By RJ Marceau
Wow. I can’t say that I am shocked but Daniel Bryan announced Monday that he would be retiring from the WWE as an active wrestler. This retirement stems from his injuries to his neck and recent concussions. Bryan had been trying for the past year to get cleared by WWE trainers to get back into the squared circle. The WWE has a new strict concussion policy due to old wrestlers suing the company over the injuries they had received. The WWE wouldn’t clear Bryan and due to the nature of his concussions any future lawsuits or injuries to himself wouldn’t look good for the company. Even though Daniel Bryan had only been in the WWE for 6 years he has left a lasting impact on the business and myself as a wrestling fan.
Daniel Bryan’s impact on the WWE will definitely reflect as the 1st independent journeyman to really break into the WWE and make an impact. After the success Bryan had gained we started seeing the WWE sign independent guys like Cesaro, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. Over the past few years, the WWE has been more accepting of the independent wrestlers and Bryan breaking the WWE mold should be credited.
Daniel Bryan also helped the cause that the WWE Champions didn’t have to be 6ft+ or have a bodybuilder physique to sell. Bryan is listed at 5ft. 10 and 210 lbs. was the definition of an underdog and as a babyface in 2013 flourished. Bryan during the Yes Movement sold tons of merch and was able to get fans interested in a product that was very bland and stagnant. The WWE had zero plans for Bryan to be anything more then a midcarder but Bryan got such a fan following that the WWE changed their plans and put Daniel Bryan into the main event of WrestleMania XXX. Without the fans getting behind Bryan, Batista would have won the main event of WrestleMania XXX and Roman Reigns would probably have won at WrestleMania 31. The WWE had so much backlash from fans that they had to change plans and now with rumors of them possibly changing Braun Strowman vs. Undertaker would indicate them listening to some fans even though I don’t agree.
Daniel Bryan’s story as the underdog will be hard to ever beat especially of how long the WWE played it out with him beating John Cena at SummerSlam '13, to Orton cashing in to win the title, to Bryan not being in the Royal Rumble and competing in two matches at WrestleMania XXX. Bryan as the quintessential underdog made the story amazing with him prevailing at WrestleMania XXX and winning the title.
Even though the injuries were what ended his career without all the hardwork and dedication he had for the business he wouldn’t have gotten to where he was. He worked over 15+ in the business to win the biggest prize of them all. Bryan would get injured a month later and be out for majority of 2014. He returned in early 2015 and won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31. He got hurt a month later and now has officially retired.
The impact that Daniel Bryan has left on the WWE is nothing compared to what he had on me as a wrestling fan. Between 2009-2012, my love for the WWE was fading. The WWE had been swamped with John Cena, HHH and Randy Orton in the main event scene and instead of people getting over organically they tried to push Sheamus, The Miz, Alberto Del Rio and Jack Swagger as future stars. In 2012-13, the formation of Team Hell No intrigued me. Bryan had always been a guy I liked but I figured he would reach a certain level and never get higher. Bryan vs. Cena at SummerSlam 2013 was amazing but it was predictable that Orton would cash in. The whole Authority angle played out well with Bryan.
When I got tickets to WrestleMania XXX I was going for Lesnar vs. Undertaker and Daniel Bryan. The storybook ending didn’t seem plausible due to the WWE’s disdain for someone like Bryan being the face of the WWE. The match he had with HHH was amazing and after winning it seemed that he could beat the odds. The main event was equally amazing with Bryan being RKO’d and Batista Bombed through a table. The Authority and even “that damn crooked referee Scott Armstrong” couldn’t stop the Yes Movement. Michael Cole’s call of the ending of this match is glued into my brain. After Bryan hits the flying knee, and puts Batista in the Yes Lock, Michael Cole says on commentary “Tap Out Batista, Tap Out Batista, Tap Out Batista” represents the underdog aspect and how everyone wanted Bryan to succeed. Being a part of YestleMania was amazing and has been the best moment of my wrestling fandom.
Daniel Bryan has helped me get my love back for professional wrestling and I want to thank him for everything he has done for the WWE, any WWE fan and myself. Hopefully Bryan will stick around as a WWE commentator, GM or agent so he can still be involved in the WWE. Bryan should be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame eventually. Bryan may go outside the WWE and wrestle for ROH or Lucha Underground but I think for his health’s sake he should just work in the WWE in a non-wrestling capacity.
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