Even though, after an injury-filled couple of years that saw him on the sidelines a lot more than wrestling, Daniel Bryan's retirement announcement wasn't a total surprise, it did prompt some soul-searching.
Many fans and industry insiders have talked about the need to adapt not only concussion-testing and treatment, but also the in-ring product to prevent or reduce the frequency of head injuries.
In an interview with SI.com's Extra Mustard, Gabe Sapolsky joined that discussion. As a long-time friend and colleague of Bryan's, it's not surprising that DB's retirement would impact the EVOLVE co-founder's thinking about his promotion.
It's extremely encouraging, considering EVOLVE's growing relationship with WWE and their developmental system, to read how Sapolosky is committed to keeping the companies he's involved with (Gabe is also Vice-President of World Wrestling Network (WWN) which works with several independents whose shows they stream) focused on a safer style:
I don't want anyone's career to end with us.
I want wrestlers to have their careers grow with us, and to go on and make a lot more money. The Daniel Bryan situation is significant because the WWE is going to be more aware of concussion and neck issues. People aren't going to get signed with those issues.
A lot of the real dangerous stuff is overdone and doesn't have the same impact it once had. People want good, solid wrestling, good stories, good characters, and everything to mean something.
This isn't news to anyone who watches EVOLVE, which started with a very "real" sports model and was promoting mat-based wrestlers before Bryan's retirement or their relationship with WWE. And it's not solely altruistic. Sapolsky tells Justin Barrasso how the philosphy behind the company comes from advice Paul Heyman gave him back in the 90s - to "zig when everybody else zags".
But it's a cause for hope, since EVOLVE's popularity is on the rise thanks to the WWE partnership - not only did the WWN shows all sell out WrestleMania weekend, but things like this interview with SI likely don't happen without the rub from Triple H - and since talent with whom Gabe works will be represented at the Performance Center, and hopefully on NXT, Raw and SmackDown, more and more going forward.
Check out the whole piece for more on the Developmental connection and Sapolosky's history with Bryan and many other WWE stars.
And keep supporting wrestling that will result in fewer early retirements and young deaths in the future.