After attending a recent media round table call with Daniel Bryan and other media outlets, Rushonrock presents the full Q&A ahead of this Sunday’s Royal Rumble PPV.
Be sure to check out yesterday’s feature article on the bookies’ choice to win the event and everyone’s favourite underdog, Daniel Bryan…
Q: Back in 2014 when Batista won the Rumble, Rey Mysterio came out at number 30, but all the attention was on you. What was going through your mind backstage when you hear the reaction of the fans?
Daniel Bryan: So actually, I felt really bad for Rey because I was actually watching the match and sitting with my soon to be wife. We were engaged at the time and were just sitting backstage watching the monitor and I could feel the temperature of the audience and I was like “ooh”.
I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen in the Royal Rumble or anything like that and then when Rey came out and he got booed because he wasn’t me, I felt so bad because Rey is one of my heroes. He’s also one of the best wrestlers of all time and one of those guys who despite having wrestled for as long as he has, still puts everything out there, he’s constantly working hard and is the last person you should boo.
So really there was this weird sort of feeling where I was like, ‘yeah this feels good that people want me, but I feel so bad for Rey’.
Q: What would it mean to finally get that moment this year?
DB: I’ve accomplished a lot in the WWE and I’ve accomplished a lot in my career in general and that’s one of the things that I’ve never really been able to do. That’s one milestone that I haven’t accomplished and I’m always interested in in trying to accomplish new things and new goals.
Winning the Royal Rumble would just be a cherry on top of my career.
Q: In this particular moment of your career, how do you feel about working with younger competitors?
DB: It’s interesting, I take my role as an older wrestler very seriously as far as passing down information to the younger talent and all that kind of stuff. But I love working with younger people. I love working with new people with fresh ideas. I still love wrestling. It’s weird, even though it’s been 21 years since I first started wrestling, I still get really excited about it almost like somebody who’s new to wrestling. It’s fun when you’re wrestling young people and they bring that same kind of energy and excitement to it.
But I don’t think it’s always entirely a youth thing as far as age is just a number. I think it’s just that I love wrestling people who love wrestling and who are excited about wrestling.
People who are just like, ‘hey you want to get stuck into a match?’. What William Regal, my mentor, calls “stuck in”. You’re in it and you’re just, there man. It’s physical and you can see how technical the person that you’re wrestling is and those are the things that I love.
I wrestled Cesaro last week and even though I haven’t wrestled him since 2004, oh man I get a rush every time. Training with Chad Gable, he’s so extremely talented. I think one of the things that happens when you get older too, is sometimes you think that you might know it all, or that it’s hard for you to take perspective from younger people or less experienced people. But I think that’s been one of my strengths throughout my career, I can learn from just about anybody, so I really love wrestling younger talent.
Q: If you were to win the Rumble and go on to beat Roman Reigns, could it mark the start of your last run in WWE?
DB: It could. Even if I don’t win the Royal Rumble and don’t wrestle Roman Reigns it could be. I try to not focus on that. One of the positive things about having to retire for a couple of years was that wrestling brings me a new sort of joy. I don’t take it for granted, so it’s one of those things where you know my career could end today. There’s always that thing in your mind saying, ‘hey this could be your last match’.
About a month ago I wrestled Sami Zayn in a singles match for the Intercontinental championship and he’s somebody I’ve known for a long time. I just had this thought to myself, I was like, ‘hey this could be the last time that we have a singles match where we just wrestle each other’ and I’m really trying to not take those things for granted.
Q: You have said several times that you are not a full-time wrestler anymore, so do you have any ideas on how would you like to finish your career?
DB: I’m still a full-time wrestler right now, but I don’t think I’ll be a full-time wrestler for that much longer. It’s weird because I never even envisioned the idea of retiring.
I want to wrestle until I’m old and when I say old, I mean like really old! I love wrestling right? I’m inspired by people like Jerry Lawler and Terry Funk and even some European wrestlers like Johnny Saint, who will still go out there and wrestle in their 60s maybe even 70s. Not because they need the money or not because of this or that, they just do it because they love doing it.
Obviously as you get older your style has to change. I won’t be able to wrestle like this when I’m 50. I won’t be able to wrestle like I do right now and right now I can’t wrestle like I did when I was 25, right?
You have to change and evolve, but one of the things I still have is a deep-down passion for this and I enjoy it so much it’s hard for me that to accept this idea of I’m never going to do that again, even if it’s at some VFW Hall in front of 75 people. It’s something that I really love, so the idea of a full-time retirement is completely foreign to me.
Q: What about your role nowadays? Is Daniel Bryan focused on building new and different stars in the roster?
DB: Yeah, that is one of my focuses. One of the things that that I really try to prioritise is giving back to wrestling and giving back to WWE because it’s given me so much. I’ve had an incredible life thanks to WWE. I mean among other things! I’ve had great parents, a great sister, great friends, so even if I wasn’t wrestling, I’d probably have a pretty incredible life.
