Thank you, Daniel Bryan!

Posted: February 9, 2016 by daltonclass in Shane D, Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Let me take you to 2003.

I had been a die hard, dyed-in-the-wool wrestling fan for almost 10 years.  I had liked it for longer, but from September 4th, 1995, I was a wrestling fan.  However, in my junior year of college, I fell out of love with WWE.  My beloved WCW was gone.  HHH was on his reign of terror.  Shane just wasn’t enjoying it anymore.

So, I started looking elsewhere.

Japan was one place and I was enjoying what I was finding there, however, there was another place that I found and that rekindled my love of all things wrestling.  That place was Ring of Honor.  Suddenly, indy wrestling was something that I knew of, something that I began pouring over, and something that started to fill up my DVD shelf.  New wrestlers began to show up on my “favorites” list.  CM Punk, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, Samoa Joe…and this other guy…

file_189679_0_champion_danielson(1)This other guy who was a small, white, kinda generic looking guy.  He kind of looked like the default guy in WWE video game creation modes.  But damn, could he wrestle!

Of course, as this is a wrestling blog and it’s the night after Raw, you can guess that this guy was the man who would eventually become Daniel Bryan.  Back then, however, he was the “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson.  He was the main event of the first ever ROH show; competing in a three way match with Christopher Daniels and Low Ki.  I watched matches of his in ROH, Japan…basically anywhere I could find him.

At this time, my favorite wrestler was Chris Benoit.  I’ve made no bones about my love of Benoit at that time, and I legit believed him to be the best technical wrestler in the world.  I would go back through stuff from him in Japan and see that they were heralding him as the successor to Dynamite Kid.  Then, more and more through the grapevine, I begin hearing that they’re starting to refer to Danielson as the successor to Benoit.  There’s nothing that could have put the guy higher in my mind at that point.

Over time, something awesome started happening.  Those guys that I loved in the Indies…they started showing up in WWE and TNA.  Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels spent the better part of a year and a half owning TNA.  CM Punk had been brought into WWE.  Low Ki had bounced around in TNA a bit and would eventually show up in WWE as Kaval.  I wondered, though, if Bryan would be able to make the cut.  He was small and WWE has always been the Land of the Giants.  I just didn’t see it happening.

It did happen, though.  Unfortunately it came during my second great exodus from WWE, so I wasn’t watching wrestling when Bryan showed up on NXT.  I remember hearing about him having his first WWE match against Jericho, though, and making sure that I went back and checked that out because that was one of my dream matches that I only thought could happen on my copy of Fire Pro Wrestling.  I heard about him debuting with the Nexus, and subsequently getting fired for choking out Justin Roberts with his own tie.  I heard about the controversy that surrounded that and then about him getting brought back in grand fashion at SummerSlam.

Bryan-Danielson-CM-PunkAbout a year later, I came back to wrestling.  I was gone for about five years but when I came back, Punk was the talk of the town and we were leading into Money in the Bank.  Imagine my surprise when that night ended with my favorite wrestler as WWE Champion and that other guy I liked a lot had won Money in the Bank.  Fast forward a few months to Survivor Series…and the two of them stood in the ring together, holding the company’s two top prizes.  It was reminiscent of my favorite Wrestlemania moment in 2004 when Benoit and Eddie Guerrero did the same.  Wrestling was changing.  Things were getting awesome and I was loving it.

Bryan suddenly got a personality…or, rather, WWE let him finally use his personality.  He became the cocky champion that had let success go to his head.  He was mean to his ultra hot girlfriend, making the crowd hate him just as much as they were loving him.  He became insufferable.  It was awesome.  He lost his title in 18 seconds at Wrestlemania and became even hotter.  So hot that the crowd the next night couldn’t stop chanting his name.

c3c8e42f2014995520767db2af0a9499_crop_northBryan would go through a few more things over the years, going from my favorite match of 2012 against Punk at Over the Limit (which is currently on while I’m writing this), to joining Team Hell No (showing us his comedy chops) and then through becoming the hottest thing in wrestling as he battled the Wyatts and the WWE itself for his rightful place as WWE World Champion.

