The Internet wrestling community (often referred to as the IWC) is a complicated bunch. I’m one of them. We moan about everything, we think we know it all, we think we can do a better job than the airheads running WWE or TNA creative and we often don’t agree on anything. But there is one thing that the IWC agrees on: Daniel Bryan.
He is considered to be the IWC’s favorite son. Daniel Bryan can do no wrong. He can dump his wife Brie Bella and fans will cheer him on, probably even more. There’s nothing that Daniel Bryan can do for the fans to turn on him. Nothing. Back from the early days of the American Dragon, fans respected him for his work rate, his tremendous in-ring abilities, and over the last several years, he was respected even more just for being the man he is, Bryan Danielson.
Ever since he started the “Yes Movement,” Bryan never looked back. Remember the night he lost the World title at WrestleMania 28 in just 18 seconds? The next night on Raw, fans “Yes’d” their way throughout the show. I was there and it was incredible. Who would have thought that such a simple chant would get so over with the crowd? It ranks up there with Austin’s annoying “What?” and now the “Yes!” – and to a certain extent “No!” – chant will live forever at wrestling events just like the “Woooo!”
His fairy tale journey to the main event of WrestleMania XXX was a once-in-a-lifetime angle. Everyone hated it that he wasn’t part of the Royal Rumble. Byran wasn’t even was supposed anywhere near the main event of WrestleMania. But the fans revolted. They wanted him there. And WWE had no choice but to listen to what the fans wanted. Yes, it dragged out for a couple of months. Yes, the IWC bitched about it. Yes, I complained too, but the payoff was fantastic. Bryan going through all the bullshit to get to the main event was compelling storytelling. The Internet Wrestling Community is often shortsighted. Fans wanted him winning not just the Rumble, but the title on that same day if possible.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon – as the Authority – played a major role in his rise during those few months. The closing segment of the December 9, 2013, Raw in Seattle prior to crowning the new undisputed WWE World Heavyweight champion deserves a special mention. As Triple H was addressing former champions, the fans simply couldn’t care less about anything except for DB. They hijacked the segment and the chants took over the arena so much that Mark Henry, Rey Mysterio, Booker T, CM Punk, The Miz, Big Show, and pretty much everyone in the ring broke character and burst out laughing as Triple H tried to talk over the crowd. Bad idea. Mark Henry finally lifted up Bryan’s hand in a bid to stop the chants, but that only resulted in “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chants and they intensified after Bryan started lifting his hand for more “Yes!” chants.
Calling him just a B+ player plus throwing all the obstacles on the way was the perfect way to get more fans behind him. The “Occupy Raw” with the ring filled with fans all chanting “Yes! Yes! Yes!” made for an impressive visual. Daniel Bryan was on a runaway train and he was going over everyone in his way. The fans eventually got what they wanted, a match vs Triple H at WrestleMania XXX to kick things off and later a three way against Randy Orton and Batista in the main event for the title.
For the thousands of fans attending WrestleMania XXX at the Superdome in New Orleans, there were two sure things: Undertaker’s streak was staying alive, and Daniel Bryan will be walking out with the title. Well, Undertaker’s streak was broken by Brock Lesnar, sending shockwaves throughout the world of pro wrestling. But at the end of the night, Daniel Bryan reigned supreme.
I witnessed it live. And it was pretty amazing. The sea of hands going up and down is something that will stay with me forever. It was a culmination of months and months of teasing but at the end of the day it was well worth the wait. I cannot even imagine how Daniel Bryan felt at the time. Only he knows and I’m so glad that he got to experience that.
His career was never the same after that. He was jinxed from the very first start. First his dad passed away, then his friend Connor died too, then the neck injury. After the neck injury came the concussions. Everyone hoped that one of these days he’d be back in the ring, thrilling thousands of fans with his God-given talent.
Daniel Bryan vs AJ Styles. Daniel Bryan vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Daniel Bryan vs Samoa Joe. Daniel Bryan vs Sami Zayn. Daniel Bryan vs Finn Balor. All potential matches inside a WWE ring that we will never get to see now.
The decision to retire was the worst case scenario for Daniel Bryan, WWE, and the fans. It was, however, Daniel Bryan’s best – and only – decision. While we are all selfish in a way and still want him to be in that squared circle, there’s nothing in the world worth sacrificing your brain for. The man has a wife. He has family. He wants to be a father. Daniel Bryan needs to be the Bryan Danielson family man now. He gave us his body for years. He sacrificed his career to entertain us.
Will he still be part of the WWE family? Who knows. I’d like to think so. Every time I see him on TV he brings a smile to my face. He doesn’t need to take bumps. I just want him on TV in some capacity. If he decides to call it quits completely, then I am fine with that too.
So, Bryan Danielson, from a fan who believed in your “Yes Movement” and from a fan who cheered for you all the way even though I knew everything is scripted, you made me believe. Thank you for all the memories. It was an honor watching you perform in that ring. I hope retirement brings you joy and happiness. You deserve every bit of it.