The WWE Universe and indeed pro wrestling, in general, was changed forever on February 8, 2016, when the company’s most popular superstar, Daniel Bryan, announced his retirement. During an emotional speech, Bryan relayed his love for the business had recently been outweighed by a series of injuries that left him and his family convinced it was time for him to walk away for good. Since then, WWE has kept Bryan around as the General Manager of SmackDown Live, but the odds of him ever wrestling another match are somewhere between slim and none.
Despite all this, due to Bryan’s incredible popularity, plus the passion he exhibited in his every match, wrestling fans around the world are holding out hope for the borderline impossible—that Bryan would one day return to the ring. As luck would have it for these people, the man himself has been dropping signs on Twitter and on his wife’s reality TV show, Total Bellas, that he hasn't yet accepted the idea he’ll never wrestle again. In fact, he might just be waiting out his WWE contract for a chance to do so again elsewhere.
Like with any decision a human being can make, there are a number of pros and cons to Daniel Bryan making a return to the ring one day. It goes without saying that most wrestling fans wish Bryan could make a full-time comeback, but considering his health and mental status, it quite frankly may not be the best idea for him in the long run. Keep reading for 8 reasons Daniel Bryan should stay retired and 7 signs he might not.
15 STAY RETIRED: Things Are Good For Him As Is
From a strictly practical standpoint, the number one reason Daniel Bryan should stay retired is that there’s no need to fix what isn’t broken. This definitely applies to Bryan’s situation, which, on paper, is pretty much ideal for a retired performer. Bryan still gets paid considerably as one of WWE’s most popular performers, without the physical stress caused by wrestling week after week. Of course, there’s a downside to this in that being around sports entertainment is probably what makes Bryan want to make a comeback in the first place. A clean break just isn’t going to happen, though, and it wouldn’t make financial sense for him to walk away entirely. Without putting his body at further risk, things are the best they will ever get for Bryan, from a career standpoint, and not only that but by throwing his current position away to start wrestling again, he might never again get a chance to reclaim it.
14 COMEBACK: He Didn’t Want To Retire
Forgetting about what’s practical, let’s move on to Daniel Bryan’s personal perspective, which is the reason all this comeback talk is happening in the first place. Looking back at the two-year stretch between 2014 and 2016, it could be said Bryan’s retirement was inevitable from the moment he relinquished the WWE Championship. Nonetheless, he made a very brief attempt at returning some five months later, capped off by winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31. Almost immediately afterward, Bryan found himself injured again and begging doctors for clearance to return. It was only because of repeat injuries and doctors refusing to give Bryan the okay that WWE basically forced him into retirement, and the fact it wasn’t his choice, to begin with, definitely means there’s a chance he’ll change his mind when finally given the option to do so.
13 STAY RETIRED: He Went Out On Top
While there were obviously plenty of people seriously bummed out by the news Daniel Bryan no longer had medical clearance to wrestle, if nothing else, they can take solace in the fact he was arguably the consistently best wrestler of the year for at least two or three years prior to stepping away. Twice in a row, Bryan was forced to hand over championships he had won in fantastic matches because of his injuries, meaning, he never actually lost them to other competitors. More than that -- and apologies if this is getting repetitive, but it’s true -- he was the most popular sports entertainer in the company by far. Almost every athlete to achieve this level has some sort of downside, which due to his early retirement, Bryan will never, or should never have to experience.
12 COMEBACK: One Of His Idols Is Shawn Michaels
In all fairness, this is one of the most tenuous pieces of logic this list is going to throw out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s without any basis. On the contrary, the fact Daniel Bryan was trained by Shawn Michaels, then went on to continue a mentor/mentee relationship with and become friends with the man, could be integral to how his career pans out from here. As most HBK fans are surely aware, during the late ‘90s, the WWE Hall of Famer went through a remarkably similar ordeal to what Bryan is facing today. Granted, it wasn’t exactly the same, as Michaels also had a drug problem to deal with, but the basic idea was identical—both were in the prime of their careers and suddenly forced to retire because of severe injuries. Four years later, HBK came bouncing back into the ring with an all-new style, better than ever. Could Bryan do the same?
