When I think of the great cruiserweights I have seen over the years in the ring, I can’t help but make a short list of whom I consider “great.”
The Great Muta, Dean Malenko, Ultimo Dragon, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit top my chart. There are others who have dazzled us over the years with their antics, ability and skill. Cruiserweights are and have been a huge part of the success of professional wrestling over the years, adding segments to programming and creating a different dimension of competition.
Today, the lines are skewed and we often see the likes of a Rey Mysterio in the ring with someone like Ryback.
Such is also the case of Daniel Bryan and most of the men he faces nightly.
The more I watch Bryan in the ring, I am reminded of Benoit and his “bulldog” mentality and tenacious assault in the ring. While we don’t “talk” about Benoit because of the way he ended his career and life, that does not take away from the fact that when he was at the top of his game, he was the “best in the world,” and Bryan’s accomplishments in the ring and his intensity are unmatched by any of the recent WWE competitors.
The two have a connection. Actually, Bryan has a connection to all the wrestlers I mentioned in the opening of this story. While fans today want more action and “intensity,” Bryan is the consummate “tweener” who is great on the mat and great in the air. And when the mood strikes, he is as crazy as a Japanese buzz saw named Tajiri.
Don’t confuse that last statement—Bryan is much better than Tajiri.
To put Bryan in context with a Benoit or a Guerrero, the former World champion is mentally and physically dominant for his size and is a relentless worker. Competing against The Shield. Getting hammered by Ryback (which is a Match of the Year candidate in my book). Letting Sheamus pound his chest over and over again.
Bryan comes back for more. I’d like to see how Bryan would do against Muta or Mil Mascaras or even Benoit. The last would be possibly the greatest cruiserweight challenge of all time. Today, seeing a match between Bryan and Chris Jericho or his rival CM Punk is worth its weight in gold (and possibly titles).
To say Bryan is a “top-10” cruiserweight of all time seems fair. To place him higher is undecided. But based on his predecessors, it is a good bet the longer he remains in the WWE, the higher the ladder he will climb. If I have ranked someone like Benoit as one of the best ever and I compare the two positively, then it stands to reason in the end, Bryan could be the best ever.