But when you look at the things that I’ve been able to do, places I’ve been able to go, things I’ve been able to see and people I’ve been able to meet, a lot of that is because of wrestling and because of WWE. I have this concept and it’s not mine entirely, but I think a lot of people have this concept of whatever you do when you leave, you try to leave it better than it was when you got there.
Whether or not I might not be a full-time wrestler in WWE for much longer, if that’s the case I want to leave it better than I found it and I want to leave wrestling as a whole, better than I found it. That’s kind of my focus right now. If I’m stepping away from being a full-time wrestler, how do I leave it better than I found it?
Q: Betting companies have you as favourite to win the Rumble, would it be smart to put money on you?
DB: I wouldn’t say that it’s ever smart to put your money on me in a Royal Rumble! I just haven’t had a lot of luck in those, but I’m training really hard to try to do this one thing that I’ve never done before. That’s the main reason, although I lost against Cesaro last week and Shinsuke before that, so maybe I’m not exactly on a roll. Maybe it wouldn’t be the smartest thing in the world to put your money on me, but I think you know that I’m very resilient mentally and, in my mind, I have a great shot at winning the Royal Rumble.
Q: What was your favourite Rumble growing up?
DB: It’s hard to say. I think everybody from my generation loved the Royal Rumble that Ric Flair won. That’s the one, because it seemed like the whole rumble everything meant something and it was such an incredible performance by Ric Flair.
Q: Tell us about your new look haircut! Whose idea was it?
DB: It was my wife! It’s funny because I mentioned earlier about this might be kind of my last full-time run in WWE and my hair was looking really bad. I was letting it grow out and The Fiend had ripped out my hair and all that kind of stuff, so I was trying to let it grow out back to where like I really liked it. I liked my hair the best when I was the Planet’s Champion.
I was trying to grow it out and then I looked in the mirror one day and I was like my hair looks horrible! I go to my wife and I say Brie, I’m thinking of getting a haircut and before I could finish my sentence she goes, ‘yes here’s an idea!’. She’s been thinking about this for a long time and said, ‘here’s what you can do with your hair’. So yes the haircut was Brie’s idea. She gave me a picture and told me to take it to the barber to say I want a haircut like this.
So that’s how we have this. It’s a little difficult for me, because never before have I had to put so much styling gel in my hair I’m used to just waking up and it being wild. Now it’s like, okay I have I’m doing media this morning I have to allot time to put water in my hair and comb it. So, if you like it thank Brie, if you don’t like it blame Brie!
Q: Going back to 2014/15 it was your name that was being chanted and the fans wanted to see win. Do you find there’s a sense of irony that you are the favourite to win this year, but there’s no one in attendance?
DB: Haha! I try not to think about it because I think it’s a little sad, because one of the joys of wrestling is the energy from the crowd, even if the energy isn’t for you. So, in those specific instances the energy was for me. But if the energy is for somebody else and the crowd really want to see that that person win and that person does win, regardless if that person is you or not, it feels so good.
Even as a spectator, or even if you’re already in the back and you’re watching the match. Say they really want to see Cesaro or Owens, or they really want to see x win and then that person wins? The place explodes and that’s one part of the magic of wrestling. So yeah, given that those two specific Royal Rumbles people really wanted to see me win it, I don’t want to say bittersweet, but I would probably think it would be nice if people were here. But you could say that about a lot of things, and you have to be grateful for the moments that you get, so that’s the perspective I try to take on it now.
Q: You touched on your training before, but does this kind of match take a different sort of mindset going into it?
DB: Yeah, I think it does. I think there’s a lot more endurance training and it’s one of the things that William Regal taught me about Battle Royals. This might not be the best advice, because I’ve never actually won one, but try to take the centre of the ring. A lot of people go to the corners and you know they are fighting with people to dump others over the top rope, but not a lot of people will just go to the centre of the ring and be like, ‘hey I’m willing to slug it out with anybody who steps in here’.
When I wrestle, I’m not just wrestling to win or for certain accomplishments. I’m also trying to push myself. I don’t want to be out there hiding under the ring like I envision for example, if The Miz were to win the Royal Rumble, he would do it by hiding under the ring for most of the match.
If I win, I want it to be in a way that no matter what number I come out, I’m going to take the centre of the ring and I’m willing to fight anybody who comes out. That’s the kind of tactic that I would like to take at this point in my career.
Q: A lot of fans say you’re the favourite to win this year’s Royal Rumble, how do you cope with that kind of pressure?
DB: It’s weird, I don’t feel pressure at all. When I started training with Shawn Michaels, I was 18 and he said the second that you stop feeling nervous before you go through the curtain, is the day that you need to retire. It was funny because before I even got to WWE, I had gotten to this point where I stopped feeling nervous before I’d go to the ring. So, I was like does this mean I should retire? Or does this just mean I so enjoy what I do that I’m just relaxed when I go out there? I don’t feel that kind of pressure, I feel more pressure parenting, trying to be a good parent and trying to be a good father and that sort of thing then I ever do with people’s expectations of my wrestling.
