|The ring was Bryan's canvas|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Vince McMahon had a famous interview with Steve Austin where he implied that millennials were unmotivated and weren't willing to go after the big money. Daniel Bryan responded by roughly saying that maybe Vince McMahon just doesn't know what motivates them, that money and success isn't a driving force to a lot of people. That great artists make great art their motivation and there is a whole generation of people who just want to be great first and foremost. This isn't a new theory for other genres, really, but in wrestling it absolutely is. Very few people respected the art quite like Bryan.
For years, wrestlers treated the business as just that, a business, a place where you put on a show for the fans and you made the most money you could. Even the guys who were always associated with being the best at their craft, your Ric Flairs, Shawn Michaelses, Bret Harts etc. were all determined to be the best so they could be at the top of the card and make the most money. This isn't a knock on them, but the underbelly has always been that wrestlers were carnies looking to get the most money they could by whatever means of manipulation it took. It's why so many regular folks take so much glee in informing us fans that wrestling is fake.
In other disciplines, artists have always been around who seemed to care about their art form first and accolades second. Bryan was the first wrestler where I realized he would do this for free if forced upon him. That it wasn't about tricking people into thinking it was real. It was about being so good, that it didn't matter what was real and what wasn't. This was his canvas, his studio, his stage. He wrestled to wrestle. He wrestled because it was his art and he cared about the art.
There is an older generation of people that think unless you have a lot of money, you aren't a success. Unless you really hit the big time, you are just a hobbyist. But great art is all around. It's on brick walls and it's on street corners and it's in the Murphy Rec Center or the West St Paul Armory. It's because of all of the people who make art first and worry about what comes next after. There are people who want to have an impact on people's emotions, not because that's how you get their money, but because that's how you create art.
You see, Bryan is an artist. Sure, his art form is maybe the most easy to degrade and was born out of carnies trying to steal people's money, but people like him turned it into the art that it is and can be. Along the way, he became a folk hero, a role model and a straight up icon to those who think like he and created a generation of wrestlers who want to be artists first and businessmen second (oh, and he got rich and married a model, all while not compromising his art, so suck it older generation).
I'm grateful that there is a man who thinks like that. Even if it wrecked his body, his art was what mattered most. I don't know if we will ever really appreciate what Bryan did, destroying himself to prove his art, but I'm going to do my best to try. I'm going to do it by remembering that art can happen anywhere, everywhere and sometimes when you least expect it.