For weeks now rumours have been circulating that WWE’s Daniel Bryan was looking to get out of his contract to jump ship to promotions like TNA and NJPW. On Monday, Bryan took to Twitter to inform fans that, with immediate effect, he would be retiring from wrestling due to medical reasons later confirming on Monday Night Raw that it was due to too many concussions.
It’s not a complete shock that the “Yes Man” has decided to walk away from the squared circle. In all honestly, it’s been more of a question of when. Having been cleared by two of his three doctors for his on going battle with concussions, fans remained hopeful that Bryan would return in the near future. With the Royal Rumble over and no sign of Bryan returning before Wrestlemania, it was evident that the earliest we could possibly see Bryan on pay-per-view again would be Summerslam.
The 34-year-old had a good run in the WWE ring. A former United States Champion, Tag Team Champion, Intercontinental Champion and World Heavyweight Champion ranks him as one of six superstars who are considered Grand Slam Champions with the current active titles – Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Big Show and The Miz are the other five. With a long list of achievements to his name, including winning the Smackdown Money In the Bank contract in 2011, it would be hard to see him leave WWE and wrestling for good. We’ve seen him participate as a judge on the latest season of Tough Enough alongside Paige, but even he admitted on the new season of Total Divas that his heart wasn’t in it in the same way as being able to perform every night to his fans.
With the roster being so large and no distinct brand split, the WWE locker room is more prone to injury and exhausted athletes than ever before. Randy Orton, John Cena, Nikki Bella and Seth Rollins are the latest dents in the roster that are unable to perform. There is a distinct desire to succeed in this business and Bryan indeed had that mentality to push his body to its limits for natural high of the crowd reaction.
As taboo a subject it is, one cannot help but see similarities between Bryan and the late Chris Beniot when it comes to ring presence. If Bryan’s signature “Yes Lock” and diving headbutt isn’t enough to convince you, his underdog status and climatic triple-threat match at Wrestlemania 30 should have you believing the same. Ironically, Beniot won the World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 20 in 2004, making a bloody Triple H submit to the “Crippler Crossface”. In similar fashion, Bryan went toe-to-toe with former Evolution mentees of Triple H, Batista and Randy Orton, and made Batista submit to the same move – albeit named the “Yes Lock.” Bryan’s ability to overcome the odds will be something all fans of WWE and wrestling will miss. It’s been a long time since we had such a push for an underdog persona and it too may be a long time again before we see one rise to the same popularity as Daniel Bryan.
“Bryan’s ability to overcome the odds will be something all fans of WWE and wrestling will miss.”
But WWE has drastically changed over the years, being less sports entertainment and more just entertainment. Riskier moves have been removed, championships are few and far between, matches have doubled in length even if nothing spectacular happens and yet the roster is more exhausted than it was back in the hard hitting, brutal and bloody ages of the 90s and early 00s. Is it really any surprise that the top-dogs of professional wrestling are beginning to feel the strain and opt for lighter schedules to prevent themselves from further injury?
Nevertheless, we have continued to believe in the “Yes Man” and hope the underdog would make some sort of return to the ring this year. The news that Bryan was hanging up his boots has indeed saddened many as his career ultimately ended too soon. Fans will no doubt support Bryan in whatever his next venture may be. Many, including myself, hope to see him on screens as an authority figure, taking back the reigns and bringing some sense of brand split in the company reminiscent of the 2002-2006 era. Not only will this make the roster less injury prone, but it’ll allow us to see Bryan develop his already strong charismatic skills on the microphone and help the next generation of underdogs come into their own.
In a time where NXT is dominating there are many future stars that could hold the underdog title and be a shining beacon on the main roster. What WWE needs is to continue to develop these rising stars who struggle to compete on the main roster with such demand to keep their fan-favourites in the spotlight. This is why fans are craving a brand split once again to truly allow talent to develop just like Bryan was able to in the early years of NXT and his stints in Japan and ROH.
Just because we won’t be seeing Bryan in his wrestling gear again doesn’t mean we’ll forget all that he accomplished and how his achievements have helped shape the current roster into the calibre it is today.
Thank-you Daniel Bryan for your years of service. May your retirement treat you well and may the “Yes Movement” live on.