On last week’s Monday Night Raw (11 May 2015), Daniel Bryan relinquished the WWE Intercontinental title due to injury. To paraphrase the extent of his current injury, Bryan predicted that he might be out for weeks or months, or he might never wrestle again. This is the second serious injury Bryan has endured in the past year, missing almost all of the latter half of 2014.
I don’t have any insider information and I am not a doctor. But I doubt that Bryan wants to repeat the fate of Edge. He is also still fairly young (34 years old today!), with a young wife (31 years old), and he has enough money to start a family and give his children a comfortable life, while actually being around to enjoy it instead of being constantly on the road. Chances are pretty good that Daniel Bryan may decide to retire. As much as I will miss him as a fan, if I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t think twice about it.
Daniel Bryan has held the entire WWE universe under his sway for nearly three years–even inspiring a “takeover” in a great segment on Raw in the spring of 2014. No other wrestler has come close to inspiring the fanaticism of Daniel Bryan’s “Yes Movement.”
The question we should be asking ourselves is not whether or not Daniel Bryan will retire. The question is, if he does retire, what will the WWE do? Who will step up and take that top spot?
Brock Lesnar: Though Lesnar publicly announced that he was staying with WWE, he promptly disappeared the night after Wrestlemania XXXI. I’m sure he’ll be back and will be in the main event picture whenever that may be, but I doubt he is being considered part of WWE’s long-term plans.
John Cena: After over a decade on top, it looks like Cena has settled down into the mid-card, which is just fine. It’s time to let some of the others have their chance in the spotlight. I’m sure he hasn’t seen his last Heavyweight title run, but I hope they wait a while.
Randy Orton: Orton has made another face turn. He is one of those guys who is just so good as a heel that fans inevitably start cheering him and a face turn just happens. As long as he stays interesting and relevant, he’ll probably stay in the main event picture.
Seth Rollins: He’s currently wearing the belt around his waist. This bodes well for all of the up-and-coming main-eventers. As long as the champ isn’t Lesnar, Cena, or Orton, everyone else seems to have a chance. Personally I can’t stand Rollins. As a heel, he’s lackluster, in my opinion. We’ve seen the cowardly heel before, but they usually hide behind bigger guys, not a pair of shrimps like J&J Security. He is plenty athletic, though, so if he can shake this current Authority pet gimmick, he could be a bigger, more believable star.
Roman Reigns: This was the guy everyone thought would be taking the reins (pun totally intended) from John Cena. Seems Rollins is that guy. If anything, Reigns is coming in third or fourth on the totem pole. Part of the problem is that Reigns has mediocre promo skills. To me, he just sounds soft sometimes. Reigns needs a history lesson, but not to his more recent family members like the Rock. Almost 25 years ago now, there was a big tough wrestler who barely spoke but dominated in the ring while others did the talking for him. That guy captured the imagination of the fans and became popular with the fans even as a heel. That guy was the Undertaker. Reigns followed that model with the Shield, and I really believe that he could reclaim his original mystique and popularity if he would just shut his mouth.
Dean Ambrose: WWE wanted so much to have him in the mid-card, but—similar to Daniel Bryan—the fans just like him too much. He has the charisma to be a top guy for a long time. He might be the guy that takes that Bryan spot.
Dolph Ziggler: The Show-Off has been around the WWE longer than Daniel Bryan (has everyone blocked their memories of the Spirit Squad yet?). He even had a World championship run a few years ago. He has a lot of popular support, and has the charisma and the athleticism. After selling for everyone all over the mid-card for a few years, he could be due for another good strong run.
Bray Wyatt: Wyatt is the best the WWE has on the mic right now. I would go so far as to say that he is the most complete character in all of professional wrestling. His look, his moves: everything about him reflects his persona. He is extremely popular, even as a heel. Reminds me of mid- to late-90s Undertaker. Yet he rarely shows up in matches. He is a star but doesn’t really have any other stars to fight. Hopefully WWE Creative will figure out what to do with him, and he will have a long career ahead of him.
Neville: The Man that Gravity Forgot has made an immediate impact with his amazing athleticism. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. A true top-level star has to have the full package. As entertaining as he is, he’s still too fresh.
Sami Zayn: He had a great run in NXT and a relatively impressive debut on Raw against John Cena a few weeks ago. That debut unfortunately ended with him needing an MRI. Now it looks like he is back competing in NXT. Better that than what happened to The Ascension. I’m sure he’ll be back in the main roster; he just didn’t make the strong debut that Neville did so he might need a little more time to cook.
Samoa Joe: Joe is awesome. Now that he has made his NXT debut, I only have to wonder just how long he’ll be there before moving into the main roster. How much respect will his experience bring him? Does he really need a long tenure in NXT before he’s ready for prime time? I don’t think so. We’ll just have to wait to see what Mr. McMahon thinks.
And really, that last sentence sums up all of this speculation about the WWE roster: we’ll just have to wait to see what Mr. McMahon thinks.