The idea of Daniel Bryan returning to wrestling emerged again on Tuesday night, truth and fiction intertwined to the point where it's hard to distinguish the two elements.
The possibility of the former world champion going from SmackDown general manager to dropkicking, chest-kicking warrior will leave many a fan psyched, but the context of his comments need to be picked apart. Bryan, who hasn't competed in a ring since 2014 due to a series of head injuries, didn't make his return comments in a tell-all interview but instead on a live WWE program.
There's good reason to believe that Bryan's tease will remain just that, a tease.
On Talking Smack after Tuesday's SmackDown, The Miz sat down to discuss his brewing issues with John Cena. Not surprisingly, tension crackled between Bryan and The Miz, who have been at odds for months.
During the GM and the self-proclaimed A-lister's squabble, Bryan dropped a bombshell of a hint.
The Miz mocked him for not competing anymore. "You want to be a wrestler, but you can't because of your head. That's OK." he said.
"I can't or they won't let me? We'll see in a year-and-a-half and see what happens," Bryan fired back.
He seemed to be implying that he is considering wrestling again once his current contract his over. WWE isn't willing to medically clear him, but that wouldn't prevent him from performing on the independent circuit.
The possibility of a Bryan in-ring comeback set the wrestling world abuzz. It's been a hot topic online since and the source of many a headline among wrestling news outlets. Alex Pawlowski of Fightful even started a countdown clock.
Fans, though, shouldn't take Bryan's statement as a revelation as much as a part of an onscreen narrative.
The Miz has believed Bryan has it in for him since the WWE draft last year. Bryan has bickered with the heel on many an occasion, their issues bleeding into both SmackDown and Talking Smack.
The post-SmackDown talk show has made the worked shoot its specialty. By having Superstars tinge their promos with truth, WWE wants to make us believe these men and women are defiantly veering off the script.
It's all designed to create buzz around the SmackDown brand. Kyle Decker of Cageside Seats wrote of Talking Smack, "It blurs the line between work and reality so often that it's tough to tell what is completely planned or and what's off the cuff."
That's what the show is all about.
We saw that when The Miz berated Renee Young in January and during Shane McMahon and AJ Styles' backstage confrontation on Tuesday night. And most notably, The Miz and Bryan's first major explosion last August generated tons of attention thanks to its worked-shoot feel.
During that heated exchange, Bryan said The Miz wrestled like a coward. The then-intercontinental champion blasted Bryan for not returning to action.
"If they would let me come back, I would come back," Bryan said in response.
That's essentially what he said on Tuesday minus the timeline. He's made other similar offhand references since, all coming off as peeks behind the curtain.
It's hard to believe him, though. His medical issues are too serious.
Bryan suffered concussions atop concussions. He now has a lesion on his brain that induces seizures. He can't risk another head injury on top of that, especially now that he's a soon-to-be father.
Kyle Lewis of Three Man Booth joked that someone may need to protect Bryan from himself:
The desire to be in the ring once more is undoubtedly strong for Bryan. These hints of his return, though, are all part of his rivalry with The Miz, a real-life element to a wrestling story unfolding on TV. He's too smart to ignore the medical advice that suggests he stay retired.
The tension between him and The Miz has bettered SmackDown and put Talking Smack on the map.
The Miz calling out Bryan for obeying doctors' orders is a key part of their feud. It's a means for the heel to land a low blow on the popular GM.
The possibility of a match between them is a fun topic for fans to bat around. The idea that Bryan may exit WWE to return to the indys' proverbial bingo halls is a conversation starter, but not something fans should wait around for.
As SmackDown's wrestlers and personalities continue to fold reality into the product, fans need to remember not to believe everything they hear on Talking Smack.