Friday, July 24, 2015

Daniel Bryan Hoping to Be Back for Royal Rumble, Wrestling Now Stuck in Time Loop

Bryan may be back by the Rumble
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Daniel Bryan has had a pretty good week so far. His autobiography, YES! My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania, was released, (read this review by TJ Hawke at 411 here) and he's been thrust back into the public eye doing press for it. The book has renewed interest in the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, whose career was thrown into jeopardy first last year from residual neck and shoulder injuries and this year from a concussion that was exacerbated by boarding an airplane soon after. However, despite sick, fake interviews that have come up stating otherwise, Bryan's career is certainly not over, or at least he hopes it isn't.

In an interview on The Buzz podcast with Jimmy Traina, Bryan reveals that he's feeling great and wanted to be back by SummerSlam. However, despite his own personal doctor clearing him for wrestling, WWE doctors won't give him the okay to get back in the ring. His goal date to be back is now the Royal Rumble. Hm, Bryan wins a title at WrestleMania, has to give it up without losing it in the ring, has his career put in jeopardy, and then plans to make a return at the Rumble. What year is on the calendar again? The immense feeling of déjà vu is all-encompassing right now.

Of course, the biggest question becomes how Bryan's body will hold up after coming back from his second major upper body injury. It's worth noting that Bryan didn't change his style at all when he came back from his first injury, and it's possible that the concussion he suffered, which was reported coming in the ring against Sheamus, may have been possible because of his high-impact, reckless style of bumping. It's easy to blame Sheamus for the injury if he indeed caused with an errant kick or what have you, but it takes two or more to tango in a wrestling ring, and one might think that an observer wouldn't need to step into the ring to realize that. But then again, people of any walk of life can prove to jump to conclusions, so who knows.

Anyway, if Bryan is able to come back, I would love to see him take up a more mat-based, crowd-trolling technical style, much in the same vein as what is found in EVOLVE's main event scene right now. The core of Drew Gulak, Timothy Thatcher, Hot Sauce Williams, Biff Busick, and Chris Hero have made the identity of the Gabe Sapolsky-booked promotion one embedded deeply in the soul of 1970s and '80s World of Sport. WWE absolutely has a roster that is equipped to give Bryan more than enough challengers to work that style. Amateur wrestlers like Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger are the first names that come to mind. Cesaro, a former teammate of both Hero's and Bryan's, is studied in grappling, and would provide an excellent, HOSS presence. Hell, even Kane and Big Show traded grapples during one of the most trollworthy matches in RAW history.

The initial reaction to the change in style would obviously draw boos from crowds who want him to fly out of the ring and do the Solid Knee Plus on the reg, but heavy grappling is a style that, in my experience, is easy to get behind. If it's presented without the sort of stigma that technical wrestlers like the season one NXT version of Bryan had to carry, it can get over on its own. It's over in front of smaller indie crowds. It was over in an extreme variant at WrestleKingdom 9 between Minoru Suzuki and Kazushi Sakuraba (yeah, shoot/RINGS style may not exactly be World of Sport, but they're way more closely related than they are to WWE's normal offerings). It can get over with guys like Bryan, Ziggler, and Cesaro in America.

Of course, no style is completely safe, but the risk of major injury working the mat seems to be lower than by jumping headfirst into the barricades or taking sharp bumps on the shoulders, neck, and head. Additionally, staph infections, a common malady for grapplers, are easier to come back from in most cases than broken necks and concussions. Truth be told, Bryan could come back tomorrow as the next Santino Marella and I'd be happy. Also, far be it for a common shithead fan like myself to tell Bryan, a nearly two-decade veteran of wrestling, how to work his career or live his life. But it's not like he wouldn't be fuckin' awesome bringing the rough grappling style into WWE, right?

Either way, things aren't looking nearly as bleak for Bryan as they were even a month ago. Even if he never wrestles for WWE again, he'll still be in the fans' lives through vehicles like Tough Enough or for random appearances here or there in the three years remaining on his contract. Plus, nothing can ever take the magic of WrestleMania XXX away from the WWE fans who willed the events of that night to happen. All is not lost. Hopefully though, if Bryan IS back for the Rumble, his appearance, and basically the appearances of virtually everyone else in the match inexplicably aside from Big Show and Kane, is booked way better than it was in this past year's match.