Swerve Strickland vs Bryan Danielson is the story AEW needs to tell

A match between the two juggernauts is a likely scenario, but where could it happen?
Swerve Strickland will head into All In at Wembley as AEW World Heavyweight Champion.
Swerve Strickland will head into All In at Wembley as AEW World Heavyweight Champion. / Arturo Holmes/GettyImages


That is how long it took for Bryan Danielson to beat Swerve Strickland in October 2023. The two were contesting on AEW Dynamite for an opportunity to face then-TNT Champion Christian Cage in a title match in the following episode of Collision.

Since then, both wrestlers have taken different paths and trajectories. Swerve would go on to bank all his chips on becoming one of the hottest commodities for AEW as World Champion and Danielson would proceed to have full-time fun with wrestling for one last year.

After an incredible match with Will Ospreay at Forbidden Door, the former Lucha Underground star’s victory all but confirmed that he will be entering Wembley Stadium as the defending champion. His opponent is still unknown at the time of writing, but the remaining participants in the Owen Hart Cup suggest it will either be the returning Hangman Adam Page, Jay White, or Bryan Danielson who will face Strickland in the main event at Wembley.

It is universally known that the ‘American Dragon’ has not won a championship in All Elite Wrestling since his debut in 2021. Danielson is a certified A+ star and at this stage of his career has seemingly repelled any chance of gold even when the offer was there. He doesn’t need elevation nor certification as a bonafide great of this sport, but for AEW, the World Heavyweight Championship to have Bryan Danielson’s name imprinted in its lineage is more important than Bryan himself holding the gold.

Main eventing at All In - or not?

Unfortunately last year, Bryan was injured and could not feature on the card or in the mayhem of the Stadium Stampede match at Wembley that his compatriots in Blackpool Combat Club were involved in. Should the 43-year-old win in the final of the Owen Hart Cup, he could find himself not only on the card with momentum in his favor, but headlining All In: Wembley in August in his likely antepenultimate PPV as a full-time wrestler.

Time is ticking and retirement is fast approaching before we know it. After his win against Shingo Takagi at Forbidden Door, there were not many PPVs left until the fall. All Out is a week after London, then WrestleDream in October will conclude Bryan’s full-time run. It presents a perfect opportunity for a full-circle moment. After all, it was in October 2023 that Bryan announced that it would be his last year as a full-time professional wrestler and that defending the AEW World Championship in his home state of Washington would fulfill his wishes of finishing up at WrestleDream in fashionable style.

If we’re fantasy booking for a moment, a possible angle that AEW could approach Danielson’s championship reign could be to run as many title defenses in September and October as humanely possible - ticking off anybody else who is left on the Dragon’s bucket list. How about upping the stakes and proclaiming that the next time Danielson loses, that is when he has to retire? It would be striking whilst the iron is hot, and the main events of Dynamite and/or Collision would become must-watch television for at least 8 weeks.

The alternative is to not have Danielson challenge at All In. The masses of wrestling fans thought that Swerve vs Ospreay would be headlining All In before the program was built for Forbidden Door, with full knowledge of Bryan’s semi-retirement.

The return of Hangman Adam Page throws a spanner in the works, creating an air of unpredictability in the weeks ahead. The romanticism that surrounds the trilogy between Swerve and Hangman is arguably too good of an opportunity to not headline All In.

Given the proximity of All Out in September, it offers the opportunity for Swerve (or his opponent at All In) to defend the title at All Out too… perhaps against Danielson. A space of one week offers zero chance to build a new feud so a conditional match in place for the winner at All-In to face Danielson is a likely possibility if Hangman is chosen as the second winner of the Owen Hart Cup.

Back to reality

But before getting too ahead ourselves about the where and when, what could a re-match between Swerve and Danielson offer? We already saw a glimpse of that on Dynamite last year, but both men feel so much more seasoned since then. It feels strange to say that about two veterans of the game, but the stakes and stories of both characters have become so much deeper since the fall.

For Swerve, his babyface turn has led him to face the consequences of his actions as a demonic sadist in 2023. Whether that has been Hangman, the Mogul Embassy, or Christian Cage, he has passed all tests so far and has succeeded in being a better version of himself with Prince Nana at his side. Yet the sadist remains…

For Danielson, he is tired. Tired of losing when it matters the most. That’s not how he wants his final months to go down. He has given every limb of his body to the game and soldiered through with tape to keep them together at times. But what does he have to show for his legacy in All Elite Wrestling? How can he justify wrestling yet losing in the big moments to his daughter Birdie?

He has to win the big one. He has to go out in style. Surely Bryan Danielson’s humility sees the wrestling story in that too.