Almost three years after his final WWE match, and two years removed from a tearful retirement speech in front of a hometown crowd in Seattle, Daniel Bryan has been cleared to return to in-ring action.
As first reported by CBS Sports and confirmed by WWE officials, Bryan, 36, has brought a three-year quest to return to the ring full circle.
Saying goodbye to the ring was one of the hardest moments of my life. But thanks to the amazing people supporting me, I was able to keep fighting for my dream. This moment feels surreal and I'm glad to be able to talk to you all at the beginning of #SDLive tonight.
- Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) March 20, 2018
After suffering from several concussions during his time as an active WWE superstar, as well as concussion-based seizures that he admitted he originally hid from WWE officials, Bryan was told during experimental testing in early 2016 that he wouldn't be cleared to compete again in a WWE ring.
He appeared on SportsCenter the following night to explain his decision and what the tests had apparently shown.
Daniel Bryan joins Jonathan Coachman to discuss when he knew he had to retire due to concussions, the issues that he suffers from and the message he wants to give young athletes about protecting themselves from head trauma.
But as Bryan learned more about the testing, and what had been found, he began to doubt the results of the tests and sought a bevy of other opinions. He went into detail about the confusion and misunderstanding involving his concussion testing during an appearance on "E&C's Pod of Awesomeness" last August with hosts Adam "Edge" Copeland and Jay "Christian" Reso -- both of whom had their WWE careers shortened due to injury.
WWE announced in a news release Tuesday that after more than two years of extensive evaluations, Bryan was cleared by three leading concussion experts: Dr. Robert Cantu, the co-founder of the CTE Center at Boston University School of Medicine; Dr. Javier Cardenas, the director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center; and Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the national director of The Sports Neurology Clinic.
Finally, WWE's medical director, Dr. Joseph Maroon, cleared Bryan as well.
"It's really hard because the concussion issue is really subjective," Bryan said in a follow-up interview with then-ESPN host Jonathan Coachman in August 2016. "And that's the part that a lot of people don't understand. I was cleared by a lot of concussion specialists. There was one test that kind of flagged me, but then the more I learned about that test, the more I learned that, hey, maybe that shouldn't have stopped me."
After reaching out to the Joe Namath Neurological Research Center in Jupiter, Florida, Bryan began undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments in an effort to reverse the effects of previous concussions. Both Bryan and his wife, Brie Bella, have spoken extensively over the past two years about Bryan's desire to return to the ring.
Bryan's wrestling career began when he was 18 years old. Under his given name, Bryan Danielson, he first trained at Shawn Michaels' Texas Wrestling Academy and then signed his first WWE developmental contract in 2000. After 18 months under contract, during which he trained with William Regal, Bryan was released -- marking the start of a prolific run in the independents. He made a name for himself all over the world, in companies including Ring of Honor, and Bryan ultimately became recognized as one of the most skilled technical wrestlers in the world.
He re-signed with WWE in 2009, debuted as part of the reality-show version of NXT and ultimately made his "main roster" debut as part of The Nexus in June 2010. On that night, however, an incident involving the choking of ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie as The Nexus destroyed the ringside area led Bryan's release four days later. He returned to the company in August 2010.
Bryan's run with WWE, which lasted less than five years, ultimately led to him becoming one of the most popular superstars in WWE history. He was a three-time world champion and most famously competed in both the opening and closing matches of WrestleMania XXX to win the WWE world heavyweight championship. His "Yes!" chants transcended the WWE and continue to be used in a variety of nonwrestling contexts.
About a year before his final match, in May 2014, Bryan underwent a cervical foraminotomy to repair damage to a nerve root in his neck. He wouldn't return to in-ring action until just before the Royal Rumble in January 2015.
Since 2016, Bryan has been the on-screen general manager for SmackDown Live.