We’re coming up on the Road to Wrestlemania but this year there’s someone missing. For the last five years he’s wrestled for a different title at each Wrestlemania. Two years ago he had one of the best Wrestlemania moments of all time and perhaps the perfect ending to one of the most well done storylines in modern wrestling history. Today though, a story came up (and was quickly squashed) that the WWE was going to release him. This week, we’re going to talk about Daniel Bryan.
Then came injuries. Just over two months later, Bryan had to vacate the title due to a severe neck injury, which put him on the shelf for about eight months. Bryan came back in January 2015, had a really good match with Roman Reigns at “Fastlane 2015”, won the Intercontinental Title in a ladder match at “Wrestlemania XXXI” and was then back on the shelf just over two weeks later after wrestling mostly tag matches where he didn’t have to get very physical. He’s been out of action for nine months now and it’s not clear if he’ll ever wrestle in WWE again.
So what does WWE do? According to a variety of sources, Bryan has not been cleared by the WWE doctors but has been cleared by his own doctors. Here’s the thing though: until WWE doctors clear him, there is no way WWE can let him back in the ring. If they do let him back in without clearing him themselves and something else happened, the lawsuits would be through the roof.
Let’s take a look back at what might have happened with Bryan had he stayed healthy. One thing is relatively clear: he wasn’t making it out of “Summerslam 2014” with the title. Brock Lesnar was pretty obviously going to destroy whoever held the title in the main event and begin his path of destruction up until “Wrestlemania XXXI”. John Cena being inserted in as a glorified placeholder champion and then dropping straight back down into the upper midcard would seem to back up this theory.
If Bryan had been able to continue as Intercontinental Champion, things are a bit less clear. It was obvious that he was going to be champion for at least a little while, though it’s not clear where his title reign would have gone. The theory would be that he would have helped to restore the title towards its prior prestige as the “workrate” title as Dean Ambrose has referred to it a few times. While this is only rumor, it certainly makes sense for someone like Bryan to be given this spot.
With actually getting in the ring as a regular competitor seems to be out of the question, there aren’t a lot of options left for Bryan in WWE. The most logical would see him getting another on screen role such as GM or a commentator, or perhaps going down to the Performance Center as a trainer. I would think the trainer role would work best as Bryan certainly has the experience in different styles around the world to teach the younger talents quite a bit.
However, if Bryan insists on wanting to stay in the ring as soon as he’s healthy, the WWE only has a few options. Assuming Bryan is medically cleared, the WWE is still in a really strange place with him. Bryan was medically cleared to come back in January 2015 and only lasted around three months. How can WWE push him near the top of the card if they can’t guarantee that he’s going to be able to stay healthy for any significant amount of time? Obviously Bryan didn’t cause his own injuries and didn’t get put out of action on purpose, but how hard can you push him if he might get hurt long term again?
That leaves another major problem: the obnoxious Daniel Bryan fans (note that this applies to a certain group of his fans and certainly not the majority). There is a group of Bryan fans who are going to basically hijack a show as soon as Bryan appears on the show. As awesome as it is to have a group of fans that love a wrestler as much as Bryan’s hardcore fans love him, it can also become a problem.
Think back to the end of 2013 and the start of 2014 when the Authority was holding Bryan back. The problem became the fans cheering for Bryan no matter what else was going on. To this group of fans, Bryan was all that mattered. That’s one thing when there’s a major story involving Bryan at the time, but what happens if Bryan comes back and WWE isn’t sure if they can put him in a top slot due to his health?
How loud do you think these same fans are going to be if Bryan isn’t in the World Title scene again and winning the title all over again? Do you think WWE is going to be happy if Roman Reigns is in the ring talking about being in the main event of “Wrestlemania XXXII” and the fans don’t stop chanting for Bryan? I know it’s more of a minor concern but that’s something that could present a real problem as the fans try to recreate the magic of Bryan’s initial path to the main event of “Wrestlemania XXX”.
So what do you do with him? It really just boils down to how long Bryan could be out for due to his injury. If he could be back, then of course your bring him back and hope that he’s going to be able to stay around longer this time. Bryan is 34 years old and if he could potentially stay healthy then WWE would be crazy to not try to keep him around.
On the other hand though, there’s the chance that Bryan won’t be able to come back. Again, WWE should try to keep Bryan as he’s certainly valuable out of the ring as well as inside, but if Bryan is only wanting to stay in the ring instead of becoming a trainer or something, there’s only so long they can hold onto him. Bryan’s health isn’t something you can mess with and you certainly can’t put him in the ring before he’s healthy, but having him around for so long could become awkward at some point, if it already hasn’t.
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