Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude
— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) February 8, 2016
WWE.com has since confirmed the news.
Bryan is expected to appear on tonight’s Monday Night Raw and on SportsCenter tomorrow night to provide further details on his retirement decision.
— Jonathan Coachman (@TheCoachESPN) February 8, 2016
This is sad news for fans of the leader of the YES! movement, and a bit of a surprise given the fact that he was just featured in a Tide ad campaign alongside other athletes that could be classified as “small but powerful.”
— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) February 7, 2016
But the announcement isn’t too surprising for those who have been monitoring the situation. Over the past few years, Bryan has suffered a string of injuries as well as nerve issues that were causing numbness and a loss of strength in his arms. This resulted in him forfeiting the WWE World Heavyweight Championship shortly after winning the title at WrestleMania XXX. He then underwent neck surgery and a series of alternative medicine treatments to treat the nerve issue before he was able to return to the ring last January.
Bryan’s return was short-lived. After winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31, he suffered a concussion and was forced to relinquish yet another title months after capturing the prize. He has been sidelined nearly a year and has since been cleared by an independent doctor. But Bryan confirmed in an interview on ESPN’s Cheap Heat podcast that the WWE doctor was hesitant to clear him to perform.
WWE’s hesitance to allow Bryan to wrestle is understandable, given the current spotlight on CTE and head injuries in the NFL, as seen in the recent Will Smith film, Concussion. WWE’s caution in this area actually began long before the recent media attention on head and neck injuries. In 2006 they implemented the WWE Wellness Program to help identify and treat potential health or substance abuse issues with WWE Superstars. In 2011, World Heavyweight Champion Edge was forced to retire from in-ring competition early due to a neck injury that could have resulted in paralysis if ignored.
The wording of Bryan’s announcement is worth noting: He announced that he was retiring, not just that he was retiring from WWE. In recent months, rumors were circulating that Bryan may try to wrestle elsewhere if WWE doctors would not clear him to compete. It would appear that is not the case, and Bryan appears to be retiring from all in-ring competition.
So what’s next for Daniel Bryan? His recent appearances on Total Divas and WWE Tough Enough have shown that Bryan is a charismatic presence outside the ring. He could continue working with WWE as an ambassador, appearing on WWE programming and as the face of the company at corporate and charity appearances. This aligns nicely with his down-to-earth, socially and environmentally conscious persona.
However, recent episodes of Total Divas show that Bryan may not be happy being too far away from a wrestling ring. If it isn’t a health risk, perhaps Bryan could channel his ability and charisma into teaching future generations of WWE Superstars at the WWE Performance Center.
Whatever Daniel Bryan decides to do in the future, wrestling fans everywhere can be thankful for the memories he provided, and the contribution he has made to the wrestling business.
Tweet @getfandom with your favorite Daniel Bryan moment, and include the hashtag #ThankYouDanielBryan.