After two years of non-wrestling roles and treatment after treatment, as of Tuesday Daniel Bryan is back in the game.
The news broke just hours ahead of Smackdown LIVE, where Bryan would officially address his clearing by WWE doctors and discuss next steps. Those hours were more than enough to whip the internet into a frenzy.
I almost started crying at work because of Daniel Bryan
— Bobby Murphy (@RobertJMurph) March 20, 2018
Uh, myself included.
Of course, there’s fear there. There’s a perception of fragility that’s hard to shake, even if it’s not necessarily true or fair. At this moment of pure hype, it’s not easy to think about having to lose it again.
The events of Smackdown played into the Bryan excitement and anxiety perfectly.
It didn’t blow Bryan’s first match with no build, but it also didn’t withold what everyone wanted to see. Bryan got in some Yes Kicks, some corner dropkicks, even an extremely tight suplex on Sami Zayn. Of course, the numbers caught up to him in a grim beatdown. It looked dangerous – especially the apron bomb, which always does – but see this tweet:
A moment to appreciate the sheer technical artistry of this move: the way Sami moves Daniel’s head, both to protect him and to simulate the violent recoil of being kicked; the way Sami’s outflung arm adds to the impression of impact. pic.twitter.com/CyEcYQJeIM
— Mith Gifs (@MithGifs) March 21, 2018
I can’t say it better than the always-brilliant Mith, but this is a microcosm of how good these three are at selling something that looks dangerous, but isn’t. That’s exactly what tonight needed. It had to be bad enough to get the likable Zayn and Owens booed. It had to be safe enough to not re-injure Bryan and nuke the biggest news of the year. Just watch the above gif again. It’s brilliant.
Nobody knows how this is going to actually end up, and WWE might blow it like they sometimes do. But right now I just don’t have room for that. Daniel Bryan is back. Daniel Bryan is back.
The often-forgotten most important part of wrestling is joy. Triumph. And the return of a widely-loved wrestler, against all odds, whose chant is literally the word YES?
That’s joy at its purest.
Image courtesy WWE