When is enough really enough? It’s a question every wrestler has faced or will face at some point in their careers. Edge had the decision made for him by doctors after neck surgery ended his days in the ring. Some, like Ricky Steamboat, left on their own accord. Others, like Terry Funk, Jake Roberts and Hulk Hogan, may have overstayed their welcome of sorts and finally gave up the ghost.
No athlete, regardless of the “sport” or situation, wants leave at the wrong time – for someone to make that decision for them. Bryan might be at that kind of crossroads. Regardless of the comeback of the likes of Kurt Angle or the battle testing of the likes of Funk and Mick Foley, it might be time for Bryan to call it a career. If that is the case, another amazing superstar will hang up his boots way too soon and for no other reason than it might save his life.
For some, wrestling to the point of near death is all they have. For Bryan, there is plenty more outside the ring.
“He’s [Bryan] acknowledged his wife and others have asked him to change his in-ring style, and he won’t because it is who he is as the smaller underdog,” writes Justin LaBar of Wrestlexone.com. “Bryan’s so passionate for what he does, even after two severe injuries in the past two years, that he’s prepared to risk being crippled inside of a ring to fulfill the years he thinks he should have left wrestling.”
The mere fact Bryan might consider wrestling for another organization should WWE not allow him to get back in the ring, shows the fight and desire Bryan has to perform – not only for the fans but for himself. He has always been the underdog. Even with the WWE World Title around his waist, he has fought off adversity and challenges. Injuries, however, seem to be the only thing that has held him back.
If his career ends by the close of 2015, Bryan is already Hall of Fame worthy. He has held the WWE Championship/WWE World Heavyweight Championship three times and the World Heavyweight Championship once, in addition to being a one-time United States Champion, a one-time WWE Tag Team Champion as part of Team Hell No (with Kane), and a one-time Intercontinental Champion. He was also the 2011 SmackDown Money in the Bank winner, has headlined several major pay-per-view events (including SummerSlam in 2013 and WrestleMania XXX), and was the 2013 Superstar of the Year Slammy Award winner. He is also the 26th Triple Crown Champion and the 15th Grand Slam Champion in WWE history.
Phew, we can all take a breath after reading that. Add the notion he is the leader of the “Yes!” movement, where the fans chose him to be their leader, not that he chose to be, and he is every bit the “People’ Champion” if there ever was anyone to fill that role.
In the coming weeks, Bryan should have to decide what comes next. LaBar eluded to the fact WWE has asked if he would be interested in other roles with the company, possibly as an alternative to having him get back in the ring. That may not sit well with the 5’10” dynamo. Pride plays a lot into this eventual decision. It will not be made on the fly and even if he is told he cannot get back in the ring, it is a sure bet he will fight the recommendation tooth and nail.
Ultimately, this is Bryan’s decision. He may be spurned by WWE if he is told a return to the mat is life-threatening. Whether or not he goes elsewhere is to be determined. But if he is to hang up his boots and his famous beard and red t-shirts, our generation may have seen the most complete wrestler to compete since Angle got in the ring. Here’s hoping common sense will override desire and I hate to say it, stupidity because walking away hurts too much.