I’ve been following your career for nearly 10 years. On a cool, quiet autumn night in Woodbridge, CT, I watched you put on a 45-minute clinic with Roderick Strong. I was blown away by your finesse, the crisp nature of your technique, and how much you were able to communicate with your facial expressions in the ring.
For the first time since Chris Benoit, I found myself watching a performer who was both technically sound and absolutely captivating in the ring. You brought me back to pro wrestling after feeling things in the mainstream were becoming mediocre yet again.
That’s why it pains me to write this.
Last night on Raw, you found yourself in an all-too familiar position as you were forced to relinquish a title that you earned. Not only did you earn the Intercontinental Championship, you were probably the one human being on the current roster who could restore it to its former glory. I could see the emotion in your eyes as this warped Groundhog Day-like scenario unfolded; an unholy time warp in which the gods seem to have cursed you with bad luck.
I thought back to the ROH title match you worked against KENTA in 2006, shortly after you separated your shoulder. I had seen you just the night before in East Windsor at the first night of the annual Glory by Honor weekend. And when I finally saw your title defense, I cringed at your pained expressions as the future Hideo Itami laid into your injured shoulder with his trademark kicks. My old friend Bryan. Even then, sacrificing your well-being for the greater good of the business.
Just a few years later you’d suffer a detached retina while going to war with Takeshi Morishima. But you didn't stop. You pushed through.
Then your surgery last year, forcing you to forfeit the prize you’d worked so feverishly for.
Then last night.
Bryan, I know you’re as much of a fighter as you are a wrestler. I know you are a man of passion, integrity, and dedication. I remember when you suffered a stinger on Raw in 2013 against Randy Orton, and you came to life to avoid the match being prematurely ended. It was the beginning of your big push. How could you let something like that stop you in your tracks? God, you were such a warrior.
And yet last night, I saw the hesitancy in your eyes. Hesitancy that has been reflected in the hearts of fans everywhere.
Bryan, as fans, we love you. You are us. You embody our own struggles, both professional and personal. You capture the challenges we face all the time. You’re not a bodybuilder with a wrestler’s salary. You’re not a former football player who didn't make the cut. You’re the amazing everyman who just happens to be the absolute best around.
We love it when you overcome. And that’s why it hurts to write this.
Bryan, please retire.
As much as we adore you, we are invested in Bryan Danielson the person as much as we are Daniel Bryan the wrestler. Beyond cheering for you when you stood tall at the end of WrestleMania 30, we smiled warmly when you married Brie. We shed a tear when you lost your father. We care about the man behind the beard and boots.
Because you are us.
You've ascended heights most never thought you would reach. You defied critics and were at the epicenter of drastic change the likes of which this business rarely sees. You carried yourself with great class and authenticity throughout. But your body is not as strong as your will.
You are us. And we want you to be happy.
We want you to be able to play catch with your future son, or enjoy hoisting your future daughter up on your shoulders without the fear of how your neck will feel after. We want you to be able to walk that same little girl down the aisle someday instead of being relegated to a wheelchair.
You are us. And we want you to live a full life.
I know that while Brie is your wife, wrestling is your mistress. It’s been the only career you’ve ever known, and at 18, you literally grew up in the ring. But the sacrifices you’ve made are not worth the hardships you might face should your injuries worsen even further.
Bryan, please… call Adam Copeland.
The man once known as Edge faced similar challenges as you now encounter, and was twice forced to forfeit the World Heavyweight Championship. The second time it happened marked the end of his professional career.
Since then, he has had to face the struggle of acclimating to life beyond the ring. That phrase is more than just a section on the WWE website, but "beyond the ring" should be your goal right now. Because you've already achieved just about every goal you could set for yourself. Fleeting as your reigns were, they meant something on a deeper scale than most other runs do. And for that, you should be proud.
But there is life after wrestling, hard as that at be to believe
Please call Adam. Talk to him. Ask his advice, and make the smart choice. To me, you’ll always be "the American Dragon." And I just want to see you fly away with your wings intact.