The Big Takeaway: Daniel Bryan announced his retirement in one of the most emotional segments in the 23-year history of Raw. Bryan made a memorable speech where he came off as the most normal person ever to achieve stardom. The theme of the speech was all the things he had been grateful for over his 15-year career. It’s amazing to think that someone perfectly content with being the world’s biggest cult wrestler could become the biggest star in the biggest company in the world, but that’s what happened. In terms of storyline, the biggest news was the Dudley Boyz turned heel on the Usos, which was overdue.
Right away, a Daniel Bryan package aired, starting with his early days as American Dragon competing in the Texas Wrestling Alliance. It continued until the culmination at WrestleMania. They showed his tweet from earlier today announcing his retirement.
Stephanie McMahon opened the show in the ring for a contract signing. Crowd chanted for Bryan. She appeared to have a tear in her eye while trying to maintain a straight face. She was out there for a contract signing for the Fast Lane main event with Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Ambrose got the jump on her, and demanded to move things along. Stephanie started to say there would be no physical altercations between the three of them when Reigns walked down. Someone had a sign that said “Can we trade Roman for Cesaro?” Lesnar and Paul Heyman were introduced by Stephanie, who interrupted Heyman during his ring entrance. Everyone signed the deal and Stephanie left, leaving the three men alone in the ring.
Heyman referred to Ambrose as “little brother” as said he should ask his “Big brother Samoan” what the difference is between a beatdown by the authority and an authoritative beatdown by Brock Lesnar. Ambrose was set off by that and got in Lesnar’s face. Lesnar threw Ambrose across the table and into Reigns like a rag doll,threw the table onto Reigns, then gave Ambrose an F-5. Lesnar left the ring. HHH walked out for a staredown with Lesnar. Reigns looked upset at Ambrose, for some reason. Ambrose is being booked like a cruiserweight in this program and it’s done nothing but get him under.
There was a theme for the night entitled #thankyoudanielbryan, highlighting moments from his WWE career. It started with his first match at NXT, where he wrestled Chris Jericho in 2010. It’s so funny to think Bryan is getting a hero’s sendoff tonight when the company did everything they could to get him under during his first six months in NXT.
Ambrose told Reigns backstage he would get even with Lesnar tonight.
Dolph Ziggler defeated Kevin Owens (11:02)
Dolph Ziggler won when Kevin Owens missed a Cannonball, and Ziggler rolled him up in a cradle while his feet were on the ropes. How the ref missed that one was unreal. He looked right at Owens shoulders and Ziggler’s feet were in plain view unless he has no sight in his left eye. Michael Cole then acted like he didn’t notice anything unusual. Apparently, Cole is going for Mike Carey’s job on CBS next football season. A good match where they teased a double countout after Ziggler hit a Famouser on Owens from the apron onto the floor.
The next #thankyoudanielbryan moment was from 2011, when Bryan defeated the Miz to win the U.S. Championship.
The Usos talked with the Dudley Boyz tonight. The Usos wrestle the New Day tonight in a tables match. Devon Dudley said if anyone should get a tables match tonight, it should be them. Bubba Ray Dudley said the entire WWE Universe didn’t like the New Day. The crowd responded by booing. Bubba Ray told the Usos they should team tonight for a 4-on-4 match against the New Day, where they New Day would have to get themselves a partner. Usos agreed.
Charlotte defeated Alicia Fox via submission (5:14)
Charlotte won with the Figure Eight. Crowd elected to entertain themselves by chanting for Lana (which Charlotte didn’t look happy about) and the Seattle Seahawks. Alicia Fox’s only offense were one-legged drop kicks like Velvet McIntyre.
MizTV with Chris Jericho started with Miz replaying him getting pounded by A.J. Styles last week. Miz said he could have made Styles an A-lister. Jericho interrupted him and said the fans would rather see a Highlight Reel instead of MizTv. So they overhauled the set instantly with roadies bringing in the JeriTron 5000, a new rug and new lighting. Even a potted plant. So it became the Highlight Reel. Jericho started interviewing Miz and brought up Styles’ victory over Miz on SmackDown. Crowd chanted “You look stupid” at Miz, who claimed he had a meeting with Stephen Spielberg last week, putting himself over as an A-lister. Somehow, Jericho said that reminded him of the Chipmuncks song “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.” Some fans sang along.
