Today, former World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan (Brian Danielson) announced his retirement from WWE due to ongoing medical issues. If you are a fan of his work, or the WWE for that matter, this should come as no surprise and has been a long time coming. Bryan leaves behind an impressive legacy in the sport of professional wrestling, all deserved. Known as one of the hardest workers and a dedicated student of the game, it’s no surprise he was able to achieve the level of success he did, even at his size. At 5’10’’ and 210lbs, Bryan defied the odds and became one of the most popular Superstars WWE had ever seen. With his success, he gave hope to thousands of other underdogs and “little guys” out there that they too had shot at greatness in a business full of giants. Unfortunately, most of those put themselves in the same caliber of Bryan, when in fact, they don’t even belong in the conversation.
Daniel Bryan was something special. Sure he was undersized most of his career, but the style he worked in the ring, which would eventually cut his career short, is what made him believable. Bryan was a wrestler’s wrestler. Nothing about what he did between those ropes was phony. He believed in his ability, his technique, and what he was doing at all times. That’s the difference between him and any other guys his size on the indies trying to make it big. Bryan understood that there was more to it than seeing how many flippity-doo-dads he could do in one match. He didn’t wrestle for the, “This is Awesome” chant due to a high spot that didn’t mean anything and that people would forget 10 minutes later. He wrestled for that chant, as well as “YES!” to be ringing through the rafters after the 3-count was made, allowing him to take tens of thousands of people on an emotional roller coaster ride with the story he told in the ring. Guys out there now that are his size feel obligated for some reason to do the craziest things they can possibly think of to make up for their lack of size, except for actually learning how to wrestle. Bryan didn’t need all those crazy dives, moonsaults, and planchas. Sure he could do them if he needed to, but he took the route of being believable rather than a glorified acrobat. He made sure he knew his basics, his fundamentals, and that art of wrestling itself. That is what got him over every place he went. Believability is a lost art in wrestling these days and so few possess it. His style needed to be believable in order for him to succeed, which he did tenfold.
Daniel Bryan’s style of work may have very well cut his career short, assuming he stays retired. He is a smart man and I am more than sure he was aware of the risk he was taking. His toughness is unmatched, working through multiple concussions, a detached retina, and various other injuries. Not a lot of guys with his frame could withstand that sort of punishment to the body. The point I’m trying to make here is that, just because you may be Bryan’s size does not mean you are ready to even sniff a faction of the success he had. It doesn’t mean WWE is looking for the next Bryan, or Mysterio, or Kalisto. Daniel Bryan was special. He was legitimate. He had it all. The vast majority of indy guys his size only possess a small fraction of the skill set Daniel Bryan had. Whether you want to believe it or not, pro wrestling is still a big man’s game. Sure there is room for guys like Daniel Bryan, but those spots are few and far between and the talent pool for guys that size with the character, charisma, work rate, in-ring skills, etc. like Bryan had are almost non-existent. Daniel Bryan absolutely changed the game and how we see pro wrestlers. He also unwittingly gave false hope to a lot of underachievers out there. Remember guys, “This is an upper body business, kid”.