I genuinely thought I was looking at a photoshopped joke, and a cruel one at that, when my friend sent me a picture message via WhatsApp yesterday. In it, WWE were announcing that Daniel Bryan had received the all-clear to return to wrestling, two years after he had been forced to retire due to concussion-related injuries.
Very quickly, I discovered that the news was actually true. The impossible was now possible. Bryan had defied all odds, and got the green light from medical experts that he’d been fighting for the past 24+ months. I actually could feel my eyes becoming heavier, and a slight sting that suggested tears were close. They never came, but god damn it was a near miss.
Bryan has been one of my favourite TV personalities for a number of years now, and I’ve been watching his career as a professional wrestler for almost a decade. His greatest career moment, overcoming the odds to main event and win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 30 in 2014, came about 48 hours after my then-wife and I had agreed to end our marriage and divorce. It had been a rough weekend (especially given we reached that decision on my birthday of all days!), but Bryan’s fairytale ending to his multi-year storyline had made it all that much better. Particularly given there were numerous real-life obstacles put in his way at every turn before that infamous night.
Of course, Bryan’s much-desired run with the top championship in professional wrestling didn’t last long, being cut short due to injuries that would plague him enough to force his retirement less than two years later. Watching cameras catch his absolutely genuine depression and near-breakdown over his retirement (via tv show Total Bellas) was heartbreaking, as was reading interview after interview with him where he would discuss all the tests he was having done to try and prove to the WWE that he was safe to wrestle again. It seemed, truthfully, to not be a risk WWE were willing to take. It was more likely that I would have to wait until September 2018 for Bryan’s contract to run down, allowing him to wrestle for other companies instead. Not ideal, but I’d still get to watch one of my heroes do what he loves.
That WWE have now given him permission to come out of retirement is huge. Not just for viewers of professional wrestling, and not just for the whole medical studies surrounding concussions and such, but for helping people like myself keep our faith in the world. Bryan is a good guy, and far too often the good guy is the one who gets shit on. I’m absolutely beaming that, as Bryan said last night, he not only fought for his dreams, but they fought for him also.
I get to watch one of my heroes again. Touch wood, I’ll get to do it with my son too. Except I can show my son the most recent Daniel Bryan matches and segments, rather than forcing him to sit through old tapes of a guy who was a good wrestler, but was forced to retire young.
Fight for them dreams, folks.