News broke on Monday that Daniel Bryan, four time WWE World Champion, who had been sidelined for the better part of a year due to injuries, would be retiring from in-ring action. The news broke the hearts of millions as people took to social media in disbelief, anger and sadness. Though his tenure with World Wrestling Entertainment was relatively short, Bryan has had an illustrious career, achieving success around the world.
Born Bryan Lloyd Danielson, he quickly got the itch to pursue professional wrestling shortly after high school. He trained under several well respected figures, from Shawn Michaels, to Rudy Boy Gonzalaz to Tracy Smothers to Masato Tanaka to the great William Regal. He showed signs of greatness from his start in Dean Malenko’s wrestling school and not long after in the Texas Wrestling Academy, winning tag team gold there. He had a short stint with one of WWE’s developmental territories, Memphis Championship Wrestling, until WWE severed ties with the promotion, but not before Daniel won the Light Heavyweight Championship and Tag Team Championship. Daniel had a three year run with both Japan’s Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he won the IWGP Tag Team Championship. However, he truly made his mark as one of the founding fathers of Ring of Honor, where he won the ROH World Championship and the ROH Pure Championship while competing alongside greats such as Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins and CM Punk. He also appeared in several smaller independent promotions. He once again got a chance with the big leagues when WWE signed him in late 2009. A worked angle that sponsors found too unsavory led to his release shortly thereafter. Daniel soon returned in mid 2010, however he would have a long and arduous road ahead of him.
Despite his smaller stature compared to the giants of the WWE, Bryan outworked nearly 90% of the roster. Despite him not fitting the typical look of what Chairman Vince McMahon and Executive Producer Kevin Dunn allegedy want in a top star, Bryan connected with the crowd in a way that very few superstars have since the heyday of Stone Cold and The Rock. He is one of the very few number of Triple Crown and Grand Slam champions, having won every possible title in World Wrestling Entertainment. He started what was titled the “YES! Movement,” having thousands in sold out arenas chanting this and chanting Daniel Bryan’s name incessantly. Despite the powers that be not feeling he possessed the attributes to be a top star, the fans made him a top star while also making WWE have to reassess what it takes to be ‘over’ with the fans in today’s market.
On Raw this past Monday, the episode closed out with Daniel Bryan giving a heartfelt goodbye to the fans that he loved performing in front of for the past 16 years. Though he had been yearning to wrestle once again, a potential concussion issue arised, forcing WWE to restrict him from in-ring action for the forseeable future. He eloquently stated how grateful he was for the opportunity to entertain the fans, to work with the talent in the back and to uplift children and put smiles on their faces. Daniel’s wife, Brie Bella came to the ring and they embraced. He then went to hug his mother and the rest of his family. Daniel Bryan chose to go out not on a somber note, but an energetic and apropos one. When an unfair system judges on superficial reasons and denies you success by telling you no, you work hard, reach for the sky and defiantly yell back, “YES!”