Long before Daniel Bryan won the WWE world heavyweight championship at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans, one of his biggest championship victories came on Long Island.
On Sept. 17, 2005, Sports Plus in Lake Grove hosted Ring of Honor's Glory By Honor IV event. And in the main event, "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson, as he was known then, defeated James Gibson for the ROH heavyweight title.
"At the time, it was one of the biggest moments of my career," Bryan told Newsday. "It was my first time being put in the position to carry a company, to really be the top guy in the company . . . It was monumental."
Bryan revisits that career highlight, and several others, in his recently released autobiography, "Yes!: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania," which has reached No. 20 on the New York Times nonfiction bestsellers list.
It's the latest of several big achievements by the longtime wrestling fan, who last year was chosen as the No. 1 wrestler in the world in Pro Wrestling Illustrated's annual "PWI 500" list.
"Some of the most surreal moments of my career are when these things that you loved as a kid, you're now doing them," said Bryan, who recalled debating the merits of past "PWI 500" winners with his friends. "One friend told me, 'You know, if we were just fans, we would be arguing whether you deserve it or not.'"
Bryan said writing, and now promoting, the book has helped "keep me busy" as various injuries have sidelined the four-time world champ. Wrestling fans mostly have seen Bryan in recent months in the role of judge in WWE's USA Network reality show, "Tough Enough."
Rather than keep his mind off wrestling, Bryan said the gig has only made him more anxious to return to the ring. During one recent visit to Orlando's Full Sail University, which hosts both the "Tough Enough" production facilities and a WWE training facility, Bryan stumbled upon a new prospect practicing some innovative new techniques with a WWE trainer.
"It literally got me so excited," said Bryan. "I'm sitting there on my squat machine, and I'm thinking, 'I hope they're still doing that when I come back.'"