Hey, Blue Team. I know it’s been a rough week in the world of professional wrestling, but hang in there, it’s almost over. Let’s just get through Smackdown and then we can start fresh on Monday. And by fresh, I mean watching RAW redo the exact same segments over and over again for months at a time.
I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t want to watch Smackdown this week. And not for the normal reasons, like Roman Reigns handicap matches. My heart just wasn’t in it. I haven’t wanted to watch any wrestling this week. Even though it’s been a long time coming and I should have been prepared for it, Daniel Bryan’s retirement has been devastating me. I watched his speech on Monday, but couldn’t bring myself to watch the rest of RAW. Too much anxiety. I couldn’t sit through two and a half hours of build-up to his announcement. I thought I would go back and watch the rest of Monday’s show after I watched his speech, but I just couldn’t do it. Even after seeing the speech and knowing how RAW ended, I still couldn’t do it. Bryan’s retirement announcement, much like Edge’s before, is a real wake up call to what these men and women are doing to their bodies, their brains, and their lives every time they step in the ring. It’s weird, I’m always aware of this, but I’m somehow able to block it out and enjoy the show. Even when I hear about some of my favorite guys like Cesaro and Rollins going down with injury, the toll the sport takes still doesn’t truly sink in until something like this happens. Hearing on SportsCenter that Bryan has been experiencing seizures really made my heart sink. I haven’t been able to get through a full Chris Benoit match since he died, because every time he hits his head, I wonder, “Is that it? Is that the one that did it?” I fear the same thing could happen with me and Daniel Bryan. Like most of you, I love Daniel Bryan. I have from the first time I saw him wrestling. I don’t have to explain to you why — you guys know. But on top of all of those regular reasons that you fall in love with a professional wrestler, there’s a reason that was unique to Bryan. He gave me hope.
I love WrestleMania. I mean, LOVE WrestleMania. As a kid, it was the thing I looked most forward to all year, more so than even Christmas. The way that I’ve always been able to remember important dates in my life is based on WrestleManias. I can tell you what year I got my driver’s license, graduated high school, lost my virginity… because I associate just about every event in my life from ages nine to twenty-two with WrestleMania. For instance, I know I got my driver’s license in 1996 because WrestleMania XII was in 1996. Sad, I know, but everybody needs mile markers in the road of life, and WrestleMania has been mine. But something happened. It was probably right around the point that Bobby Lashley and our next president were shaving Vince McMahon’s head that I stopped enjoying WrestleMania. By the time I made it to WrestleMania XXVII, the bad WrestleManias went from being just bad to next level horrendous. WrestleManias XXVII-XXIX all left me horribly depressed. I vividly remember sitting on my couch after WrestleMania XXIX and wondering out loud to my wife if there would ever be a good WrestleMania again. And then one year later, it happened. At WrestleMania XXX, Daniel Bryan put on the performance of a lifetime and saved WrestleMania. It gave me hope for the future of WWE for the first time in close to a decade and left us with another truly classic WrestleMania after a lot of years of garbage. It’s that kind of hope that I felt last year as I was driving in to the Bay Area for WrestleMania XXXI. On paper, last year’s Mania did not look good. But in the back of my mind, there was a little voice that kept saying, “Remember last year. Remember how it turned out.” No matter how bad WWE gets, and how bad this year or future WrestleMania cards could look, there’s always going to be a part of me that still gets excited because I’ll think of Daniel Bryan and the hope he instilled in me that WrestleMania can still be great. So, I’m sorry if my heart’s not in it this week. There’s probably going to be a few less jokes and a little less snark because I’m feeling very appreciative to all the Divas and Superstars who go out there every week and put their health on the line to bring us this glorious form of entertainment. Maybe that’s why I especially enjoyed this week’s Smackdown. Or maybe it was just a really solid show.
And now without further ado, and with the best of my abilities in my current fragile state, try to enjoy The Best and Worst of Smackdown for February 11, 2016.