I really don’t want to write this. I watched Monday Night Raw on February 8th, 2016, hoping that this was a ploy like Mark Henry’s retirement. It was clear early on that it was not. Daniel Bryan likely will never wrestle again. I’ve learned to never say never in wrestling, but this is real. The fact that he said he’s grateful for all that happened in his career is endearing. It is in fact us who need to be grateful for what he brought to wrestling fans.
I don’t remember the first time I saw Daniel Bryan. I believe it was WWE NXT, but I honestly can’t remember. What immediately comes to mind is his return following “the choking incident” with the Nexus (apparently using a tie to choke someone is too far in the PG era). Frankly, I didn’t understand his character. What was he besides a really good wrestler? How little I knew at the time.
Bryan quickly became a mainstay on the WWE roster, and for me, quickly forgotten. He was just a guy that put on good matches. There was nothing “special” about Daniel Bryan in my eyes. At this point in time in my wrestling fandom, I simply wanted the high-profile superstars to put on the spectacular moments that I could talk about to… well, myself at that point. Wrestling wasn’t cool then. It probably still isn’t, but I quit caring what people thought about me a long time ago. Somewhat like Daniel Bryan.
Eventually, Bryan turned “heel.” He promised to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania. He didn’t. He saw an opportunity and took it to become Champion. He was cocky, goofy, and a main-event player very quickly. I disliked it every time he came on the TV screen. I was supposed to. Daniel Bryan was doing his job at making me hate him. And then, 18 seconds at Wrestlemania made me, along with the rest of the WWE Universe come to wonder: what did Daniel Bryan do to deserve that?
WrestleMania XXVIII. Miami, Florida. Daniel Bryan kisses his “girlfriend” AJ Lee as soon as the bell rings. Sheamus brogue-kicks Daniel Bryan, and wins the World Heavyweight Championship. And while his character stayed a heel, it was time for the Universe to appreciate what Daniel Bryan did. His following battles with CM Punk for the WWE Title were amazing. His run with Kane as Team Hell No was entertaining. His quest to prove he wasn’t the weak link was relatable. His win at Summerslam over Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Title was a wrestling high. The loss of that same title minutes later was devastating.
The YES! movement began, and Daniel Bryan reached the pinnacle at Wrestlemania XXX. And as he said, nobody can take that away from him. Ever. It will live on forever through the WWE Network. Which you can get for just $9.99. As cheesy as that plug is, I’m thankful that I get to go back and watch matches I took for granted years ago. I just watched his match with Bray Wyatt at Royal Rumble 2014. I remember thinking how creative some of their spots were. I say it was the match of the PPV.
And while Daniel Bryan will likely live on through Total Divas, I think all wrestling fans will agree it’s simply not the same. We have not seen Daniel Bryan in a WWE ring wrestling in quite some time, but the hope that he would return was always there. Now that it’s a closed door, we wait for that Hall of Fame door to swing open. It’s only a matter of time. In his retirement speech, Bryan said maybe his brain wasn’t as okay as he thought it was. I’m grateful that he’s ending his career for the right reasons. As a selfish person, I’m still holding out for one more match. Thank you Bryan Danielson. I’ll never forget moments like this because of you:
I swear I’m not crying. It’s just uh… screw it. I’m crying. Geeks have feelings too.