“Daniel Bryan is finished.” Those were the words of Bret Hart in his recent interview with Sports Illustrated. Hart also remarked that Daniel Bryan’s latest layout from a concussion suffered in April is so similar to what happened to him at the hands of Goldberg that like him, Daniel Bryan’s career is over without him necessarily realising it just yet. Sad news indeed and despite what Bryan has said in recent interviews claiming otherwise, I’m inclined to agree with the Hitman. All this got me thinking and it raised the question: when should wrestlers call it a day and retire?
I love watching Daniel Bryan in the ring as much as any fan and I want to see him come back and wrestle, but at the same time as a more mature fan now, I don’t want to see him, or anyone else for that matter, get seriously hurt. Back in the day as a kid and then a teenager watching wrestling, I hated it when my favorite wrestlers were out with an injury. I was a big Shawn Michaels fan in the 90s and hated that he was out after Wrestlemania 14. On every episode of Raw each week I hoped he would return to the ring or at least we’d hear a tidbit of information that pointed to an impending return. I didn’t realise at the time though that apart from his physical injuries, which were serious, his psychological health and struggles with drug addiction were also a serious problem. I just wanted my favorite star back. Looking back on it, even if Michael’s had come back to in ring competition in 2001 as he was actually meant to, he was in no mental ( and subsequently physical state ) to do so. Even in his guest appearances on TV and PPV events he was clearly not in a good place mentally or physically. Shawn Michael’s retirement in 1998 was the right thing to do at the time. Luckily in Shawn Michael’s case his physical and mental injuries were repairable and we got to see an even better version of HBK from 2002. I can’t say the same for another wrestler who I loved to watch back in the day.
Mick Foley is probably a better example of an all time great who really should’ve drawn the curtain on his in-ring career much earlier than he did. Foley even admits this now and also admits that it was because of his numerous injuries that limited him physically, he kept on chasing that “special moment” or “the big finish.” As a wrestler Mick Foley had so many memorable matches and big spots that honestly did redefine professional wrestling in the mainstream media. But for all his legendary moments he still wasn’t satisfied with the way he exited the business. At Wrestlemania 2000 Mick was in the fatal four-way main event. By this point though he was physically shattered. Most notably shattered were his knees. Years of punishment had meant that by Wrestlemania 2000 Foley could barely walk let alone attempt a dive off the ropes to the announce table. That sickening crunch as his face and chest hit the corner of the announce table. He didn’t even come close to the Rock who was laying in wait to take the hit. Some say Mick should’ve retired after becoming champion on Raw in January 1999. However, Mick eventually ignored things like memory loss and much needed surgeries to tough it out for another year. Wrestlemania 2000 was already a bridge too far. Unfortunately though Wrestlemania 2000 wasn’t to be his last appearance in the ring. He continued to try and have “a better match than the last” several times in the 2000’s for WWE and even in TNA. Finally, Mick seems to have put his boots away for good. These days when I look at Mick Foley’s matches from 1999 to 2000 in particular, I cringe a little inside at some of the bumps and spots he takes. I think he really should’ve called it a day after winning the championship in 99.
Maybe it’s because I’m older now but the thought of a wrestler falling from the top of a steel cage into an announce table doesn’t quite excite me as it once did. Instead, I shudder to think what kind of internal injuries it causes as well as worry about the long term effects of multiple concussions. It’s for these reasons why I’d much rather see Daniel Bryan just call it a day. It’d be great to see him compete in the ring again but I don’t want to see him as a mere shell of himself, or endanger his health or even his life if he took another serious blow to the head. Guys like Daniel Bryan come across as all round decent, good people and I’d much rather see him healthy, happy and retired than injured and still trying to wrestle.
There have been sadder cases than Mick Foley trying to continue their career in the ring despite doctor’s orders so I’ll leave it to you to list any other examples. What do you think? When should Daniel Bryan or any other wrestler call it a day?