This was first posted on Cageside Seats on February 8, a few hours after Daniel Bryan announced his retirement on Twitter and a few hours before his retirement speech on Monday Night Raw. I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it, regardless of whether you're a wrestling fan or not, because it's just beautiful. I've posted it below at the end of this post.
There's a quote that sticks out for me.
"All of these people with their signs and their hands up in the air. Chanting yes, yes, yes or no, no, no. They're doing it because they believe in you. They believe in you and you hear that. And when you hear that and when you know someone believes in you, it empowers you, it gives you emotion and all you want to do is come out to this ring every single night - sick, tired or hurt - and put your body on the line as a way to say I believe in you as much as you believe in me.
John Cena said that on the go-home show of Raw before SummerSlam 2013 ahead of his match against Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship the following weekend. It's something that has been sticking with me since I went back and watched that promo involving Bryan - and other various bits involving him (that incredible moment with the crowd chanting in perfect unison for him after attacking Bray Wyatt (won't lie, I shed tears watching it after the announcement), Cena announcing him as the number one contender for the title, the Yes movement holding up Rawand the subsequent Monster package before his match with Triple H at Wrestlemania) - in the aftermath of his announcement that he was to retire.
I'll admit upfront: I didn't see the man known as Bryan Danielson compete in Ring of Honor or elsewhere. But I did see the man known as Daniel Bryan compete in WWE over the past near six years since the start of NXT (and his later return at SummerSlam as part of Cena's feud against the Nexus) up until what would turn out to be his final match against Sheamus on Smackdown a year ago. And seeing the news on Twitter as I was standing outside doing a few messages and waiting for a taxi home, all I wanted to do was do scream no and do the no chant right then and there, even if people had no clue what it was about.
The reason we're all heartbroken - at least most of us all are (I'm sure we're all heartbroken, but I'm sure there's always one at least) - is because since the Yes Movement began at Wrestlemania XXVIII nearly four years ago in Miami, I don't think you'll find a more charismatic talent in that ring. It's seems perhaps silly to say that, but for me, he had that. Lets be clear, we're not talking Rock/Austin levels of charisma, but he still had something magical about him which had people going with him since that April night in 2012. He was for me, and it's weird to talk of this now in the past tense, the most charismatic talent since the both of them in their heyday.
But more than anything, besides the charisma and besides his incredible in-ring talent, is the fact he somehow made us believe in him. He was the true underdog. That much is already obvious, but it's worth stating anyways. That faithful night in New Orleans two years ago was itself two years in the making, a slowburner. But when it came, the payoff was magical. As it should have. As it was. Even if what happened earlier with The Undertaker's streak being broken by Brock Lesnar instilled a sense of doubt on proceedings.
Of course, out of anything else in his career perhaps, you have to think of those two matches at Wrestlemania XXX. Because for me, that night proved that dreams can come true. He instilled that belief into us after those matches with Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista respectively. Anything is possible. If a guy like Daniel Bryan, who was perhaps destined to be - at best - the top of the mid-card (an actual B+ player), can go onto have not only such an incredible fanbase, but also defy the odds, the expectations given to him by the higher ups and actually headline and win the main event at Wrestlemania XXX, anything is doable if there's someone there to believe in you. And we found that in him.
Daniel Bryan believed in us because we believed in him. And, perhaps short of Sami Zayn once he's on the main roster for real, I don't think you will ever see the likes of such an inspiring talent - no, man - like Daniel Bryan in wrestling ever again, if not for a very, very long time. Needless to say, I don't think there'll be too many dry eyes in the house once Monday Night Raw goes off the air tonight.