Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bryan Danielson Is Going to Wrestle Again, And I'm Slowly Becoming Okay With It

Danielson back in the ring isn't certain doom anymore
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Daniel Bryan retired on February 8, 2016. I gather that character will never, ever wrestle again. WWE will never clear the man behind him, and he'll spend every day left under a WWE contract either commentating matches, allowing Total Bellas camera crews to film him around his house, and most noticeably, as a non-wrestling authority figure on Smackdown. His WWE career apexed at WrestleMania XXX, and for all intents and purposes, it remains almost a platonic ideal on an artistic level. He got to the mountain and was able to stay there and retire. Sure, it was under dubious conditions, but he didn't have too much real estate to clutter after his big moment in New Orleans.

Bryan Danielson, however, is not retired from wrestling, not by a longshot. He's been more than teasing his return to the squared circle once his WWE contract is complete in September of 2018. He's toyed with members of the Bullet Club online and openly welcomed a return to Ring of Honor on Twitter. Given the circumstances of WWE refusing to clear him, I get why this anticipation is more dread than looking forward. Concussions are scary business, and even if WWE won't clear him for the most altruistic reasons, it is the most stringent promotion when it comes to that sort of thing. Danielson receiving clearance to wrestle in any other company may not be as confidence-granting, especially given that again, nearly every other company in the world has less stringent guidelines for perceived in-ring safety.

A fine line between general fear for one's safety and concern trolling exists, and few know where it lays so they don't know if they're crossing. On one hand, Danielson stepping back into an environment where the head-bumps are more plentiful, where the risks are larger, where the corporate oversight is either laxer or nonexistent is a scary thought. Wrestling fans have seen many legends either die in their homes of consequences of risky in-ring work like [REDACTED] or even die in the ring, like Mitsuharu Misawa and Perro Aguayo, Jr. No one wants to see Danielson suffering a similar fate. He's perhaps the most beloved figure in wrestling right now, adored by both WWE and independent audiences alike.

On the other hand, I'm not sure anyone has all the info, not even Danielson, but he'll definitely have the best information possible. It is his health, after all. Again, doctors don't practice without bias; objectivity, true objectivity is a myth. WWE doctors, who could be quacks given some of the company's other practices, are only looking out for what Vince McMahon tells them to look out for, which is his bottom line. WWE has a concussion suit ongoing, and the company could play it too safely when it comes to the highest-profile head-trauma retiree, especially if the data those doctors got was wrong. Danielson's doctors, however, may also be hand-picked to give him the best news. So what do fans know? Probably nothing, which is what makes moralizing about any potential return to the ring pointless. It's not saying that people shouldn't be concerned about it, because the possibility of Danielson getting bad information and, well, dying in the ring is real.

So, if no one knows anything, then the creeping desire to see the best wrestler in the world, perhaps in wrestling history, get back in the ring becomes more and more valid than it was on February 9, 2016. Maybe "morbid curiosity" isn't the best reason for a wrestler to get back in the ring despite apparent risk. I may be — scratch that, I definitely am a bad person because my selfish desire to see the best wrestling possible is slowly converting me into a rabid anticipator of the American Dragon's return to a wrestling ring.

But if Danielson wants to get back into a ring and has the medical clearance to back him up, maybe it's time to put a little faith in that decision. I understand not getting behind it full bore, but he's not exactly a dumb performer. He's schooled in many styles, and he has clout enough that he could probably pick and choose what bumps he wants to take, let alone opponents to wrestle. No form of wrestling is ever going to be 100 percent safe, but for the best technical wrestler of all-time, one can afford to surrender a modicum of trust, right?

So that's why I no longer treat the return of Bryan Danielson to the indie scene or another corporately owned wrestling entity like New Japan Pro Wrestling or Ring of honor as an inevitability towards certain doom. I will always have an apprehension, but at the end of the day, who gives a fuck what I want? It's his career, and he seems to be making a choice based on data and knowledge of his own body. When it's all over, autonomy is the only thing a person really ever wants to have anyway.