A little over two months ago, former WWE World Heavyweight Champion and awesome beard impresario Daniel Bryan did interviews saying that he was cleared by doctors to return to the ring after recovering from another concussion while noting that his neck was healthy. However, WWE has yet to clear Bryan for his much-anticipated wrestling return.
This development comes much to the chagrin of wrestling fans who clamored for the secret third man on Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose’s team at Summerslam to be Bryan, and the palpable disappointment that it was perennial favorite Chris Jericho instead could be felt from Manhasset to Winnipeg. (See what I did there?) Admittedly, I am one of said fans who are clamoring for the return of Daniel Bryan, and not just for some cheesefest MizTV spot, I mean full-time, killing it in the ring.
His presence is missed dearly. His impact is still being felt as audiences still chant “YES” in his absence to something they agree with or find favorable. Even his wife, Brie Bella, benefits from her husband’s devotees chanting “YES” as she throws those cheap imitation Daniel Bryan-esque kicks in her matches. But I am with the WWE in not bringing Bryan back prematurely. Ready your pitchforks and torches.
Here’s the thing: WWE is not prepared to have another Edge situation on their hands where they have to lose a top talent to career-ending injury. And how can you blame them? How hurt would you be if Bryan came back next Monday and exacerbated his injuries, only to come back the following week and deliver the heartbreaking news that he has to retire? I know I would be. I know the old narrative: “This ain’t ballet”…but that doesn’t mean wrestlers should play Russian Roulette with their careers just because there is an inherent risk involved regardless. Bryan may very well be on a DVD in ten years talking about how he shortened his career by coming back sooner than he should’ve and how he wish he would’ve waited for a full recuperation before his return. I don’t want that for Bryan or for anyone. This is a tough business, but why make it tougher by re-committing your body to it when it’s clearly telling you “Hey man, slow down a bit”?
It’s been well-documented that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin felt like he rushed coming back in 2000 after his injury and he retired three years later. A lot of guys are quick to jump the gun on returns because they don’t want to lose their momentum, which was also Austin’s point of view. As understandable as that is, it’s also for the best and WWE has been doing much better in understanding and acting on this.
Bryan has said on Chris Jericho’s podcast that he has an old-school mentality and was ready to fight Triple H for almost stopping his match against Randy Orton where he suffered his stinger, because he felt like he was all right and wanted to keep going. As much as I sing the praises of how tough Bryan is, it’s that same mentality that could very well end his career if left unchecked. That brings us to our polarizing status today; if Daniel Bryan isn’t going to slow down, WWE will slow him down for him.
Considering the fact that the last time Bryan jumped the gun on his convalescence, he ended up back on the shelf mere months later, WWE is fully justified in their concerns. And as fans, we should want Bryan to conserve himself for a legitimate run. Neither his World Heavyweight Title reign nor his Intercontinental Title reign lasted a substantial amount of time, despite how hard Bryan has worked and how much he has gotten over in the last few years. He deserves an adequate amount of time at the top, but he’s not going to get there if he keeps aggravating these nagging injuries.
Our desire to see him compete should never trump our desire to see him healthy and alive. Save him as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble. If doctors have cleared him since July, he will be fine for January. The Rumble would be a great place to have the war-torn hero make his triumphant return. Even if he doesn’t win the whole thing, a healthy and viable Daniel Bryan means opportunities down the line. I don’t know about you, but I can wait a few months for his return, if that means it keeps him out of a wheelchair or worse.
Daniel Bryan has proven over the course of his career that he is as resilient as he is talented, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re all throwing our arms in the air and screaming “YES! YES! YES!” at the top of our lungs for our favorite flying goat once again.