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What Daniel Bryan’s Future Means to the WWE

The rumor mill is running wild this week with regard to Daniel Bryan and his future in WWE. Now that the former champion did not make his return to the ring at the Royal Rumble, it is not known if Bryan will ever face another opponent in a WWE ring again. It would appear Bryan’s future hinges on Vince McMahon, who appears to be leaning toward shutting the superstar down permanently.

If Bryan is finished in WWE, does it mean he will seek a deal somewhere else, as he has alluded to in the past, or will he be content with a non-wrestling position with the company? The leader of the “Yes!” movement has been on the shelf so long, if he made did make his return to the ring, would he be as effective as a performer and would he be as successful with the fans if he was not the same person they followed like a cult in 2014?

Bryan’s injury has been the topic of great debate for the past seven months and long before his return to the ring at the 2015 Royal Rumble. Has he subconsciously become Edge in the fact he had to retire from the business too soon due to injury?

Like Edge’s situation, where a neck injury ended his stay in WWE, the gap created could not be filled. I have said many times, that the company’s issues with booking and promotion began before the Edge injury, but were magnified when he suddenly had to retire and McMahon’s company has never been able to recover.

John Cena was forced to carry the belt too long. Randy Orton has been injured off and on and has been a solid utility player. Bryan was viewed as the next great hope, before the emergence of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and now Roman Reigns. There is still a vacuum that has been created – where wrestlers like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and now AJ Styles are expected to join the main roster and prove they are the solution to the problem.

Bryan getting back in a WWE ring does not solve the issues with booking or promotion all to himself.

Blake Oestriecher pointed out in his column on forbes.com that the chatter backstage by many wrestlers was that they all believed Bryan was going to be in the Rumble match or appear in the show, but it never came to fruition.

Mark Middleton’s story on WrestlingInc.com supported that notion.

Now, with it being reported that Bryan has been cleared by other physicians beside WWE’s medical staff, where his career takes him is anyone’s guess. We do know that McMahon will have the final say in how Bryan is used in his company, if he is to get back in a ring and perform at all.

“At one point WWE officials reportedly told Bryan outright that he would not be cleared and he has been offered other non-wrestling roles in the company. Bryan later argued his case to Vince McMahon and Vince said Bryan probably wouldn’t be cleared but didn’t say 100%.”

The addition of Styles to the main roster softens the blow of losing Bryan and other wrestlers to injury, but at 38, he cannot be thought of as the long term solution. Where does Styles fit in the company’s title picture? More importantly, would the creative team break down the storyline involving Roman Reigns that is one year in the making to walk another path with Styles winning the title at some point this year?

That is highly unlikely since McMahon is the one who has been behind Reigns’ run so far.

Everything this company does moving forward is dependent on solid booking and performers stepping up to fill the holes in the roster. Bryan’s potential loss is just another stamp of disappointment. Can McMahon find the right combination to fill Bryan’s spot and more importantly, his connection with the fans? He doesn’t have much time and his options are truly limited.

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