The on-going saga of Daniel Bryan’s switch to All Elite Wrestling has moved up a gear with bookmakers now offering odds for his first opponent, with the 40-year-old superstar expected to make his bow at the AEW Dynamite Grand Slam.
Bryan himself has spoken in the past of his desire for a match-up with top NJPW (New Japan Pro-Wrestling) star and former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Will Ospreay, and AEW has strong relations with their Japanese counterparts.
British-born Ospreay, 28, is wowing audiences in Japan but before any clash with the Essex-born sensation, Bryan is expected to firstly make his AEW debut at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, and another eagerly-awaited clash is on the cards in the September Slam, reports wrestling-online.com.
A bout with CM Punk is trading at around 7/4 for Bryan according to the bookmakers, with the former WWE Champion admitting he was on the lookout for a big story at AEW.
“What would it take?” said Punk ahead of his potential AEW debut. “Oh gosh. Without wanting to insult anybody on either side of the fence, any WWE talent or AEW talent, it would take, above all, an interesting scenario.
“A story that would be fun to tell and also just the stupidest amount of money. But they can save themselves a lot of money if they present a fun storyline. Now, what that is, I don’t know. I’m a pretty picky guy, especially at this point. I think there are more interesting people on the AEW side of things for me to wrestle and that’s because I’ve never wrestled them before. Young Bucks, Kenny Omega.”
While Punk didn’t mention Bryan by name, it is surely no coincidence that the bookmakers have installed him as favourite to take on the man who launched his wrestling career 22 years ago.
Bryan hasn’t been seen in the ring since his WWE contract expired at the end of April following a Universal Championship loss to Roman Reigns on SmackDown. After expressing a desire to be at home with his children, the offer to work in AEW and potentially line up a host of memorable matches appears to be too strong to resist, reports USAToday.
Bryan’s four-month break from the sport is nothing compared with Punk’s wrestling hiatus, the 42-year-old retiring back in 2014 before pursuing a career as a mixed martial artist, signing up with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC. He had his first professional fight in 2016, losing via submission to Mickey Gall, before also being defeated in the follow up clash with Mike Jackson via unanimous decision in 2018.
He only stayed a twice-beaten MMA fighter for three years when a Freedom of Information Act request confirmed the Jackson bout was recognized as a No Contest. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation also confirmed this with Jackson testing positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, the positive outcome coming as a result of marijuana use.
Punk has also appeared as a commentator with Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) and as an analyst on WWE Backstage, and most recently he has been focusing on his acting career, helping to promote the wrestling drama series Heels.
Along with CM Punk, US wrestling analysts, have also priced up Kenny Omega (7/2) and Darby Allin (4/1) as possible opponents for Bryan.