Photo credit: WWE.com
On August 18 at SummerSlam, Daniel Bryan will take on John Cena for the WWE World Title. DIRECTV sat down to talk with the #1 contender in an exclusive interview:
What were your initial thoughts when you found out you would be facing John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam?
It was incredible and humbling. I have been wresting for a long time and most of the time it was in front of very small crowds who couldn’t care less about who was coming out there. I have wrestled in front of 13 people! And just hearing the reaction of the people in Brooklyn who were shouting “Yes! Yes!” – it was very surreal. Like “is this really my life?”
What did you think about the Brooklyn crowd in general?
It was my second time there – we did the TLC PPV last December – and both times the Brooklyn crowd has been really great and crazy. Even if they don’t like what’s going on they will entertain themselves somehow, like dancing for Fandango or Yes-ing for me.
What’s your game plan against John Cena for SummerSlam?
I can’t stray too far from what I normally do. I’ll make sure to do a lot of my kick boxing and grappling for training but then also just prepare cardio-wise for what’s going to be happening. A lot of the John Cena’s matches go about 30 minutes so a lot of that is just being prepared physically for something like that. Nerves are always good and play a factor in big WWE match but Summer Slam is by far the biggest event of my career so I’m really excited about it.
Mick Foley recently posted something very complimentary about you on Facebook, Did you happen to see it?
No, I don’t have Facebook. Unfortunately, I don’t understand technology very well. I have a Twitter account that WWE set up for me so if I want to tweet something I can but I’m very bad about it (laughs). What did Mick say?
To paraphrase – he said your match with John Cena at SummerSlam would be one of the few matches that, as a fan, he would do anything to see live and that while Cena has been great for the company, he thinks your time is now. Hearing that coming from Mick Foley, what are your thoughts?
Well, I hope he is right and that my time is now. I feel like it is. It’s also very humbling. You know it’s crazy because I feel like my story is very much like Mick Foley’s story in the sense that I grew up a really hardcore wrestling fan and it took Mick a really long time to get to the WWE and to get opportunities to become respected. But it was the people who brought Mick to the main event, it was the people who were so entertained by how good he was – I feel the it’s the same for me. I’ve been wrestling 14 years so when you get a compliment from Mick like that it’s pretty awesome.
He also went on to say that your match would be competing with the CM PUNK v. Brock Lesnar match for Match of the Show at SummerSlam.
I think there is also a bit of competiveness behind it. We feel that we are carrying on the tradition of being a wrestler and with that there’s comes a certain pride in having the best match of the show and being the best performer. It’s unspoken but each of us come SummerSlam, we’re going to go out there and want people to remember our match. There will definitely be an element of one-upsmanship. Everyone at SummerSlam wants their match to be the best.
You and CM Punk first met in your early indie wrestling days, correct?
Yeah, It was 2003 or 2004. I wrestled CM Punk for 45 minutes in front of 30 people in Florida. We’ve known each other a long time.
Can you talk a bit more about your relationship?
It’s interesting because CM Punk and I have a lot in common personally, yet we are very different. He is very brash and kind of says whatever he feels. I’m more laid back and not the most outgoing person. But we have a certain respect for each other. I have been on shows that Punk drove 14 or 15 hours for from Chicago to get paid 100 bucks. We’ve done those shows in front of 30 people together. It’s a long road for guys like us to get here. I’m always astounded. There was that December PPV when I had cashed in my Money in the Bank contract to beat Big Show for the World Heavyweight Championship and Punk had retained his WWE title that same night. We used to work on the indies together and then there we were, both champions. No one really thought we could do it. It’s very cool and surreal.
Tell us more about your start in the business.
I always wanted to be a wrestler but I didn’t think I could be because I’m relatively small. I’m 5’8 and weigh 195 pounds. When I started I was a lot smaller. But when I was probably 15 or 16 years old, WCW started bringing in these cruiserweights like Rey Mysterio who was 5’3 and 150 pounds. That gave me no reason not to at least try and follow my dream.
Where did you start training?
I ended up training with Shawn Michaels. He’s the best. I left the night I graduated from high school, drove to Texas and trained with Shawn for a year. When I look back, I was so poor – I mean living on 20 dollars a month for groceries. I couldn’t fathom that now. It was tough but it was a lot of fun.
Who were your idols coming up?
I loved Dean Malenko and Eddie Guererro. Bret Hart was always one of my favorites. I’m also a big Seahawks fan and the guy who I really loved was a wide receiver named Steve Largent, who ended up being a politician in Oklahoma. He was always so respectable and was never about himself, he was about the team. A lot of people like the brash players but I like people who focus on the team and downplay what they do.
What was it like working with Kane?
It was incredible. I was watching him when I was 16 and it’s crazy that we were Tag Team Champions for 9 months. I have always had a tremendous about of respect for him but seeing how hard he works night and day takes it to another level. The anger management skits we did were great. It was a lot of wackiness. I was in charge of his birthday celebration in Russia and he ended up in the ring with his eyes closed with two Russian hats on before I abandoned him in the ring. He was such a good sport about it. We had so much fun together.
Aside from Kane, who are your dream tag partners or opponents?
Because he trained me, I’d love to team with or wrestle against Shawn Michaels. I would also love to do something with William Regal. He helped train me also. He has been there for me my entire career. He helped me get into England and Japan. He did all this stuff and he didn’t have to. He has been an awesome mentor for me. He is a great wrestler but he is really funny in the backstage segments and I think we could do some hilarious stuff together.
Who would you say has given you your best matches in WWE?
I’ve had some really great matches with CM Punk and I’ve had some really fun, physical, brutal matches with Sheamus. I’ve also really enjoyed wrestling The Shield.
Read Part 2 of our EXCLUSIVE interview with Daniel Bryan HERE!
SummerSlam LIVE on DIRECTV Pay per view, Sunday August 18 at 8 p.m. ET.