Daniel Bryan vs. KENTA (Ring of Honor Glory By Honor 2006)
WE SAID: In the final months of his 462-day reign as Ring of Honor Champion, Daniel Bryan defended his title in New York City’s Manhattan Center against a Japanese sensation who would later emerge in WWE NXT as Hideo Itami. Then billing himself with the stylized handle of KENTA, the Pro Wrestling Noah standout possessed a style that was extraordinarily similar to Bryan’s — both favored heavy strikes, wrenching submissions and an unmistakable arrogance — and the resulting battle became one of The American Dragon’s defining bouts as champion.
In a match that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin may have described as “snug,” Bryan and KENTA exchanged blistering kicks that seemed capable of shattering bone. At one point, the champion became so frustrated with the challenger’s constant boots that he began throwing careless headbutts that cautioned his own wellbeing. Despite his recklessness, Bryan ultimately locked Itami in his Cattle Mutilation submission hold — after countless attempts — to secure the victory. It was ugly, but the war instilled a respect in both men that persists to this day. — RYAN MURPHY
BRYAN SAID: “I’d just separated my shoulder and torn a couple of tendons maybe three weeks before going into the Manhattan Center again in New York City. The emotion was very, very high, everybody knew I was hurt, and KENTA kept kicking the crap out of my arm. My sister was in the crowd and she actually cried. I consider wrestling art. You want people to be entertained. If you can, make ‘em laugh, but when you really get ‘em, you make ‘em cry. And that was one of those matches that was able to do that.”