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Some pro wrestling fans think Daniel Bryan, with his long unkempt beard, resembles a goat. And they say so, calling him “goatface.” Haters gonna hate. But this seemingly derogatory name can have a positive spin. Another of Bryan’s nicknames — “G.O.A.T.” — is actually an acronym for “Greatest of All Time.”
Neither name seems like a stretch for the journeyman wrestler who has ascended to the peak of the WWE, headlining main events and conquering many a mountainous wrestler along the way. And whichever you choose, there’s no denying Bryan’s talent and success in the squared circle.
Here are things you didn’t know about Daniel Bryan.
1. Daniel Bryan was born Bryan Danielson on May 22, 1981 in Aberdeen, Washington. His father and mother, a logger and therapist respectively, divorced when he was young. Danielson played football and basketball at Aberdeen-Weatherwax High School — the same high school that Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain attended about a decade before — and graduated in 1999.
2. Danielson trained for his pro wrestling career right after high school, enrolling in the Texas Wrestling Academy. The school was then run by Rudy Boy Gonzalez and Shawn Michaels, both experienced pro wrestlers. He was in the same class as former WWE star Lance Cade.
3. Danielson’s ring debut came in March of 2000 in a Texas Wrestling Alliance (TWA) match. TWA, now known as Texas Wrestling Entertainment (TWE), was — and is — affiliated with the school that trained him.
4. Within a year of competing, Danielson signed a development deal with World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and moved over to Memphis Championship Wrestling, a short-lived developmental territory for the WWF. He won both the light heavyweight and tag team titles and adopted the “American Dragon” name in his time there.
5. Danielson is commonly understood to be one of Ring of Honor‘s (ROH) founding fathers. He wrestled his first match for the promotion in 2002, headlining the promotion’s inaugural event.
6. Danielson established himself as an iron man with ROH, wrestling many matches that stretched to 60 minutes and beyond. He won the first Survival of the Fittest tournament, winning multiple matches in a six-man tournament.
8. Danielson first grew the long scraggly beard for which he is now known in 2005, because he was too cheap to buy a new razor. As he tells the story, “I kept saying I would get a razor tomorrow and three or four weeks went by without getting one. I finally did and was going to shave when I got to Japan. When I got there, the Japanese really liked my small crappy beard and told me to keep growing it. So I did, and I just kept growing it.” He eventually shaved it for his sister’s wedding.
9. In 2005 Danielson applied to the Peace Corps, a federal government volunteer program focused on social and economic development in poorer foreign countries. He was rejected for lacking the proper skills, and started taking college courses to attain them. According to Danielson, in what’s now a 10-year-old interview, “I see myself going from wrestling is into the Peace Corps. I love wrestling and it is a great sport but I also want to help people with my life.”
10. Danielson signed with WWE in the summer of 2009, but didn’t wrestle for them until early 2010. A name change to Daniel Bryan followed shortly thereafter. Other name possibilities included Buddy Peacock and Lloyd Bonaire, but not Bryan Danielson.
11. Bryan has held numerous WWE titles, including the World Heavyweight Champion, Tag Team Champion and United States Champion. He also won the World Championship and Pure Championship in ROH, among many others across the independent circuit and overseas.
12. Bryan used to be a vegan, which restricted his diet to non-animal-based foods. He developed a sensitivity to soy proteins — a stable of a vegan diet — and his busy travel schedule often made it difficult to find food he could eat. He now occasionally incorporates lean meats into his diet.
13. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) awarded Bryan its award for the most animal-friendly athlete in 2012. He was also a spokesperson for the organization for a time.
14. Bryan helped Kimya Dawson, a member of the band The Moldy Peaches who recorded much of the Juno soundtrack, record a song about legendary wrestling manager Captain Lou Albano. Bryan sang backup vocals on “Captain Lou,” which appears on her 2011 album Thunder Thighs.
15. Bryan married Brie Bella, former WWE Divas champion, in April of 2014, after a three-year relationship. The wedding was broadcasted on Total Divas, which features her as a cast member. As her real-life husband, he continues to regularly appear on the show.
16. Bryan is writing an auto-biography, due out in the spring of 2015, ahead of WrestleMania 31. According to the publisher, “this is the behind-the-scenes story told for the first time ever — from his beginnings as a child wanting to wrestle to his ten years on the circuit before finally making it in WWE.”
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.