Last Friday, Daniel Bryan lost the main event on Smackdown to Roman Reigns. Per the stipulations of the match, had Bryan won, he would have claimed the Universal Championship. Since he lost, he was banished from Smackdown. At the time, my initial assumption was he would move over to Monday Night Raw to create some new storyline possibilities as things change post-WrestleMania, but unfortunately, it looks like the truth is a lot more uncertain because Bryan’s contract is reportedly up with WWE.
The contract news was first announced over on the Fightful Select Patreon. It has since been reported in other places and has left many WWE fans, including myself, asking what the hell is going on? Well, we still don’t have a ton of answers since Bryan hasn’t spoken publicly since the big Smackdown match, but he did give an interview to TV Line last week in which he discussed his contract and his own future. The quotes are quite telling and to be honest, not super promising for those hoping to see as many “Yes” chants as possible in the near future. Here’s a portion of what he said…
I had a tag team match on SmackDown last Friday, and it was a lot of fun, but my neck was just wrecked. I’m going to be 40 in May and my daughter likes to get on my shoulders to pick leaves from a Japanese maple in front of our house. You get to that point where it’s like, how long can I do this full-time and still be able to do those kinds of things with my daughter? What’s the right balance between part-time and that sort of thing? It may be that it’s just every once in a while when the urge strikes, or maybe like a schedule where it’s like eight months on, these months off.
That quote doesn’t exactly scream I want to return to work and wrestle as many times as possible over the next ten years. In fact, it, I think, spells out pretty clearly that Daniel Bryan is at a point in his life where he’s looking to find better balance than he’s had the past few years. Fortunately, however, it does seem to indicate he wants to continue wrestling in some capacity, and that’s good for fans because he’s still really freaking good.
I’m not going to put anyone specific on blast, but we can all think of plenty of wrestlers who held on for a bit too long and didn’t look particularly competent in the ring their last few years. Daniel Bryan is still excellent at what he does. His mic work has been particularly sharp the past few weeks as he’s both tried to drive a wedge between Roman Reigns and Jay Uso and continue to push Cesaro (who was great at Mania) to main event status. And of course his workrate remains top notch. He still flies around the ring, can compete at a high level in long matches and sells very well for opponents.
Exactly when Bryan will figure out what he wants to do about his future is unclear, but I would expect him to figure things out sooner rather than later. In the same interview he talked extensively about wanting to do right by his employer WWE and not leave people hanging. You can check out another portion of his quote below…
One of the coolest things about wrestling, and just be being an independent contractor in general, is that you can say, “Well, I really only want to do this amount of work.” What that amount of work is, I have no idea yet. I still have to figure it out. But I also need to be respectful of the people who are relying on me to go to work. I have to give them an answer sooner rather than later. I’m trying to figure that out, trying to be responsible as an employee of somebody who’s taken care of our family very well. But then also, trying to take the time to figure it out.
Bryan has a long history of injury problems and previously took multiple years off to recover from a neck injury. Obviously nothing is more important than being there for your family long-term. Far too many wrestlers have passed away far too soon. As such, he should take all the time he needs to figure out a wrestling schedule that works for him. At the same time, it’s only fair to acknowledge that Bryan is, in my opinion, one of the strongest performers in WWE. He's had numerous amazing feuds and his absence will be felt for however long he’s away.