Let’s get one thing clear, as a performer Daniel Bryan (real name Bryan Danielson) has left an indelible mark in professional wrestling industry with a long list of high quality matches that will always keep his name considered as one of the very best ever to grace the squared circle. His talent and devoted work ethic during a successful independent and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) career has not only gained him a substantial worldwide following but propelled him to accomplishments not many, including many in WWE management originally thought to be attainable for him. Quite often his continual effort and determination, although greatly appreciated by fans was thwarted time and again by inner room politics providing roadblocks to championships many feel he would have acquired much sooner.
By 2011 however, his efforts in the squared circle and his massive popularity would be undaunted as he finally started achieving the level of success (including one world title and three WWE championship runs) over the next few years he so richly deserved. He continued that good fortune with the Yes! Movement which symbolized his determination and showed what could be done even when the odds were clearly stacked against his favor. His success was short lived as injuries to first his neck and then in 2016 a forced retirement due to concussion related injuries prompted many to believe that his career, as great as it was and as awesome as it could have been, was seemingly over.
For the next couple of years Bryan put that same determination used in professional wrestling to commit himself to getting back in the squared circle. He sought out neurological specialists from around the country who repeatedly passed him with flying colors only to have doctors assigned by the WWE to state otherwise. Daniel’s determination soon turned into frustration as he repeatedly indicated that once his WWE contract was up (stated by him in interviews to be in September 2018) that he would go back on the independent wrestling scene when there is not the same type of health regulation and roadblocks but there is a bevy of promoters willing to sign him up no matter the potential health risk involved.
Shocking the world of wrestling, Bryan announced this week that WWE doctors had cleared him to wrestle and that his time back in the ring would soon be close at hand (speculated to be this year’s Wrestlemania). This brings a new chapter in the saga of Daniel Bryan’s career, a chapter which can finish the book on a high note to what would be a storied career or could end up with what some may fear might be a tragic ending. But which way will it go and what changed to make this happen in the first place?
Those are the questions that many observers of the industry will be looking at over the next few weeks as Bryan once again returns. I for one am cautiously guarded because while one part of me is grateful seeing him once again return to the ring in an active status another part questions the sudden reversal in opinion by the WWE on his health, especially coming from a company who has been through countless litigation suits from wrestlers seeking compensation for concussion related injuries. Delving further into this issue, despite having so much support from doctors indicating Bryan’s good health and allowance back into the ring we still have to realize that the medical community is still at such an early phase when it comes to analyzing and treating neurological trauma that maybe it is not as much of a sure thing as we are led to believe. The concerns in regards to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) caused by repeated head trauma and the activities commonly associated with it (i.e. Boxing, Wrestling, Football, Soccer, etc.) leave plenty of room for skepticism by those looking at the bigger picture of Daniel’s return.
When it comes right down to it, despite what WWE, the fans, press or any naysayers want to weigh in when it comes to his future, Daniel ultimately has the final say in this situation on how he conducts his life. His clear intent all along was to get back into the ring by any means or outlet and at least for the time being he will be doing so on the highest stage possible. It is my sincerest hope that Daniel Bryan steps back in the ring and far exceeds anyone’s expectations as I do not want for any comments taken here in this column to be deemed an “I told you so” just in case God forbid anything adversely happens. From all appearances, it looks as though like so many times throughout his career he is more than willing to meet that challenge.