One of professional wrestling’s most popular performers shocked the community today when Daniel Bryan announced suddenly on Twitter that he was retiring, effective immediately. Tonight on Raw, Bryan told the Seattle audience—many of whom were seen openly weeping—that “I don’t want to be doing this any more than you don’t want me to be doing this.”
Bryan had spent months in an attempt to get cleared for a return to wrestling, but WWE concussion expert Dr. Joseph Maroon—you remember him from downplaying the role of CTE in professional football—has reportedly refused to give Bryan the O.K. to return despite Bryan getting cleared by his own doctors. Wrestling observers have reported Bryan—real name Bryan Danielson—underwent a new kind of concussion test that convinced the WWE superstar that his career should come to an end, and Bryan confirmed that test in his appearance:
Within the first five months of my wrestling career, I’d already had three concussions. For years after that, I would get a concussion here and there, or here, or there, and it gets to the point when you’ve been wrestling for 16 years that it adds up to a lot of concussions. It gets to a point where they tell you that you can’t wrestle anymore. [...]
I have loved this in a way that I have never loved anything else. But a week and a half ago I took a test that said maybe my brain wasn’t as OK as I thought it was. And I have a family to think about, and my wife and I want to start having kids soon. [...]
I’ve been angry, I’ve been sad, I’ve been frustrated, and all that. But when I woke up this morning, I felt nothing but gratitude. [...]
You guys got behind me in a way that made me feel like I was more than just me. And for that, I’m grateful.
The show opened with a brief tribute to Bryan’s career, and continued airing highlight reels throughout the night:
The show continued on WWE Network; given that Bryan’s off-script and out-of-character admission that pro wrestling “is fiction” at last year’s Hall of Fame ceremony was wiped from WWE’s archives, there’s some question as to whether a very non-kayfabe sight like this would pass the bookers’ muster for Raw proper. Either way, one fairly ridiculous thing seems clear: the scripted world of pro wrestling cares more about its athletes’ brain health than the NFL does.