AEW's Bryan Danielson talks injuries, wrapping up his career with Moose & Maggie


The highest point of Bryan Danielson’s professional wrestling career undoubtedly came in 2014 when, at WrestleMania XXX, he defeated Triple H in the opening match and then Batista and Randy Orton in the main event to win the WWE Championship, culminating a rise of the “YES Movement” where he became the most popular athlete in the sport.

However, as he told WFAN’s Moose & Maggie on Tuesday, that run was also one of his lowest points health-wise, even though he was only 32 years old at the time.

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“I had some nerve issues in my neck and was in tremendous pain, and I lost a lot of strength in my right hand,” Danielson revealed. “My wife and I had a 2010 Honda Fit that didn’t have automatic locks, and a couple weeks after WrestleMania, I couldn’t unlock the car with my right hand. They said the nerve pain they could mitigate, but once I stated losing strength I had to have surgery.”

Danielson indeed had surgery and was stripped of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship as part of the ongoing storyline between himself and Triple H’s crew The Authority. He ended up being out of the ring for nearly eight months, almost undergoing a second surgery before a different muscular-based approach helped bring him back in January 2015.

However, just a few months later, after winning WWE’s Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31, Bryan was forced to retire due to more injuries – this time, concussion-related issues, which in retrospect he regrets partially as his fault due to hiding some of the severity of his injuries from WWE’s medical staff.

“When I was forced to retire, it was because I lied to them – and that’s a good lesson, be honest with your medical history, because some things were uncovered, and they couldn’t trust me with my body anymore,” Danielson revealed.

He ended up out of the ring for nearly three years, and while he remained a public figure on WWE programming, he didn’t wrestle again until WrestleMania 34, finally cleared after numerous evaluations by three independent neurosurgeons in addition to WWE’s medical team.

Another WWE Championship reign came over his two years in WWE before leaving this summer, and as he noted with Moose & Maggie, he may be in the best shape of his life at age 40 – thanks in part to the TB12 method?

“For myself, I feel like I’m a machine that can do anything, but I feel great right now; I feel infinitely better at 40 than I did before WrestleMania XXX,” he said. “It’s a similar philosophy to Tom Brady, although we have to worry a little more about aesthetics in wrestling, because he doesn’t have to go out in spandex underwear and perform!”

However, Brady and LeBron James’ philosophies have helped Danielson immensely.

“One of the things I’ve taken from them is the idea of investing in yourself; LeBron invests a million dollars a year in himself, and while I don’t so that, I’ve dedicated 10 percent of the money I earn to improving my health,” Danielson said. “Not just physically, but brain health, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, things like that.”

Bryan’s two children with wife Brie, best known as WWE Hall of Famer Brie Bella, are four and one, and he wants to be able to engage with them both physically and mentally as he gets older.

“I’ll be like 55 years old when my son is 15 or 16 and becomes old enough to wrestle me the way I wanted to wrestle my dad, and I want to be able to do that with him,” he said. “And, I don’t want my daughter to be in high school and ask me about chemical bonding, and I don’t have the faculties to explain to her how oxygen and hydrogen bond, or how carbon dioxide in the air helps breed acidic water.”

Danielson is, as you may have surmised there if you didn’t already know, very much involved in conservation and Earth-friendly measures; he is a vegan, and in his final WWE title reign, he had a championship belt made of renewable resources while being billed as “The Planet’s Champion.”

But as clear as he is physically and mentally, he dropped one big bombshell with Moose & Maggie: when asked if he has anything to prove now that he’s moved from WWE to AEW, Danielson revealed that he only sees himself vying to become AEW’s Champion for another three years or so.

“Proving things is focused on others, and I’m not interested in that. I’ve proven to everybody that I’m pretty good at what I do!” he smiled. “I see these next three years as my last as a full-time wrestler, but in my mind, it’s not like I’m tapering off – this is the climax of my career.”

And within that, he wants to help many of the young stars in the AEW locker room as much as he can, even if he’s not coming with the idea of solely being a mentor.

“I really see pro wrestling as something that has helped me become a better human being. It’s not good enough to be good at wrestling, you have to be good at doing interviews, getting over being shy because you’re out there in your underwear, doing stuff like this media tour,” he said. “If you’re a great athlete, but not great at media, they’ll still pay you huge money, but that’s not enough in wrestling.”

And maybe, in that vein of mental health, Danielson can do for some young talent what William Regal did for him in WWE.

“I’d never take on the responsibility that I’m here to be a mentor; those relationships form, but that doesn’t happen overnight, you have to establish a bond,” Danielson said. “Personalities have to bond, regardless of how you wrestle. It’s about how you deal with situations. William Regal – I’d have had many more mental breakdowns if not for Regal, who helped me change my perspective on things, and I’m eternally grateful for that.”

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