks across the ring from someone they know will put on the best possible match with them all you have is trust. Without question, Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn will look to make this the most entertaining showcase of hostility ever.

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