Daniel Bryan and 9 Wrestlers Whose Career Ended Too Soon

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DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 08: WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan flys off the ropes during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium on July 08, 2011 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Daniel Bryan

The leader of the “Yes” movement is the newest name to add to this list. It doesn’t matter if he’s called Daniel Bryan or the American Dragon; Bryan Danielson is a renaissance man in this sport. Billed at 5’10, 190 pounds, Bryan is clearly not the archetype of a professional wrestling superstar.  However, his nearly two-decade career speaks to moments that eclipse many men who “look” the part.

Bryan’s career has many major milestones, but two stand out as the “biggest” of the group. First is his part in the establishment of Ring of Honor – perhaps one of the most important “Indie” promotions active in the United States. It was there he would get involved with programs involving the likes of Nigel McGuinness, Chris Hero, CM Punk, Samoa Joe and even his famed match with Kenta (Hideo Itami).

Yet, it would be his second run with the WWE that would help him break through to the ceiling. Even though he was shuffled into the pile of the Nexus faction, Bryan would emerge as the real star of that group. It would be during this time that he would claim the WWE Heavyweight Title, World Heavyweight Title, Intercontinental Title, United States Title and Tap Team titles. Each time, it seemed like his title reigns were a way to “thank” him for consistently putting on high-quality matches and entertaining storylines.

On February 8, the WWE provided him the final 20 minutes of Monday Night Raw to speak to his fans as to why he is walking away from the sport. The mounting concussion-related injuries pushed him out of active competition for much of the last two years. In losing Bryan, the WWE and professional wrestling as a whole loses perhaps its brightest star well before he had the opportunity to leave a lasting impression worthy of what everyone knows he should receive.

Next: The Rated-R Superstar