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    Thursday, February 11, 2016

    9 Things We Learned About Daniel Bryan On ESPN

    It's tough seeing a grown man cry as his dreams get crushed, and for a lot of us wrestling fans, this one image we all saw of Daniel Bryan as he announced his retirement from the manic world of professional wrestling was absolutely crushing. Our hearts may never recover.

    But as most of you know, the 34-year-old four-time world champion made a 12-minute appearance on ESPN the other day for a Q&A with former WWE personality Jonathan Coachman to answer questions about his future. And thankfully, in this session, Bryan finally looked at peace with having to wake up and tell himself he's no longer a pro wrestler.

    Amidst all the drama and tension, we learned nine key things about the man to take with us moving forward.

    1. He's had ten documented concussions—but no idea how many undocumented ones in between.

    Daniel Bryan revealed that throughout the course of his magnificent 16-year career, he's had ten documented concussions, but is literally clueless how many more undocumented one he's suffered. He points out that while concussion awareness may be getting more and more traction among both medical professionals and the spectating public, it's impossible to identify and define every single incidence. As an athlete in a highly-physical contact sport, he frequently gets knocked out or "gets his bell rung," and each one of these incidents could have been a concussion in itself. 

    We say: Do most people even know what a concussion is? Loosely put, the brain floats within the skull within a shroud of fluids and membranes—but when sudden, harsh impact occurs, the brain can smash up against the skull, causing bruising. We repeat: A concussion means you just bruised your brain.

    That's right, tough guy. Walk it off.
    In extreme cases, nerve fibers and tissues can be stretched and torn by the shearing forces, which over time causes portions of the brain to permanently lose the ability to send signals communicate with other parts of the organ. Over time, repeated concussions can lead to progressive cognitive decline—memory loss, thinking and reasoning skills—and can leave patients more prone to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

    So for everyone out there who insists D-Bry hit up NJPW, ROH, or the independents, remember this: His brain has been severely bruised and scarred, with nerve fibers likely permanently damaged. He's at risk for losing his ability to think, remember, and reason, and could be a candidate for Alzheimer's early on. Let's all stop being ghouls about this, please.

    2. He's been hiding seizures for some time.

    Daniel Bryan confessed that his brain turned out to "not as okay as he thought." In previous testing, he's simply been subjected to EEG tests that measured simple electrical activity in the brain, all of which had revealed a normal, healthy, well-functioning organ. But he went to New York for a new form of testing, which combines both EEG with reflex testing. This test revealed some slowdown in electrical impulses being transmitted across his brain, which led to the discovery of some lesions in its temperoparietal portion—something that can cause seizures. He's in fact been hiding these seizures for some time.

    We say: Damn. We saw this clip from his last singles match on SmackDown ten months ago of what appears to be a mid-match seizure. Check out the portion from 2:00 onwards, when he delivers a flurry of headbutts to Sheamus before getting knocked to the floor and Bullhammered by Bad News Barrett.

    Temperoparietal damage has been documented as a potential precursor to psychosis and epilepsy, and after seeing Bryan convulsing and twitching on the floor, it isn't hard to understand why. Even Sheamus can tell something is amiss, and after a couple of attempts to pick his opponent up and return him to the ring, he simply drops him and rolls him back into the ring.

    If this isn't a magnificent selling job by D-Bry, then is is possibly one of the most uncomfortable wrestling moments captured in the past year—and it's even scarier to think of all the moments that weren't documented in this manner. Whew.

    3. He thinks today's athletes need to be less macho.

    If there's one message Daniel Bryan could leave for today's generation of young athletes, it's to be cognizant of the risks and dangers of concussions. Prior generations may not have had the right levels of education on dealing with concussions, but we do today. He says if you get a concussion, or even think you had one, report it. To him, the worst that could happen is to get concussed then get back into contact sports before the brain is fully healed. This is the macho mentality that comes with anyone who gets into testosterone-laden sports like football, wrestling, or fighting—toughing it out, or thinking it's just a ding. Athletes need to recognize they have a responsibility to themselves, their family, and their friends—not the sporting gods.

    We say: You can't blame a guy who stands 5'8" and weighs 180 pounds for having the warrior mentality; men like these are traditionally eaten alive in the maelstrom of pro wrestling, so for him to have thrived speaks volumes about his strength of character and personal conviction.

    But when is macho too macho? History is replete with cases of men who allowed themselves to succumb to injury, only to lose their spot. Take the case of Mr. Kennedy, who was supposedly being groomed for a world championship run as winner of the 2007 Money In The Bank briefcase, only to fall to a torn tricep that would reportedly knock him out of action for seven months. He promptly dropped the briefcase to Edge, only to ironically discover that his tear was minor enough to entail just a few weeks of downtime.

    Or more recently, what of Dolph Ziggler, who, after a spate of concussions, was supposedly deemed too fragile to be the face of the WWE?

    "Manning up" is a point of pride in the locker room. But there comes a time when, in the words of the late Owen Hart, enough is enough, and it's time for a change. Can the sad case of Daniel Bryan be the catalyst? We certainly hope so.

