When Daniel Bryan sent out a tweet yesterday afternoon indicating he was going to retire from professional wrestling, I thought it might be a work. Over the years, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have had other “retirement announcements” only for there to be a swerve to set up a match. In fact, I retweeted Bryan’s tweet with the message, “I sincerely hope there is a swerve & Daniel Bryan wrestles in ONE MORE MATCH @ WrestleMania 32.”
But it was not to be. Daniel Bryan announced his retirement during the closing segment of WWE RAW which took place in Seattle (he is native of Aberdeen, Washington).
For those of unfamiliar with the world of professional wrestling, Daniel Bryan (whose real name is Bryan Danielson) has been the most popular wrestler in the world over the past several years. Although Bryan wrestled on the independent circuit for many years with great success, he is short and under 200 pounds. Vince McMahon likes his wrestlers big even if they have a limited skillset (i.e. Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Roman Reigns). If you were to picture a pro wrestler, you would not picture Daniel Bryan. Wrestlers like Daniel Bryan don’t get to main event Wrestlemania. If they do get to Wrestlemania they usually get humilated.
In fact, at Wrestlemania XVIII, Bryan lost the WWE World Heavyweight Title in 18 seconds. But a funny thing happened. The fans didn’t like it and began chanting Daniel Bryan’s name throughout Sun Life Stadium. It also represented the birth of the Yes Movement. At one point, the Yes Movement did an Occupy Wall Street angle called Occupy Raw. It was a bit silly, but WWE fans genuinely wanted Bryan while WWE brass wanted something else altogether so the angle made sense even if it was done 2½ years after the Occupy movement. If you hear the chant “Yes!!! Yes!!! Yes!!!” at sports arenas and stadiums across the country you can thank Daniel Bryan for it. Bryan would reach the pinnacle of success at Wrestlemania XXX when he won both the WWE Title in a triple threat match against Randy Orton and Batista after defeating Triple H in a match earlier that evening. Daniel Bryan was pro wrestling’s every man and he climbed to the top of the mountain.
Unfortunately, this time at the top would be short-lived. Professional wrestling might not be real, but the injuries most certainly are. Injuries to his elbow and neck required surgery forced him to vacate the title just over two months after his triumph. A year later, after winning the WWE Intercontinental Title at Wrestlemania XXXI, he would again relinquish that title due to an injury which was not disclosed at the time, but later turned out to be a concussion. Although his doctors had cleared him to wrestle, the WWE would not do so. During his announcement, Bryan revealed after his most recent test, the diagnosis revealed the effects of his concussion were far worse than he had realized. It was at that point that Bryan decided to retire. Given that many wrestlers die prematurely, I suppose that he did not want to become yet another statistic.
Bryan was extraordinarily gracious and funny while holding back tears. Now 34, Bryan says that he and his wife Brie Bella (who is also a WWE wrestler) want to start a family soon.
Beyond family, where does Daniel Bryan go from here? I’m sure he could remain in pro wrestling as a trainer. But perhaps he could go into a different direction altogether. Bryan is well known for his veganism (although he did have to moderate this due to a soy allergy) and perhaps he could open a chain of vegan restaurants or write a vegan cookbook. Whatever he chooses, Daniel Bryan is still healthy enough to pursue happiness.
Anyhow, I leave you with an excerpt from Bryan’s retirement speech.