Daniel Bryan was sleeping on a floor the year before he arrived in Bensalem as the head teacher of a professional wrestling school. So his Bucks County apartment felt like a luxury suite.
"It had a bed," Bryan joked before throwing out the first pitch at Monday night's Phillies game.
Bryan - real name Bryan Danielson - has come a long way since his time when he spent eight months living in Bensalem and wrestling on the weekends at a South Philly recreation center.
The former WWE champion is currently the general manager of WWE's Smackdown Live, which comes to the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night. He lived in Bensalem from April to December in 2006 while he worked as the head teacher of the wrestling school owned by Ring of Honor, one of the top independent wrestling companies.
"Their attendance was not very good," Bryan said. "I always feel like I wasn't the best trainer, because I'm really good at teaching people stuff but I'm not good if people aren't super psyched - if they're not like me. If they just come in and say 'Yeah! I want to be a wrestler.' Well OK, what do you want to learn today?"
Bryan's wrestling career peaked in April 2014 when he headlined WWE's Wrestlemania 30 in front of 75,000 people at the Superdome in New Orleans. It was eight years earlier that he was performing for just 400 people at the Murphy Recreation Center at 4th and Shunk Streets in South Philadelphia.
Bryan - who then performed under his real name - wrestled in the main event of the monthly shows run by Ring of Honor. Each night, Bryan said, would be a competition among all the wrestlers to have the event's best match. And the competition was stiff. Bryan, 35, wrestled on the same cards as future WWE talents like Samoa Joe, C.M. Punk, and A.J. Styles.A South Philly recreation center proved to be a breeding ground for future stars of pro wrestling.
Bryan navigated the independent wrestling circuit for six years before moving to Bensalem. He chased his wrestling dream all over the country and even went to Japan. Bryan was finally a main-event wrestler. And it happened in Philly.
"I loved wrestling in Philly," Bryan said. "It was such an exciting time in my life. That really helped me grow and think differently. It was also just a lot of fun. This northeast independent scene was just rocking with guys who a lot of are now in the WWE or had been in the WWE. It was super cool."
Bryan separated his shoulder in December of 2006, left Bensalem, and moved home to Washington state. He would later blossom into one of wrestling's biggest stars before his career was again derailed by injuries.
Bryan said he suffered at least 10 concussions, forcing WWE to tell him earlier this year that they would no longer medically clear him to perform.
Bryan's role as Smackdown General Manager keeps him out of the ring, but Bryan believes he can still wrestle. He said he has been cleared by concussion specialists, though he understands WWE's decision. His current contract is two-years long. Maybe then he can tie up the boots one more time at that recreation center in South Philly.