    4. He started the "YES!" chant to be annoying

    While he recognizes that his famous "YES!" chant ranks among the most fun and iconic forms of crowd engagement in pro wrestling—even grandmas can do it!—he had no plans of it taking off the way that it did. All he wanted was to be annoying, and for people to start groaning when they'd see him doing it and say, "Oh no, it's this guy." But looking back, he's incredibly thankful for his one powerful memory from his retirement speech: Being able to close his eyes and palpably feel the emotions reaching out from the crowd as they chanted for him.

    We say: Deliberate or not, it's still one of the all-time great things to do as a wrestling fan. It's even been cool enough to spill over into mainstream use, as in the case of this Michigan University crowd who co-opted the chant as their own.

    We're definitely going to miss this. But heck, if Steve Austin's infamous "WHAT?" chants or Ric Flair's "Whooo!" after each chop can live on long after their original owners have retired, then we're pretty sure this will be one tangible lasting memento of Daniel Bryan's too-short run on top of the wrestling world.

    5. He's all about the people.

    When asked what he's going to miss the most, Daniel Bryan had just one answer out of the many floating in his mind: the people. He has no plans of falling out of touch, but admits that there's no replacing seeing his locker room crew every day or doing 300-mile drives from show to show with his favorite road buddies—Cody Rhodes, Ryback, Sheamus, William Regal, or Ted DiBiase. It will be these small private moments whose absence will ring out the most.

    We say: There's a unique bond that's forged when you go to someone, and we aren't surprised to hear this from the likable, humble Bryan. All we can say though is that a stable consisting of him, Regal, Stardust, Ryback, and DiBiase would have been boss.


    6. He has no idea why he was able to make a connection, but is grateful all the same.

    When asked to dissect what made him so great to today's fans, Daniel Bryan was at a loss for words. Making an authentic connection to the audience isn't something he can attribute to some mythical muse, the way a writer does, but he considers himslf very fortunate to have done so. No time stands out better than a random Seattle crowd in 2013 hijacking the show and chanting his name so loud even if didn't even have a major role on the show, Triple H had to stop his promo and wait for the crowd to die down. He found this moment especially cool, because his dad got to be in the audience and see this one moment four months before he passed away.

    We say: Yep. That was one kick-ass moment.

    Commentary is unnecessary. But one thing we do know is that you can't fake chemistry, and the chemistry Daniel Bryan forged time and again with all sorts of wrestling audiences was one-of-a-kind.

    7. He has no idea what to do next, but wants to make the world a better place.

    Daniel Bryan was very upfront about not being absolutely sure what's next in his life. Wrestling has always been his passion, even as a child. In fact, the last real job he's held was as a clerk in a video store-cum-tanning salon, which even he admits was a totally random collision of industries. All he knows is that he wants to continue doing things to help people and help the world—perhaps doing charity work or concussion awareness advocacies with the WWE. One of the most poignant memories for him was getting to meet Connor, a young WWE fan stricken with brain cancer who eventually passed on, and it would be right up his alley to fight for causes like his. He doesn't want to get overwhelmed though, because he's always been told that if you try to do too many things, you don't get anything done.

    We say: Daniel Bryan has always been absolutely passionate about his personal advocacies—he was, after all, PETA's 2012 Vegan Athlete of the Year, so this desire to keep doing good in the world comes as no surprise. What does surprise us is how wrestling-related functions weren't top of mind respnses. He'd be an amazing trainer, agent, or producer, but we suppose the wounds are still too raw for him to consider a path within the industry so soon after being forced to retire.

    8. He doesn't need to be remembered. He'd rather people remember their shared experiences as wrestling fans.

    Bryan was characteristically low-key when asked how he'd like to be remembered by wrestling fans. He says being remembered isn't a high priority for him—he'd rather that anyone who was ever in a wrestling audience with a son, a daughter, or a loved one focus on remembering the good times they shared. Case in point: When he was a child, he got to watch an Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude match with his dad and sister, who wasn't even a wrestling fan. Mid-match, Warrior yanked down Rude's tights, exposing his bare ass to the audience—the first male butt his sister had ever seen. This became a moment the three would laugh about for years, and will always remember as key to creating lifelong bonds.

    We say: If a lady must see a man's ass, then Rick Rude's is as great a place to start as any.

    Because really.

    This is great advice, actually, for anyone who lives in today's social media-obsessed world. It's time to think less about capturing a great shot to share with the world on Instagram or Snapchat, and more about living in the moment and enjoying the feelings and emotions that make up each experience and tie you forever with the people around you. 

    (This one was for you, millennials.)

    9. He really likes gelato.

    Peanut butter or chocolate.


    If you missed the interview, you can catch the full segment below.

    What was the most surprising thing you learned from Daniel Bryan in his interview? Do you think he'll ever pursue a career in a non-wrestling capacity with the WWE? And do you think he's ridiculous for not thinking pistachio gelato is the best? Leave us your thoughts below, young Henrinites!
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