11 STAY RETIRED: His Wife Brie Bella Is Semi-Retired
Popular culture would have us believe the best couples out there are the ones that do absolutely everything together. Daniel Bryan and his wife, Brie Bella, certainly have some of that spark, having met on the road as wrestlers for WWE and no doubt sharing plenty of other interests that keep them at one another’s sides as often as possible. As fate would have it, their chances of spending the indefinite future together have only intensified now that both Daniel and Brie have left the wrestling ring behind them, or at least it would if Daniel would go all the way with his retirement. Granted, Brie also hasn’t 100% confirmed her retirement as something meant to last, but recent changes in their lives this list will soon cover have made it pretty definite. If Bryan wants to be the perfect husband, he should probably follow his wife’s lead on this one.
10 COMEBACK: He Argues With Brie About Returning All The Time
Matrimonial bliss is hard to come by these days, with a staggering number of marriages ending in divorce. It's our sincere hope that Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella overcome any obstacles they may have, but as fans of Total Divas and Total Bellas have at times been aware, things aren’t exactly perfect for the WWE power couple. While their marriage seems to be going a whole lot better than most average pro wrestlers' are, there are nonetheless plenty of arguments, which Brie has been saying almost always center on Bryan wanting to return to the ring. From the sound of things, Brie would much rather her husband stay home with her, and the reasons aren’t entirely selfish. More than anything else, Brie is worried Bryan’s past injuries will only get worse, and she fears a comeback would be putting his life at risk.
9 STAY RETIRED: He Has A Newborn Daughter
Two months ago, or maybe we should say 11 months ago, this list could have gone a whole lot differently. However, over the past year, Daniel Bryan’s life alongside his wife Brie has changed in a very major way. On May 9, 2017, the couple welcomed their first child into the world, a daughter named Birdie Joe Danielson. No longer is Bryan just working and living life for himself; he has a newborn life he’s 50% responsible for raising, taking care of, and everything those two tasks entails. It should go without saying that life on the road dramatically cuts down Bryan’s chances of spending time with his daughter, and far more gravely, that time could disappear entirely with a particularly severe in-ring accident. Bryan might not think much about putting his life on the line by himself, but now that another human being is at stake, he might finally understand why wrestling a few more matches wouldn’t be worth.
8 COMEBACK: He Hasn’t Given Up On Getting Clearance
Before we get into this one, in all fairness, we don’t know the exact date marking Daniel Bryan’s most recent hospital visit, let alone anything his doctors would have said to him at the time. That said, what we do know is that Bryan has apparently been seeking medical clearance at least up until the birth of his daughter, never accepting the word of WWE doctors alone. Rumor has it a few doctors have even cleared him to compete, though it’s worth pointing out if one is to ask enough doctors for a specific diagnosis, they’ll eventually get the answer they want whether it’s accurate or not. That said, the mere fact Bryan has asked a doctor to give him permission to compete even once since giving his alleged retirement speech in February 2016 is a clear-cut sign as any his words that night may not have been final.
7 STAY RETIRED: He’d Have To Leave WWE Before Getting Back In The Ring
Since Daniel Bryan clearly doesn’t want to be retired on a personal level, the only explanation for why he hasn’t left WWE and found some place that will let him is that he’s contractually unable to do so. It’s either that or maybe the fact Bryan understands he needs financial stability for this stage in his life, though he claims money isn’t that important to him, so it’s probably the contract thing. Obviously, this means the only way for him to make a return is to wait out his WWE contract and leave the company for a prolonged period of time. Knowing the McMahon family’s infamous stubbornness, this could mean he never returns, and his family could easily suffer as well. This alone should be reason enough for Bryan to stick around, although if he gets a sizable offer elsewhere when his WWE contract is almost up, he probably wouldn’t hesitate to take it.
6 COMEBACK: He’d Get To Leave WWE Before Getting Back In The Ring
As is sometimes the case, Daniel Bryan is in a strange situation where one of the pros and one of the cons to his current situation are virtually identically. On the one hand, making a comeback would require leaving WWE, as we just explained. On the other, should Bryan make a return to the ring, he’d get the added bonus of no longer living under Vince McMahon’s insanely micromanaged corporate umbrella. Because WWE won’t clear him, the only way Bryan can return to the ring is doing so literally anywhere else, like Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, or maybe even a smaller company that has an unknown benefactor who could afford him. Not only would Bryan be able to do pretty much whatever he wants, he’d also have an entirely new crop of potential opponents he could have mind-blowing matches with, unless, of course, he got injured in his return bout.
