In 2006, the wrestling landscape was still changing as much as ever. WWE was still the unquestioned king of wrestling in North America, as John Cena had risen to the top of the company. But while he might’ve been popular, he had yet to wrestle a match worthy of inclusion on this list.
When it comes to WWE superstars making this list, that honor goes to WWE’s resident wrestling machine, Kurt Angle, who managed to put on a stellar performance against a wrestler who, over the past sixteen years, was more known for putting on bad matches instead of good ones (unless they were gimmick matches).
Outside WWE, things were the same in Japan, with NOAH still on top, riding a wave of relative popularity thanks to a partnership with other companies. But the biggest growth came from Ring of Honor, which managed to showcase one of the best wrestlers in the world: a man named Bryan Danielson.
Bryan, who is now known for his work in WWE, was a star on the rise in 2006, wrestling mainly for ROH. As its top champion, he faced many top stars from both the United States and Japan, which led to some truly spectacular matches. Then again, what do you expect from a man who's such a good technical wrestler that the Wrestling Observer’s ‘best technical wrestler’ award was named in his honor?
So which matches stood above the rest in 2006 and deserve your attention the most? Read on…
5. Bryan Danielson vs. KENTA – ROH Glory By Honor Night 2
It’s Daniel Bryan vs. Hideo Itami back when both men were in their wrestling primes.
This was another example of the great wrestling matches one could find outside of WWE during the mid-2000s. Bryan was a technical genius that actually had a huge mean streak at the time, and did a great job of getting the audience to boo him. As a great example of this, Bryan elbowed KENTA in the side of the head several times, and kept going even as the ref told him to stop.
KENTA, meanwhile, was his usual vicious self, slapping and striking Bryan as hard as humanly possible. His kicks were brutal, and he kept showing that great babyface fire no matter how much Bryan tried to tear his body to pieces with his different submission holds.
The match featured great chain wrestling, including an amazing sequence during which Bryan locked in his Cattle Mutilation submission hold and still kept it locked in despite multiple attempts from KENTA to get the hold released.
This is the Hideo Itami people wish could be seen in a WWE ring. While it’s true that his style is a bit difficult, he could still work well with the right opponent (such as Daniel Bryan). It’s just too bad that WWE put so many restrictions on him that it has rendered his entire WWE run almost completely worthless.