BANK STATEMENT #11 - Bryan Danielson & The Final Countdown
Welcome back to the Bank Statement on HardwayHQ.com! The further this column goes along on this website, the more comfortable I am becoming. It’s really difficult trying to find your voice in pro wrestling and not deal with criticism, or as Gregg “Opie” Hughes of Opie and Anthony fame states, dealing with “the haters”. But since I am virtually unknown, I believe I can slip by with some unique views and no one will “come at me”.
A bit of an oxymoron, but that’s how I roll.
Anyways, I have been paying attention to news pertaining to All Elite Wrestling as of late. With All Out coming up at the end of August, buzz has been flying around like a swarm of bees about to sting Thomas J. Sennett about two HUGE signings that have been rumored to have been completed to help the company gain more worldwide exposure.
That would be the Best and the Beard: CM PUNK AND BRYAN DANIELSON.
Over the past week, it has been heavily rumored and implied that CM Punk and the former Daniel Bryan have signed to a contract to the promotion.
As an old-school wrestling fan, as much as CM Punk would be the biggest get, especially in Chicago, I personally am partial to the latter. Punk is awesome, but “the American Dragon” is better.
BRYAN DANIELSON rules. After reinventing himself multiple times since his return from injury in 2018, Danielson found his way into the main event of WrestleMania with Roman Reigns and Edge for the Universal Championship this year in Tampa. His final match in WWE against “the Head of the Table” on SmackDown was among the biggest heartbreaks in recent memory. Fans adored him, but Bryan’s aspirations to expand his wrestling palette were too great. Both WWE and Bryan couldn’t come to a deal, due to his need for freedom.
Now, if AEW is able to give “the American Dragon” that creative and professional wrestling freedom, AEW will be on another level.
There is only one thing to legitimately make the AEW/Danielson experience that much more special. It’s not a particular opponent. It’s not a particular angle or story. It’s a particular theme. It’s a song that personified a time in wrestling. It’s a song that made a World Champion have the coolest entrance in a promotion. It’s a song that was considered one of the greatest one-hit wonders of all time.
If you were an independent wrestling fan in the mid-2000s, you had to be watching Ring of Honor.
ROH, by 2005, controlled the narrative and the style of wrestling on the East Coast. Mixing state-of-the-art wrestling with an old school territorial booking philosophy, ROH completely made independent wrestling cool. Guys like Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Amazing Red, Low Ki, Homicide, the aforementioned CM Punk, Generation Next, the Briscoes, and countless others cut their teeth in the promotion and became world-class athletes. They had their own identities, and even though the wrestling was intense and high-impact, every single guy had their own defined niche in the promotion.
Bryan Danielson had a little tougher time finding the complete package. Although inside the ring, Danielson was truly the “best wrestler in the world”, the character was a bit lacking. He truly lacked the “it factor” in many regards. In the summer of 2005, Danielson left ROH after a loss to World Champion Austin Aries. In fact, he “quit”.
Three months later, after the “Summer of Punk”, ROH management got the “American Dragon” to return on September 17, 2005 at Glory By Honor 4 in Long Island, NY. In a ROH World Title match against new champion James Gibson, Danielson arrived at the ring with a new theme song. It wasn’t the instrumental of “Self Esteem” by the Offspring. It wasn’t the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars he had used before he left.
IT WAS THE “FINAL COUNTDOWN” BY EUROPE.
To understand the greatness of the Final Countdown, you’d have to live it. The song was stereotypical 1980s. The first time I ever heard it was in the final seconds of a 1999 NBA game in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Pacers and the Knicks. (Right before the legendary Larry Johnson 4-Point Play.) It was only the beat, but I was obsessed with trying to find the actual song.
And then, 2004 rolled around.
Back when VH1 played music on their channel, the network and Blender Magazine collaborated and put together a list of the Top 50 Awesomely Bad Songs Ever for their network. At #16, the same beat from that Knicks game hit and then “The Final Countdown” by Europe came up on the screen. Despite the overall negative tone VH1 gave the song, I didn’t care. I went to Limewire, downloaded the song on my ex-girlfriend’s computer, burned it onto a CD, and listened to it on repeat for the next few months.
Absolutely incredible guitar riff for the solo, synthesizers all throughout, and the lyrics about space travel. Perfect song to be released in 1986 and would live on as a cult classic. Too bad it took me 18 years to realize it.
Regardless, when Danielson came out to the song in 2005, it brought out a different layer to him as a character. It allowed the fans to smack the guard rails and sing the song. Sadly, at Glory By Honor 4, it didn’t get to the hook.
But over time, it would. In a MAJOR way.
Once Danielson began to evolve his character into an arrogant, snide, snotty egomaniac as the ROH World Champion, the theme song embodied his character completely. “The American Dragon” would take his time with his entrance, slowly saunter into the ring, enter, and just as the hook would hit, climb onto the second turnbuckle, point his index finger in the air, and then motion his arm across his chest with a smug look of greatness on his mug. It was a thing of beauty.
Over his 15 month reign as ROH World Champion, “The Final Countdown” symbolized the ultimate cocky heel persona of Danielson. It just FIT. Once he lost the championship to Homicide at Final Battle 2006 and took approximately five months off to recover from a terrible shoulder/chest injury, I figured that he would find a new theme and persona and try something different. Persona was a yes, as he became an Ace in ROH’s locker room and a beloved figure by the fans. The Final Countdown stayed on and became an iconic theme the fans just reacted to.
The peak of this theme’s majestic nature was in December 2008 at Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan. Right before his Fight Without Honor against Takeshi Morishima, the lights went down for his theme. When they came back on, Danielson was behind him. A springboard dropkick sent Morishima to the floor, followed up by a basement dropkick that sent him into the crowd. Danielson then did his springboard crossbody over the barricade and into Morishima, which led into the chorus of the song. The fans bellowed loudly “IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWNNNNNN!” just as Danielson raised his hand in the air. Goosebumps are on my arm now as I type this. Absolutely incredible.
By the time September 26, 2009 rolled around, it was a foregone conclusion that Danielson was leaving ROH to head to WWE. So after his final match, a win versus his greatest opponent Nigle McGuinness, Danielson gave a speech to the crowd and then asked for his favorite song one final time. From start to finish, the Final Countdown played in the Manhattan Center and the fans sang every single word. A fitting end to a legendary performer in ROH. I believed in my heart that we would never hear that song as a theme ever again…
Until AEW was rumored to have signed him.
AEW has purchased licensed music for certain performers during its near two year existence. “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry has “Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora. Jon Moxley has “Wild Thing” by X.
If “the American Dragon” is in AEW for the long haul, then “The Final Countdown” has to be a lock as a theme song. It’s worth the price and it’s worth it for the performer itself. It fits him like a glove.
Mr. Tony Khan, from one fan to another, you have to do the right thing. You have to make the right move at the right time. There’s no better time than the present.
Get Bryan Danielson “The Final Countdown” by Europe, Tony Khan. It’s the right thing to do.
BANK ON IT.