The saga continues.
According to the latest edition of Wrestling Observer (subscription required but recommended), Daniel Bryan having been cleared by doctors at UCLA - the latest independent clinic to give him the go ahead to wrestle after his most recent concussion last Spring - led many backstage to expect him to make a surprise return at Jan. 24's Royal Rumble pay-per-view (PPV).
That obviously didn't happen, but Dave Meltzer and team say it was openly being discussed as a possibility by WWE officials despite his not being cleared by their medical team, led by Dr. Joseph Maroon. Such discussions reflect the uncertainty within the company about Bryan's future.
As has been discussed in the past, WWE has all but told Bryan that he won't wrestle for the company again and offered him out-of-ring roles. Not satisfied with this, DB has consulted with the outside docs and taken his case directly to Vince McMahon.
It's with McMahon where the small degree of uncertainty (in the case of WWE officials) and hope (in the case of Bryan) comes in, because according the Observer, after meeting with the star, Vince told him he probably wouldn't wrestle again, but wouldn't rule it out 100%.
This is a very tricky situation for all involved (and this is this writer's opinion from here on out, not Meltzer's reporting). If Maroon and team have seen something the other medical professionals haven't, something that leads them to believe that Bryan's life and future ability to function are at risk if he wrestles again, getting that information out might make a difference in convincing him, his family and the fans clamoring for his return that retirement from athletic exhibitions is in his best interest.
Of course, there are legal and privacy issues to releasing any information to the public, but the case clearly hasn't been convincingly made to Bryan.
If, however, this is more of a business decision based on pending litigation from past employees and their families, it becomes much more frustrating for those pushing for a return to the ring. Why is DB held back while someone with a concussion history like Tommy Dreamer can come back for table bumps? Or why allow McMahon - even playing a character - to say things about "using up" wrestlers?
The more time passes, the more likely it seems that we've seen the last of Daniel Bryan in a WWE ring. Whether that's a good thing or not likely depends on information we'll never know.
It's a decision that rests in the hands of a man who does have access to all the data.
We have to hope Vince McMahon makes the right call.