Before They Were Superstars: Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose

Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose spent a good portion of 2013 wrestling each other. They either fought in tag matches or a few singles matches on Raw or Smackdown. None of these matches were as hard hitting as their No-Disqualification war for Dragon Gate USA in 2010.

Daniel Bryan found himself without a job after being a little too brutal during the initial attack of The Nexus. During this time, he ended up going back on the independent circuit and wrestling under his real name again, Bryan Danielson.  He had a few matches for Dragon Gate USA where he wrestled the Japanese talent, YAMATO and Shingo Takagi.  For his final match, he wrestled the unstable Jon Moxley.

Moxley was a little bit more toned down in Dragon Gate, but he was mostly known as a deathmatch wrestler. When cutting a promo, his cadence was pretty similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker and they were extremely intense. This got the attention of the promoter of Dragon Gate USA, Gabe Sapolsky, and he booked him for the promotion. Moxley brought his brand of “Explicit Mox Violence” to Dragon Gate by having wars with Jimmy Jacobs and the “Innovator of Violence” himself, Tommy Dreamer. He made his challenge to Danielson known by jumping him the night before their match. Danielson responded by saying Moxley was going to “get his ****ing head kicked in.” Danielson is primarily known as a technical wrestler, but he was able to bring the violence when provoked, and it got violent in Milwaukee, WI on September 26th, 2010, at Way of the Ronin.

All of the screenshots below are from the DVD Dragon Gate USA: Way of the Ronin.

Moxley came out first accompanied by a woman that he leads around by grabbing her hair. He grabbed a mic and says he’d been drinking whiskey all day and he’s ready to go.  With the crowd chanting for the American Dragon, Bryan Danielson came out and the two started slugging it out right away. Danielson tried to put Moxley away early by going for his submission finisher, Cattle Mutilation, followed up by some brutal elbow strikes.


Moxley fought out and the brawl spilled out of the ring.  Moxley gained the upper hand by ramming Dragon’s head into the ring post, which caused the blood to flow.  Moxley went right after the cut with repeated elbows on Danielson’s head.


Danielson was able to mount a comeback and they ended up trading strikes in the middle of the ring. Moxley briefly got the upper hand by locking Danielson in a Fujiwara Armbar, which was one of the few wrestling moves Mox used in this match. After escaping the hold, Danielson locked in a Triangle Choke, but Moxley was able to power out of it by picking Danielson up and placing him on the top turnbuckle. Danielson fought Moxley off and hit one of his patented shotgun dropkicks from the top. Moxley rebounded by putting Danielson in a cross-face chickenwing.

Mox_Bryan_4 (2).png

This still didn’t put Danielson down. He’s able to go for Cattle Mutilation again after multiple elbow strikes. Moxley briefly regained control, but Danielson fulfilled his promise of kicking Moxley’s head and then applied the Lebell Lock. Once locked in, Moxley had nowhere to go and tapped out.

Danielson attempted to show respect by trying to shake Moxley’s hand, but one of Moxley’s buddies, Gran Akuma, jumped him. Akuma and Moxley beat on Danielson until Jimmy Jacobs, who had been having issues with Moxley, ran in and helped even the odds. Akuma and Moxley leave and Danielson picked up a mic to over the crowd and say that Jimmy Jacobs has one of the best minds in the business (as an aside, Jimmy now works in WWE Creative). He thanked everyone for coming and to sit tight since there’s another match.


Danielson would go back to the WWE shortly after this match. There he didn’t need to work hard to connect with the audience, but he did have to work hard to get management to position him as a main event player. His career was cut short due to neurological issues stemming from all of the concussions he had, in part due to his hard hitting style.

Moxley would make his way to the WWE and become Dean Ambrose. Ambrose, unlike Daniel Bryan, is still wrestling, but seems to be listless even though he’s been prominently featured in quite a few main event programs. He has connected with the fans, but he hasn’t been able to properly unleash the violent and psychotic Moxley side that a lot of us know is there. Time will tell if we ever see the true dark side of Dean Ambrose in WWE.

The header image is comes from

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.