After the surprising news that Daniel Bryan was cleared to return to wrestling, he showed up on WWE SmackDown Tuesday, talked about the brain injuries that caused him to retire, and got right back to wrestling. Even for WWE, it felt on the nose.
The show opened with Bryan giving a tearful address to the crowd, detailing the long road back since his retirement due to concussions more than two years ago. “I went and I saw specialists,” Bryan said. “And when the specialists gave me good reviews, [wife Brie Bella] said ‘Go see another specialist.’ And then she said, ‘Go see another specialist.’ And when I saw another specialist and they cleared me, she said ‘You need to fight for your dreams.’… over the last two months, I’ve asked WWE to re-look at my case. And they sent me to the best neurologists all over the country.… every doctor I’ve seen has said the same thing and it is this: ‘You are cleared.’”
But it was the end of the show that really escalated. Bryan came out to talk to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who have been feuding with SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon. (Bryan is the storyline general manager; WWE has long used on-screen authority figures to make matches and advance feuds.)
Last week, Owens and Zayn beat up McMahon. Bryan announced that, because of that, they were fired. And then the fight began. Owens and Zayn beat down Bryan. And in a bit of fanservice for wrestling fans, Bryan fought back. He hit his “Yes!” kicks. He hit a German suplex on Zayn and immediately transitioned into the running turnbuckle dropkicks that have long been his trademark.
Then Owens powerbombed him into the apron. WWE’s setting up for a McMahon-and-Bryan match against Zayn and Owens at WrestleMania. Now that Bryan’s cleared, he’ll be used, even if it isn’t for necessarily enticing opportunities.