One of the most inspirational stories in WWE history has come to an end. Daniel Bryan has announced his retirement from pro wrestling, effectively doing what the WWE could not…ending the Yes Movement once and for all.
Rumors had been swirling throughout the weekend about a big Bryan announcement. News broke mid-Monday when the former WWE world champion made the announcement official on his Twitter page.
Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I’ll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude
— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) February 8, 2016
Bryan ended a career that started in 1999 when he enrolled at the Shawn Michaels’ Texas Wrestling Academy. Bryan broke out fairly early and received a WWE tryout very early in his career. Bryan was signed to WWE’s developmental system but was released before making the main roster. It would take Bryan almost ten years before he achieved his dream and became a WWE superstar.
Bryan’s story is arguably the most fascinating of our era. Bryan was a standout early in NXT but according to Bryan in his own autobiography, the company was more focused on building Wade Barrett than Bryan. It wouldn’t be the first time that Bryan’s fans were ignored and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Bryan had one of the most incredible runs in WWE history in 2013 when the Yes! Movement hit its stride. WWE booking did everything it could to prevent Bryan from being the top guy but pressure from the fans and some highly unique circumstances finally gave Bryan the opportunity his fans were hoping for at WrestleMania 30.
In hindsight, it’s amazing that if not for several circumstances that Bryan would have never been put in that spot. First, there was the booking debacle at the Royal Rumble. Batista was massacred by the fans for winning a Rumble that did not include Bryan. At the same time, CM Punk walked out of the company, leaving Triple H without an opponent. Bryan was originally booked at WM 30 to wrestle Sheamus of all people. Between the fans turning on Batista, Triple H needing an opponent, and increasing fan reaction to Bryan, Bryan was put into that top spot and had one of the greatest WrestleMania moments in the event’s history.
Unfortunately Bryan’s WrestleMania moment didn’t last long. Bryan was injured a few months after and had to vacate the title. I don’t think anyone will ever know how his championship run would have played out otherwise. That said, he was booked with Kane immediately, obviously not taking full advantage of Bryan’s talents and popularity. He was also scheduled to drop the title to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam in the same kind of squash that Brock had with Cena at SummerSlam. Would that have changed? Nobody will ever know.
Bryan has been out of action since shortly after WrestleMania 31. The company remained rather mum on the particulars but several reports confirmed that Bryan had suffered a concussion. Bryan became the first WWE wrestler that I know of to not get cleared following the concussion. The WWE’s doctor refused to clear him, essentially ending his career.
Personally, I feel truly honored to have had several opportunities to work with Daniel Bryan on the independents early in his career. In my 10-plus years as an announcer/commentator, the first Ring of Honor main-event against Low Ki and Christopher Daniels remains my favorite call. I didn’t get to call many of his matches, but it truly was an honor to call his first few ROH matches as well as a handful of others on the indys.
There will be many fans that will cry foul and criticize the WWE for this. I’d call those fans selfish. Bryan’s Yes! Movement will likely grow in legend over the years and he beat the odds to become the top guy in the company. I’ll certainly miss watching him in the right but I am glad we live in a day and age where concussions are taken seriously and measures can be prevented to avoid permanent disability.
Good luck to Daniel Bryan in his next chapter. I am sure it will be a great one.