Everybody seems to be talking about it — will Daniel Bryan make his triumphant WWE return? Following another argument with The Miz on Talking Smack where he hinted at coming back sometime next year, people are now expecting him to wrestle for another promotion once his contract expires, if not wrestle in the WWE. But do these comments represent another false hope for Bryan’s die-hard fans, or do they point to a legitimate comeback attempt?
Personally speaking, Daniel Bryan was one of two wrestlers — the other one being CM Punk — who helped convert me back to WWE fandom late in 2012, about seven years after I had last watched on a regular basis. There was something relatable about Daniel’s general character as a technically-skilled everyman wrestler, something infectious about the “YES!” chants (which were “NO!” chants at the time I started watching again) that the WWE Universe serenaded Bryan with each time his ring music would play.
Daniel Bryan wasn’t one of the bulked-up musclemen that Vince McMahon traditionally favored, but rather a man of short stature and slight build by classical WWE standards. And as WWE rewarded him with a big push in 2013, I watched with the rest of the WWE Universe as Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and the rest of their villainous faction The Authority would cheat Bryan out of multiple short-lived WWE Championship reigns, making sure to remind him time and again that he was a good, solid B+ player, and nothing more than that. Yet he would time and again prove his doubters wrong, winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX in 2014, then the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31 the year after.
In real life, however, Daniel had another set of doubters to deal with, namely WWE’s medical team, which refused to clear him to compete after he was sidelined in April 2015 due to concussion-related issues. Fans were hoping to see Daniel Bryan back in WWE, returning to action after outside doctors repeatedly declared him fit to wrestle. But WWE wouldn’t hear anything of it, wanting to play it safe with anything concussion-related, especially something as apparently serious as Bryan’s case. As a result, he had no choice but to announce his retirement on the February 9, 2016, episode of Monday Night RAW.
So where are we now more than one year later? As we saw on this week’s episode of Talking Smack, Bryan got into another confrontation with The Miz, where the heelish “A-Lister” told Daniel that he still wants to wrestle, but couldn’t, “because of your head.” This prompted a response from the SmackDown Live GM, whose comments seemingly have a lot of people hoping for Daniel Bryan’s WWE return at some point in the future.
“I can’t or they won’t let me? We’ll see in a year-and-a-half and see what happens.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Bryan, may it be in a storyline or in “shoot” form, talk about wanting to wrestle again. Wrestling Inc. reported in September that Bryan would often tell his wife, semi-retired wrestler Brie Bella, that he wants to quit WWE so he could return to the ring, only to be convinced to stick around as he and Brie are “trying to start a family” – as of this writing, Daniel and Brie are expecting their first daughter.
That report also cited Dave Meltzer of the Wresting Observer Newsletter, who affirmed that Bryan’s WWE contract expires next year and that the company still has no plans of allowing him to wrestle again.
When Daniel Bryan slips and says "let's see in a year and a half" when being mocked about not being able to wrestle... pic.twitter.com/djYzdesNlB— JJ Williams (@JJWilliamsWON) March 8, 2017
With that and his recent Talking Smack remarks, it’s clear to see that Daniel Bryan hasn’t gotten over his forced retirement. If you’re forced to quit the sport you love with a passion at an age (34) where you should still be in your prime, it’s certainly going to be hard.
That said, the latest from Dave Meltzer (h/t Bleeding Cool News) suggests that Bryan may be interested in competing for long-running Mexican promotion CMLL, and wants to try out a safer wrestling style he’s developed, one that will still allow him to produce “interesting” matches. But would it be worth it for Daniel Bryan, even if he never makes that WWE return so many fans are hoping for? As accidents will always happen in a sport like professional wrestling, wrestling safe does not completely protect one from suffering further concussions in the ring.
Another compelling argument against a potential Daniel Bryan WWE return would be the fact that Talking Smack is home to a lot of “worked shoots,” or promos/comments that interject a dose of realism, but are nonetheless scripted parts of storylines. In an op-ed for Bleacher Report, Ryan Dilbert wrote that fans may be reading too much into what Bryan just said on Talking Smack, as it’s simply another chapter in the ongoing rivalry between an arrogant, belligerent wrestler (The Miz) and a reasonable authority figure (Bryan).
“The Miz calling out Bryan for obeying doctors’ orders is a key part of their feud. It’s a means for the heel to land a low blow on the popular GM.”
Don't see how you can call yourself a Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson fan and support him wanting to wrestle again.— Jose (@JoseLothario) March 9, 2017
Like the vast majority of his fans, I don’t have the medical credentials to say that Daniel Bryan should or should not wrestle for WWE and return to in-ring action. But with WWE taking stock of concussions and brain injuries and their effects on athletes of all kinds, it just wouldn’t be realistic or sensible to expect Bryan back in a WWE ring, or any kind of wrestling ring for that matter, as the risks are simply too high.
[Featured Image by WWE]