For two years, wrestling fans both WWE and indie purist alike have hungered for news that would see the ultra popular former 3x WWE World Champion Daniel Bryan return to the wrestling ring, either in a WWE ring or elsewhere. When WWE refused to clear him following a series of concussions, Daniel Bryan was forced to announce his retirement in early 2015 – his last match was April 4, 2015 in a tag match with John Cena against Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. But since then, Daniel Bryan has consistently tweeted – or re-tweeted – messages that have hinted that Daniel Bryan may return to the ring once his WWE contract expires in September of 2018. He even mentioned in a video recently with his wife, former WWE star Brie Bella, that he was growing his hair back in the chance he can have a hair vs mask match in CMLL or AAA someday. But early this week, in his column for Extra Mustard, Sports Illustrated‘s Justin Barrasso stated the following at the end of his piece, “Have I mentioned that I believe Daniel Bryan will re-sign with WWE?”
Now this is far from definitive evidence that Daniel Bryan has indeed decided to stay with the WWE, but coming from a respected journalist like Barrasso, there must be some things he’s heard on the wire that would lead him to this thinking. He doesn’t elaborate on it unfortunately, but there are plenty of factors that could be part of why he thinks that. Here’s a look at what some of those issues could be.
Daniel Bryan retired at the young age of 33, but by the time his WWE contract expires, he’ll be just months away from turning 38. Now that’s hardly “old age” in today’s world of professional wrestling – after all, Christopher Daniels recently won the ROH World Championship at the age of 47 and the current NWA World Champion, Tim Storm, is 52. But at that age, long layoffs from the rigorous training regime necessary to keep up cardio and health and remain sharp in the ring is tougher and tougher to maintain. Sure, he mentioned he was taking bumps again recently, but it’s in training his wife Brie Bella for her WWE comeback. While Brie has advanced considerably the past few years under Bryan’s guidance, training with Brie is a far cry from going full throttle with say Kenny Omega or Keith Lee or even Zack Sabre Jr. On Busted Open Radio this week, when Bubba Ray Dudley went deeper into his decision to retire the previous night at Ring of Honor’s Global Wars, Dudley stated that one of the biggest factors was that after a potential year away from the ring, he’d be too far behind to catch up to get back into proper ring shape. And if he couldn’t return to the level he was used to, there was no real incentive to return at all. This could very well apply to Bryan, he will have been away from active competition for nearly four years by the time he was able to start wrestling in a ring again and his no-compete expired (which would be December of 2018).
IN-RING STYLE CHANGE
Even if Daniel Bryan gets the full clearance from his new doctors (or even the WWE doctors), Bryan’s in-ring style will have to dramatically alter to allow him to continue on even the slightest of schedules. A majority of his high risk offence will have to be subdued to avoid any potential blows to his head and upper body (either giving or receiving), as his head will clearly still be an area with great risk of serious injury to recur. Daniel Bryan – or rather Bryan Danielson – was a fearless warrior on the indie circuit pre-WWE and was known for a high risk style that put body and soul on the line every night to put on the best matches possible. While fans will still be overcome with the nostalgic factor upon an initial return to the indies, how long would it take the indie purists and internet community to turn on Bryan – either in pity or disappointment – when his subdued in-ring style fails to live up to even some of his best WWE matches? How long will the nostalgia train cover up the fact that we’ll never truly see another Bryan Danielson match again?
SCHEDULE & PAY
One of the things many internet fans will point out is that Daniel Bryan has the potential to make a lot of money on the indie circuit today in comparison to his first run, due to the current boom in independent wrestling. In the past week, both Austin Aries and Cody Rhodes have mentioned on Social Media that they’re making substantially more money on indie bookings than they made during their WWE runs. But Aries and Cody have something that Bryan does not, and that is a clean bill of health. In order to make the kind of money that Cody or Austin would be making – or any of the top indie stars like the Young Bucks – Daniel Bryan would have to at least be close to the amount of bookings and matches that these guys are doing. And with his health a constant cloud over his head, Daniel Bryan would most likely only be able to work a few events a year – these other guys are doing sometimes 3-4 a week. Daniel Bryan’s current WWE contract reportedly pays him $700,000US a year, plus presumably percentages of merchandise sales. While surely Bryan has saved his money well (he and Brie have a combined net worth of approximately $2millionUS), there’s not much of a chance he’d make even close to that in a year on the indies. Even if he was making $10,000 a match, even at one match a month (which is generous with his health issues), that’s just $120,000 a year. Granted, Daniel Bryan isn’t the kind of guy who’s in this just for the money, but with one baby here and a second one planned in 2018, financial security will always be on their mind.
Daniel Bryan isn’t the only one speaking about comebacks. His wife Brie Bella is now actively training with her husband for her own WWE comeback after the birth of their daughter. She would most likely return to the company in early 2018 and assumedly hit the road with whichever brand she returns to. Her return is expected to be a brief one – the couple would like to have another child by the end of 2018 – but with two small children in the house by 2019, how much of a schedule can Daniel Bryan realistically maintain without leaving his wife home at home with two children under the age of two. Daniel Bryan seems to be as devoted a family man as they come, so the weight of such a new, young family may just be enough to remain on-call as the Smackdown Live General Manager and just fly in as needed.
In the end, the truth is no one knows – including Daniel Bryan himself – what he will be doing when that WWE contract expires in September of 2018. All of these factors are no doubt things that he and Brie have discussed (and will continue to discuss) as that date gets closer and closer to fruition. But at least it’s something to consider before we all get a little caught up in the Yes Movement to entice Daniel Bryan out of retirement for what in all honesty, is perhaps more selfishly about us as fans than it is about Bryan Danielson’s own well being.