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Bryan Danielson clarifies retirement plans, addresses CM Punk’s AEW exit

All Elite Wrestling

Bryan Danielson made quite a splash this past Saturday on AEW Collision, teasing an imminent end to his legendary in-ring career.

That, and follow-up reports that there was some shoot to this work, raised some eyebrows. Is the American Dragon really going to hang up his boots when his daughter Birdie turns seven next summer?

Bryan clarified his situation in a chat with Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso. He sees his “retirement” as going a lot like the late great Terry Funk’s retirements went:

“I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I declare I’m absolutely done. I want the ability to show up when I want to show up. Terry Funk is someone I always admired. He retired a million times, but he loved it so much he couldn’t help but keep doing it. And he did it when he wanted. For me, it might be a couple times a year, or it might be years between matches.”

He reiterated that the target date for winding down his career as a full-time performer is next August, which would be a few months after Birdie’s seventh birthday, but dad & daughter have discussed that. Bryan also says his body have been telling him its time to slow down:

“There is the realization that over the past year, I’m getting hurt after every big match I have. That’s a sign. I love wrestling, but I do not want to wrestle at the expense of my long-term health. I did the Iron Man match with Max, and then I didn’t wrestle again until Anarchy in the Arena, and even that was a lot of smoke and mirrors. Then I wrestle Okada and I break my arm. The injuries are starting to pile up. At what point is that worth the risk? Especially when my kids want and need me at home.”

But even if he’s a stay at home dad by this time next year, that still won’t mean he’s done:

“I always thought I’d wrestle until the day I die. But it’s not going to be this regular, weekly wrestling. I don’t even know if it’s going to be wrestling at big shows. I’ve always wanted to wrestle for DEFY in Seattle. How easy would it be for me to call the promoter and pop in some weekend? They wouldn’t even need to promote me. I could come in, surprise people, and do my thing.”

Danielson also addressed one of the reasons we’ll be seeing a lot of him on Saturday nights for a while: the fact previous “star of Collision” CM Punk is no longer with AEW after his Sept. 2 firing. Bryan framed Punk’s exit as a growth opportunity, and used the death of his father as an example:

“In any job, when you lose somebody who’s very important, or you lose somebody you really like working with, that’s hard. But everyone keeps doing the job. And any time there is loss or controversy or struggle inside an organization, it’s a chance to bring people closer. It’s also a chance to divide people. So you have this thing where you can use struggle to make your life worse, or you can use struggle to make your life better. When I lost my father, I came out on the backside. I was worse. Struggling with my depression, I’ve come out of it better. So how you approach something and how you learn from something, that’s what makes the difference.”

You can check out SI’s entire piece on Bryan Danielson here.

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