Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan made his first televised appearance in several weeks at Money in the Bank, doing an interview segment during the PPV pre-show. While fans were delighted to see Bryan back in a WWE ring, it may be quite some time before he’s actually able to compete again.
Bryan still doesn’t have full mobility in his right arm. Although he has made some progress since undergoing minimally invasive surgery on May 15, he’s not where he wants to be. Originally, WWE hoped that Bryan would be able to wrestle at Money in the Bank, with SummerSlam as a worst case scenario. For this reason, they were hesitant to strip his character of the heavyweight title he heroically captured at WrestleMania XXX. When it became clear that Bryan wasn’t close to ready, they had no choice but to vacate the title and move in a different creative direction.
It gets worse. During his interview, Bryan hinted that he may need a second surgery on his neck. Obviously, that’s not good news at all. Another surgery would probably mean missing six months to a year’s worth of action, by which point so much will change in the industry that it will be very difficult for Bryan to reclaim his top spot. As devastating as that may be, Bryan has more important things to worry about.
I hate to say this, but there’s no guarantee that Bryan will be able to wrestle again. He’s confident that he’ll eventually come back, but neck issues are tricky. We saw what happened to Edge, who struggled with neck problems throughout his career. Eventually Edge was told that one wrong bump could lead to permanent paralysis, and just like that his professional wrestling days were over. Like Edge, Bryan has taken a lot of scary bumps in his career and works a very physical style. It’s entertained millions of fans, but it’s also taken a toll on his body. There’s a law of diminishing returns in wrestling, and the human body can only take so much.
If and when Bryan comes back, he’s going to have to limit what he does in the ring. I doubt we’ll see a plethora of suicide dives or top-rope headbutts (which, if you’ve learned anything from Chris Benoit, Dynamite Kid or Harley Race, you really shouldn’t be doing anyway). In some ways his injuries will make him a smarter worker, albeit less breathtaking.
At the end of the day, his health is the most important thing. Fans will love Bryan no matter what, they just want to be able to see him perform again. We’re all praying for a speedy recovery.