Bryan Danielson confirmed Wednesday night on “Dynamite” that he hasn’t been medically cleared to compete at the AEW-New Japan “Forbidden Door” supershow (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET, PPV, Bleacher Report, FITE).
Which sucks, because it means that we don’t get the dream technical match between Danielson and New Japan star Zach Sabre Jr. that had been in the cards.
OK, need to point out here, Danielson looked and sounded fine Wednesday night – he leapt into the ring for the interview spot with Tony Schiavone, and cut a long promo that would make you think there isn’t anything along the lines of a concussion that he would still be dealing with.
It may very well be that it’s a storyline injury that Tony Khan is using to book a surprise debut.
That notion might get some backing from the announcement later in the show that the mystery replacement for Danielson is a new member of Blackpool Combat Club, the faction featuring Danielson, #1 world title contender Jon Moxley and Ring of Honor Pure champ Wheeler Yuta.
With that in mind, let the speculation begin.
1. Johnny Gargano
This seems to be the most logical choice. Gargano has been on the sidelines since his last match in NXT in December, when he let his contract with WWE quietly expire.
Gargano and his wife, Candice LaRae, have spent the last few months with their first child, and presumably “Johnny Wrestling” is also using the time to rest and heal up after years on the road.
Two tidbits that point to Gargano being the guy:
He was recently on a vlog with AEW star Sammy Guevara in which the two talked about how “badass” it would be if they faced each other in the ring. Blackpool Combat Club is scheduled to face Jericho Appeciation Society, of which Guevara is a member, next week on “Dynamite.”
Gargano announced on Twitter today that he will be in Chicago on Sunday for a fan meet-and-greet. Coincidence, no doubt.
Gargano, to his credit, is trying to sell it as coincidence on Twitter, but anyway.
The former Cesaro also let his WWE contract quietly expire, in February, and if Khan were to be bringing a top-tier talent like him in, this spot would be a good way to make a splash debut.
CSRO was the first name that came to mind for me when Danielson announced last night that he wasn’t going to be in the match, honestly.
3. Bryan Danielson
Yes, this would be a bit of a bait-and-switch, but “Forbidden Door” is a pay-per-view that will largely appeal to the existing fan base, which is to say, you’re not selling the idea of a mystery guy to get mainstream fans (read: “WWE diehards”) to hit the buy button.
If Danielson’s music hits, there’d be some temporary upset with the fans, but then, we’d get Danielson-ZSJ, so our upset would be rectified in short order.
Update: Friday, 6:49 p.m. Eagle-eyed reader and smart fan Brian Gochenour suggested that I add two pretty obvious names to my list, taking us from the original three to five.
So, here goes.
4. Ray Fenix
I don’t see this one so much, mainly because Fenix has ties to AAA, and also, because I’m not of the mind that Fenix vs. ZSJ would be all that good, because of the clash of styles, flippy-flippy vs. ground guy who doesn’t do flips.
5. Jonathan Gresham
We may have our winner here, though Gresham, the Ring of Honor world champ, would be a bit of a letdown for me, not as ZSJ’s opponent in the match, because Gresham-ZSJ would be a solid match, but Gresham is already a known quantity to AEW fans.
Still, it would be a really good match.
But also still, a letdown.
That said, I think Brian is right on here, that Gresham is the guy.