2/8/16 – Andrew Berg – @WrestleRosters
Daniel Bryan Retires From Wrestling
While the initial announcement that Bryan intended to announce his retirement on Raw was difficult to believe, his heartfelt address to fans was touching and provided the needed sense of closure. Bryan’s absence has lingered over WWE for almost two years and it has been difficult to accept any other fan favorite in place of the injured star who fans handpicked over the course of several years. Bryan’s sincere gratitude removed the dark cloud that hung over WWE throughout his recuperation.
Part of the reason Bryan’s speech was so touching was that it showed the tightly-woven community that that helped him reach the top. He thanked wrestlers like Kane and William Regal, as well as all the fans. He repeatedly came back to his central theme of gratitude- not regret, longing, or a feeling that he missed out on something. Bryan reached such great heights that his embraces with his family, his wife, and the other wrestlers on the stage felt like a celebration rather than an unwanted farewell.
In a sense, Bryan’s retirement is a positive development for wrestling. If Bryan had held on for another five years through progressively worse head trauma, his final chapter would almost certainly have been another wrestling tragedy. Even if he avoided the worst case scenario, there is no happy ending to brain damage, and both Bryan and WWE deserve credit for erring on the side of caution. Enough wrestling stars have died young due to the damage inflicted on their bodies that this progression is long overdue.
-The burgeoning rivalry between Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar took center stage once again. Those two and Roman Reigns signed a contract for the #1 Contender’s match at Fastlane and it broke into a brawl. Ambrose sought payback on Lesnar later in the show, and after he took an F5, he hit Lesnar with a low blow. While it previously appeared inevitable that Lesnar and the Wyatt Family would collide at Wrestlemania, there seems to be at least a possibility that Ambrose could get involved. Ambrose has already shown an ability to work at a main event level. Doing so at Wrestlemania would be a fun and meaningful step in his career.
-Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler continued their hard-worked rivalry with yet another match that was the best of the show. This time, Ziggler got the win with his feet on the ropes and Owens threw a tantrum after the unfair loss. It appears that Owens and Ziggler are destined for another PPV match at Fastlane. While it will be tough for them to top what they have done each week on free TV, I’ll never turn down a chance to watch them wrestle.
-The Usos teamed with the Dudley Boys in a Tables Match against New Day, who enlisted Mark Henry as their fourth member for the night. Henry danced and fully participated as a New Day member until he eventually abandoned his team. That allowed New Day to put Big E through a table. After the win, the Dudleys turned on the Usos and put them both through tables. The turn- whether fully heel or just to a more aggressive tweener role- is much needed. The Dudleys had lost their edge and felt outdated. A more aggressive attitude should help.
-Alberto Del Rio got a win over Kalisto when he teamed with Rusev against the reformed Lucha Dragons. It was a good way for Del Rio to get the win without making Kalisto look too weak. They also put together another entertaining match, albeit fairly short.
-Bray Wyatt beat Ryback in a fairly pointless match. Ryback has lost whatever momentum he had after his Intercontinental Title reign, new trunks or not. Wyatt is definitely stuck in the lurch as WWE waits for something bigger at Wrestlemania. Oddly, Wyatt seems to spend more time waiting for a big program than actually participating in major rivalries.
-Chris Jericho overran Miz TV and turned it into a Highlight Reel. They debated about AJ Styles until Styles intervened. Jericho and Miz brawled and AJ got involved. He and Jericho had a stare down and came to blows themselves. Jericho is doing a great job elevating Styles after his debut. I hope their rivalry is not rushed to a conclusion.
-Charlotte made Alicia Fox submit to a Figure Eight. They are both so uniquely athletic that they were able to put together a fun and different sort of match. It’s good for Charlotte to get the occasional easy win to affirm her status as the champion.
-Tamina got a rare victory with a distraction-aided superkick on Becky Lynch. It looks more and more like Sasha and Becky will team up against the remnants of Team BAD at Fastlane as a way to prepare one or both of them for a big Wrestlemania Divas Title match. In this case, I like the idea of keeping the challengers separate from the champion to keep the matchup fresh.
-The Social Outcasts got involved to help Adam Rose get a pin on Titus O’Neil. As little as I care about everyone in this match, I feel strangely drawn to watching O’Neil take on all of the outcasts.