To the cacophonous cheers of “NO! NO! NO!” From wrestling fans all over the world, yesterday Daniel Bryan announced that he would be retiring from professional wrestling. What we are seeing is not just a fan favourite wrestler leaving the scene, what is currently unfolding in the wrestling community is a tragedy of the highest order. After a career that has been slowly building towards a promising apex for years, Daniel Bryan’s career and dreams are being dramatically cut short. While the possibility of retirement has been hinted at during Bryan’s appearances on WWE Network shows like Total Divas, it has still come as a striking shock to fans of the enigmatic wrestler.
All day support for Daniel Bryan has been flowing in from all sides of wrestling, both from independent wrestlers who have worked with Bryan during the earlier stages of his career and his costars from WWE. The tributes have ranged from simple thank you sentiments (starting the trending tag #ThankYouDanielBryan on Twitter) as well as more heartfelt thoughts.
— Ricochet (@KingRicochet) February 8, 2016
— Sami Zayn (@iLikeSamiZayn) February 8, 2016
— KALISTO (@KalistoWWE) February 8, 2016
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) February 8, 2016
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) February 9, 2016
All of this upheaval led to a long tribute to Daniel Bryan staged with clips, interviews, and memories all throughout the February 9th edition of Monday Night Raw. The clips included highlights from Daniel Bryan’s career with WWE, from his legendary battles with his coach from the first season of NXT, The Miz, to winning the Heavyweight World Championship for the first time and creating the infamous “YES!” Chant.
Daniel Bryan began his heartfelt farewell speech at the end of the Monday Night RAW broadcast, after standing in the middle of the ring listening to the crowd going wild for him one last time. “So, just now, I was able to close my eyes and feel that, like, literally, feel it, in a way that I’ve never gotten to feel it before because when we’re here we always have to keep our eyes open, but just that experience, uh, I’m literally I’m never going to forget it.”
Daniel Bryan’s retirement brings to light a striking problem with professional wrestling, as well as sports in general. In Bryan’s own words during his speech, about a week ago he underwent medical testing that revealed that a long series of dozens of concussions had affected his brain in a more dramatic way than he had previously thought. Over 2015 the concussion crisis of professional sports was very much in the limelight, with a number of promising college football players, professional football players, as well as rugby players being forced to retire early due to repeated concussions. Daniel Bryan is the first WWE Superstar to face the same fate, and this portends a dangerous trend in the future.
From a very young age Daniel Bryan pursued his interests in becoming a professional wrestler, despite insurmountable odds seeming to build to prevent his successes. Before he attained fame with the WWE he had already gained massive fan followings after his career in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Ring of Honor. As his career developed with the WWE Bryan was spun as a spunky underdog, and taking this hero arc into account during tonight’s events brought an added poignancy to the announcement.
Tonight we watched Daniel Bryan announce that he was abandoning his long held dream. The underdog, dark horse, little guy, Daniel Bryan was forced to address on live television the sad fact that he was never going to make it to the top again. At this time it becomes paramount that we, as the fans of professional wrestling, the WWE, and Daniel Bryan, show the world that Daniel Bryan is not leaving his career as an underdog anymore. When a tragedy unfolds such as this one in the life of a beloved celebrity, it is time to celebrate the significance of that celebrity’s life, and their impact on the life of their fans. Daniel Bryan is leaving the WWE and wrestling as one of the greatest wrestlers of the decade.
Daniel Bryan’s story seems to echo that of Edge, who was also forced to retire at a relatively young age for medical reasons. Edge’s retirement speech occurred during the Monday Night RAW broadcast the following day after Wrestlemania in 2011, and Edge was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame one year later. Edge’s wrestling career with the WWE lasted for ten years and was promptly rewarded with his induction into the hall of fame. While Daniel Bryan’s career with the WWE has only lasted five years, and while he spent the last two plagued with injuries and personal loss causing him to spend a great deal of time on the shelf, fans are left to wonder if the WWE could be willing to consider his short career a reasonable cause for induction into the hall of fame.
For so long he has been given the short end of the stick by the WWE, it is important to show that this is not the lowest moment of Daniel Bryan’s career, this is the sad close to one of the greatest, highest-potential wrestling careers of our generation. Daniel Bryan’s WWE career was formed by fans, and by fans’ willingness to fight for him as a favourite wrestler, and as the internet’s darling. It is now time for fans to show the WWE that our dedication to Daniel Bryan will go forward, until Daniel Bryan receives the recognition he deserves for his promising career that was tragically cut short.
“We’re all our own worst critics you know. But I see that and, like okay, I think man I can do this better, I can do that better. And now I’ve come back and I’m like, I have different stories I want to tell. One of the things that I really want to do is wrestle Brock Lesnar in a title match and even if it’s not a title match I’d love to do a match with Brock Lesnar, and I just feel like that would be, if it’s put on the right stage it would be one of the best matches of WWE history. When I’m coming back, yes, I want to main event at Wrestlemania, and yes I want to do this stuff, but mostly I want to focus on things that artistically make me happy. Which is what I was doing when I was an independent wrestler before, I focused on like, oh man I want to do a three hour match, and, like, I know that’s never going to happen on WWE Television, but we haven’t had an hour match in a long time, like, like I’d like to do that. I’d like to do more stories that intrigue me, and just, like, put that forth. Okay, I want to, I would like to do this because that’s fulfilling to me.”
– Daniel Bryan, from “Daniel Bryan: Just Say Yes! Yes! Yes!”