Photo Credit: WWE.com
Additionally, Jonathan Coachman made this announcement shortly thereafter:Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) February 8, 2016
This news is both a lot to take in and has felt inevitable since the moment he announced he was vacating the Intercontinental Championship in the middle of last year. Danielson had been working an extremely harsh style for nearly his entire career. While he toned it down in WWE, he still tested the boundaries of what WWE would allow, and even appeared to lead the vanguard of wrestlers to loosening restrictions that were placed on the company in the wake of the Chris Benoit shit.confirmed @WWEDanielBryan will join me on "Off the top rope". Tuesday 9p @SportsCenter. His first interview on his impending retirement.— Jonathan Coachman (@TheCoachESPN) February 8, 2016
The possibility remains that this announcement is part of an elaborate work, in the vein of Mark Henry's faux-retirement in preparation of his match with John Cena at Money in the Bank 2013. However, Dave Meltzer on today's Wrestling Observer Live seems to think that the retirement is legit and due to final medical tests he received the Thursday before the Royal Rumble. The field of concussion science and medicine is still in its infancy, especially with companies like the National Football League obfuscating the issue. While WWE has seemingly done better by its wrestlers via head trauma, in my opinion, it is still lax an ideal standpoint.
Danielson began his career at Shawn Michaels' Texas Wrestling Academy, from there, he went into a WWE developmental deal in Memphis. After being released from that deal, he went onto becoming the most important wrestler in the world not signed to a televised wrestling promotion. He was one of the reasons why Ring of Honor got a place on the map. He was signed to a second developmental deal in late 2009, and he was a centerpiece of the first season of the original iteration of NXT. He was fired after that class of NXT rookies banded on RAW to form the Nexus for choking Justin Roberts with a tie during the seminal beatdown segment to end the show. He spent a couple of months on the indies before returning to the company at SummerSlam.
His main WWE career was short but eventful. He had several memorable feuds around times of creative inactivity. He caught fire after losing the opening match of WrestleMania XXVIII to Sheamus in 18 seconds, leading to fan revolt that led to his big main event push that culminated at WrestleMania XXX, where he won two matches in one night to end as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Shortly after, he was put on the shelf for a neck injury that accumulated over years of big bumps and dangerous spots. He was able to make a comeback that lasted four or so months before he suffered the concussion that put him out until this announcement.
No matter the circumstances of its end, Danielson had a hell of a career. One would be wise not to selfishly pine for his return to the ring. The man has a life outside of wrestling, and he wants to act for the best of it in future years. I am sad to see him go. But at the same time, he deserves to go out on his own terms in some way. The injuries have robbed him of his ability to decide on his own when to end his career, but better to retire now than have to do it after some other grievous injury. All I can say now is thank you to perhaps the most gifted and amazing performer to have ever laced up boots.