At the moment, I’m slightly a mess. Daniel Bryan announced his retirement earlier this afternoon and we all begged that this was a swerve. A long con created by Vince McMahon and company to only turn into Bryan returning for WrestleMania 32 in Dallas. But it wasn’t. It was real. Daniel Bryan, a guy who a lot of wrestling fans first knew by his government name in Bryan Danielson, a guy who trained at Shawn Michael’s Wrestling Academy and turned into the greatest wrestler in the world was hanging it up.

At first, I wanted to be angry. Hell, I kind of was angry. Why would a guy, who had practically been begging and fighting with the WWE to clear him to let him do what he loved more than anything else finally give up? Why would all of it change within a couple weeks? I couldn’t understand it. Then his speech started. Then he became self-deprecating. Then he told us why he cut his hair and shaved his beard (for a good cause!) and told us about the energy he felt whenever his music hit.

Right around the time he mentioned his dad seeing him wrestle in March 2014, a few weeks before the greatest night of his life at WrestleMania XXX is when I lost it. The tears flowed because of my personal history with my dad, and how he wants to see me do what I love doing and how close I was to losing him.

Daniel Bryan Retires in Front of His Family

Daniel Bryan is grateful… #RAW #ThankYouDanielBryan

Posted by WWE on Monday, February 8, 2016

Grateful.

I’m grateful that Daniel Bryan even existed. He’s billed at 5’8″ which means he’s barely an inch taller than me. He may outweigh me by 30 pounds but for fifteen years, a guy who literally looked like me in a business that’s all about size and brawn and strength was the best. An organic talent that was supported by the fans to the point where those fans forced a company to listen to them. And now, that man who we rooted for is choosing the best option for his future over getting dropped on his head again.

And I’m slowly coming to grips with that. Retirements are sort of meant to be happy. They’re the realization of when either you can’t do something anymore or you know your future may hold far more fruitful things in it. As wrestling fans, we’re selfish people. We want the people we see busting their ass at their craft be rewarded for it. It helps propel the story of good versus evil in our eyes. Daniel Bryan, maybe even more than CM Punk was the embodiment of the wrestling fan who scrapped together a few bucks just to go catch a guy they heard about on the Internet to see if he was any good. The guy whose clips they caught on YouTube or DailyMotion and started becoming immediate fans of. We love those guys because we feel like we’re part of their story.

When Daniel Bryan won at WrestleMania XXX, it was Shakespearean. A guy who was nowhere near what the WWE wanted in terms of a star became one. A guy beat three former WWE standard bearers in one night and became the face of the company. The months after seemed a bit more sullen and like Shakespeare, was tragic in so many different ways. But it meant something. The underdog won that night, a fifteen-year journey of being told what you can’t do ended with a resounding, “Yes.”

Daniel Bryan was one of the few people who made it rather fun to explain why grown men still talk about wrestling with glee. We’ll explain it to our kids that we saw a guy like him and it made us tear up and cry when he said he couldn’t do it anymore. But still, we’re grateful to have watch him work.

Thank you Daniel Bryan. Thank you Bryan Danielson. Thank you.

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