Daniel Bryan: In the Ring or Out?
In a perfect world, Daniel Bryan would still be wrestling.
He’d be an active wrestler either on the Raw or SmackDown brand. I’m going to guess he would be on SmackDown Live, mostly because most of his friends, foes & family currently appear on that roster. He’d probably be in the WWE Championship scene. Maybe not champion on a regular basis but certainly a perennial contender for the title that would be booked in Elimination Chamber matches and triple threats & fatal four-ways.
He’d probably be helping young talent get over. A feud with the likes of Baron Corbin would have made sense and done a world of good for Corbin’s career. Certainly he & Miz would have gone around the horn again a time or two, as that feud seems destined to last forever. The first time I saw Bryan, back in September 2004, he was wrestling a young TNA star by the name of AJ Styles. Wouldn’t it be fun to see that match again?
We can’t. Daniel Bryan hasn’t been cleared by WWE doctors to compete. He won’t be cleared by WWE doctors to compete. The years of wear & tear on his body & issues with concussions added up to a bill of health that WWE won’t allow in their ring.
Fortunately, Bryan still gets to contribute to WWE as SmackDown’s General Manager. And he does a damn good job at getting angles over. Like on this week’s episode of SmackDown Live, where he booked the John Cena/Nikki Bella vs. Miz/Maryse match and made us want to see it by talking about how much he wanted to punch Miz in the face & since he couldn’t do it, he knew some people that could. He called it a Face-Punching Extravaganza, and now I’m actually kind of excited about it. His interactions with AJ Styles have furthered along the feud with AJ & Shane McMahon, and gotten that issue to a point where they could have a match at WrestleMania and it would make sense.
Bryan is basically a younger version of Mick Foley in the GM role, without an overbearing Commissioner that always has to be the center of attention. He does a better job than Foley of getting angles over, and he isn’t constantly getting his balls cut off by his boss. He also does well as the co-host of Talking Smack, which is one of WWE’s better programs every week. I have nothing bad to say about Bryan as an authority figure or as a non-wrestling character, he’s done well with everything he’s been given.
But is it what he wants to do?
Bryan would prefer to wrestle, of course. And it sure seems like he plans on having more matches someday somewhere, if not WWE. He was going back & forth with Miz on last week’s Talking Smack, and in response to Miz’s statement that he couldn’t wrestle anymore because of his head, Bryan’s response was the following:
”I can’t, or they won’t let me? We’ll see in a year and a half, we’ll see what happens.”
Bryan’s contract with WWE expires in a year and a half. Once that contract expires, he’ll be free to go wherever he wants and do whatever he wants…after a certain amount of time, I’m sure. There’s been talk that he’d like to go to places like New Japan Pro Wrestling & Ring of Honor, and what he’s really interested in doing is working for Mexico’s CMLL & having a hair match at a major show in Arena Mexico, as its something he hasn’t done before. He even had a deal with those three promotions worked out years ago during the brief time he was fired by WWE after TieGate.
There is precedent for wrestlers not being cleared to wrestle by WWE going to other places & continuing their career. Competely different circumstances, but one of this year’s WWE Hall of Famers continued his career years after WWE thought they shouldn’t.
Kurt Angle had neck problems & concussion issues that from most accounts were worse than Daniel Bryan’s. If WWE had their way, his career probably would have ended back in 2006. Angle didn’t agree with that idea, and took his talents to TNA Wrestling. Many people were worried about this at the time, as they feared that Angle would permanently ruin himself if he dared to have another match outside the WWE umbrella. Kurt’s certainly had his ups & downs over the years. He’s had addiction issues. He’s had injuries. But he’s still alive, and he’s once again part of the WWE family.
As a fan of Bryan’s ever since I first saw him live at an IWA Mid-South show in September 2004, I would love nothing more than to see him back in the ring doing what he does best. It was fun following his career from a National Guard Armory in New Albany, Indiana to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Dayton, Ohio for various Ring of Honor shows, all the way to the Scottrade Center in St.Louis, Missouri where I saw him defend the World Heavyweight Championship against Big Show & Mark Henry at the 2012 Royal Rumble. As a pro wrestling fan, there’s no greater joy than seeing somebody work their way up the ranks and eventually reach the pinnacle of the genre: the main event of WrestleMania.
One could argue that Daniel Bryan doesn’t need to ever wrestle again. WrestleMania XXX probably would have been the peak of his career no matter what happened afterwards. If his feud with Kane just after WrestleMania was any indication, things were certainly going to head downhill for him creatively. His comeback in 2015 definitely had its moments, but it furthered fans’ suspicions that Bryan was never going to be a top guy again. (Tough to blame WWE on that one considering Bryan’s health status at the time.)
I’m not in the business of telling people what to do. I worry about wrestlers & other athletes with concussion issues as much as one can worry about people that they don’t personally know. But I’m not going to tell Daniel Bryan that he shouldn’t wrestle again if he doesn’t want to. If more doctors tell him he can wrestle than not, and if his main desire in the world is to get back in the wrestling ring, I’m not going to waste my time writing about how he shouldn’t continue to follow his dreams.
Sure, things could end badly if Bryan gets back into the ring as a wrestler. But things can end badly any day for any reason. One never knows, and that’s why one needs to follow their dreams. If Bryan wants to wrestle, great. If he decides he likes being an authority figure or an announcer and wants to do that, great.
I’m willing to give Bryan the benefit of the doubt. He knows what’s best for him. We don’t.