Bryan’s place in wrestling history is a very interesting one.  I remember thinking it was so interesting that CM Punk became as big as he did because he’s everything the WWE front man isn’t.  However, Bryan, moreso than Punk, exemplifies that idea.  Bryan is 5’8”, 180 lbs.  Remember, this is a place where Shawn Michaels was small…and he’s got a good four inches and thirty pounds on Bryan, at least.  However, for a time, Bryan was THE MAN in WWE.  I read something on Reddit the other day that said the CM Punk called himself “the Voice of the Voiceless” but it was Bryan who gave the Voiceless their voice back.  When WWE wasn’t using Bryan the way we wanted them to, we made sure we let them know we weren’t happy with it.  Go back and watch the Raw he referenced last night during his speech.  Go back and watch the Royal Rumble from 2014 and the boos that Rey Mysterio got when he came out at #30 and it became apparent that Bryan wasn’t in the plans for that year.  The WWE Universe let WWE know, loud and clear, that Bryan was our guy and that he was who we wanted.  We knew what he could do…just put him in and let him go.

Watch Wrestlemania 30 again.  You see him go through the company’s three top guys not named John Cena in one night.  You see him at the end, hands held high, with the entire world behind him.  He was our guy.

Bryan 2

That’s what has made the last two years so hard, I think.  Knowing that a week after Mania that his father died.  We felt that.  Sure, we didn’t know the man.  We don’t know Bryan himself, for that matter.  But our guy was hurting.  Then the injury.  The rumors that he was finished.  The rumors that he wasn’t healing properly and that we may never see him wrestle again.  The joy that we felt when he came back…and the crushing defeat we felt when he got hurt again…and those rumors started back up.  We would get angry any time someone would tell us that he might not come back.  Hell, the Internet collectively got angry at Bret Hart for saying it when no one else would.

Then last night…

Last night hurt.  Last night hurt in a way that hasn’t hurt since Eddie died.  We had to watch a man come out and stand in the midst of his adoring fans…and tell us that what he loved and has wanted for his entire life has been taken away from him.  That tomorrow (or today), when he woke up, he wouldn’t be Daniel Bryan anymore.  He’d be Bryan Danielson…sans his American Dragon moniker…husband, son, brother…ordinary man.  I can’t imagine that.  I mean, yeah, I’ve been a husband.  I’m a son.  I’m a brother.  I’m an ordinary man.  Those parts are easy to understand…they’re my reality…

However, I’ve never been Superman.  I’ve never been Brad Pitt.  I’ve never been Tom Brady.

I’ve never been Daniel Bryan.

Long ago, I had the dream of being a wrestler.  For better, or worse (who really knows), I gave that dream up a while ago…but the ghost of it still lingers.  Any time I get really excited about wrestling, that wonder comes back.  What if?  What if I had done it?  Where would I be now?  Some little promotion in VA?  ROH?  Japan?  Dare I say, WWE?  I never wanted to regret not going for it, but I do…every time those thoughts come up, I do.  I wish I had done it…hell, I wish I had done it and failed…but I do wish that I had stepped into the ring for at least one time.

CayzrBGUUAAfjOhThat guy…the guy who thinks those thoughts…that’s who watched Daniel Bryan retire last night.  That’s who saw the picture of Bryan and his wife backstage, her comforting Bryan and Bryan knelt down in tears.  That’s who watched one of his heroes get his dream taken away from him.  I felt for him, because as much as that idea hurt me…I knew it was hurting him so much more, and on a level I would never understand.

To finish this off, Bryan repeated a single word throughout his speech.  Grateful.  I’m grateful to have gotten to watch Daniel Bryan wrestle.  I’m grateful to have been able to buy his action figure, pay to see him in person, buy DVDs with him on them, play as him in video games.  I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to be his fan.  I’m grateful that he has ushered in this new wrestling world where WWE and NXT are full of the Indy stars that I love.  Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, Shinsuke Nakamura…all of these guys are now on the big stage.  These guys will get Wrestlemania matches and moments.  This doesn’t exist without Bryan.  WWE is in an exciting place right now and I can’t help but feel that a lot of that was built off of his shoulders over the last few years.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to cheer him.  To buy his merch.  To have my wife suggest that we “YES!” our way into our wedding reception.

008-007_Christine-Shane_Wedding_Small

Thank you, Daniel Bryan.  It may not be a lot.  It may never leave the small group of people that run this site and the small group that read it.  It may never reach your eyes or your ears…but you have my gratitude and my support.

Shane

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