He Was Better Than Bryan Danielson... And Now He's Long Forgotten

At one specific - and impossible - thing, anyway...

Alex Riley

"Better" is going to incense people, so that will be squared off immediately.

This wrestler was not technically better than Bryan Danielson. Absolutely no wrestler on earth is or ever was. This wrestler could have trained for a thousand years and never approached a brilliance that may well be unparalleled.

This wrestler was however better at Bryan Danielson at one specific thing. He was better than every one of his peers at one specific thing, and that specific thing was all but impossible to pull off.

This wrestler was Alex Riley.

NXT, before it evolved into a workrate-happy third brand - and before it evolved into a soap opera more obsessed with sex than Jim Ross - was a thoroughly bizarre game show upon launch in 2010. The generous take is that Vince McMahon wanted to apply pressure to coal in order to see if any diamonds emerged, but really, the developmental system was so omni-screwed that WWE had never faced a talent crisis on such a scale. This was their choice. The volume of talent on the independent circuit was incredible, but the size-obsessed WWE - who had to make their own guys, and didn't need any pale skinny fat asses showing them how it's done - hadn't quite been forced into recognising that yet.

They had tried nothing, and were all out of ideas!

And so, a bit desperate and very impatient, Vince stuck a microphone in front of a bunch of terrified greenhorns and asked them to do "promo class" live on television. These talents - the vast majority of whom would be made to recite scripted material word-for-word were they ever to make it, so what was the point - were asked, on live TV and later just the website when Vince stopped caring, to cut promos about random objects. These segments were overseen by Matt Striker, the kicked cat delighted to feel like he had the power for once, acting like he was 1986 Ric Flair tutting at the inability of the contestants to talk about a hat rack or whatever.

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Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and current Undisputed WWE Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!