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Friday, March 27, 2015

Daniel Bryan Sees WrestleMania Main Event as "a personal failure"

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 4:25 PM

Daniel Bryan, the WWE superstar whose signature “Yes!” chant took hold in the Giants’ dugout during their World Series run, has returned to the ring (and the Bay) after recuperating from a neck injury.

click to enlarge bryan.png
Bryan was the star of last year’s WrestleMania, but as the big show comes to Santa Clara Sunday the fan favorite finds himself buried among mid-card contenders. Arguably one of the best physical performers on the company's roster, and certainly one of the most popular with the fans, Bryan considers his  absence from this year’s main event match as a “personal failure.”

We caught up with the stereotype-shattering, eternal underdog to talk about his recovery, WrestleMania, and his love of San Francisco foodie culture.

SFW: Last time we spoke was at the Be a Star event in Santa Clara. You were telling me you didn’t know when, if ever, you’d return to the ring, and that it might take a month for each inch of your nerve to recover. Tell me what changed?

Daniel Bryan: So I started going to see this guy Greg Roskopf in Denver. He founded this thing called Muscle Activation Techniques. Carson Palmer, a quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals who was having a horrible shoulder problem, went there and had great success with the treatment. He could barely even pick up a football at the beginning of the season. Then, all of a sudden, after this treatment he’s the starting quarterback.

I was debating having a Hail Mary surgery on my elbow but my naturopath said “Before you schedule your surgery do you want me to see if you can get in with this guy?” I jumped at the chance.

The treatment was two straight hours of relatively painful stuff, but all of a sudden my strength was back. That had happened before, but in the past, when it came back, it only lasted 30 minutes or an hour. When Roskopf worked on me it came back for five days. I’ve only had two treatments and my strength has held up all the way till now. The last time I saw him was in November, so my strength has been holding up for months. And he said if it ever goes down to come see him again.

I can’t describe why it works — I’m not a therapist. But when he started he said, “If I can help you, I’ll let you know.” Then he started working on me and said, “Yes, I can help you.”

(Watch this video of the match in which the trouble with Bryan’s injury started. He hits his head after a suicide dive to the floor. He feels something is wrong but keeps going, climbing the top rope and delivering one of his signature dropkicks. That’s when he gets what wrestlers refer to as a “stinger.” It’s a pleasant-enough sounding slang term that means you have temporarily loss of feeling in your arms. Bryan would continue to wrestle for months after this injury, until he was forced to have surgery to correct the problem. And no, this is not part of a story line.)

Since you’ve come back from your injury you haven’t eased your style very much, if at all. I was interviewing Jim Ross and he said he had a private phone conversation with Steve Austin about that bump you took from Luke Harper. Can you talk a little bit about that bump, how you’re feeling, and how your injury has been holding up in the ring?

I actually feel real good. The only time I’ve had any setbacks was that match against Luke Harper. That was the only time I had some stuff going down my arm. Mentally when I came back I thought, “I’m not going to do any of this stuff. I need to wrestle an easier style.”

But the problem is I love doing this. I get excited when I’m in there.

Shawn Michaels trained me when he had what was supposedly a career-ending back injury. So we were training in a boxing ring and he was teaching us how to take a back body drop, which is one of the bigger back bumps. I was training with Brian Kendrick, who came into the WWE around the same time as me, and we were taking back body drops and were doing them OK.

Shawn tells us “Guys like us, we need to get higher.” And he keeps saying we need to get higher and higher and explaining “you do this and this to get higher.” You know, telling us the techniques to get higher.

So we keep trying but it’s not good enough. Then he goes “No, no, no! Like this!” and he storms the ring and takes this huge back body drop. Like, he hit the ceiling. We were all like “Whoa! That was awesome.” But he could barely walk the next day.

So sometimes you know what you should and shouldn’t do, but when you love what you do it’s hard to always do what you should.

Some of your fans best have taken to chanting your name doing Roman Reigns promos. Has that made things tense between you and Roman?

No. It’s interesting because Roman Reigns and I actually get along really well. He is a great performer and human being in general, and I don’t wish bad things to happen to any of our superstars. I want the crowd to go nuts for everyone on the roster, either loving or hating them.

But on the flip side it’s good for me. If people didn’t do that I would have never main evented WrestleMania last year. In my situation, where I’m no John Cena, I’m no Roman Reigns, and no Randy Orton I need that help. I’m not someone the WWE sees and says, “Hey, this should be the top guy.”

So for me to be in the top position I need to make it so that the fans see me as the best guy out there. So much so that they are willing to chant for me whenever they push someone else. And that’s like kind of my . . . Well, I saw me not main eventing WrestleMania this year as my own personal failure. Because if I’m ever going to main event WrestleMania again I need to be better in every facet of wrestling, so that when I go out there the crowd won’t accept anyone else.

But that’s impossible, especially when we have such a great roster. We have so many talented guys, like Dolph, Seth, Roman, and John Cena (whether you like to hate him or love him he brings energy to the crowd). 

So that’s me setting the bar really high, considering all the talent on the roster. But if people like me don’t set the bar really high I wouldn’t get anywhere. I need to set the bar higher for myself so that the fans don’t accept anything else.

You’ve been put in a ladder match this Sunday with a bunch of hungry guys. When you put guys like that in a ladder match on a big stage there’s a real increased risk. Was there any hesitation on your part to be in the match, considering your recent injury?

No, no hesitation to participate. Do I get a little nervous when I think about it? Yes.

Coming back I didn’t know how strong my neck was. I can do all the tests. I can go in to the performance center in Orlando and take a couple bumps, my neck holds up. Then a match at the performance center, my neck holds up. OK, now let’s see a live event — it held up. You just keep going into deeper water testing how much it will hold up.

I got suplexed on my head [in the Luke Harper match] and my neck held up.

So now I’m in this ladder match. Will it hold up? I think so. Am I nervous? Yes, but every time you’re in a ladder match you get nervous. But it’s important to not hesitate because that’s when you really get hurt. Everyone else in the match is going to go full bore. So I have to too. If I hesitate or worry I will get hurt then that actually increases my chances of getting hurt.

WrestleMania has invaded the Bay Area. Is there anything you like to do while you’re here?

Oh my gosh, I love SF! It’s such a wonderful city. So much great food. One of the things I’d like to do is take one day to go be a tourist, you know? Whether or not I am going to be able to do that with all the wrestling fans in town is another thing. But on Wednesday I only have one or two things scheduled, so my wife and I might try to steal away 5 or 6 hours and enjoy the city.

I don’t know if you’re going to be able to do that.

HA! Yeah, I know.
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About The Author

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome is SF Weekly's former music editor.


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