In front of a hometown Seattle crowd, WWE superstar Daniel Bryan said goodbye to his in-ring career in typical fashion — with thousands of fans cheering and chanting the entire time.
The four-time world champion announced his retirement earlier in the day but appeared live on Monday Night Raw to explain why he was hanging up the boots at age 38 — due to the lingering effects of multiple concussions.
Choked up before he even entered the ring, the Aberdeen, Washington, native closed his eyes once he stepped through the ropes to soak in the incredible atmosphere. The entire arena first chanted “Yes!” endlessly until his music stopped before transitioning into a rousing “Dan-iel Bryan!” — and then back to “Yes!” — until he finally stopped them and uttered his first words.
“So just now, I was able to close my eyes and feel that — like, literally feel it in a way that I’ve never gotten to feel it before,” Bryan said. “That experience — I’m never going to forget it.”
That set the tone for the rest of the ceremony, as once he began to announce his retirement, the crowd responded with the expected “No!”
Bryan explained that the reason for his departure was his health. Though he suffered a serious neck injury two years ago, Bryan rehabilitated and returned to WWE after surgery. However, he suffered a concussion just months later had not stepped foot in a ring to compete since as WWE doctors have refused to clear him. As Bryan explained, the concussion was far from his first, though he hopes it’s his last.
“Trust me, I don’t want to be doing this any more than you guys want me to be doing this,” he began. “I’ve been wrestling since I was 18 years old, and within the first five months of my wrestling career, I’d already had three concussions. For years after that, I would get a concussion here or there — or here and there — and it gets to the point, when you’ve been wrestling for 16 years, that adds up to a lot of concussions. It gets to a point where they tell you that you can’t wrestle anymore.”
He continued: “For a long time, I fought that because I had gotten EGs and [head] MRIs and neuropsychological evaluations and all of them said this — that I was fine and that I could come back and I could wrestle. And I trained like I would come back and I would wrestle. I was ready at a moment’s notice. If WWE needed me, I wanted to come back and wrestle … because this I have loved this in a way that I have never loved anything else.”
However, a week and a half ago, Bryan received results that directly conflicted those passing test scores. And with him married (to WWE “diva” Brie Bella) and the couple planning to have kids — the crowd loudly chanted “Yes!” when he announced that before Bryan strayed from script to make a sex joke — he had no choice but to step away and preserve his health.
“It is with a heavy heart and the utmost sadness that I officially announce my retirement,” he said.
Bryan went on to look back on his 16-year career, highlighting some of his personal best moments. He spent the most time on what made him immensely popular — the fans. A well-known international and independent wrestler, Bryan joined WWE to fanfare from some of those that follow the business most closely. He soon won over fans that watched regularly and eventually became the company’s most popular superstar as a legitimate underdog.
Undersized per WWE standards, Bryan worked his tail off for every opportunity and the fans noticed. He was ultimately elevated in the company due in large part to his tremendous fan support, which saw him for what he was — the most talented person on the roster who had been marginalized due to his size and an assumed lack of charisma. Boy were they wrong about that.
“You guys just got behind me in a way that I never thought possible — in a way fans just shouldn’t get behind a guy that’s 5-foot-8 and weighs 190 pounds,” he said. “You guys got behind me in a way that made me feel like I was more than just me. For that, I’m grateful.”