Daniel Bryan’s story is one of the rare times in WWE where the script and reality of wrestling came together to make something special, a real honest to goodness Wrestlemania moment.
And what a moment it was: The final shot of Wrestlemania 30 with Daniel Bryan standing triumphant over two opponents with arms pumping up and down to a chorus of “Yes!” chants.
I wasn’t part of the “YES!” movement. I hadn’t followed the trials and tribulations of Bryan Danielson/Daniel Bryan as he journeyed through the indies to WWE and back again. I had been watching RAW and seen that fans were really, really behind the guy and I knew that him losing the Royal Rumble match had caused Mick Foley to smash his TV, but I didn’t know just how good it was going to feel watching him hoist those two belts over his head.
To be clear: It felt really, really good.
Contrasting that goodness was the genuine empathy that I felt watching Bryan endure set back after set back, both in the ring and out of it, before ultimately retiring ltwo years ago after losing his medical clearance to compete in the WWE.
Say what you want about pro-wrestling (sorry, sports entertainment) as being fake, but watching a man give up his dreams in front of a live audience is as real as it gets.
The conspiracy theories, the fan theories, the accusations of the WWE “holding Bryan back” flooded the internet. The same people that were sick of being force fed Roman Reigns saw their hero, the guy they chose, laid low and they wanted a villain to blame. But Bryan carried on. He took the role of Smackdown General Manager, got married to fellow WWE Superstar Brie Bella and had a kid, and continued to dream. Time moved on, fans accepted that they would never see Bryan wrestle again, but that he was healthy and happy and that would have to be enough.
Cue the announcement this Tuesday that Daniel Bryan had been medically cleared to wrestle by the WWE and its doctors. I am honestly choked up just thinking about it. Watching the same guy that gave up his dream in front of an audience of millions announce that the same dream was alive again was nothing short of amazing.
There are writers, podcasters and fans everywhere discussing dream matches for Daniel Bryan. But you know what I bet? I bet every match is a dream match right now. I bet taking that powerbomb on the ring apron this past Tuesday, the one that made us all cringe, felt to Bryan like walking in the door of a five-star hotel room and jumping on the bed. I bet that when he got to the back, past the curtain, past the Gorilla position and saw the faces of his peers looking down on him (he was on a stretcher after all) Daniel Bryan saw nothing but dream matches.
Because his dream was alive again.
Every now and then, professional wrestling gets it right. Yes, it can be dumb, brutal, trashy, low-brow – take your pick. But give me one Daniel Bryan comeback moment and you can have all the high brow, “real” entertainment in the world and keep it. I’ll be here on my couch with tears in my eyes and my index fingers in the sky chanting: “Yes! Yes! Yes!”