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    Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    Textual Chocolate Special Edition: Daniel Bryan's Wrestling Career, 1999-2016

    This won't be the first, nor the last, Daniel Bryan article you'll read from this website. If you've already had your fill, we apologize, but it would be remiss of many of us to not say a few words about the career of a great wrestler.

    As you might have already heard many times over—and it's not even been 48 hours since he's made his announcement—Daniel Bryan is an amazing man. He's an exceptional wrestling talent, but much more can and should be made of the fact that he's just a wonderful human being. Not everyone can say that about a wrestler who's great in the ring.

    That right there forms a good part of the man's charm. Bryan Danielson is like '90s/early-2000s Adam Sandler: he has an everyman aura about him that turned his character authentic, even when he was saddled with put-ons (like his heel turn), and even when there were doubts that pure Bryan would be a bore.

    As a result, he inevitably won the crowd over the way few wrestlers can. For the first time in wrestling's history, here was a man almost every member of the audience could get behind, because Bryan Danielson—especially more so as Daniel Bryan—was a mere mortal who proved that even though he seemed unremarkable at first glance, he could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the gods and demigods of the wrestling pantheon. All by virtue, all by ability, all by heroic heart.

    I don't mean any offense when I use the word "unremarkable" to describe him; I just use it as a frame to underscore everything he is and everything he's done. Bryan captured the hearts of the crowd by being someone everyone else could aspire to simply by being themselves, in a way no other popular hero was really able to. He was an outsider like CM Punk, but he did not talk like Punk. He was small like Rey Mysterio, but he did not have his dazzling speed. He was as good as Eddie Guerrero, but he did not have Latino Heat's swagger. These were things the ordinary man could only hope to be, but could not always be, and the fact that Bryan achieved so much with what he had is nothing short of inspirational. And it certainly makes the notion of "being yourself" all the more palatable.

    Of course, not everything turns out wonderful. Just as Icarus fell after flying too close to the sun, Bryan's own enthusiasm ended up being his undoing.

    Taking too many risks just to earn the crowd's awe—and to a degree, to make your way to the top of the business—had always been one of pro wrestling's biggest problems. The chair shots to the head, the long falls from high perches, the stiff strikes to the body, all of those and more are the bread and butter of our sport. They are what drives the fans to keep coming back for more.

    In 2016, we already know that it is also these same things that slowly kill the people we adore.

    We already know these things, from the fans to the wrestlers to the bookers to the owners, but the system still will not change. The circumstances surrounding Bryan's retirement, as well as the SportsCenter interview he gave today again underscore the dangers of all the risks wrestling takes with its players, yet no one will budge on the system that rewards defying death to put on a good damn show.

    The only reason why Icarus flew too high was because he wanted to escape his prison back on that island. The only reason why Daniel Bryan flew too much was because he wanted to escape his prison of being overlooked for all the things he is.

    And this, ultimately, should be the one fight Daniel Bryan must lead—and if he does, it should be the fight he is most remembered for. His WWE run changed the way the company works with effects that are unfolding right before our very eyes, but the most important fight can come right after he walks away from the ring. The fight to hold wrestling companies accountable for their wrestlers' welfare, even if it is the wrestlers themselves who willingly put their bodies on the line for their craft. And on that note, the fight to have wrestlers be more responsible for what they do in the ring, and the fight to make audiences be okay with all that.

    Daniel Bryan flew high and took all our dreams with him. We love him for that, but we fans must also be aware of the price he paid—and countless others are paying—to capture our hearts and take us all with him to the top. We don't have to make another Icarus. Let Bryan be the last.

    Photo from WWE


    Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul.
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    Item Reviewed: Textual Chocolate Special Edition: Daniel Bryan's Wrestling Career, 1999-2016 Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Romeo Moran
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