Not many things in professional wrestling move me. Monday night, I waited three hours to be moved by Daniel Bryan’s WWE retirement speech.
Admittedly, I had my doubts about the announcement of Bryan’s sudden retirement after I saw comments made on the fly by his wife, Brie Bella. I know it makes me sound like the skeptic I am, but this is professional wrestling and retirement speeches have a way of turning into a huge angle we never saw coming.
I’m glad I was wrong about this one. I am not glad one of WWE’s biggest superstars – the one who identified most with the fans – called it quits because his brain wouldn’t cooperate and concussion syndrome because an all too familiar reminder that not everything in this business is fake.
Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech was anything but fake. And from one fan to the 5’8” 190-pound superstar, I just wanted to say, “Thank You.”
I’m a 5’7” man who hovers around 175 pounds. Short and squatty. I identify with Bryan as the “Rudy” of the group, the man who many believed was too small, too light, too little. Bryan’s performance in the ring proved he was bigger than any superstar on the roster and his connection with the fans, the one who adopted him as their cult hero, proved to be bigger than John Cena’s stronghold on WWE’s top roster spot.
There comes a time when the “reality” of reality television becomes real. When a wrestler becomes a human being just like all of us and faces the same daily grind we all do. Professional wrestlers are a rare breed, non-human in some respects and people who are adrenaline junkies hoping to sacrifice life and limb to do what they love. That kind of effort was the reason Bryan was immensely popular in the ring and with the fans. It is also the reason his body betrayed him. Concussion after concussion after concussion. Injuries are a part of wrestling life. They are the reason there are disclaimers by WWE and other wrestling promotions for fans to leave the antics to the professionals. And even when the pro pulls off one amazing move after another, they get hurt, they get injured.
Not everything in this business is fake.
Just like the retirement of Shawn Michaels and Edge before him, Bryan left an impression on the business with his retirement speech. Forget the “Yes!” movement for a minute. Forget the continued battle with The Authority. Bryan reflected on a business that gave him happiness and joy – the kind of feelings he could over share in a ring with an opponent, with thousands of fans cheering for him, calling his name.
Yes, in those moments, wrestling is very real.
Bryan’s words were from the heart, and we all felt his pain in making his announcement. It was the same way I felt when Edge described the issues with his neck. While the news of Bryan’s retirement wasn’t as much of a surprise as it could have been, the lingering question of “would he or won’t he” followed by “Is he really cleared, or is this just part of a program.” Forgive me for having my doubts. I am a fan first and a writer second. So much goes into creating the perfect scam, many of us second guessed this eventual announcement, I could not help but think this all would leave me feeling ticked off in the end. The build was brilliant. The comments by other wrestlers were genuine. The feelings were throat-clearing. And we all sat there on the edge of our seat listening to his every word.
Daniel Bryan once again stole the show on Monday night. Like many nights and pay-per-view events before he captivated us, he made us laugh and he made is connect. It’s unfortunate his words were for a Kleenex moment, not one to celebrate a better event.
Bryan seems to be at peace with his decision. Maybe I should be as well. It will take me a while to get used to the notion he won’t be in the ring any more. I’m sure he has thought about as well, and will deal with it a lot better than this fan.