Bryan Danielson is still trendy at 40. After signing with All Elite Wrestling in 2021, the multiple WWE Champion hasn't missed a beat, delivering some of the biggest performances of his career against the likes of Kenny from Omega and Hangman Page.
Muscle & Fitness sat down with the high flyer to find out how the "American Dragon" trains for those long, physical fights, and soon discovered he had plenty of gas left in the tank.
AEW's "Marathon Man" holds a special place in the hearts of millions of pro wrestling fans around the world. After starting his career training at “Mr. WrestleMania itself had started; Shawn Michaels' Texas Wrestling Academy, the misfit from Aberdeen, WA, made his own unforgettable mark on “Show of Shows” history when he defeated Triple H and advanced to a world championship victory over Randy Orton and Batista in the main event of WrestleMania XXX. In the years that followed, Danielson kept us on our toes. Of course, there was a heartbreaking temporary retirement for the "JA" man in 2015 on medical grounds related to a history of concussions, but our man bounced back in 2018 and worked his way back up, culminating in another WrestleMania main event against Champion Roman Reigns and Edge.
Courtesy of AEW
Bryan Danielson is AEW's marathon man
When it was revealed that Bryan Danielson was tied to AEW, many observers thought the star would be able to cash in on his hard-earned fame while taking it easy in the ring, but these critics failed to take into account how much this man did loves wrestling at the highest level. case study? On the September 22, 2021 edition of AEW Dynamite: Grand Slam, The American Dragon wrestled Kenny Omega for a nerve-wracking 30-minute tie. On December 15, he even took it a step further by leading AEW Champion Adam Page to a 60-minute tie. Danielson says he didn't know he would get these opportunities before joining the company, but says he was very hopeful they would come.
"A lot of the world is transforming right now in short attention span things," he says. "In my own personal life, I'm trying to extend my attention span. One of the things that has always interested me about wrestling is the long form, right? You know, I've been doing short form in WWE for so long. TV matches are usually around three minutes, but very rarely much longer than 10. I've been very interested in long-form storytelling for a while now.”
On January 5, Danielson narrowly missed dethroning Page in a pulsating rematch, but not without putting on a fiercely physical performance that saw both men ripped open, proving once again that Danielson can't get enough of the physicality of pro wrestling offers. "I like very physical fights," says the pro wrestling icon. "There's something that makes you feel very much alive."
How Bryan Danielson trains for success
Still, there must have been a certain nervousness before stepping into new territory and feeling like there's still a lot to prove? “There was a bit of nervousness in the first one against Kenny Omega,” shares Danielson. “It was just because I felt like I had put it on a pedestal because this was my first match outside of WWE in over 10 years. That was a kind of statement of what I want for the next three years of my career. Also, I had been looking forward to wrestling Kenny for a long time. The reality is I was a little nervous beforehand, but then when the music started playing and I walked out, it was just pure joy.”
Physically, Danielson has kept in shape throughout his in-ring career, experimenting with different body compositions in terms of weight and muscle mass. He uses jiujitsu and kickboxing as great ways to condition and replicate the demands of pro wrestling. "I'm very fortunate in the sense that cardio has always been one of my strengths," he says. "It's always been very difficult for me to build muscle, but cardio I never get tired. I can remember feeling tired twice in my entire career (laughs). And both are because I put on too much muscle. An example was in 2003 when I was 210 pounds and looking great, but I put up with a 40 minute fight
Paul London, it was two falls out of three and after 30 minutes I was like, “My legs are tired! What's that?'"
Before the 60-minute match, Danielson did two workouts per day, with the first sessions consisting of HIIT weight training, and later in the day he did 60 minutes of steady-state cardio. "If you feel like you're out of shape in wrestling and you want to get in shape in wrestling, I think burpees are one of the quickest ways to do that. Because they take a lot of what you use in wrestling," he adds.
Wrestling with hydration
How do you prepare for a marathon wrestling match and make sure you're hydrated without worrying about going to the bathroom halfway through the fight? "I've played some long matches, one of which was 76 minutes (at the Greatest Royal Rumble 2018), and I've never felt the need to go to the bathroom," says Danielson. "But I was concerned about hydration in the 60-minute game. I didn't drink coffee that day (because of the diuretic effect). I focused on being super hydrated before 4pm and only drinking a little here and there after that when I was thirsty. That's sort of my drinking strategy on wrestling days. I also do zero calorie electrolytes.”
Courtesy of AEW
food to fight
When it comes to diet, Danielson is a big proponent of a plant-heavy diet, but although he's been fully vegan for a time, he says he doesn't allow himself too much stress these days when he feels like eating outside of the plan. "What I'm really interested in is nutrient density," says the grappler, explaining that he ran tests to find out which foods worked best for him. "To me, yam, arugula and oats are superfoods." The wrestler great has also found that intermittent fasting works well for him, with one of the added benefits being better sleep quality.
How Bryan Danielson remains headstrong
Despite Danielson's elite level of fitness, wrestling these marathon matches still presents many challenges. "For me, the mental is the biggest," says Danielson. "In this age of short attention spans, how do we keep people's attention for a full hour?"
So if the AEW booking required it, would he say "YES"? for more than an hour? "After the match, backstage, the coach said, 'Are you tired?'" shares Danielson. "I was like, 'Hell no! I'm not tired' and then I dropped and did five burpees just to prove it (laughs).” For our man, overtime is more about the limitations of television and the requirement that other games fit on the map , than limited by his own physical abilities. "I was wondering how long I could last cardiovascular before I'm like, 'OK, that's it! I'm done!'” he says. "
A family affair
Bryan Danielson is known to be married to fellow wrestling superstar Brie Bella, but how does she feel about her husband's desire to give fans the best possible performance given the toll it could take on his body? "The last match with 'Hangman' Adam Page where I was a bloody mess, she was a bit troubled by this one," says the American Dragon, laughing slyly. "But she also knows that, I pay a lot of attention to my health."
Of course, the wrestling boot will be on the other foot when Brie joins his twin sister Nikki in WWE's Royal Rumble later this month, and Danielson is thrilled his wife is getting another chance to step foot in the ring. "I'm very excited," he shares. "Mostly I'm excited because Brie is excited, right? Whenever you love someone and they do something that makes them happy or excited, you are excited and happy for them.”
Ready for new challenges
"I feel better when I'm 40 than when I'm 30," says Danielson, looking lean, athletic, and muscular. The pro wrestler is 10 pounds lighter than he weighed towards the end of his streak in WWE and is perhaps in the best shape of his career and anticipates some delicious dream matches in AEW. "I'm super excited and it's crazy because it seems like AEW is adding new people to the list weekly. But there are a lot of games I'm really looking forward to," says Danielson. “I would really like to play Derby Allen. I'd really like to wrestle Sammy Guevara, Daniel Garcia, MJF, there's all these people and then there's the big guy and I've wrestled him before but it would be CM Punk. That would be really cool.
I would love to wrestle Moxley in this (AEW) scenario as opposed to the WWE scenario, you know what I mean? Where we're a bit more free and unleashed because I think it's fantastic. There's another one that would be super cool for the fans and the kid in me, and that would be Sting.” Withdraw money now! Watch Bryan Danielson on AEW, including Dynamite every Wednesday on TBS and Rampage every Friday on TNT. Visit allelitewrestling.com for more information.