TAYLOR, Mich. — The crowd inside the Taylor Town Trade Center was nearing a fever pitch as it awaited the return of Bryan Danielson to independent wrestling at “CHIKARA: We Must Eat Michigan’s Brain” on Saturday night.
Those fans waiting for the familiar tones of “The Final Countdown” heartily booed as the WWE NXT theme “Wild and Young” was played instead. After several seconds of booing, “The Final Countdown” fired up. After a few more seconds, Danielson finally came through the curtain to the roaring approval of the hundreds of fans in attendance.
Once Danielson was in the ring, instead of throwing the standard streamers, the fans littered the ring with neckties, making light of Danielson choking WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts with his necktie during the June 7 edition of Monday Night Raw, the reason he was fired from WWE.
When the action began, Danielson held the crowd in the palm of his hand. He got one of the loudest reactions of the night when he reminded CHIKARA senior official Bryce Remsburg that he did indeed have until the count of five to break a hold.
Danielson controlled most of the match but was already sporting a swollen chest courtesy of many chop battles with Kingston. The two also exchanged slaps to the face on one occasion and headbutts on another.
Eventually, Claudio Castagnoli came to ringside, insisting he was only there to watch. That turned out to be untrue as he tripped up Kingston, causing enough of a distraction for Danielson to pick up the win via small package at 15:19. The match was the second longest of the night.
Following the match, Kingston was the first to grab the microphone, noting it was an “honor and a pleasure” to wrestle Danielson. Then he handed the mic over to the former ROH World Champion, who spoke publicly for the first time since being let go by WWE 15 days prior.
“I can’t say a lot about what’s going on right now, but when I came out of that curtain, the way you people cheered, and the way you people cared, the way you people cared enough to bring ties and throw them in the ring, my God does that make me feel good,” Danielson told the crowd. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with my career, but for the next little while while I’m on the independents, I have one goal and one goal in mind and that’s to bring more people to independent wrestling.”
Danielson also spoke about “PG wrestling,” something many fans, particularly those on the Internet, spoke out against, feeling WWE’s switch to it was a major reason behind Danielson’s dismissal.
“When you want to talk about PG wrestling, CHIKARA does it at its very, very best,” Danielson said. “What you just saw in the ring right now, I kicked Eddie Kingston as hard as I possibly could and that was PG, OK? People came out here and mat-wrestled as hard as they could and that was PG. When guys come out here and wrestle as hard as they can, that is still PG.”
Before he wrapped up his speech, Danielson reminded the fans that he’d be doing all the “nonsense independent wrestlers usually have to do,” after the show. He stayed for more than an hour at his table following the event, signing autographs (for $10 a pop), taking pictures, selling T-shirts and chatting with fans while still wearing his ring boots.
Many fans, still with neckties around their neck, asked Danielson to choke them with the tie for pictures. He obliged, laughing through much of it.
“We were very fortunate Bryan ended up here fresh off of TV and there’s no way that didn’t make a big difference for us here tonight,” CHIKARA founder Mike Quackenbush told SLAM! Wrestling following the show. “Obviously, we’re in Bryan’s debt for that, but in the same sense of course we wanted to give people a full serving of CHIKARA along the way and I think we accomplished that.”
Although the prevailing thought was that many people came to see Danielson, Castagnoli told SLAM! Wrestling that he hopes any first-time CHIKARA fans liked what they saw.
“Lots of people came out just to see Bryan Danielson,” Castagnoli said. “Those people came out and didn’t know what to expect and I think they got a great show, and I think they’re hooked on the product, or they should be.”
Danielson declined further comment to SLAM! Wrestling following the show.
Danielson’s saga also played in the evening’s semi-main event, a one fall match for the Young Lions Cup between Tim Donst and Frightmare.
Donst was heartily booed after screaming out “I have until five!” He added to it by later undoing the turnbuckle padding. As the referee went to put it back on, he pulled a necktie out of his tights and used it, in combination with a rear-choke, to choke out Frightmare.
It should come as no coincidence that Donst is scheduled to face Danielson on Sunday as CHIKARA rolls to Cleveland.
The show was CHIKARA’s debut in the Detroit market, and Danielson’s presence certainly helped the company’s bottom line. Quackenbush was happy with the way the nine-match show unfolded.
“I think everybody was pretty pleasantly surprised by the way it went,” Quackenbush said. “The talk was definitely of how soon we can come back. I feel like we were really favorably received and everybody was quite pleased by it.”