As a wrestling fan, I have seen some great moments and matches that have transcended the business. In most cases, the crowd has been quite generic in who they cheer for, who they boo. The crowd, in some cases, followed along with the storyline and went with the flow of the card. But one man’s talent, one man’s dedication and general love for the entertainment spectacle that is professional wrestling, changed it all. I have watched thousands of hours of wrestling and no other superstar made the crowd “pop,” or chant as loud and spiritually as Daniel Bryan.
I have been an active viewer of the WWE, and Indy wrestling scene since I was a young boy. Starting out as a casual fan in early 2002, I had my favorites. The cliché “big” names that have made a difference in the industry. At that time, there was a superstar coming up through the Indy scene. A wrestler with a big following, fans who loved his unique, high-flying wrestling style. I was five-years-old when I first saw a Daniel Bryan match. On a Saturday night, On February, 8, 2003, exactly 13 years before he retired I watched my first Daniel Bryan match. His opponent? A young and “green” John Cena. In retrospect, this matchup evolved from a small Velocity match, to a SummerSlam main event. As the years went by and I watched him debut on the first season of NXT, I thought to myself how amazing and fast times go. Daniel Bryan, seven years later, was once again on my television screen. That night, he had a main event caliber match against Chris Jericho. He was supposed to be put in the Nexus angle, but do to an on-screen altercation he was fired. After being put through the ringer with WWE, Bryan returned on the grand stage of Summerslam. Following that, he won his first piece of WWE gold, The United States title. He then held down the mid-card in stride before he became Mr. Money in the Bank.
On a cold December night in 2011, he cashed in and won his first World Title. The fans were behind him, they believed in him. Then on the grandest stage of them all, he lost in 18 seconds. He went from the top of the food chain, right to the bottom of it. The fans love an underdog and Bryan is a true-loved underdog. The fans still believed in him and always will. He had his nay-sayers. In August of 2013, after being one of the biggest underdogs in the wrestling industry’s history, he overcame. The second he overcame and persevered he was right at the bottom of the food chain again. After months of being “put down,” wrestling fans have had enough of the system, enough of what was being given to them by WWE creative. Daniel Bryan chants were everywhere. Booming in arenas during championship ascension ceremonies, other main events and a historic Royal Rumble.
When the system had Bryan sit out of the 2014 Royal Rumble match, the fans thundered the arena with boos and Daniel Bryan chants. The fans changed the system, the fans made it so their hero, my hero, could electrify the audience in the main event of WrestleMania 30. That night was special, it goes down as my all-time favorite WrestleMania just for the main event. The sound of fans cheering and going insane after Bryan won the most coveted title in the industry, in by far the loudest crowd reaction in all of WWE’s history.
With all of that said, there is no denying that Bryan is a first ballot WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling hero to all of his fans and followers. But if we put wrestling aside, Daniel Bryan is an incredible human being. He has touched the lives of so many children like WWE superstars are known to do. But one fan in particular, Connor Michalek, a young fan who suffered from Brain Cancer. Daniel Bryan celebrated with that young fan in New Orleans after his title victory, and inducted that young man into the WWE Hall of Fame, for the “spirit award,” something so touching and emotional. Daniel Bryan is no selfish person, in his own retirement speech he plugged a charity for young and old cancer patients. His retirement speech last night was emotional, nostalgic and kind hearted. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building, nor a dry eye across the wresting world. Daniel Bryan retired due to concussions, he didn’t want to go down the same path of fallen wrestlers. Most notably Chris Benoit who committed murder due to brain injuries. His main point in his retirement speech was “gratitude”, and how he and we should be grateful for all the memories shared and moments he gave us in the wrestling circle. We are, and always will be. For the 16 years, Bryan devoted to the wrestling fans, and the business and general this young journalist is grateful.
For the 16 years Bryan devoted to the wrestling fans, and the business and general this young journalist is grateful.