Legend of The American Dragon: Daniel Bryan's unlikely rise to the WWE Title & beyond (Part One)

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September 18, 2013

The little guy

The date is October 4, 1999. The place is Far West Rodeo in San Antonio, Texas, and the future WWE Champion is wrestling a 10-minute, time limit draw for a king’s ransom of … $25 to $50, depending on how many tickets were sold. Believe it or not, it wasn’t the worst position a guy like Daniel Bryan could be in at the time.

“I never once did a show and didn’t get paid for it,” he said, “which makes me very fortunate among the independent wrestlers.”

A 5-foot-8 sparkplug from Washington State who was inspired to pursue professional wrestling by WCW’s famed Cruiserweight division, Daniel Bryan first tasted the mat under the tutelage of Shawn Michaels in what has become a small piece of both their legends. Michaels’ first lesson? Cardio, cardio, cardio.

“We got in the ring and we did rolls, just rolls,” said Bryan of his first class. “Roll back and forth 10 times in 100-degree heat, and it becomes very tiring very quickly.”

Story: Michaels speaks on Bryan

The Showstopper’s seal of approval would prove an early leg up in one of the most viciously competitive businesses in the world. Even then, at the dawn of his career, there were traces of the champion Daniel Bryan would one day become. In what would develop into a trend, Bryan distinguished himself from his fellow would-be wrestlers in his very first session under Michaels, during all those rolls.

“I think everybody in our class threw up except me and Lance Cade.”

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