Bryan Danielson vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: A Technical Masterpiece at AEW WrestleDream 2023
Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. delivered a technical masterpiece at AEW WrestleDream 2023, as they competed in a dream match to determine who is the best technical wrestler in the world. The match was a showcase of their skills, creativity, and resilience, as they exchanged a series of holds, counters, and strikes that left the fans in awe. Bryan Danielson emerged victorious after hitting two Busaiku Knees, but not before Sabre Jr. pushed him to his limits.
The match between Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. was announced on September 24, 2023, as part of the AEW WrestleDream 2023 card. The announcement came as a surprise to many fans, as Sabre Jr. had not appeared on AEW programming before. However, it was revealed that AEW and NJPW had reached a working agreement that allowed their talents to appear on each other’s shows.
Sabre Jr. made his AEW debut on September 30, 2023, as a guest commentator on Collision. He watched Bryan Danielson team up with FTR and Wheeler Yuta to take on Aussie Open, Big Bill, and Ricky Starks in the main event of the show. After the match, which Bryan Danielson’s team won by submission, Sabre Jr. entered the ring and confronted his upcoming opponent. He shoved Bryan Danielson and taunted him with his signature catchphrase: “Just tap out”.
Bryan Danielson did not take kindly to Sabre Jr.’s provocation and slapped him hard across the face. He then tried to lock him in the LeBell Lock, his signature submission hold, but Sabre Jr. managed to escape and rolled out of the ring. The two exchanged heated words as they stared each other down from a distance.
The rivalry between Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. dates back to their days in the independent circuit, where they had several classic matches in promotions such as PWG, EVOLVE, and wXw. They also crossed paths in WWE in 2016, when Sabre Jr. participated in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament and faced Danielson’s protégé, TJ Perkins, in the semifinals. Sabre Jr. lost to Perkins, who went on to win the tournament and the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Sabre Jr. then returned to NJPW, where he became a dominant force in the junior heavyweight division and later moved up to the heavyweight division. He won the IWGP World Television Championship in 2020 and has defended it against top challengers such as Will Ospreay, Kota Ibushi, and Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Bryan Danielson, meanwhile, had a successful run in WWE, where he won multiple world titles and main evented WrestleMania twice. He left WWE in 2021 after his contract expired and made his shocking debut in AEW at All Out on September 3, 2023. He aligned himself with CM Punk, who also debuted in AEW earlier that year, and challenged The Elite, the faction led by AEW World Champion Kenny Omega.
The match between Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. took place at the AEW WrestleDream 2023 pay-per-view event from Seattle, WA at Climate Pledge Arena. It was a slow paced match in the early going, as both men tried to gain an advantage with their technical prowess. They feinted and worked for the position, with Danielson smiling when he got any small edge. He held up two fingers, suggesting that he had outwrestled Sabre twice.
Sabre took an Irish whip but grabbed an Octopus hold, though Danielson wrestled his way to the mat. Both men worked a series of holds until Sabre made it to full mount, and they worked their way back into a stalemate. Sabre tripped Danielson to the canvas, transitioning to an inverted surfboard. Danielson managed to reverse it only to see Sabre try for a bow and arrow; he also quickly slipped away when Danielson tried for a pin.
Sabre ate an uppercut and decided to fire some back. They were content to stand and trade, which seemed to hurt Danielson’s right arm … and Sabre stomped on it as he smelled blood. Sabre continued to literally twist that arm, taking a moment to admire his handiwork before going for some joint manipulation. Another uppercut smacked Danielson before he flipped back out of the corner and stomped Sabre’s knees.
Danielson’s trademark leg kicks landed, and he followed with several dragon screws. He went to the well one too many times and got his neck twisted, but he quickly fired back. They headed to the corner, where Sabre ended up in the tree of woe eating stiff kicks. On the top rope, Danielson rained down elbows but ended up getting his right arm trapped again. Danielson prevailed up high for a butterfly superplex, then looked for the LeBell Lock. He couldn’t grab it so switched to a single crab, forcing Sabre to reach the ropes for a break.
The Yes Kicks were able to land, firing up the crowd. With wrist control, Danielson delivered a series of stomps to the face. He wanted the Busaiku Knee but saw it countered, setting off a wild series of pinfall attempts and a near fall for Sabre that brought Mox to his feet. Another ridiculous series of counters saw Sabre crank on Danielson’s right arm again. They exchanged words as they had their legs entwined, then exchanged slaps with Danielson getting the best of it.
He won an exchange of kicks too, but Sabre uppercut his right arm. They traded elbows while back to back, and Sabre locked in a submission. Sabre focused on the arm, but Danielson made it to the ropes again. Sabre had fun kicking Danielson until he got popped with some coming back. That only lasted until Sabre could grab the right arm again, but Danielson hit a shoulder capture suplex and the Busaiku Knee for a near fall.
Another Busaiku Knee found the mark, and that finally won the bout, leaving Mox to exclaim “holy s–t”. Danielson offered a handshake, but Sabre refused it and walked out.
The match between Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. was widely praised by fans and critics alike, as they witnessed a technical masterpiece that lived up to the hype. The match was rated 4.75 stars by Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter, who called it “one of the best matches in AEW history”. The match was also voted as the Match of the Night by 78% of the fans who participated in a poll on AEW’s official website.
Bryan Danielson celebrated his victory with his hometown crowd, who chanted “Yes!” and “Thank you, Bryan!” He also thanked Zack Sabre Jr. for giving him a great challenge and said that he respected him as a wrestler. He then said that he was ready for his next challenge, which was Kenny Omega and the AEW World Championship.
Zack Sabre Jr., on the other hand, was not happy with his loss and blamed it on the referee and the crowd. He said that he was still the best technical wrestler in the world and that Bryan Danielson got lucky. He also said that he would not shake Danielson’s hand because he did not respect him or AEW. He then said that he would go back to NJPW and defend his IWGP World Television Championship against anyone who dared to challenge him.
The match between Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr. was a dream match that became a reality at AEW WrestleDream 2023. It was a match that showcased their technical brilliance and their competitive spirit. It was a match that will be remembered as one of the best matches of 2023 and one of the best matches in AEW history.