Miz ran a clip of his own, which was Styles beating Jericho. Miz said losing to Styles was eating him alive. Jericho said he was right, it has been eating him alive. Crowd chanted for Styles. Jericho knew Styles was good, but he asked if he was great. Jericho said we would find out on SmackDown, but he highly doubted it because he was the best in the world at what he did. Styles came out, but Miz jumped Jericho from behind . Styles ran down to take care of Miz. Jericho gave Miz a clothesline out of the ring, then had a brief staredown with Styles. Miz ran back in, only to get discarded again, leading to another staredown that got physical and turned into fisticuffs. Miz dragged Jericho out of the ring, only to have Jericho throw him across the announcer’s table. And it ended with Styles and Jericho traded words going to the back. Styles vs. Jericho is such an effective program by itself, potentially feud of the year-caliber if handled right. Putting the Miz in the midst of it is like having Al Pacino and Robert Di Niro star in a Goodfellas sequel, but instead of Joe Peschi or Ray Liotta as the third-billed star, it’s Rob Schneider.
The next Bryan highlight was the 2011 Money in the Bank, where Bryan kicked Wade Barrett off the ladder to take the briefcase. 5 months later, he cashed in the briefcase to beat the Big Show and win the World Heavyweight Championship.
Bray Wyatt defeated Ryback (6:55)
Bray Wyatt won when Ryback attempted a spear. Wyatt stopped him dead in his tracks with Sister Abigail and the three count. You can always tell when Ryback is jobbing based on the inflection he uses when he says “Wake up, it’s feeding time” during his ring entrance. Lately, he’s had a downward inflection. To punctuate that, Wyatt, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper and Braun Strowman laid waste to him postmatch, ending with Wyatt giving him Sister Abigail on the floor. Wyatt cut a promo to no one in particular afterwards, saying people can ask for mercy, mercy they will not receive.
Daniel Bryan flashback to his days with Kane in Team Hell No.
Tweets to Bryan from various WWE personalities included Vince McMahon, Kalisto, Paige and the Ultimate Warrior’s widow were shown.
Big E. was polishing up tables in the back when Renee Young walked in wondering who their mystery partner for the tables match was going to be. Xavier Woods wouldn’t say, and Kofi Kingston said New Day were like the Denver Broncos, world champions that everybody loved.
Ambrose told Reigns he wanted to have a one-on-one confrontation with Lesnar tonight.
Adam Rose defeated Titus O’Neal (3:17)
Prematch, Adam Rose did micwork where he proclaimed himself “The Radical Mongoose.” Curtis Axel couldn’t believe how horrible that sounded. Bo Dallas said he had great friends that would turn into great trends. Rose won when Hath Slater distracted Titus O’Neal, leading to Rose getting the schoolboy cradle pin. O’Neal immediately clotheslined Rose over the top rope. So Rose didn’t go over, O’Neal lost and no one got over. So what was the point of this?
Next Bryan flashback was him winning the WWE Heavyweight Championship from John Cena at SummerSlam 2013.
Ambrose came out and said Lesnar must have hit him with a F-2 or an F-3 earlier, because he thought an F-5 was supposed to hurt. He called out Lesnar, who came out chuckling at the thought of Ambrose calling him out. Lesnar quickly laid Ambrose out beating him up around the ring, then laying him out with an F-5. At this point, Ambrose had the booking cred of Adam Rose on the show. That only slightly changed when Ambrose called Lesnar back to the ring with a wild look in his eye. Lesnar stepped back in the ring, but then Reigns stepped out on the ramp. As Lesnar was distracted by Reigns, Ambrose snuck up from behind and gave Lesnar a low blow. And then Ambrose left. Reigns smiled like Ambrose had won the battle over Lesnar. Crowd stayed totally silent, as if Ambrose was the heel in that scenario. At the very best, Ambrose looks like Reigns’ tag-along in this setup, which isn’t how you make a new star.
Alberto Del Rio and Rusev defeated Lucha Dragons (5:37)
Alberto Del Rio pinned Kalisto with the world’s most elaborate finisher where ADR jumps off the top rope onto the chest of Kalisto. Sin Cara returned and gave Rusev a tope to take him out. Lana was missing again after reemerging from oblivion last week.
In footage from earlier, R-Truth was on his way to the Jimi Hendrix Museum when he stumbled onto Goldust dressed as Hendrix, playing a guitar while singing an offshoot of “Purple Haze.” Goldust smashed the guitar on a sidewalk. Security led Goldust away. An attempt at comedy the same way recent Adam Sandler movies have been an attempt.
Next Bryan moment was from March 2014, the Occupy Yes movement which led to Bryan’s victory over HHH at WrestleMania. I loved the bitter, old wrestlers criticism of that angle, one of whom claimed it was “contrived.” As if all the angles from the 1970s were shoots. The irony was Bryan’s push to the top in 2014 was a series of spontaneous events spawned by the fans, which led to contrived angles that got over.
