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Daniel Bryan documentary leads to claims WWE edited off concussion footage from SmackDown in 2015

Allegations emerge that WWE edited off footage where Daniel Bryan suffered a concussion from the April 9th, 2015 edition of Smackdown, which is notable as Bryan wasn't sent home until several days later.

Brie Bella: better at diagnosing concussions than WWE doctors?
Brie Bella: better at diagnosing concussions than WWE doctors?
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

The WWE production team should be commended for their skill in putting together a compelling documentary piece. It's one area in which they particularly excel in, the latest example being their WWE 24: Thank You Daniel special where they crafted an emotional behind the scenes look at Daniel Bryan's retirement on the February 8 Monday Night Raw due to medical reasons. Those reasons, as the documentary accurately covered, were:

  • Dr. Joseph Maroon's refusal to clear Bryan for competition in May 2015 after he had suffered a concussion the month prior and learning about his full concussion history, which included four post-concussion seizures that he had never told anyone in WWE about (believed to have taken place several years earlier).
  • Bryan eventually going to a doctor in New York who conducted an EEG whilst testing his reflexes which revealed a small subacute or chronic lesion in his brain's temporoparietal region, which explained his prior post-concussion seizures.
However, according to Dave Meltzer's coverage in this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter, although the piece was very honest about a lot of elements to this complex story, there were aspects that were glossed over which didn't reflect so positively on WWE's handling of the situation.

In the documentary, Bryan reveals that he suffered a concussion on a Smackdown taping in Texas and the next day he flew to Europe for a WWE house show tour. This would have been the show on April 7th, 2015, in Dallas where he tagged with Roman Reigns and Dolph Ziggler to defeat The Big Show, Sheamus and Wade Barrett in the main event that was televised two days later on SyFy. His wife Brie Bella then discusses how she realised that he had suffered a concussion when she finally saw her husband in London before the next set of Monday Night Raw tapings (on April 13th, 2015). Bryan tried to deny it, but Brie knew he was lying and claimed that in her heart she had felt that this was probably it for her husband's wrestling career. Bryan then explains how he had made a sworn promise to Brie that the next time he got a concussion, he would come clean to WWE doctors about all of his past concussion issues and that led to him being sent home from the European tour on the Wednesday.

The conclusion a viewer would naturally get from watching the documentary is that Daniel Bryan hid his concussion from everyone until his wife Brie forced him to confess to the injury and that WWE were none the wiser that he might have been injured until that point. This doesn't appear to be the case.

That's because according to Meltzer's report everyone involved in the tag team match on April 7th, 2015, knew that Bryan had his bell rung in the middle of the bout and WWE edited the footage off the Smackdown broadcast two days later:
Clearly there was an issue because the actual concussion spot in the main event of the Smackdown show was edited off television. The only people who saw it were the fans in the arena, and a handful of others who did see it.

According to one person who actually saw the incident and has full knowledge of the subject, Danielson was draped on the second rope facing the outside of the ring. The spot looked like nothing. Sheamus was in the corner, on the apron, and kicked Bryan hard in the temple. The description was, "Time stood still. It was clear something was just not right. The legal man, Wade Barrett, went over to pick Bryan up, but Bryan was hurt. Everyone knew something was wrong. But, the thoroughbred horse continued the match and took bumps. Obviously Bryan said he was fine. Anyone who noticed what happened knew he was far from fine. Maybe it was because of Bryan's reaction to HHH stopping his earlier match with Randy Orton on Raw, but nothing was done."

Referring to Bryan as "the thoroughbred horse" was clearly a knock on Triple H by Meltzer's source who had explained his decision to stop Bryan's match with Randy Orton on the June 17th Monday Night Raw when he suffered a stinger in the documentary with the following analogy: "The thoroughbred horse will run itself into the ground, somebody has to pull the reins and stop it." The apparent lack of consistency certainly deserves to be noted.

There is also a degree of hypocrisy here too. Paul Levesque, in his role as WWE's Executive Vice President, Talent, Live Events & Creative, told Good Morning America when they covered the Daniel Bryan retirement story that:
"Our referees are taught to look for signs [of concussion]. Our talent themselves are made aware of signs [of concussion] in themselves and in each other."
If that was indeed the case a year ago, then why was Daniel Bryan sent on the European tour with a concussion, wrestling seven more matches in six days? It is true that he was heavily protected and worked much safer than usual in most of them (based on Meltzer's account he worked "a normal match in Dublin [on the first night of the tour], teaming with Erick Rowan & Dolph Ziggler to beat Barrett & Sheamus & Bray Wyatt when he used the running knee to pin Barrett", but after that night the format of the match was switched up to where he would only come in for the finish and used the much safer Yes Lock to pick up the victory), but clearly he should have been sent home immediately rather than waiting until another round of television was done.

It should be noted that there were reports at the time that Daniel Bryan was also "banged up" after his match with Sheamus on the March 31, 2015, SmackDown tapings and that he had suffered an injury at the Dublin house show on April 9, 2015. Maybe one or both of those reports were erroneous and the only injury he suffered was in Dallas, but it also raises the possibility that Bryan may have suffered more than one concussion in that ten day time period. Of course, that's just speculation on my part.

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