On today’s Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer went into more detail on the decision making process behind Bryan Danielson’s move from WWE to AEW. Meltzer revealed this decision was at least a few years in the making, starting when Danielson’s contract first expired with WWE back in 2018.
“He liked WWE, he liked the people in WWE, he liked Vince McMahon, but he still had to leave. Or still wanted to leave or whatever it was,” Meltzer said. “He had a really tough decision to make. The gist of everything was, when you go back to 2018 when his contract was expiring. And I don’t know what he knew at the time about AEW. I think he knew, but I can’t swear to this. But I do know he was talking about Ring of Honor, and he was talking about New Japan Pro Wrestling and other places and all that. He said he had talked to them and he could make deals and he could make good money away from WWE, and he was considering it. And he did say there was something at that time that he had to sign an NDA about, so that could be this.
“It could be something else, because there was a bunch of stuff that was running around in 2018 that never came out, and some stuff that did, AEW being one of those things. And he sometimes traveled and I think was pretty good friends with Cody Rhodes, and Cody Rhodes was very into this thing from the start. (He’s) one of Cody’s favorite wrestlers, who he thought was one of the best guys. So I don’t know if he knew, my gut would tell me he knew. But when he made the decision to sign with WWE (in 2018), it was a hard decision to make. He was offered a great deal by WWE. A lot of people were made (he took it), but there’s reasons, he had a lot of reasons. But he was also not 100% in the sense of he was thinking ‘did I do the right thing?’ Then he went there, he was there for a couple of years and obviously he let this deal expire.”
Meltzer also reiterated that New Japan Pro Wrestling played a big factor in Danielson’s decision. According to Meltzer, Danielson pushed hard to get New Japan and WWE open to working together and was offered similar financial deals from both AEW and WWE. Both deals would have also allowed Danielson to work for New Japan. Ultimately nothing came from a potential WWE/NJPW alliance.
New Japan wasn’t the only factor in Danielson’s decision however. One thing Meltzer said played a part was he thought that going to AEW would be more beneficial for the wrestling industry as a whole. It also gave Danielson a new challenge after many years within WWE.
It was once again emphasized how difficult a decision this was for Danielson to make, due to his personal admiration for Vince McMahon and his family ties to the company. It was noted that Danielson is a “big, big fan” of Vince as a person, more than people would realize. Ultimately the door remains open for Danielson to return to WWE one day, should he find himself unhappy with his AEW situation.