Daniel Bryan is a bonafide WWE legend and a fan-favorite. Unfortunately, multiple concussions forced the popular pro-grappler’s retirement last February while the undersized fighter was still in his prime.
Bryan — whose in-ring name is a play on his real one, Bryan Danielson — is still a big part of the show, however, as general manager (a job whose “offer” Bryan tells us was “not a request” from company brass, by the way) of WWE’s Tuesday show, “SmackDown Live.” That said, he’d rather be in the locker room than the office — and a comeback cannot be ruled out right now. Not with the advances we’ve made in understanding, diagnosing and treating the brain injury. Of course, should the former champion squeeze back into his tights, the “Yes” movement may have to move to another wrestling promotion.
“I’m not convinced that there is anything the WWE could hear that would change their opinions. The difficulty is in the testing for concussion protocols — there’s too much liability involved,” Bryan told TheWrap. “Everybody agrees that they think my brain is fine now, right? But there’s nothing to say that if something else happens, something bad couldn’t happen.”
“So, that kind of liability when it’s a billion dollar company with lots of people who work there — they don’t want to see that happen to me, with my family. I have a new daughter,” he continued. “They don’t want to see that happen where there would be a huge lawsuit. That would hurt their ability to employ as many people as they do.”
WWE is a publicly-traded company with a market capitalization of $1.54 billion. In other words, Vince McMahon has a lot more to lose than any other league in the industry that he’s infamously dubbed “sports entertainment.”
“If you were to just go by the concussion experts that I saw, I was cleared to wrestle,” Bryan explained. “WWE’s head of Medical did not clear me.”
Bryan’s not taking that lying down on a trainer’s table. Currently, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound bulldog is doing some hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment right now, which he says is in the process of getting FDA approval. And his head is in good hands: Bryan is being overseen by Dr. Barry Miskin, the principal investigator of the Joe Namath Neurological Center.
The father of a five-week-old daughter and husband to fellow WWE Superstar Brie Bella is also gobbling up as much information as he can. As part of that quest for knowledge and more running knees, Bryan underwent an Evoke Neuroscience test, which “enables physicians to objectively measure and optimally manage memory loss, cognitive impairment, and other stress-related conditions,” per the eVox System‘s website.
That, much like WWE’s Impact Test, utilizes one’s baseline to determine if an athlete is cleared for competition or not. Unfortunately, Bryan didn’t quite pass with flying colors the first time.
“That showed a slowing of the Temporoparietal region of my brain,” he told us, referring to the part of one’s anatomy that is responsible for collecting and processing information. “So that’s the one thing that kind of flagged me.”
In theory, that could just be Bryan’s normal speed, however. The lack of archives on pretty much all of us is what makes concussion protocol so tricky in almost every situation.
Bryan wants to take the Evoke test again, to see if there has been improvement.
Ultimately, the decision to lace up the boots again — or not — will be his.
“My wife is very gracious with me, as far as permitting me to do all this kind of stuff and then leaving that sort of thing open-ended, as far as if I want to return to wrestling or not,” Bryan said.
Now, he just needs to find a promoter willing to take a risk — something Bryan has welcomed between the ropes throughout his whole career.
Bryan returns from paternity leave tonight at 8/7c on USA Network’s “SmackDown Live.” He’ll open the show by addressing that finish to Sunday’s “Money in the Bank” Women’s Ladder Match, which did not sit well with fans, fellow Superstars, and Bryan himself.