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Daniel Bryan's new place in wrestling is even more important than his old one

WWE.com

It's hard to imagine Daniel Bryan having a bigger impact on the world of professional wrestling than he already does.

After all, we're talking about a performer who hijacked an entire three months of WWE booking on his way to winning two matches at WrestleMania and delivering a moment that, as is becoming clear as more time passes, outshined the end of Undertaker's legendary winning streak at the event.

A man who defied conventional wisdom about who could be - forget a WWE champion - a WWE Superstar. Not just because undersized indy guys were supposed to be enhancement talent, either. But because you were supposed to be cutthroat backstage, a calculating political operative in order to swim with the sharks. Bryan has an unmatched competitive fire, but in a way that is also somehow cooperative.

The 34 year old is already a legend. That legend is likely to grow as the years pass, at least in part because we hopefully won't have the Kurt Angle years of fearing for his life when he wrestles, the Terry Funk ones where he's too old to do much in the ring, or Ric Flair, who's represented both.

But by choosing to walk away in the face of evidence regarding the damage repeated concussions have done to his brain over the years, Bryan's post-wrestling impact on the performing art he loves so much could be greater than his trailblazing work as a wrestler.

The Aberdeen native is hardly unique. We know for sure that many in-ring performers suffer concussions. And we know the culture, driven by the competitive fire to get or stay on top, and a macho mentality that says you play through pain, has influenced many to return to and continue wrestling after being concussed.

Repeated head trauma can lead to everything from headaches and forgetfulness to suicidal ideation. We're only beginning to learn about the ramifications of the kinds of injuries Bryan says he experience throughout his sixteen year career.

Being the first major sports entertainer to walk away, not for fear of physical but cognitive impairment, can serve as an example to others. Maybe not guys who've experienced numerous concussions and "soldiered" on, but perhaps for a younger generation to keep the love of performing in perspective with the love of life.

Hopefully, Bryan can also lead a movement toward a safer in-ring style. Throughout his run to the WWE title, he was known for a full-speed ahead approach, full of headfirst dives to the barricade, missle drop kicks and diving headbutts. But his earlier career featured the kind of mat-based offense and strategy which is en vogue with a promotion like his old booker Gabe Sapolsky's at EVOLVE.

EVOLVE is partnered with NXT. Bryan was a part of the creation of EVOLVE. Whether he officially becomes a trainer for one or both organizations or simply serves as a mentor and sounding board for some of their roster, he can help guide those entering the business now to find ways to connect with the audience that don't put so much strain on the body or the brain at such risk.

We all wish Daniel Bryan success and happiness in whatever comes next in his life.  It's the only way we can hope to pay him back for the joy he's brought to us over the years.

But I do hope that he keeps one foot in the wrestling world moving forward. A man who clearly relishes the opportunity to make the world a better place has a chance to once again push the industry he loves toward one where everyone involved is healthier, safer and happier.

Wrestling still needs you, Bryan.

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