The following is not an article. It is a story and fairy tale, yet it contains two truths about pro wrestling (both at past WrestleMania events) that you have never heard before this day. The source that revealed them to me is not of this world, and that is how you know it must be true. These revelations are so true; in fact, you can only believe them with your imagination.
(The words in bold are not mine but are lyrics from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast soundtrack.)
It’s a tale as old as time, I suppose, when two people meet and fall in love. But if it always worked out would I be telling you this story?
As old as the story of love is the story of broken hearts and unrequited love. After all, could anyone cherish what they have if everyone could have it? Isn’t the value we find in what we love based on our unlikeliness to obtain it?
Focus on an image so old you’d wonder if it ever existed. This image is different than what you’ve come to know. Picture a Bobby Brady-lookin’ boy mumbling and smiling and praising all his rivals.
But what did I say about getting what we love? We can’t truly value it if everyone else has it as well. So this young man lets the critics praise him, while he pretends to praise his rivals. They call him the biggest fish in the smallest pond, the best independent wrestling has to offer.
They call him Bryan Danielson.
He’s still smiling and mumbling. He is doing an interview.
He had ventured shortly into the world where boys become men. He had indeed swam in the largest pond on earth. He had been chewed up in that pond and, yes, he had been spit back out to where he first started.
He’s doing a good job, the mumbling man, in talking about how much he loves the small pond and how good it is to be back among all the fish you’ve never heard of.
But…does he praise it too much? Is the smile too big, too unreal?
How far from the words he speaks are the thoughts in his head? Hadn’t he swam for 10 years in this small pond in hopes of swimming with the biggest fish? Ignore his size and his words: He wanted to be the biggest fish in the biggest pond.
When they ask him who he’d like to wrestle, he says he’s wrestled everyone in that small pond. He says it with a smile, but he’ll go home to think about the fact that he’s no longer evolving.
He’s no longer growing.
Isn’t that the problem?
He’s too small. He doesn’t have the look.
He’s not an animal like Batista.
He’s not…a beast.
But he could be one, couldn’t he? He could shave the Bobby Brady from his hair and grow a beard thick enough to surround his face. And it’s not that far from a smile to do a smirk. He could insult rivals rather than praise them.
And the fans? What about them? What about love and life and putting on a happy face?
Yes, he could be a beast.
And since he only eats vegetables, nobody truly understands how hungry he is.
Look there she goes that girl is so peculiar. I wonder if she’s feeling well. Who is this girl who came from nowhere at all?
Let us collect the opinions of the town (in other words, the lowest and most vile gossips).
Well, for starters, she didn’t struggle for 10 years like he did. Two years and she arrived inside the biggest pond, but she didn’t look like any fish we’d ever seen.
She was smaller and less blonde and had less…well, didn’t I say she was smaller?
But, oh, how she conducted herself. What do I mean? Well, have you read her tweets? The ones where she talks about video games and dogs and, my god, I don’t think she’s ashamed to have a brain and sense of humor!
Did you see her? What do I mean? In her pictures? How she wears such little clothing but tops it off with librarian glasses!
Don’t you see where I’m going? She’s not blonde and not built quite like other Divas, yet she made it to the big pond in two years. She speaks the language of the masses.
Don’t you yet see? A thinking girl. Surely she must be a witch! And with her powers she thought she would entrap him. She had seen Beauty and the Beast and thought she’d go out and catch one.
Didn’t you see her (with no shame!) approach him and encourage him. Like she played the masses with Pokemon references, surely she played him with words meant to build him up.
She. Told. Him. She. Loved. Him.
What lies! Would she have loved him had he stayed inside the smallest pond? If he had kept his Bobby Brady hair and his Bobby Brady manners and his Bobby Brady smile and if his success had been minimal, would she have tracked him down, encouraged him and professed her love?
That’s enough of the opinion of the town; that’s enough of the lowest and most vile gossips.
Because, after all, we have admitted she is peculiar, and maybe she is just peculiar enough to have found something there that wasn’t there before.
After all, we’ve only seen what the eye of the camera wanted to show us. We have not seen what her eyes have witnessed and believed. We have not thought like her or walked in her probably-tiny shoes.
And worse, we have talked about love but not about the gods and not about the fairies and not about cupid and not even about that strange and powerful feeling that makes us forget who we are and what we want and causes us to throw caution to the wind and chase away doubt and run up to someone in the middle of the locker room and say, I love you.
But can you blame him for his response? Can you blame him for saying "thanks"?
After all, she came to him too late.
She came to him after he had already found a lover—his first love—pro wrestling. She came to him after he had looked in the mirror and saw himself as a man and hated himself for it. She came to him after he had already sold his soul.
“Make me a beast and a champion, and for that I give my soul.”
That is the tragedy of the story you’re reading now. Don’t you remember where I told you value comes from? It comes from having something no one else can have.
He had it.
The World Heavyweight Championship.
It’s what he sold his soul for, and if he had two souls he would happily have traded for both championships.
But maybe Bobby Brady showed himself now and again. Maybe Bryan Danielson whispered to the beast he had become, You can never love her for you have chosen to be a beast, but that doesn’t mean you have to send her away.
He kept her by his side, and he even tried to make her a wrestling champion. He could give her everything he acquired in becoming the beast: status, expertise, a wicked side and the chance to be in the spotlight so bright it burned her skin.
But he couldn’t give her the one thing she wanted.
The one thing she needed.
For when she said, "I love you," as childlike as it seemed, it was that way because it came from her most honest truth.
And he couldn’t return her love because he had already chosen another before he met her, hadn’t he?
