A sign of just how many people Daniel Bryan touched, how big his legend... is the tremendous outpouring of messages from fans and people inside the industry to the news that he's retiring due to the cumulative effect of concussions incurred while wrestling.
Three that are worth spotlighting come from men he worked with him at various points throughout his 16 year professional career, but who were there with him in the early days of Ring of Honor (ROH) - a promotion that has shaped what we think of as independent, non-WWE wrestling today.
In ways that perfectly illustrate not only what Bryan meant to their lives, but also who they are, current NXT star Samoa Joe, current UFC fighter Phil "CM Punk" Brooks and EVOLVE head man Gabe Sapolosky shared these messages:
As I sit here tonight, I do so with a mix of emotions. Everything from selfishly profound sadness to relief tinged understanding, but by far I feel the very same emotion that Daniel Bryan feels tonight and that is Gratitude. Gratitude that for the better part of my 16 year career I have had the pleasure of both working with, and more importantly knowing Daniel Bryan.
To any who have been lucky enough to share a locker room with him all would agree that at every stage of his career Bryan held an amazing level of respect. A respect bred not only for his technical mastery but also his unquenchable passion for wrestling. A passion that would literally carry him around the world several times over both in and out WWE ring and into every venue imaginable. No matter if it was a Stadium, a dome, a dilapidated industrial warehouse, a gas station parking lot, local VF hall or masonic lodge he never took a night off and he never gave anything less than his very best.
To speak of Bryan personally is to speak of the overwhelmingly positive aura that surrounds him at all times. His uncanny ability to have ridiculously deep and insanely entertaining conversations out of the most mundane subjects. Above and beyond all those things to speak of Bryan personally is to speak of his utter selflessness and willingness to do that much more work in order make things the very best not only only for him, but for all those around him. That is by far the trait I admire the most, because not only is it rare in the realms of "Sport Entertainment", it is a treasured quality in the broader spectrum of modern society.
So tonight Daniel Bryan I tip a glass of the finest organic locally sourced superfood juice to you. To the battles we waged, to the laughter shared, to the Dojo's stories, to shared hotel hi jinx, to the GB5 crew (it's an inside thing), and most importantly to your future. Though you may not realize it today somewhere in the world a young man or woman is endlessly obsessing over videos displaying your body of work. They are studying your every technique much like yourself while you studied the masters of our past, but most important of all they are filled with uncontainable optimism at the path you paved for them.
My greatest wish for you is that though it may seem unimaginable, I truly hope you find as much love and passions in the next phase of your life as you have had for wrestling, because I know for a fact whatever endeavor is fortunate enough to have your attentions will prosper endlessly because of you.
See you down the road.
An Open #ThankYouDanielBryan Letter - Written by Gabe Sapolsky, Feb. 8, 2016
Bryan, the news of your retirement today has reverberated through me unleashing a flood of memories and gratefulness.
Thank you, Bryan, for being in the main event of the first show I ever booked and making the name "Ring Of Honor" mean something that very night. You set the standard for the promotion and made my reputation as a booker in the early years. You did that quietly, humbly, and with class.
Thank you, Bryan, for getting on a plane in France and flying to Dayton and Chicago, doing two tough matches, and then getting right back on a plane to Europe. I know you didn't want to, but you did it unselfishly because we needed you.
Thank you, Bryan, for being there for me when we lost James Gibson after months of planning for him to be World Champion. You made the commitment to us then, because we needed someone to put the company on their back. You stayed modest, but you did it with a new attitude, stronger emotion, and unrivaled work ethic.
Thank you, Bryan for being there for Full Impact Pro when Homicide had to lose the Title due to an injury. You traveled the backroads of Florida and made it fun. You did it the right way, making the match where you finally lost the title to Roderick Strong one of the most emotional bouts I've seen.
Thank you, Bryan, for being there for me during one of the most difficult times of my life. When I felt alone and deserted, you called me and said "I wish we could start over." You spent hours talking about ideas for a new promotion. You called it "EVOLVE." No one was happier for you when you signed with WWE before you could wrestle for EVOLVE. The ideas you talked about are now seen in wrestlers like Timothy Thatcher, Drew Gulak, TJ Perkins, Tracy Williams, and Matt Riddle. You did it creatively, always with an eye on the future while being progressive.
Thank you, Bryan, for texting me "Thank you for everything" just hours before you won the WWE World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania XXX. That text made me realize that I had to call Paul Heyman to get me into the Superdome so I could witness it in person. I have the image of the fans going crazy while you held up the title forever in my memory. I had tears in my eyes. You did it while remaining humble and appreciative of your past.
Thank you, Bryan, for making my career, teaching me, being an example to everyone and for being the man. Thank you, sir.