It's hard for me to write this article right now because it's just another way of solidifying the painful truth that Daniel Bryan has retired from WWE in-ring competition. After tweeting about it yesterday, Bryan took to the ring on WWE's flagship program Monday Night RAW to tearfully reinforce the vailidity of the announcement and offically retire as millions watched (and cried) around the world. This announcement has not just affected the wrestling world, it's effects have rippled throughout the entire world of entertainment as many renowned news outlets have picked up on the bombshell. Rolling Stone, TMZ and BBC have all covered the announcement, highlighting just a fraction of the incredible impact that Daniel Bryan has made in his phenomenal career.
There are two types of legends in the wrestling business: there are the benchmarks, the yardsticks, the Icons that have been around for decades who have remained at the top as their respective companies have underwent every transformation possible. Legends like The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Sting or Kane. Then there are the ones whose runs at the top don't last quite as long. The ones who work their way to the top and although they only remain there for a short amount of time, they touch millions of people in ways that nobody else ever could, thus carving legacies that are just as strong as the others. Because in that short space of time, they become headliners, inspirations...legends. This category features the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and now ladies and gentlemen...Daniel Bryan! What Daniel Bryan accomplished during his tenure in WWE has turned him into a social media icon, an entertainment superstar and a wrestling legend.
Bryan Danielson began his wrestling career at the age of 18. In the following years, he would make waves on the independent circuit, already becoming a revered competitor. His nickname "The American Dragon" is still used by some of his longest running fans to this day. From becoming a top performer in Ring of Honor to wrestling in Japan, Danielson was fulfilling his dream. His journey to the top of the WWE wasn't an easy one. Both he and WWE had danced around each other for a long time before finally clicking in mid 2010. He came close to being called up to the WWE (WWF at the time) in 2001 after being signed to their developmental territory Memphis Championship Wrestling but was released from his contract when WWE severed all ties with MCW. He would return to WWE in 2002, wrestling on it's secondary programming such as Velocity but it was in 2009, when he became a part of WWE's new 'talent show' NXT (which has completely changed nowadays and offers some of the best wrestling matches you will ever see in your life!) that they finally clicked. He was signed to WWE under the name of "Daniel Bryan". Eventually, he and the rest of the NXT "rookies" now known as the Nexus invaded WWE's flagship program Monday Night RAW and destroyed everything in sight. However, after being "too violent" WWE released Bryan. But it wouldn't be long before he was reinstated and the rest, as they say...is history
"We Have Ourselves a Flying Goat!"
Daniel Bryan wrestled his entire career like there was no tomorrow. I dare you to go back through his catalogue of matches pre-WWE and during WWE to point out one match in which he was holding back, because ladies and gentlemen, you won't find it. Bryan redefined everything about pro-wrestling by taking it back to the basics. Long before his iconic "Yes" persona was created, Bryan let his in-ring performance do the talking. And man, it didn't just talk, it roared. Although he may have only wrestled with WWE for five years, he made sure he created moments for us all to remember in most (if not all) of his matches. Seeing him dive through the ropes or from the top rope onto an unsuspecting opponent never failed to send shivers down our spines. Furthermore, whether he was delivering his patented running knee or locking a fallen opponent in the YES lock, Bryan captured our hearts, our minds and our eyesight giving us more show-stopping moments to add to an already full catalogue of show-stopping moments. And while we're on the topic, who could ever forget when Bryan launched himself off a forklift and flew halfway across the ring to deliver that incredible flying headbutt to Kane (above) during their awesome match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship back at WWE Extreme Rules in 2014. Bryan never became something he wasn't. He stayed true to himself. He kept up this amazing standard until injury stopped him and even when he returned for his brief final run in early 2015, he made the most of the short time and continued to defy expectations and deliver quality match-ups, right up until the very end. Although ideally, us wrestling fans would have hoped that he would go out with "One more match" in a perfect five star battle against an equally talented performer on the grand stage of WrestleMania, knowing that it would be his final match...it doesn't matter because Bryan put all his heart and athleticism into any match he wrestled and you can be darn sure that he did all that in his final match, even though he didn't know that it would be at the time. Storyline-wise, he may have been labelled a "B+ player" but in reality, we all know that Daniel Bryan was nothing short of an "A* player" in that ring. Sadly, we may not get to see his acrobatic flips, his show-stopping dives or his aggressive running knees anymore but we do have all those amazing performances available to us on the WWE Network for us to watch over and over again. And rest assured that if you watch a Daniel Bryan match, you are in for one hell of a show.
"I am the Tag Team Champions!"