Tamina defeated Becky Lynch (3:38)
Sasha Banks was on commentary. Tamina started mouthing off to Banks in the ring. That led to Naomi hitting Banks with a forearm, and it looked like she stuffed Banks good. Lynch saw this, left the ring and gave Naomi an Exploder suplex. Lynch got back in the ring and ate a superkick by Tamina, who got the pin. Earlier, Naomi got some heat with outside interference. That was kind of different seeing a heel actually break the rules.
The New Day talked to its mystery partner and gave him a unicorn horn to place on his head. It was Mark Henry, who started playing Woods’ trombone. Henry and Big E. began dancing, with Henry bringing up his days as Sexual Chocolate in 1998.
Nikki Bella, Owens, Cena and Natalya tweeted salutes to Bryan.
The Dudley Boyz and the Usos defeated the New Day and Mark Henry in a tables match (7:31)
The match was rushed. Henry walked out when the New Day ordered him to splash Jimmy Uso. It ended with the Dudleys giving Big E a 3-D through the table. It appeared that Jey Uso had a hard time putting weight down on his left leg.
The Dudleys then turned heel, jumping the Usos. First, they put Jimmy Uso through a table, then Jey took a super bomb through a table. Crowd chanted “ECW.” Bubba reeled off some of his catchphrases from his Bully Ray days, asking Jimmy if he knew who they were. Overdue move turning the Dudleys because the company needs a strong heel tag team act, as opposed to the New Day as a comedy heel act.
The company profiled all of the major mainstream publications that broke the Bryan retirement news. It was even on ESPN’s bottom line all day, which is incredible if you watched how that network treated wrestling during the boom period.
Bryan came out with his trimmed beard and a haircut. He looked like he really didn’t want to give this speech. He stood in the ring with his eyes closed and head down as everyone chanted “Yes” around him, looking like he was going to break down. The expression only got more cheers and chants, which made him crack a smile. Bryan said he was able to close his eyes and feel the reaction the way he had never got to feel it before, and he’ll never forget it.
He said that he had to address the elephant in the room…he really wanted to shave his beard. He said he shaved his head called “Wigs for Kids,” which makes wigs for kids that have cancer. Bryan said he had been wrestling since he was 18 and within 5 months, he had 3 concussions. After that, he would get a concussion here and there, which adds up after 16 years. It gets to a point where doctors say you can’t wrestle anymore. He fought that for a long time, after receiving EKGs and various evaluations. He wanted to come back and wrestle in the WWE because he’s loved wrestling more than anything.
A week and a half ago, a test indicated perhaps his brain wasn’t as OK as he thought it was. He has a family to think about, he and Brie Bella want to start having kids soon (which got Yes chants). Bryan joked that’s what Brie says all the time. That got Holy Shit chants. Bryan announced his retirement with the heaviest of hearts and the utmost sadness.
For the last year, Bryan said he’s been sad, frustrated, and angry. But when he woke up today he felt gratitude. He got to do what he loved for 16 years. He loved the Seahawks, which got a huge pop. He loved hearing the fans react just as his music hits. He loved diving through the ropes, which makes him feel like Superman. He loved wrestling in the parking lot of gas stations and wrestling in front of 70,000 fans in New Orleans. He loved getting to know people like Kane, who looks like a monster but is among the smartest people he knows.
He got to know Steven Regal, who has been his mentor. He got to know children like Connor. He said he was very grateful because wrestling doesn’t owe him anything, nor does the WWE or the fans. The wrestlers do this because they love to do it. He neer dreamed the fans would get behind him the way he did, since he was 5’8, 180 pounds. He came close to breaking down here. He was grateful for two years ago when the fans in Seattle hijacked Raw. And the WWE was trying to arrange a program between Cena and Randy Orton, and the fans still chanted for Bryan.
Bryan said that wasn’t why he was grateful. He was grateful because his father was sitting in the crowd and got to see that. Bryan started crying as he remembered his father, who passed away shortly after WrestleMania. It was the last time his father got to see him wrestle.
Because of wrestling, he got to meet the most wonderful woman in the world. She’s beautiful, smart and completes him in a way that he didn’t think was possible. He was grateful to announce his retirement in front of his mother, his sister, his family and friends. He. Was. Grateful.
Tomorrow morning, he starts a new life, where he is no longer a wrestler. But that’s tomorrow, not tonight. He asked for one more Yes chant and he would really appreciate it. Brie came out as the fans chanted yes and his music played. They kissed in midring as Michael Cole said the company was thankful for having his talent under their employ.