5 STAY RETIRED: Expectations Are Impossibly High
Let’s face some facts—even if Daniel Bryan makes a full-time return to pro wrestling and everything goes absolutely perfectly for him, there are going to be some cynical bastards out there who will shake their heads and say it just isn’t the same. More realistically, those cynics will be right about things, and Bryan will never be able to capture the intensity and crowd adulation he once achieved in his healthier state. This isn’t a matter of mere ring rust; Bryan has suffered several serious injuries and would need to dramatically alter his style upon return, lest he face the consequence of winding up badly injured all over again. The chance of Bryan returning and changing wrestling forever in the way he previously did is pretty much nonexistent, especially since the best he could do is wrestle a few great matches overseas, which most of his fans wouldn’t even get to see.
4 COMEBACK: He’s Still The Most Beloved Wrestler Alive
Head over to YouTube and watch a WWE audience react to Roman Reigns or John Cena, then check out another one where they respond to Daniel Bryan. Sure, if you search around long enough and focus on WWE edited accounts, the results could be confusing, but the point here is that fans actually, genuinely, rapturously applaud for one of these three superstars, but not the other two. Obviously, the popular one we’re talking about is Bryan, who never failed to earn massive applause, unlike Reigns, Cena, or any other superstar WWE pushes as a top babyface these days but who get either lukewarm responses or outright boos in spite of their character motivations. Without question, Bryan would still be the most over athlete in the business if he could still compete, and the crowd response to him stepping in the ring alone might justify the idea.
3 STAY RETIRED: His Neck Injuries
Alright, folks... now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of things. No matter what Daniel Bryan thinks or wants in respect to his own career, and regardless of how fans wish things had panned out for him, there are certain unavoidable facts that need to be considered when discussing his retirement. The fact of the matter is, WWE wasn’t the only entity forcing Bryan into this predicament—far more important was his own body breaking down and telling him it was time to quit, or else. Front and center in Bryan’s body’s defiant stance against the man’s feelings was his neck, which required one surgery, a second one being heavily suggested as well. The second surgery was necessary because the first was unable to fix a serious issue: Bryan had lost all feeling in his right arm. While the feeling has come back, the knowledge surgery wasn’t sufficient to bring Bryan back to 100% should've been a terrifying warning sign.
2 COMEBACK: Hints About Ring Of Honor
Long before he was an international sensation who achieved great success in the WWE Universe, Daniel Bryan was one of the founding fathers to indie promotion Ring of Honor. Back then, he was known as “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson, and not unlike his time in the big leagues, Bryan was considered amongst the most talented members of the roster. Once holding the RoH Championship for over a year, Bryan was also one of the most successful, and with nonstop talk of a comeback hitting the Internet, the current holder of that honor decided to make a challenge. Recently released WWE superstar Cody Rhodes won the RoH World title in late June 2017, causing Bryan to make a strange challenge on Twitter—should Cody beat his longevity record (which isn’t really the record, but bear with us), Bryan might just have to do something about it. Cody himself later passed it off as a bit of fun and not something serious, but that hasn’t stopped fans of both men from hoping it could be real.
1 STAY RETIRED: The Risk Of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
It doesn’t matter which sport one chooses to follow these days. Anyone even mildly interested in athletics has got to be aware of the terrifying new disease affecting countless former athletes: CTE, short for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Given how recently CTE was discovered, information is still forthcoming, but what scientists do know is that repeated blows to the head, especially those causing concussions, can often be disastrous for a person’s long-term physical and mental health.
In addition to all the various physical injuries Bryan has suffered, WWE doctors have also documented no less than 10 concussions received during his time in the company, and there’s absolutely no telling how many more went unnoticed or came before that. For all science can tell at this point, the damage may have already been done for Bryan, and suffering further concussions would only make things worse. He already claims to suffer seizures related to these injuries, and that’s merely the first of many potential symptoms. If Daniel Bryan cares at all about his health, his family, or his very existence, he needs to stay out of the ring for good.
Sources: WWE, RoH