Author’s Note: Here at Omnibus Journal, we have never written any article about professional wrestling. I’ve tried since I started to get more pro-wrestling content on the site, but my attempts were in vain. However, I fought and reasoned with our Editor-in-Chief to get this article on here because it is something I truly care about. This will be the first and possibly the last time you see an article about professional wrestling on Omnibus Journal, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Monday Night Raw on February 8, 2016, will be something that fans around the world will forever remember. Daniel Bryan was forced into retirement at the relatively young age of 34. Shortly after winning a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31, Daniel Bryan was taken off of WWE TV due to a concussion-related injury. Throughout the remainder of the year, plenty of reports made their way online stating that Vince McMahon was hesitant to allow Bryan to return to the ring. Even though he was given the green light by other medical experts, including UCLA doctors, WWE’s own doctor refused to clear him. As it turns out, further tests proved that Daniel Bryan’s brain “wasn’t as OK as [he] thought it was.”
As most wrestling fans can attest to, the question we’re asked most frequently is “how can you watch this crap?” A barrage of arguments acting as a basis for their question soon follow. “It’s all scripted.” “They’re only characters on TV.” “They’re not real athletes.” “It’s only a soap opera.” I can guarantee you two things: We’re all tired of your nonsensical arguments and they are very real to us, dammit. Daniel Bryan is a shining example as to why all of this “fake crap” is so important to we wrestling fans.
By all rights, Daniel Bryan was never supposed to “make it.” WWE has always had this prototype of what was believed to be the “perfect wrestler.” You saw it in Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Triple H, John Cena, and now Roman Reigns. Sure, every now and then there would be a Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, or CM Punk who would bust the hell out of that mold, but it isn’t an easy process.
Standing at only 5’8” and weighing only 190lbs, Daniel Bryan has never been the biggest dog in the fight. He spent his early years as many wrestlers do now, on the independent scene. In wrestling, the independents and their fans have never cared much for how someone looked. All that mattered is if you could get it done in the ring. Of course, you might find yourself saying “how hard is it to remember some moves?” It’s far more complicated than that. During your matches, you have to tell a story. And that is something that Daniel Bryan has always excelled at.
The thing is, WWE never really seemed to know how to book him. They’ve always had this massive gold mine on their hands, but nothing was really done with him. Even when he was given limited match time, he would clearly put his everything into every match. When he was given a stupid gimmick, he would run with it and make it popular.
Eventually, fans really began to get behind Bryan, although it seemed that Vince McMahon was unwilling to give the fans what they so clearly wanted. Finally, WWE decided to put him in a WWE Championship match against John Cena at SummerSlam in 2013 (if anything to shut the fans up). They played off of reality a bit with this storyline. Vince McMahon had no desire to put Daniel Bryan in the main event because he doesn’t look like what a typical superstar looks like. Triple H wanted Daniel Bryan in the main event because that’s what the fans wanted and he deserved it.
Triple H had placed himself as the Special Guest Referee during this match, which Daniel Bryan won. However, Triple H turned heel and hit Bryan with the Pedigree (his finishing move). After this, Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and became the new WWE Champion. It was at this moment that Daniel Bryan really took off in the WWE, but that was seemingly ignored.
The story went that Daniel Bryan didn’t look like a WWE Champion, so he was held down. They sort of started that story on TV but dropped it. It became clear to fans that WWE really had no interest in putting the gold on Bryan anytime soon. Then, something pretty amazing happened.
A couple months after SummerSlam, WWE began booking Randy Orton (the WWE Champion) against John Cena (the World Heavyweight Champion) to finally unify both titles. It was meant to be a huge deal because it was the first (and presumably last) time that those titles would be merged. A problem arose during the build of the match.
As a way to hype the match, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon brought out former WWE and World Heavyweight Champions to emphasize the importance… and then the crowd hijacked the segment. While Triple H was speaking, the audience began chanting “DANIEL BRYAN.” I’m not talking about a lot of fans; I’m saying literally everyone in the arena. So much so that Triple H had to stop talking completely. The same happened when Randy Orton tried to speak.
I realize it doesn’t sound like much, but imagine yourself as Vince McMahon. Your son-in-law is out there hyping a match – between two of your golden boys – that is meant to be one of the biggest in history. During this segment that you’ve built around making a single match seem extremely important so that everyone will love it, the audience begins to cheer for a man you said wasn’t WWE Championship material. You’ve said that he doesn’t look the part so he won’t get the part. Your fans are clearly telling you what they want, what would you do? You’d find a way to put that man in the match, right?
Oh, dear readers… how silly you are.
Instead, WWE hired back Batista so that he could come back after a near-4-year absence, win the Royal Rumble match, and headline WrestleMania to thunderous applause!… at least, that’s how it played out in their head.
With the amount of love Daniel Bryan had been getting from fans, WWE opted to keep him out of the Royal Rumble match entirely so that fans wouldn’t boo Batista when he won. Holy pooh, did that backfire! Ultimately, WWE was forced to alter their set plans because their audience demanded that Bryan be put in the main event at WrestleMania 30. The “machine” (WWE) had tried to keep Daniel Bryan down, but he fought through it and won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 30.
Of course professional wrestling is scripted. How is that any different from Harry Potter, The Doctor, or Sherlock Holmes? How is it that me caring about a professional wrestler is deemed stupid, but it’s somehow OK to cry when a Freed Elf dies? Daniel Bryan is a real person who put his body and his life on the line every day for 16 years. Why? Because he loved to do it and loved entertaining people.
All too frequently this happens in professional wrestling: great wrestlers have to retire or risk permanent and life-altering damage to their body. All we can do is appreciate the time that they’ve given up to entertain us. I, for one, am absolutely grateful that Daniel Bryan chose to share his gift with us and take us on this incredible journey with him.
Thank you, Daniel Bryan.
All Images & Videos Courtesy of WWE