Daniel Bryan was everything a wrestling fan wanted in a superhero. A larger than life character that identified with the masses. A cult hero everyone could relate to. The “Rudy” of WWE, a slick moniker on the Indy circuit (The American Dragon) and one of the coolest guys to ever wear a beard in the squared-circle. Now, with the announcement of his retirement from doing what he loves more than anything, there is another title added to his resume of greatness – former legend.
There are times when a business based on falsehoods and fake reality becomes all too real, as we all have witnessed watching our hero fall down time after time, only to get back up again. Only this time, Bryan could not answer the bell. For whatever the reason – and yes injuries have grounded him from flying through the air with the greatest of ease – Bryan could not play the role we all wanted desperately for him to star in. He could not be superman and concussions proved to be his kryptonite.
When I read on his Twitter feed that Bryan was retiring from wrestling and would expound on it when he appeared on Raw, I actually felt a tear. I, like so many of us, know what it’s like to constantly be told you “can’t” only to get a door closed in my face a time or two. There has been so many loose ends untied in Bryan’s saga it is worthy of a Lifetime feature movie. Sadly, the “Yes!” Movement will be silenced to some degree. The hope for one more match will be extinguished and the millions of fans who wanted to see him return to face off against the Authority one more time will have to hope someone else (Roman Reigns or AJ Styles) can take the baton and run with it.
Bryan didn’t worry about fans chanting that he “sucked” or that he sold out or that he looked stupid. When I look at Bryan’s career, I think of the others who have left the business too soon due to injury. Steve Austin and Edge come to mind. Add Arn Anderson to that list as well.
I also think of those who might have stayed too long and are paying the price for it later in life (Terry Funk). This is a business of sacrifice and a labor of love. It has to be because the men and women who do what they do in a ring every night are not “normal” in any sense of the word. They are a rare breed, a fraternity of thrill seekers who do not know when to say when. Bryan’s battle with demons of a strange nature won the first battle, but if there is a way to keep the Aberdeen, WA native active in WWE and professional wrestling, it has to happen. He is too important to the business. While it is widely felt that the concussion and neck issues Bryan suffered over the past two years were devastating, there had to be a significant reason why he could not get back in a wrestling ring – aside from the possibility of Vince McMahon not signing off on his return. For all of us, a legend hung up his boots, and a circus of fans all shed a tear.
Bryan’s retirement further complicates the issues WWE has with its roster right now. It also solves a mystery that looked to have no solution in sight. The double-edged sword WWE held in its “hand” cut both employer and employee. How both sides heal from it will have a significant impact on both “players” moving forward. For the company, it’s an opportunity to use Bryan in some other capacity. For Bryan, it’s a crossroad he did not want to come to. Not this early in his life or career, anyway.
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