What was once only speculation became reality on Monday.
Daniel Bryan, one of my favourite wrestlers in World Wrestling Entertainment, had been out for several months with an upper-body injury.
During every major show that the company would stage, I wouldanticipate his theme song to hit, meaning he would make a return.
He never did. I grew frustrated.
Bryan had been cleared by outside doctors! Why won't WWE's medical staff do the same?
Then, in the blink of an eye, it was January, the month of the Royal Rumble.
I told anyone who cared, “WWE is holding out Bryan for the Battle Royal match at the Rumble. He's going to be a surprise entrant and everyone is going to go absolutely crazy. If not, I give up. He's done.”
The Royal Rumble came and went, and Bryan didn't came back.
“He is done!” I said in frustration and disappointment after the show. “Done!”
Even though I stated that, deep down I hoped that I was wrong.
Seattle's Key Arena was scheduled to play host to WWE's Monday Night Raw on Feb. 8. A week before the show, talk about Bryan started to heat up again.
The word was he was going to return that night.
“Ohhhh,” I thought to myself. “It all makes sense now.”
For those who don't know, Bryan is from Aberdeen, Wash. It would be like a homecoming to have him come back in Seattle.
Oh, wait. Then I really starting thinking.
How many times have reports about Bryan been wrong? Multiple.
I told myself, “I'll believe it when a see it.”
A day before Monday Night Raw, things really began to ramp up. Photos were taken and tweeted by observers who saw him at an airport. Bryan had a new haircut and everything.
Could he really be coming back?
I got excited.
But, again, I refused to get too high about it.
On Monday morning, before I went to the Vancouver Giants office, I tweeted the following:
Almost instantly, I got replies to that tweet saying that he had announced his retirement.
“Wh….aaa…ttt?" I uttered.
It was true.
As much as I saw it coming, for whatever reason, I was still shocked and didn't want it to be true.
“Please let it be a storyline,” I said to myself. “Please let it be a storyline.”
I reached over to my phone and sent a text message to Brendan Batchelor, the Giants' director of media relations and play-by-play broadcaster.
Brendan ... I wrote.
I only wrote his name, but Batchelor knew exactly what I was getting at.
“I saw,” he wrote back. “He's done.”
The Giants were scheduled to play host to the Edmonton Oil Kings later in the day, at 2 p.m. Monday Night Raw was to be live at 5 p.m.
I tried my best to make it home in time. If I didn't, I was going to force myself to not log on to Twitter until I watched the show.
The Giants defeated the Oil Kings 1-0. Vancouver goaltender Ryan Kubic made 28 saves for the shutout.
I leftthe press box in the middle of the third period to get ready for Giants' head coach Lorne Molleken's press conference.
Once everything was completed, I took the elevator down to the concourse level and ran to the office.
“Ready to go?” I said to Elliott Demone, one of the sales consultants. He was going to give me a ride home.
“Yep,” he said. “Just let me shut down for computer.”
“OK,” I said, trying to catch my breath from running. “I'll meet you by the front door.”
“What's the rush?” he asked, with a laugh.
Batchelor overheard and said, “To watch Raw!”
“I want to get home in time for Raw!” I said.
“Oh, I thought you lined up some hot date!”
I ignored him, and continued towards the door.
“I'm out, Batch!” I said on the way out. “See ya later. I hope it's a swerve!”
“See ya!” Batchelor said.
I looked over at the clock. It was 4:45 p.m.
I had 15 minutes. I had no idea when Bryan's segment was going to come on.
It could have been the opening one, or the ending.
But I didn't want to risk it. I wanted to be in front of a television by the start.
I usually stick around the office after the games. Not this time.
I was out of that place faster than anything.
I had my eye on the clock the whole way home. As soon as I arrived at my house, I bolted for the entrance.
“See ya Elliott!” I yelled. “Thanks for the ride. I appreciate it.”
“No problem buddy,” he said as he got back in the car. “Enjoy the show.”
When I got in to my house, I looked over to my clock again.
I took off my jacket, shoes and tie. I didn't worry about my dress shirt or pants. There was no time to change.
I made it just in time.
Bryan wasn't in the opening segment.
While watching the show, I kept saying, “Where is Bryan going to come out?”
He was in the final segment of the show.
“Finally,” I said to myself. “Here we go.”
“I've been wrestling since I was 18-years-old,” Bryan said during the segment. “Within the first five months of my wrestling career, I had already had three concussions. For years after that, I would get a concussion here and there, here or there. It gets to the point where you've been wrestling for 16 years, that that adds up to a lot of concussions. It gets to a point where they tell you that you can't wrestle anymore.”
I was hoping someone's theme song would hit and that someone would begin a feud with him.
I know. I was being completely delusional and in denial that his career was actually done.
“For a long time, I fought that,” he continued. “Because this, I have loved this in a way that I have never loved anything else. A week and a half ago, I took a test that said that maybe my brain isn't as okay as I thought it was. I have a family to think about. It is with a heavier heart and the utmost sadness that I officially announce my retirement.”
At this point, I knew that this wasn't a storyline and tried my best to hold back tears. Bryan then talked about his father, Donald Orrin Danielson, who passed away last year.
I couldn't do it anymore. I was in tears. To those who want to judge that I cried over wrestling, go right ahead. I don't care.
Bryan was arguably the best wrestler in the world. He broke moulds for so many in the business.
What do I mean?
The WWE is known for having wrestlers who are at least 6-foot-0 with a muscular body type. Bryan, however, islisted at 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds.
He worked in the independent circuit for years, and few ever thought that the WWE would offer him a contract.
He was so good, that they did.
Making it to WWE is one thing. Being in the main event of WrestleMania, the biggest event of the year that WWE has to offer, is another.
Bryan was so good and connected with the fans so well that WWE had no choice but to change its plans for WrestleMania 30. He was in the main event for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
He ended the show as the new champion.
I will never forget it.
It makes me want to tear up just thinking of how happy I was when it happened.
Now, more wrestlers from the independent circuit who don’t have the traditional look are signing with WWE.
That's all because of Bryan.
A day later, he did an interview with ESPN's Johnathan Coachman.
I, of course, was all over it.
“We've been able to document 10 concussions,” Bryan said. “As a lot of people who are familiar with concussions know, you can't document all of them. If you were to ask an NFL player how many concussions they've had, it would be impossible for them to say. Well, I've been knocked out this time and that time and that time I got my bell rung. But, also, it's hard to define a concussion. The more literature that comes out about it, the more awareness there is. You know, we're finding out more all the time, so it was impossible to say.”
He also revealed that he had post-concussion seizures throughout his career, which he hid.
Doing all the tests showed why that was, which is the reason for his premature retirement at 34 years of age.
I was extremely taken aback. Leaving the ring was the best thing for him.
Even though I won't be watching him wrestle anymore, I'm grateful that I was able to follow his career for as long as I did.
I'm grateful that because of wrestling I've been able to develop a relationship with guys like Batchelor away from the rink and call him a friend.
Has my appreciation and respect for Bryan and professional wrestling itself grown that much higher?
Yes, yes, yes!