When it comes to pro wrestling in North America, Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment is the largest and most profitable promotion. But in just three years, Tony Khan’s All Elite Wrestling has become the second-biggest promotion and is starting to gain ground in popularity, viewing numbers and recognizable names.
Established veterans like Adam Cole, Bryan Danielson, Chris Jericho, Eddie Kingston, Jay Lethal, Miro, Jon Moxley, Kenny Omega, CM Punk, Brandi Rhodes, Cody Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, Thunder Rosa, Ruby Soho and Sting have signed with AEW.
Decorated tag teams like FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood), Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero Miedo and Ray Fenix), Santana and Ortiz, and The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) are there.
Commentators and managers include Jim Ross, Paul Wight, Mark Henry, Taz, Jake Roberts, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and Vickie Guerrero.
A spotlight has also been shone on newer and/or less recognized wrestlers, including Darby Allin, Dr. Britt Baker, Jade Cargill, Orange Cassidy, Tay Conti, Sammy Guevara, Powerhouse Hobbs, Hook, Anna Jay, MJF, “Hangman” Adam Page, Red Velvet and Wardlow.
Yet it’s the newest AEW hire who could end up paying the most dividends: Danhausen.
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The 31-year-old pro wrestler, whose real name is Donovan Danhausen, has quickly become one of sports entertainment’s most intriguing phenomena. While he certainly has wrestling skills, his biggest assets are his intelligence, wit, catchphrases and character development.
He’s used social media to his advantage. He has a popular YouTube channel, Love That Danhausen, and, until recently, a successful merchandise page. He even launched a coffee brand last year: Danhausen Coffeehausen with the Rootless Coffee Co.
Fangoria’s BJ Colangelo wrote on Jan. 25: “Danhausen is the perfect embodiment of everything that makes horror the absolute best.”
Wearing face paint with a devilish costume, Danhausen has described his wrestling persona as “Conan O’Brien possessed by a demon.” He appeared on the popular comedian’s podcast, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, last April and made him laugh out loud.
Danhausen regularly speaks in the third person with a mixture of high and low cadenzas. In an interview last May on Chris Van Vliet’s podcast, he said his voice “came from me just liking voice acting. Conan O’Brien does voices as he is doing skits, so it came from that. I am also a huge fan of The Simpsons. Also Mark Hamill from Batman the animated series.”
He often describes himself as “very nice, very evil.” He enjoys telling his rivals that “you are cursed.” He can’t stop thinking about earning more “human monies.”
Attaching his character to famous people is also important. “You must stand out correctly,” he told Renee Paquette on her podcast last July. “You must be friends with other celebrities such as Danhausen with Conan O’Brien, and uh, Rock the Dwayne Johnson, and your good friend, CM Punkhausen great internet friend, said Danhausen’s a good tweeter once and (CM Punk) gave him his finishing manoeuvre as a blessing.”
Danhausen also attaches the suffix “hausen” to words, which has afforded his fanhausens many opportunities to speakhausen like their idolhausen. If you get my drifthausen!
It wasn’t always this way.
Danhausen toiled for several years on the independent circuit. His big break came when he got hired by Ring of Honor in 2019. When the promotion announced it was going on hiatus late last year, and he broke his leg at an independent show while teaming with popular independent star Warhorse (who’s appeared twice on AEW), it wasn’t clear where his career was heading.
Then he unexpectedly showed up at AEW’s Beach Break on Jan. 26. During the match between Adam Cole and Orange Cassidy, the former went to grab a chair under the ring – and pulled out Danhausen as well. He stood up, said nothing, pointed his fingers at Cole in an attempt to curse him and left ringside once Cassidy took control.
The cameo lasted 20 seconds. Nevertheless, the roar from the crowd was immense, with smiling faces visible in every corner of the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The commentating team members were clearly amused at such a brilliant way to introduce Danhausen.
The video of his debut has received almost one million views. Social media couldn’t stop talking about him for days.
Less than an hour after his debut, Khan tweeted: “He has arrived! @DanhausenAD is ALL ELITE!”
Where things will go with Danhausen in AEW remains to be seen. His unique character isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s perfectly built for modern pro wrestling audiences. He knows how to sell himself and his merchandise. He’ll be appearing on two major TV stations – TNT and TBS – and should receive significant media exposure. It could also easily make him a mainstream attraction in due course.
And wait until AEW fans hear the lyrics he wrote to a new theme song for Billy Gunn and his sons Austin and Colten, who he’s called the “Assboys” on social media to great fanfare. (Their father, a former WWE star, used to wear tights that said “Mr. Ass.”) The music by Two Minutes To Late Night and Colin Young is pretty catchy, too.
“Danhausen is the gift that keeps on giving,” Matt Black wrote on Wrestlezone on Jan. 28. He’s right – and this gift could help turn AEW into the biggest challenge the WWE has faced in many years.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics. For interview requests, click here.
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