The Sad and Happy Saga of Daniel Bryan

In February and March of 2014, the WWE fans demanded that Daniel Bryan get a chance at the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania XXX in New Orleans, LA. The WWE Superstar’s popularity was at an all-time high. Bryan is an average-looking guy who most fans can relate to. He is not a huge, muscle-bound freak of nature that most fans are used to seeing. His relatability with the fans catapulted his popularity and the WWE was forced to listen. Bryan was then added to the biggest WWE show of the year.

And at that show, Bryan shines brighter than anyone else. In the first match on the card, he beat Triple H to earn a title shot in the main event. Then, in the main event, he overcame the odds and beat Randy Orton and Batista to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The night ended with confetti falling from the roof of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Daniel Bryan soaking in the applause for the accomplishment that was long overdue. It was a great night in The Big Easy.

But soon afterwards, Daniel Bryan was stripped of the title due to a lingering injury that would sideline him all the way until January of 2015. But upon his return, the fans that supported him to the top were still there, hungry for Bryan to reach the top of the pinnacle once again. And although he was not included in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture, fans were pleased to see Bryan included in a ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at Wrestlemania 31.

In this match, Bryan was pitted against several other superstars, all willing to take the extra bump to put on a great ladder match. In the end, however, it was Bryan who rose to the top and left the Bay Area with the championship. But, eerily similar to last year, the excitement was extinguished quickly as fans soon learned that Bryan was injured once again. The seriousness of the injury was kept a secret until the May 11 episode of Raw when Bryan relinquished the title and announced that there is no timetable for his return. Actually, he stated that his doctor said he may never be able to wrestle again.

I feel horrible for Bryan and his unfortunate circumstances. For one, I am a fan of the man and his work. He is one of the best wrestlers today. I was there in New Orleans and celebrated along with over 75,000 other fans when he got what he rightfully deserved. The WWE landscape is not the same without him. But I also fee for Bryan because he is a young man who may be forced to quit doing what he loves. I am the same age as Bryan and I know that it would crush me to have to give up doing the things I love to do. But the difference is that I wouldn’t be giving up what I make my career out of.

But as bad as I and others feel about Bryan’s situation, I can’t say that I am surprised by it either. Think about the facts. Bryan graduated high school in 1999 and began his wrestling training right after that. That is 16 years worth of time in the squared circle. Also, out of those 16 years, only about 5 or 6 have been with the WWE, the top company for independent wrestlers across the world. And in those years with the WWE, he missed about a year due to his injuries. The rest of his wrestling career was spent with Ring of Honor and other independent promotions.

And when wrestling in the “minor leagues”, the wrestlers will seemingly do anything to get noticed by the WWE. That includes taking too many unnecessary bumps and high spots in front of small crowds in gyms, armories, and town halls across America. And I’m not saying they shouldn’t do these things. I’m just saying that it will put the extra miles on your body. It’s not the same as when up-and-coming wrestlers could apply their craft in one of many territories. Today, it is either the independents, TNA, or WWE. That’s it. And most I’m sure would say their goal is to eventually work for the WWE.

But despite Bryan’s injuries and setbacks, I must say that I am happy he is being honest with the situation and stepping out of the ring. Trust me, I hope he is able to return one day and step into the ring, surrounded by chants of “Yes! Yes! Yes!”. But, if he cannot, then I am fin with that as well. Bryan, the person, and his health and well-being is more important than Bryan, the WWE Superstar. His life is more valuable than another championship run.

And also, let’s not forget all of the great wrestlers we have lost in the past who have tried to keep entertaining us while putting their bodies through torture and masking their pain with drugs. Too many great wrestlers and people have lost that battle and I am glad Bryan will not be the next who is gone too soon. Because even if he never makes it back into the ring, no wrestling fan could ever forget the time when Bryan was on top. How could anyone forget that? It is us after all that helped him up there.

Daryl Karpinski Jr.