I'd like to publicly commend Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report for his recent interview with Daniel Bryan. He very tactfully asked probing questions and the result was a very eyeopening and insightful article, which people should read if they haven't done so already. Bryan too deserves a lot of praise for his candor and openness, particularly about the neck injury that caused him to miss almost nine months of in ring action, just as he had reached the top of the WWE mountain. My colleague Sean Reuter has already covered the news coming out of the interview, so this will just be my personal opinion on what the take home message should be from the conversation.
And that is that WWE really needs to look after their top talent like Daniel Bryan better. I understand that wrestlers sometimes have to work hurt, but it's still shocking to discover that Bryan worked a full schedule for almost a year with a bulging disc in his neck, whilst having shooting pains running down his arm.
Unlike CM Punk, it seems Bryan was perfectly happy to gut the injury out, realizing that he was getting the biggest push of his career and his popularity was at an all time high. I also understand WWE wanting to strike while the iron was hot, once they realized that they were onto something special. But surely there's a smarter strategy than riding a horse until it drops, then going to your next stallion and treating it in the exact same manner, and repeating the process ad nauseum?
By the time WWE's doctors eventually stepped in and forced Bryan to have neck surgery, his hand was so weak he couldn't unlock his car door with its key and his wife Brie Bella would have to do it for him instead. Maybe the surgery would have been immediately successful if it had been done sooner, but he had left it so long that it wasn't and there were fears that the damaged nerve had been crushed for so long it might not even come back.
Thankfully, Bryan's arm strength eventually started coming back after a course of muscle manipulation from a physician who had treated the NFL's Carson Palmer for shoulder problems, but my fear would be that his symptoms might come back once he's bumping on a regular basis again. Bryan's certainly a smart enough worker to be able to alter his ring style to reduce the chances of that happening without affecting his match quality significantly, but WWE needs to help him out too by giving him more weekends off to recover, so that his career as a headliner for them is maximized, rather than unnecessarily shortened by encouraging him to go flat out again even with nagging injuries.
As I've said before, WWE's Wellness Policy (and their touring schedule) needs to change, so it's less about finding band-aid solutions to keep their wrestlers in the ring for as long as possible in the short term and more about improving their long term health and well-being, so their WWE careers last longer. I doubt that will ever change with Vince McMahon in charge of WWE, but it bears repeating once again after today's revelations by Daniel Bryan.