This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw is certainly one that fans won’t forget for a long time. Some pundits, right down to Dave Meltzer himself, are calling it the greatest moment in televised wrestling history. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it definitely ranks quite high just due to the sheer, raw emotion of everyone involved. WWE gave one of the most popular wrestlers of all time a spotlight for the evening and it enhanced the entire program. Everything was done correctly, right down to the post speech ovation from the entire locker room and Bryan’s victory lap and quick visit with Vince McMahon. Daniel Bryan was unique both in and out of the ring and he connected deeply with fans the way only a few have before. He was endearing, believable and just a nice guy. It was hard not to root for him as both a human being and as a passionate, high level in ring worker. He will certainly be missed but at the very least we have a robust collection of his work to enjoy for years to come. A true Hall of Famer by any sense of the word, Daniel Bryan deserved every last cheer he got in Seattle on Monday.
Tuesday night, Daniel Bryan appeared on ESPN Sportscenter in an interview with Jonathan Coachman. Bryan revealed that he finally decided to call it a career after a recent test revealed a lesion on his brain and that he had also been hiding a series of seizures caused by it. For as great as Bryan’s in ring legacy will be, his greater impact may come from his forced retirement due to head trauma. It was WWE’s extensive testing that kept him sidelined and with the condition his brain was in, you wonder how intense future testing may be. The concussion issue isn’t going away any time soon (ask the NFL) so WWE will be best suited to stay on top of it, regardless of the cost to its in ring business. Losing a wrestler for a short period of time is much better than ignoring the issue and causing long term damage or early retirement. Of course, like football, wrestling is a high impact sport and those who sign up know what they are getting into. But it is easily in the best interest of the business’ top dog to be cautious in protecting their investments.
One final thought on Bryan: Who fills his void? Who will fans connect with on that deep, personal level? Sami Zayn is a popular choice by many and he certainly has the in ring chops and ability to emote and has proven as recently as last year that he can draw fans in and elicit that belief and reaction but will he get the opportunity? Can Dean Ambrose get to that point? Cesaro? Kevin Owens? Bayley? Not sure the successor is even on the roster but it would behoove WWE to find him (or her) sooner than later.
I have said it before here and on The Kevin Kelly Show and the heavy focus on Dean Ambrose over Roman Reigns this past week on Raw has me thinking WWE may cave and switch up their plans. Toss in the new rumors that Undertaker will be facing someone “unexpected” at Mania and things could be shaking out very similarly to 2005. Randy Orton ran out of chances and was swapped from the Mania Main Event after the Royal Rumble and replaced by the surging Batista. Orton then turned heel and faced Taker in Los Angeles, rehabbing his character and career. Doing the same thing now with Ambrose winning at Fastlane and Reigns facing (and beating) Taker in Dallas instead could definitely help the big dog’s long term prospects and also give him a chance to regroup.
Nearly eight months after Stephanie McMahon announced the Diva Revolution, it seems like it may actually be happening. Charlotte has rounded into form after her heel turn and is a fitting champion and leader of the division with her dad backing her up. Becky Lynch was upgraded from forgotten to third wheel to a top contender and cornerstone of the division. Sasha Banks has been broken away from Team BAD and is clearly being positioned for a WrestleMania title match. Bayley is likely on her way sooner than later and if they focus on not neutering her, the Four Horsewomen of NXT can be the dominant Diva force on the main roster. A clear sign of the improved focus is the fact that we have two Diva matches announced for Fastlane and both have well developed angles backing them up. Hopefully the company stays focused on the Divas because with injuries piling up all over the place, they need to stop wasting talent across the board, regardless of gender.
As those injuries mount and the roster thins out, you have to start to wonder who and what will be left to make this year’s WrestleMania special. There is still plenty left to pick from both the current group of stars and from their legends pool, but time is running out to put together a memorable lineup.
Regardless of your feelings about him (and unless you are a Panthers fan), it was good to see Peyton Manning win his second Super Bowl last Sunday. Even though he had little to do with this one, he also had many great years where he carried teams on his back and came up short thanks to soft defenses and poor coaching. With his career, stats and resume, he deserves to be in the two time champion pantheon. Great season by the Panthers and it was tough to see Cam Newton go down like he did because he was truly the MVP up until the game. He will be back.