AEW President Tony Khan announced a pro wrestling dream match last night, revealing that ‘American Dragon’ Bryan Danielson will be taking on Japanese icon Minoru Suzuki on Friday. While that match alone is a huge announcement, the timing of the bout raised more than a few eyebrows. Danielson and Suzuki will not meet on Friday’s AEW Rampage TV show, but rather as part of the ‘Buy-In’, a YouTube pre-show that airs directly opposite WWE SmackDown. While Vince McMahon’s wrestling giant and Khan’s upstarts have circled each other for the entirety of AEW’s nearly three-year existence, this is the biggest occasion in which they have come into direct competition.
AEW Dynamite, the company’s Wednesday flagship show, used to air directly opposite WWE’s NXT brand. WWE moved NXT to Wednesdays in what many saw as a deliberate attempt to draw eyes away from their rival, sparking what was dubbed ‘The Wednesday Night Wars’. This strategy harmed WWE in the long-run, as AEW routinely bested them in the television ratings before NXT retreated to Tuesday nights in April 2021. This Friday will be the first time that AEW has led a direct offensive on WWE.
Khan has chosen his weapons wisely for his first deliberate attempt to siphon viewers from McMahon. Bryan Danielson is still riding the buzz of his recent AEW signing, having been one of WWE’s biggest stars in recent years. Curious fans familiar with his WWE work could be drawn to check out what he’s up to now, especially with the show being so easily accessible. The YouTube factor cannot be underestimated, with the online streaming giant being more widely available than any television channel.
For wrestling purists, Khan could not have chosen a finer match. The mainstream pull of Danielson is enhanced by his status as one of the planet’s greatest wrestler, amassing a two-decade body of work that ranks as some of the finest wrestling ever. Minoru Suzuki can more than match this CV of classic bouts too. The Japanese former MMA fighter is 53 years old now, but has not lost a step. His hard-hitting ring style and legitimate tough-guy background make him one of the most popular wrestlers in the world.
Styles make fights, and Danielson and Suzuki should match up superbly. Both are vastly skilled in mat-based, technical wrestling. The pair also throw some of the most brutal strikes in wrestling today, and a forearm exchange is almost guaranteed. Both Bryan and Minoru place a lot of importance on the art of wrestling in its purest form, and there is real potential for their ‘Buy-In’ clash to enter the Match Of The Year conversation.
Tony Khan is stacking the deck in his favour for Friday’s poker night with Vince McMahon. In addition to a potential classic between Danielson and Suzuki, recent signee Bobby Fish will be taking on Lee Moriarty. Fish is a former member of the NXT roster, and takes on Danielson on Saturday’s AEW Dynamite. Khan is smartly using Friday’s ‘Buy-In’ to build towards future events as well as leverage an audience already in the habit of watching wrestling at that time with SmackDown.
When the YouTube portion of the evening is over, AEW Rampage is looking incredibly stacked. CM Punk continues wrestling’s comeback of the year when he takes on high-flyer Matt Sydal, while the stars of UFC will make their presence felt. The Inner Circle team of Chris Jericho, Jake Hager and Sammy Guevera will take on former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page. The latter team will be accompanied to the ring by Jorge Masvidal, leading many to speculate he will be wrestling in the near future.
AEW are putting their best foot forward this Friday, and it will be interesting to see if they make a dent in SmackDown’s usual viewership. Whether they manage to win new viewers or hold steady with their usual audience, there is no doubting the action will deliver. Bryan Danielson vs Minoru Suzuki is a dream match, and if you have any interest in professional wrestling you owe it to yourself to watch.