Imagine loving what you do so much, living your dream … and then having it taken away from you.
This is what happened to Daniel Bryan.
The 35-year-old WWE superstar relinquished major championships due to medical reasons and was forced into an early retirement from the ring this year. The popular performer was widely regarded for his passion for pro wrestling. Fans and peers alike were devastated to hear Bryan had to hang up the boots.
However, the last few months these dark clouds did reveal a silver lining. The Yes! man joined the Cruiserweight Classic announce team with Mauro Ranallo and became the general manager of SmackDown Live.
“It’s fun because it’s learning a different part of the business,” Bryan said.
“I love wrestling. So now I get to do things like sit in on production meetings and do all this other stuff. It’s a chance to learn something new about what I’ve loved for so long.”
Bryan admits the hardest part of the transition from active member of the roster is sitting in the arenas and watching the matches. Still in his hearts of hearts, he wants to compete.
“I still feel like I can wrestle,” Bryan said.
“Then being out there and watching other people wrestle, it hurts my soul a little bit. But it’s also crazy because doing stuff like the Cruiserweight Classic for example you get to see guys go out there and have these incredible experiences. You get to be in the crowd.
“When we are doing the commentary you feel it in the crowd where we are broadcasting on this platform. I love the feeling and that energy. So even though I miss being in the ring, when I am ringside, I love feeling that energy of being there. To me, there is nothing in this world like being at a live wrestling show. It’s just really cool.”
The combination of Ranallo and Bryan providing the soundtrack to the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic is receiving rave reviews. The two have added to the overall sporty athletic presentation of the WWE Network tournament. They do their homework.
“There are a lot of interviews that went into it,” Bryan said.
“We talked to the guys and got their backgrounds. A lot of them I didn’t know anything about. There are a lot of guys I know very well. Brian Kendrick and I know each other very well. Then there is someone like Alejandro Saez, who I never even heard of. He is from Chile.
“So you hear these guys and the things they’ve gone through, that’s been part of the preparation. However, with me and Mauro, Mauro is just so good. He has worked with so many different people. He knows how to bring people up to his level.
“So Mauro and I practiced calling a couple of matches together. Then we went out to dinner and talked about our views on wrestling and what we think commentary should be. He is just a very smart guy and someone who is excited about wrestling. So it’s been really easy working with him.”
Outside of the commentating gig, Bryan is also the SmackDown GM with Shane McMahon serving as the onscreen commissioner. He hopes to use the authoritative role to draw attention to the superstars and not himself.
“One of things that have been important to me was to make the focus less about me and Shane,” Bryan said.
“For example take Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler for the WWE championship. We were trying to make that not about a conflict between those guys and us. It’s not a conflict about us and them. It’s a conflict with two of them. It’s the same between AJ Styles and John Cena. Same thing with all the other stuff we have going on at SmackDown Live.
“The first couple of weeks we had to make some statements and say, ‘Hey, this is what we are doing.’ But from there on out, we want the focus to be on the competitors. The one kind of exception would be the story with Heath Slater. But to me, the focus has still been put on Heath and how entertaining Heath is and how good Heath is.”
- The Cruiserweight Classic is winding down to the final rounds 8 p.m. ET Wednesdays on WWE Network.
- Watch WWE SmackDown Live 8 p.m. ET Tuesdays on USA Network.
- WWE Backlash airs live 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11 on pay-per-view.
- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.