Have We Seen the Last of Daniel Bryan as a Wrestler in WWE?

It's unclear if Daniel Bryan will ever be able to wrestle for the WWE again. And even if he does, there will be changes.

Daniel Bryan returned to Monday Night Raw, announcing that after an MRI on an undisclosed injury, doctors do not know how long he will be out of action. Bryan said he felt the Intercontinental Title should be defended, and therefore forfeited the title. WWE did not announce how it would crown a new champion. Bryan said doctors do not know if he’ll be out “weeks, months, or if he’ll ever wrestle again.”

This marks the second consecutive title reign for Bryan that has ended with him vacating the title due to injury. Bryan was World Heavyweight Champion last year, when a neck injury forced him to relinquish that championship.

And now it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Daniel Bryan, even if he returns, will never be the same Daniel Bryan. He won’t be the same Daniel Bryan we saw win the WWE World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania one year ago.

Physically, perhaps he’ll be the same. At least I hope he can recover and still live a normal life, if not come back to wrestling a full schedule. But Bryan’s perception from top WWE management is likely never to change. After this latest injury, through no fault of his own, he’ll be labeled “unreliable” by people within the company.

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Such a thing couldn’t be further from the truth — it’s wrestling, not ballet, injuries happen — but WWE is funny about that. It’s not three strikes you’re out, with them it’s typically just one. And for Bryan, they’ll view this as his second.

If Bryan is able to return to full-time wrestling, any thought by fans of him finding his way back to the main event title picture is nothing but a pipe dream. WWE won’t allow it. He’s been labeled, and with WWE they don’t just use permanent marker, they brand that label on with an orange-glowing iron. They don’t change their minds. That’s what makes the television product so hard to digest sometimes.

WWE never understood how to book Bryan’s character. Vince McMahon still seems stuck in a vortex where he thinks his audience wants to see bulging freaks wave an American flag and come to the ring to “Stars and Stripes” blaring in the arena.

Wrestling fans want characters they can relate to. Since Steve Austin, there isn’t anyone the WWE audience has related to more Bryan. Why? Because he is one of them. He’s a normal guy. Minus the beard, I walk by about 100 people that look like Daniel Bryan every single day.

That’s what made Bryan so popular, and it’s also what made management reluctant to push him. He wasn’t a superhero.

But he didn’t need to be, and that’s what WWE doesn’t understand. They still don’t.

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Quick Strikes

1. WWE added four matches to Payback on Sunday, including Dolph Ziggler vs. Sheamus, The New Day defending the Tag Titles against Cesaro & Kidd, King Barrett vs. Neville, and Macho Mandow & Curtis Axel taking on The Ascension.

2. WWE announced that it will air Elimination Chamber as a WWE Network special on May 31. The show will emanate from Corpus Christi, Texas at the American Bank Center.

The event, which already has tickets on sale, was originally a WWE house show, set to be headlined by Seth Rollins vs. Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Heavyweight Title.

Elimination Chamber was taken off WWE’s schedule as a pay-per-view this year, and it was replaced by Fastlane as the February offering. WWE later announced that John Cena will compete (it doesn’t specify if he’ll defend the U.S. Title) and WWE World Heavyweight Title will be defended. The Intercontinental and Tag Titles will also be defended, per advertisements.

WWE also has a house show scheduled for South Carolina on May 31. That show is either going to be really stripped down, or at this point, might it be canceled? With WWE really fueling up this card, there won’t be much talent left for that show, unless they don’t put Roman Reigns on Elimination Chamber and have him headline the house show instead.

I like the Chamber match on its own. The initial Twitter reaction seemed to be that it wasn’t a smart idea to use the structure given the rash of injuries on the roster, but the match only has to be dangerous if the wrestlers want it to be. They’re professionals, they can work in a Chamber match without taking too many risks, and still make it a compelling and entertaining match.

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Match Results

1. Dean Ambrose def. J&J Security in a handicap match

2. King Barrett def. Dolph Ziggler

3. Erick Rowan def. Fandango

4. U.S. Title: Neville def. John Cena [c] via DQ

5. Roman Reigns vs. Kane ended in a no contest

6. Tamina def. Brie Bella

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7. Macho Mandow vs. Curtis Axel ended in a no contest

8. Cesaro def. Big E

9. Randy Orton def. Seth Rollins via DQ

The Finish

A good go-home show for Payback, with the Authority returning and a lot of emphasis put on the PPV. They only had announced two matches for the show prior to Raw, so I expected them to build up Payback quite a bit on Monday night, with several matches announced, and that’s exactly what we got.