In his early WWE days, Daniel Bryan had won the United States Championship, the Money in the Bank briefcase and eventually the World Heavyweight Championship. There was no denying his skills as an athlete and performer because he could wrestle rings around many people he went up against. In that short space of time he had managed to become one of the top bad guys (heels) in the business. But it was in mid 2012 when the legendary character of Daniel Bryan was really born. His once famous "Yes" chants had begun to haunt him as the audience continued to chant it at him while he roared "No" back at them. This had begun the tweener phase when Bryan still operated as a semi-heel but the crowd loved him anyways. Furthermore, he began to grow his hair out and let his beard grow which kick-started the "Respect the Beard" phase. Between the beard and the moody personality, Bryan had fans and even commentator JBL labelling him a troll and eventually, a goat. It was when he was paired with WWE Legend Kane that the fun really began. This was a turning point in Bryan's career as his character and personality were becoming equally as important as his in-ring talent. And there was no better companion for Bryan than Kane. Over his 18 years with WWE, Kane may have provided us with some of the most violent and scary moments in WWE history but he has also provided us with some of the most hilarious moments as well. That is why he and Bryan became an instantly likable duo that provided us with some of the most entertaining tag-team matches we have ever seen. Who could ever forget when Bryan and Kane were forced to hug each other in the centre of the ring. It was a brilliant moment that would fuel their entire Tag-Team title reign as they would constantly "Hug it Out" during matches. When "Team Hell No" was born, it not only reinvigorated Kane's career, it skyrocketed Daniel Bryan and made him so much more than the phenomenal athlete he already was, it made him a phenomenal superstar.
Daniel Bryan himself should be praised for this character development: he took a character that many did not like and transformed it into a phenomenon that had everyone loving him. By 2013, Daniel Bryan had complemented his perfect wrestling style with the perfect gimmick. By 2013, Bryan could do it all!
The "YES" Movement!
YES! YES! YES! That one little word is what made Daniel Bryan the social media and entertainment sensation that he has become. Bryan has become a household name, known even to non-wrestling fans and this movement is the reason why. When his character was forced down and robbed of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on more than one occassion by the Authority, the Daniel Bryan we know and love today was officially born. Bryan was the underdog that everyone wanted to see defy the system and stop at nothing to achieve his goals. He instantly became relatable to every fan who watched and thus, the support behind him continued to multiply. The night he and his countless supporters "occupied" RAW with "YES" chants in order to get his main event match at WrestleMania XXX is still one of the greatest moments in RAW history. It was that night that the #YesMovement was born. This storyline stemmed from a very real situation. The original plan for WrestleMania XXX was to gave Bryan further down the match card against Sheamus. But when fans voiced their outrage at this idea and their love of Daniel Bryan, the WWE had no choice but to feature him more prominently on the card. The ultimate underdog, the supposed "B+ Player" would get his shot at the big leagues defeating Triple H in the opening bout and finally reclaiming the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the closing bout. The fans rallied behind Bryan in a way that had never been seen in WWE history. The Yes Movement was responsible for changing the main event on WWE's Grandest Stage. That in itself is a statement to how many people Daniel Bryan touched during his time in WWE and furthermore, a statement to the power of the people.
"I am Grateful"
Daniel Bryan broke so many hearts when he announced his retirement this week. But there was no heart more broken than his own. Wrestling is something that he clearly loves deeply and it came through in a big way during his retirement speech. But as hard as it was for him (and for all his fans), he made the absolutely right choice. His successive concussions and injuries were the unfortunate consequences of his profession and his incredible wrestling style. Retiring now at this young age allows Bryan to live a long healthy life with his wife Brie Bella and their respective families. And he has earned it!
Although we will never see Daniel Bryan compete in a ring again, the legacy he leaves behind far outweighs the sadness of his shortened career. He has reached millions of fans in a way that nobody else could ever have. His relationship with the brave Connor Michalek was a beautiful example of the kind human being that he is, especially when they embraced each other after Bryan won the championship at WrestleMania XXX.
It's ironic that Bryan's grizzly bearded appearance led to him being referred to as a "Goat" when for wrestling fans, GOAT stands for "Greatest Of All Time" and among them is exactly where Bryan belongs. In an era of diluted Sports-Entertainment, Bryan reminded us why we fell in love with the sport in the first place: the wrestling. But he didn't stop there, thanks to his incredible persona, he managed to transcend the sport and transcend the genre, becoming both a household name and a social media icon, touching the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world. So in closing, I'd like you to remember this: "Don't Cry because it's Over...Smile because it Happened."
Daniel Bryan's wrestling career may be over but his legacy will live on forever.