Last week, Daniel Bryan was pulled from WWE’s European tour after suffering from concussion symptoms. He was held off of last night’s Raw, and moving forward, the Intercontinental Champion’s health has to be a major concern for the company.
First, though, there’s some good news. At least it’s not Bryan’s neck. Bryan missed almost an entire year — about nine months — after winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship last year at WrestleMania when he required surgery.
Neck injuries are never good. Neither are concussions, but neck injuries in pro wrestling most often signify the end of someone’s in-ring career. Steve Austin retired too soon because of neck problems and Edge, just a few years ago, was forced to abruptly retire after experiencing similar issues. Oftentimes wrestlers are given the ultimatum — keep wrestling, and risk paralysis. Maybe even death.
Bryan’s latest health scare is still a serious issue. Concussions are at the forefront of most major sports nowadays as the most immediate threat to an athlete’s health. Almost every professional and intercollegiate sport is going out of its way to implement better concussion protocol amidst a history of former NFL players, and even pro wrestlers, committing suicide at young ages. Chris Nowinski, a former WWE wrestler, is now head of the Sports Legacy Institute, which along with Boston University, is studying the effect of concussions on all athletes.
For his own well being, we hope Bryan makes a full and speedy recovery.
But from WWE’s perspective, it’s also a scary thought for business. WWE hasn’t viewed Bryan as a “top guy,” even though the fans seem to embrace him as one. WWE’s corporate perception of Bryan doesn’t matter, if he’s not on the show, he’s missed. A lot.
Last summer and especially last night, Raw seemed to be just a bit dull without Bryan’s change-of-pace style in a prolonged match. Well, prolonged in 2015 terms, at least. Bryan usually anchors one of the top of the hour segments, either as the show transitions to 9 or 10 o’ clock. He’s usually in a match, one that lasts 15 minutes or so, and provides something different than most others on the card.
Bryan’s style is unique in today’s WWE. Dolph Ziggler is similar, in an athletic sense, but Bryan’s style and energy is something no one else can provide on the roster, at least not right now. The crowd reacts differently to Bryan than anyone else on the show, and it was missed last night. When the show needed a crescendo at 10 o’ clock, when Bryan would usually be in the ring, there was just a dullness to the program.
1. The match stipulation of Miz wrestling Sandow for “the right to the Miz character” was a silly stipulation, but it at least provided Sandow with some television time. I hope they continue to roll with the Sandow character, even after this stint with Miz is over. No matter what they’ve saddled him with, he’s taken the ball and run with it and has provided a lot of really good television. He’s a comedy act now, but one that can still be taken seriously.
2. WWE planted some good seeds trying to entice the audience to believe that Randy Orton has a chance to beat Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Title on Sunday at Extreme Rules. Kane distracted Rollins and the Authority after the main event, as a cage above the ring was being lowered, and Orton snuck in, hitting Rollins with a huge RKO to send the show off the air.
3. WWE seems to be setting Ryback up for something big. It’s yet to be revealed what his next move is, but he’s been squashing opponents on television, which tells me they’re trying to keep him strong for a feud with a big name. Bray Wyatt is likely, as they’re doing somethings similar with Wyatt, keeping him strong on TV delivering promos. I wonder if their paths collide sometime soon.
1. Dean Ambrose drew Luke Harper (no contest)
2. New Day def. Lucha Dragons to earn a WWE Tag Team Title Shot
3. Fandango def. Curtis Axel
4. Naomi def. Brie Bella
5. Sheamus def. Zack Ryder via disqualification
6. John Cena [c] def. Kane to retain the U.S. Title
7. The Miz def. Damien Sandow to retain rights to “The Miz” character
8. Ryback def. Adam Rose
9. Seth Rollins def. Dolph Ziggler
The show felt a little blah, but for the most part did its job in selling the Extreme Rules show on Sunday. They’ve told a good story heading into Rollins-Orton match, which is surprising given that it was thrown together at the change in finish to WrestleMania. I’m surprised they haven’t addressed Brock Lesnar more in recent weeks, but it’s apparent he’s off TV until SummerSlam.