Isn’t that what I’ve told you? Isn’t that what makes this a tragedy?
Yes and no.
For you have gone astray if you have focused on the decisions of men. We are vain and advantageous and full of ourselves and given over to temptation all the day long. But you have forgotten about the gods and the fairies and cupid and, most of all, you have forgotten the enduring love of a woman.
Don’t you see what happened now? Don’t you understand why Daniel Bryan has been so abusive to A.J. Lee?
This thing he sold his soul for—this heavyweight title—was lost in 18 seconds.
But listen with your hearts and not your eyes, for I am now going to unlock two truths that have never been revealed.
The first is how Daniel Bryan lost the Heavyweight Title. It’s not because Sheamus was better or A.J. distracted him.
It’s because WrestleMania was outdoors.
It gave the gods a chance to look down at this man who had made himself a beast; it gave the fairies room to fly about and make him dizzy; it gave cupid a chance to send an arrow that might save his soul.
Do you see now?
Daniel Bryan lost the Heavyweight Title, not for the 18 seconds that made up the match, but for the one second when he turned away from Sheamus, away from the Heavyweight Title, away from the path he had chosen, away from being the beast.
It’s not what he turned from, however, but what he turned to, or should I say, returned to.
For a second, in the biggest pond, on the biggest stage, Daniel Bryan became human again. In fact, he became Bryan Danielson.
For in that moment when he stood in that WrestleMania ring and A.J. stood on the apron, he fell in love with her.
He loved her more than fame and glory and his Heavyweight Title.
And just as he almost crawled out of that beastly cover he had adorned for so long, sudden loss and the boot of Sheamus kicked him full-on back into his lowest self.
It confirmed his greatest fear: He was not good enough as a man.
But hear this: when they get back together—yes, when they do—you won’t have to scratch your heads, for the answer was in front of our faces all along.
It was that one kiss at WrestleMania that will hunt him down, find him and one day reveal him for who he truly is. It lingers with him, whether he knows this or not.
No beast willingly becomes a man again. To be able to hurt and feel and lose—who wants it?
Just as no King wishes to become a Prince.
But let me tell you the second thing you’ve never heard. It is about another WrestleMania and another man who once walked this earth.
He passed on from us almost exactly one year ago.
He once made himself a beast and a king and refused to be a man.
And up until the moment you read this, you’ve been told that he found himself again because he was defeated by a Warrior greater than he.
You’ve been told wrong.
Did you know he let the Warrior win?
See, on that night, his former love, his only love, was seated in the crowd. He had already been all the places that Daniel Bryan traded his soul to one day go. He had won tournaments and championships and had been as great as he could be.
But when he looked out over the crowd that night he saw two things.
The first was this woman he had loved but not known how much. This woman of passion and class and beauty—and he had pushed her so far away. He had pushed her so far away and yet now she was closer than she had been in a long time.
And then, secondly, he saw this Warrior.
And here is the truth you’ve never heard: He saw this Warrior having a conversation with his hands. How lonely had this Warrior become to have a conversation with his hands? What kind of beasts were they that they traded love for championships that were lost and for nights so long you learned to talk to your hands?
And worse, this Warrior thought he was talking to God.
But while this Savage might not have known much, he knew one thing: The gods and the fairies and even cupid only associate themselves with those who associate themselves with love, with conversations with others and not their hands, with sacrifice.
The Savage laid down that night and gave up his career.
He didn’t know if it would be enough to bring her to the ring. God knows she had every right not to come. But then his manager did something he had not expected and couldn’t plan: She began to beat him, too. She abused him like he had abused his only love.
Did the gods stir this manager to anger? Who can say? Did the fairies or cupid have anything to do with the formerly mild-mannered woman in the audience rising from her seat and over the barricades and into the ring?
Who can say?
The only thing he remembered was rising up again and she was on his shoulder. That shoulder had been reserved for two things: championships and her. Now he knew which truly belonged there.
And when he lowered her down and her feet touched ground, his did, too. No longer was he a wrestler or a beast or a king. He was the man he was always intended to become.
He was the kind of man that Daniel Bryan could right now only hope to become.
Have we seen the last of Daniel Bryan’s abuse? Will the words before you turn him back to who he once was?
The answer, I assure you, is no.
At least not today.
There are still championships for him to win. Quests for him to undertake. There is still enough out in front of him that will make him crave his inner demons.
I just hope he doesn’t wait too long.
For every woman is not Liz and every man is not Randy Savage.
But for those who need faith, remember this: Once upon a time, A.J. Lee stood on an apron at WrestleMania and kissed a man who did not deserve it. But by kissing him, he did. And for a second he was exactly who he was intended to be.
But my story cannot finish on this day.
For there is one thing stronger than the writer’s pen—strong enough to rival the gods and the fairies and even cupid.
That is the will of a man who is lost and astray.
Daniel Bryan will one day have his fill of success and he will look back and try to find the one thing that got away. He might stand in a ring and talk of all the times he stole the show at the grandest stage of them all and how many times he won at the biggest event of the year.
But make no mistake: He had his true WrestleMania moment in 2012.
Nay, his was greater than a WrestleMania moment. It was a WrestleMania second, but it was with A.J. Lee.
And until he realizes this, it is better for him go his own way.
For remember the lesson of Randy Savage: Until a man is willing to lay down his career and life for love, he does not deserve his Liz, even if she’d willingly give herself to him.
Until he can do better than his best, Daniel Bryan does not deserve A.J. Lee.
In the meantime, may the gods and fairies and even cupid have mercy on the souls of these young sojourners—this beauty and this beast—and chart their paths according to the greater story that has yet to be told.
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