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Daniel Bryan says goodbye

We've been bracing ourselves for it since a Tweet announced his intention to retire early this afternoon.

WWE got right to the point, with a pre-credits musical montage of his career. After that, they teased out his actual appearance. That was probably a smart decision since the crowd started out cheering for him. They were brought back by some good old fashioned violence, but it was clear that following the Washington state native would be an impossible task.

Videos of memorable moments from his WWE career were peppered throughout the show. WWE encouraged fans to hit social media to post their favorite Bryan memories using #ThankYouDanielBryan.

A second, longer, even more heart-wrenching video package set us up for the final segment at five minutes to 11PM Eastern.

The newly clean-cut Grand Slam champion came out, took a moment to take in the scene and started his signature YES chant as he hopped down to the ring. It was scene reminiscent of the Spring of 2014, only Bryan wasn't in his ring gear.

He took another moment to compose himself, and looked to fight back tears with a smile and some deep breaths as the Key Arena crowd chanted his name. He shared that grin with the crowd and they sensed he was ready to speak. When he paused again, they filled the gap with another YES chant and prompted more smiles from their hero.

DB explained that he was taking the moment to "feel" the crowd's reaction, something he says he never got to do as an active performer. Then he switched to the topic at hand, and got some NO chants that he defused with jokes about his beard and haircut. In true Bryan form, he plugged the charity Wigs for Kids, saying he donated his hair to make free wigs for kids with cancer.

A transition to "less fun stuff" was again answered with NO chants - and Daniel assured us that he didn't want to do this any more than we want to hear it. He shared that he had three concussions in his first months as a teenage wrestler, and those continued to happen "here and there" throughout his career, and kept adding up over his sixteen years as a pro grappler.

Because he "loved this [performing] in a way I have never loved anything else", he kept coming back despite doctors telling him he couldn't. He spoke about the tests he took a week and a half ago which showed that maybe his brain isn't as okay as he thought it was.

Thinking of his family, and he and wife Brie Bella's desire to start having kids soon (a YES chant here prompted a joke "that's what Brie says" which broke the mood), he decided to officially retire.

He's battled a spectrum of emotions over the last weeks, but when he woke up this morning, he felt nothing but gratitude. Bryan proceeded to share a gratitude list - things he loves - with the crowd.

The Seahawks, right before his music hits when the crowd reacts, hitting the ropes and diving to the hard camera side (which makes him feel like Superman) - and the crowd's reaction to that, that he's wrestled in parking lots of gas stations, and he's wrestled in front of 70,000 in New Orleans, that he's met the most amazing people like Kane, William Regal, children that are stronger than he thought anyone could be like Connor Michalek.

Doing this, wrestling, was his dream. But he never dreamed the fans would get behind him in the way that they did - a way he never thought possible. Specifically mentioning the Seattle crowd which hijacked Raw back in 2014 as an example, Bryan again triggered a chant of his name.

He wasn't grateful because of how that felt for him, however. He's grateful because his dad (who died in 2014) was there, and got to see that. And that was the last time his father saw him wrestle, and the fans made it special.

He's grateful, because via wrestling he met the most beautiful woman in the world, who completes him in ways he didn't know was possible.

He's grateful, because he gets to come out in front of his hometown fans - a bunch of people who love him - including his mom, sister, family and friends.

Tomorrow morning, Bryan will start a new life. A life where he's no longer a wrestler. But it's not tomorrow, and he has one last night to feel like this. So he asked for and was granted one last YES chant.

Brie came out to join him in the ring for a big kiss, and he went to see his family at ringside.

Daniel Bryan is grateful. But I think we're the ones who were blessed to watch him, and even sort of know, this amazing human being.

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