Monday, May 12, 2014

Instant Feedback: The Lamentations of Bryan Danielson

The end of the line? Whatever it is, I hope he puts his health first
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Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, getting the most indulgent VIP treatment in the event's history. Professionally, the moment was the zenith of a career that, let's face it, was goddamn sterling before he got to the moment of tapping Dave Batista and finally attaining the top of the mountain without some deus ex machina cutting him down before he was ready to rule the roost. Since then, life for Bryan Danielson, the man behind the persona, has gotten increasingly rotten.

He came home from his honeymoon to find that his father had passed (I can empathize, since my grandmother-in-law died the day after my wedding and the Mrs. and I didn't find out until after we got back from Punta Cana). His biggest fan, the lad who touched the collective heart of the wrestling world and was the first to greet him after his professional pinnacle, died shortly after. Tonight, he announced what seemed to be the final insult on top of the injuries he'd suffered in the last month or so. Ironically enough, it was a legitimate malady, a bum neck, that topped off his terrible, horrible, no good, rotten six weeks.

The silver lining in all of this gray nimbus hanging over WWE right now is that if Bryan were leaving for an extended period of time, that the company wouldn't have angled his departure so heavily. The scuttlebutt is that he could be back by Payback. Neck injuries, however, can be delicate. John Cena hurt his neck, but since he's Wolverine, he was back in time to win the Royal Rumble. Sabu broke his neck, but since he was basically an indie wrestler working for a guy whose history of clearing checks was suspect to put it most kindly, he basically had no choice but to come back and risk dying in front of crowds of mutants. Maybe his recovery pattern sheds some light on the way he is today. Edge had to retire thanks to spinal stenosis. BJ Whitmer probably should retire, but who the fuck knows what's wrong in his head that he keeps on wrestling.

The most famous example is perhaps the wrestler whose template Bryan has followed so closely to get to where he's at today. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin broke his neck at SummerSlam 1997. He never recovered fully, but he kept working through for the next two years during his meteoric rise to the top. That injury cost him a prime year of his career, and ultimately, it led him to early retirement.

What is the point in recounting all these injuries? Maybe I'm just working through my own fears for my favorite wrestler and am trying to show the work that the human body is the least predictable thing in the world. Everyone heals differently, and Bryan, who has yet to have a major loss of time as a WWE superstar, seems to have some combination of luck and conditioning to have kept him healthy for this long.

But then again, maybe going out for an extended period of time might not be the worst thing. WWE may not have stars apparent on Bryan's level, but then again, Bryan was still trying to get to Cena's level of consistency. Did y'all see RAW tonight? The Shield was all over it, from beginning to end, saving segments from heatless doom brought on by Evolution or providing ultimate levels of swag during matches. Antonio Cesaro wasn't on the show tonight, but you gotta believe he's on the shortlist of guys who could end up pulling his weight (or more, have you seen how strong he is?). Sami Zayn is waiting in the wings to be brought up.

And when Bryan comes back, he'll be as hot as ever. I won't complain if he sticks around and works through what could be a minor surgery, but his health should come first. If he has to go, he has to go. It just sucks that his professional life and personal life have had differing sorts of luck. Whatever happens though, I just hope he makes the right decision by his own neck.