With Daniel Bryan announcing his retirement on Monday, it was natural to assume that the pro wrestling star would get an opportunity to say goodbye to the WWE and its fans during Monday Night RAW from Key Arena in Seattle.
Bryan, 34, shared the news that his wrestling career was over effective immediately due to medical concerns, notably the number of concussions that he’s suffered in recent years.
“I’ve been wrestling since I was 18 years old and within the first five months of my wrestling career I’d already had three concussions,” Bryan explained, standing in the middle of the ring, “and for years after that I would get a concussion here and there or here or there. And then it gets to a point when you’ve been wrestling for 16 years that that adds up to a lot of concussions, and it gets to a point where they tell you that you can’t wrestle anymore.”
Here is the video of Bryan’s farewell speech to the fans.
“For a long time I fought that,” Bryan added, “because I’d gotten EEGs and brain MRIs and neuropsychological evaluations and all of them said this, that I was fine and that I could come back and I could wrestle and I trained like I would come back and I would wrestle and I was ready at a moments notice if WWE needed me I wanted to come back and wrestle. Because I have loved this in a way that I have never loved anything else.”
WWE Network posted a bit more of Bryan’s celebration with the fans and fellow wrestlers.
And here is a tribute to Bryan produced by WWE and posted online.
“Tomorrow morning I start a new life,” said Daniel. “A life where I’m no longer a wrestler. But that is tomorrow and that is not tonight and by damn I have one more night to feel this energy and to feel this crowd! So if I could just get one last ‘YES!’ chant I would really appreciate it!”
The entire setting made for a touching moment Bryan was able to share with the fans and fellow wrestlers (including WWE executives Vince McMahon and Triple H) in attendance, in addition to the TV audience watching Monday Night RAW. This wasn’t just a tweet or press release or even a press conference. Bryan was able to tell the fans directly what he’s been going through, how that led to a difficult decision in which he had to choose family and quality of life over continued professional wrestling success.
— Coach (@CMPunk) February 9, 2016
This is something that plenty of his peers could be facing in years to come, not just in pro wrestling but plenty of other sports that demand heavy physical contact and violence. If only everyone having to end an athletic career prematurely was able to share the moment with fans and drink in some final adulation from those who admire him.