The news wrestling fans have been dreading for months now is official as Daniel Bryan announced his retirement.
Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude
— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) February 8, 2016
This isn’t a shocker like say Edge’s sudden retirement at 37 in 2011. Despite just being 34, Bryan has put his body through immeasurable physical stress for our enjoyment and his love of the profession. The prognosis for a return wasn’t good and it seemed to be just a matter of time. Now that the inevitable has been confirmed, here’s the top questions in the wake of Bryan’s retirement.
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How can WWE best use Daniel Bryan’s talents now?
While his in ring days are done, Bryan is too valuable a commodity to be resigned to scene-stealing cameos on Total Divas. Whether as an NXT trainer, WWE ambassador, Network special guest analyst, commentator or even a manager for an up and comer like Neville or Kalisto, Bryan still has a lot to offer the business.
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Was Vince McMahon right all along?
The pivotal storyline in the Yes Movement angle was The Authority’s assertion that Bryan was a B+ player trying in vain to reach beyond his grasp. The fans refused to budge in their unwavering support to the point they hijacked several shows starting with the 2014 Royal Rumble. At its peak, Bryan’s popularity reached Hogan, Rock and Austin levels and the Yes! chant was being done in college football and basketball stadiums.
Clearly, Vince and company were wrong about Bryan’s ability to be a major player. His legacy as one of the WWE’s all-time greats is secure, but what if they’d realized that sooner?
Will WWE speed up pushing indy wrestlers on the main brand?
Bryan began wrestling in 1999 and for the next decade, honed his skills in various promotions including NOAH, New Japan and Ring of Honor before joining the WWE in 2009. Despite 10 years in the business, Bryan was treated like a rookie, forced to accept humiliating roles like being The Miz’s protege on NXT, getting fired as a result of the Nexus attack angle and somehow managing to get a mishmash team with Kane over.
It took three years for Bryan to be cast in a legitimate main event role and having his perfect storybook ending by defeating Evolution at Wrestlemania 30 to become the undisputed champion. And almost immediately afterwards, his body betrayed him. A comeback months later had a similarly abrupt ending forcing Bryan to join Shawn Michaels as the only two WWE stars to forfeit both the WWE and Intercontinental titles.
But what if the WWE treated Bryan like a major deal right away? That would have resulted in a five-year stint atop the promotion equaling the major stints The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin enjoyed in their heyday. Sure, we all laughed at Team Hell No’s antics, but wouldn’t that time have been better served building a years long rivalry with CM Punk, John Cena and Randy Orton.
The WWE has to recognize indy stars put their bodies through so much just to get called up to the WWE and their window is smaller. Not just for a big main event run for the wrestlers, but the WWE to get maximum return on their investment. Looking at how the WWE has handled the arrival of AJ Styles, it seems like WWE bookers may have learned the lesson thanks to Bryan’s unfortunate injury history.
Will head-focused moves be eliminated?
We know the deal with Chris Benoit. His finisher? A diving headbutt. Daniel Bryan experienced severe loss of feeling in his limbs and reportedly major concussions. His finisher? A diving headbutt to set up the Yes Lock.
If I’m a WWE booker, headbutts, chairshots to the head and other head targeted or head offensive moves are stripped from the roster’s repertoire. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of moves left.
Can Brie Bella carry the family brand on her own?
Not only is her husband’s rumored retirement a done deal, but Brie’s twin sister, Nikki, is also on the shelf with a potentially career-threatening neck injury. And her pretty much brother-in-law John Cena is also out with an injury. Brie is the last member standing of the once dominant WWE foursome. Now with the focus squarely turning to new Divas in Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch, the end of the Bella Dynasty may be here.