Q: Who do you think will play a key role in the Royal Rumble and who could be your hardest opponent?
DB: It’s really hard to say, because what I find in Royal Rumbles and just like anything where there’s multiple people in a match there’s always going to be somebody who will surprise you with how they’re going to show up that day.
We had a gauntlet match on SmackDown two weeks ago, I think everybody was surprised the way that Shinsuke Nakamura showed up that day. A couple years ago we had an Elimination Chamber match that involved Kofi Kingston and Kofi really had been mostly focused on tag team wrestling. The way that he showed up that day surprised everybody and made people root for him. But I think that’s one of the things that you have to account for in the Royal Rumble and that’s one of the things that to me is so fun. Who’s going to show up that day and really put on a hell of a performance?
Based on how good they’ve done in the last couple of weeks you would think Nakamura or Cesaro. Somebody like Bobby Lashley, who’s just a stud. How is somebody like me ever going to get Bobby Lashley over the top rope? I’ve been training with Chad Gable and Otis, like dude how am I going to get Otis over the top rope if it comes down to just me and him? How do I even get that guy over the top rope! So those are the fun things that you just kind of think about and are in your head.
Q: If there was a chance to see a Superstar from the past take part as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble, who would you choose and why?
DB: If I had to choose somebody from the past it would have to be Shawn Michaels. Just because he trained me, but I never got to wrestle him. If he could be in the Royal Rumble, I think that would be really special.
Q: How does it feel to wait for your entry number and the countdown at the Royal Rumble?
DB: I think that’s what’s really fun to me! I like the excitement of it. I like the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen. I’ve been wrestling for so long, I have my pre-match routines to keep my body healthy and all that kind of stuff, but also to get into a nice mental place before I go out and wrestle. The not knowing brings a little bit of excitement to me and so I think that’s a lot of fun. Like okay, okay who’s next? Who’s next? Who’s next? Let’s go…oh it’s not me… Okay, okay calm down!
Q: I want to ask you about your retirement in 2016 and the period between that year and 2019. When you were retired, during that time did you have any hope of having one more match and continuing your career as a Superstar?
DB: It was interesting because I felt I was healthy, and I was. But the weird thing is, if I wasn’t healthy, I didn’t want to come back and wrestle. Health is priority number one, but I was trying to go see all these doctors to say, ‘hey what do you think?’.
All these doctors were clearing me to come back and wrestle and I would present that evidence to WWE. I always kind of had this, I don’t want to say ‘certainty’, but I had this this hope that I would be able to come back and wrestle. Not just wrestle one match, because I think if you can only wrestle one more match, you probably shouldn’t wrestle that one more match. You’re either cleared to be able to wrestle and you can do it on a regular basis, or you’re not and you really shouldn’t do it. So that was kind of my thinking during that whole time.
Q: We saw A Kid winning the Heritage Cup tournament on NXT UK last month and he said that you’re a big inspiration for him. What are your thoughts on his future in WWE?
DB: He’s really talented and I love watching him wrestle. I first saw him against Zack Sabre Jr. a couple of years ago and while I watched that match, I was like, ‘holy cow this kid is great!’.
I think he has a bright future and we need to start using people like him on TV because he’s young, he’s exciting and I don’t want to wait five years for him to be a Superstar. I want him to be a Superstar now! We have young people under contract who are fantastic and I think the sooner that we can get them and show the world their talent, the better off they’re going to be and we’re going to be as a company.
Q: You mentioned your run as the Planet’s Champion earlier, but which one of your world title runs was your favourite?
DB: Being the Planet’s Champion was by far my favourite! In WWE my championship runs haven’t always gone very well. I won the championship at WrestleMania 30, but then shortly after had to vacate it because of a neck injury. I won the Heavyweight Championship in 2011 and then lost it in 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28. So, those didn’t feel as special as when I was the Planet’s Champion and a bad guy. I love the way it started and anybody who competes hates losing the championship.
But if you’re going to lose it, lose it in a great match at WrestleMania against somebody who really steps up which is what happened when I lost that match to Kofi Kingston. I had a lot of fun with that run and I loved my hemp championship belt!
Q: You just you said about being a bad guy, is there a chance of that happening again if you won the championship?
DB: Well, good and bad is a perception of other people right? I will probably just continue to be me, and you never know.
One of the things that I also find interesting about life and wrestling, people evolve in ways that you don’t expect, so I would like to say that everybody would think I’m a good guy and they want to cheer for me. But sometimes my beliefs are just unpopular, especially in the United States. Maybe worldwide!
I could be a good guy and everybody is like, ‘yeah he stands up for the environment’, but who knows?
Find out if Daniel Bryan finally wins the Royal Rumble this Sunday on the WWE Network.
Pictures used courtesy of WWE.