The story of World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Daniel Bryan has been filled with roller coaster twists and turns and ups and downs since he first appeared on the original edition of NXT. Bryan was, despite his obvious abilities inside of the ring, made to look foolish multiple times on NXT before he was given a chance to shine on the main WWE roster. The undersized “American Dragon” then got over with crowds despite some lackluster booking that was meant to keep him in the midcard, and he ultimately worked in the main event of a WrestleMania, where he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Bryan's WWE career has largely gone downhill since that monumental moment, most notably because of serious injuries and concussion issues. There were, earlier in the summer months of 2015, rumors swirling throughout the Internet that Bryan may be forced to retire because of the punishment that he has sustained during his wrestling career, and even Bret “Hitman” Hart made similar comments when speaking about Bryan. Those whispers have not, as of the posting of this piece, been confirmed as accurate by Bryan or by the WWE, and the hope supposedly remains that Bryan will one day be able to return as an active wrestler.
Assuming that Bryan will never again physically be able to consistently work matches for the WWE or for any other company, he could still nevertheless have one last match left in him. The previously mentioned Bret Hart has, for example, performed in multiple matches after being forced to “retire” because of the brain traumas he had suffered in the past. So long as Bryan and his opponent would take it easy and make sure that both worked a relatively safe contest, the former WWE champion should be able to have a retirement match in the company before he rides off into the sunset and to his next endeavor.
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15 Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle wants to retire working under the WWE umbrella. He has not been shy about this fact in the past and nobody can blame the guy considering the state of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling these days. While Bryan and Angle likely would not put together a five-star classic these days – neither one of them are in their physical primes anymore – the two have the goods to tell an interesting and entertaining story inside of the ring without putting each other in danger. One piece of advice for both men: avoid dives and moonsaults during this match. You've already done enough during your careers.
14 Big Show
Retirement matches in wrestling are often about things coming full circle for the man who is under the spotlight in that encounter. This is the first such instance regarding Bryan in this piece. Bryan, as you may remember, became the first ever “NXT graduate” to win a WWE World Championship when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Big Show. There are probably better options here, sure, but Big Show is a veteran of the ring who has a history with Bryan and who would be able to take care of his opponent during one last match.
Do not brush this one off, as it would make logical sense in the WWE Universe world of storylines and past occurrences. Bryan and Kane have a long history as rivals and also as part of “Team Hell No,” and The Big Red Machine wanting to be the man responsible for taking Bryan out of the WWE once and for all is a story that could easily be produced. These two could put together a fun contest inside of the ring that would also not ask much of either man, and it could serve as a final farewell to both if Kane were to also decide that he was finished as an active wrestler following this match.
12 The Miz
The best place to end a story is often at the beginning and that would be the case for Bryan were he to wrap up his wrestling career against The Miz. The Miz was Bryan's “mentor” during the first ever NXT competition, something that was downright hilarious for diehard fans of the business and for those who had followed Bryan's career in the years when he was working overseas and for promotions such as Ring of Honor. The Miz is not known for taking unnecessary risks during matches and putting Bryan over a final time would be a solid gesture from The Miz.
11 William Regal
Not every retirement match has to be a memorable encounter that headlines a special event such as WrestleMania or SummerSlam. William Regal has, for a long time, been one of the most underrated workers of his era and he was one of the individuals who trained Bryan during Bryan's early days in the wrestling industry. It is practically a guarantee that wrestling fans who have followed the careers of both workers would appreciate seeing Bryan and Regal square off for what would be Bryan's final match. Regal would, of course, have to be the heel in this encounter.
10 Dave Taylor
Do not let the fact that Dave Taylor is closer to 60-years old than he is to 55 stop you from thinking that he and Bryan could not put on a tremendous retirement match for the former WWE champion who was, for a time, the top babyface worker in the company. Taylor could probably still out-wrestle many who work for national organizations such as the WWE and TNA if put with an opponent such as Bryan, and the two were once part of “Team Uppercut,” a trio that included another individual mentioned in this piece as a possible opponent for a Bryan retirement match.
Bryan fans in attendance at WrestleMania XXVIII and those watching that event via pay-per-view were angered and upset to watch Sheamus defeat Bryan for the World Heavyweight Championship in only 18 seconds. The reactions that customers had to that booking decision would subsequently play a major role in Bryan become worthy of working in a main event at the biggest WWE show of the year. Bryan getting revenge on Sheamus by beating his old nemesis – perhaps in 17 seconds – would be a good way for Bryan to say goodbye to fans without putting his health at risk.
8 Seth Rollins
Bryan and Seth Rollins have a history of working together outside of the WWE, and the two have had a few encounters since Rollins first debuted in the company as a member of “The Shield.” It is a well-known tradition in the wrestling business that the person who is having his retirement is supposed to lose his final encounter as a way to “put over” an opponent. Passing the torch to Rollins, who has been fantastic as a singles performer since his days in The Shield, would be a way for Bryan to have his moment while at the same time doing what is best for business.
7 Christopher Daniels
The story for this retirement match for Bryan could be put together one of several ways. Bryan and Christopher Daniels could be depicted as being good friends who wanted to have one final match while the possibility still existed. It could be said that Daniels and Bryan were longtime rivals looking to settle a score once and for all. The two could even have some fun with it and have Daniels work as the “Curry Man” character who does have a history of teaming up with Bryan. Either way, this match would be an entertaining sendoff for Bryan.
6 Chris Jericho
It has long been said by wrestling fans that Bryan, mostly while working outside of the WWE under his real name Bryan Danielson, was the best wrestler in the world. Enter Chris Jericho, the man who is, in his own words, “The best in the world at what I do.” The angle is right there for the taking, WWE, as this would be a great match that could be on any WWE card. Jericho proved earlier this year in Japan that he still has the goods to go inside of the ring even though he is barely a part-time performer these days. He and Bryan could put on one final clinic.
The other member of the former Team Uppercut has never gotten a full push to the top of main event cards that some expected he would receive while working with the WWE. Cesaro may not be the best option among current WWE workers to be in Bryan's final ever match, but Bryan putting the European Superstar over could potentially serve as a needed injection of life into the Cesaro character. Besides, is there anybody out there who knows about the histories of these two fantastic who believes they would not put on an entertaining match?
4 Samoa Joe
It is possibly the most logical retirement match for Bryan when looking at the current WWE roster. It should be only a matter of time before Samoa Joe is called up from NXT to the main roster, and what a waste it would be if Joe and Bryan were never given an opportunity to work together in the WWE before Bryan had to call time on his career. This match probably would not be a 60-minute instant classic that Bryan and Joe would have been able to produce a decade or so ago, but it nevertheless would be a fitting end to Bryan's wrestling days.
3 Triple H
The WWE has already created the story of Triple H and heel group “The Authority” attempting to hold Bryan down. That idea could be taken for another spin around the block leading up to The Authority forcing Bryan to retire after one final a match, a showdown that features Triple H wanting to quiet Bryan's fans once and for all. It has already been proven that these two have good chemistry inside of the ring, and the fans inside of the arena would leap off of their feet in celebration once Bryan earned one last victory over The Game.
2 John Cena
Remember when the WWE botched the company's version of the “Summer of Punk” story that included CM Punk walking away after defeating John Cena for the WWE Championship? That wrong could be righted, but this time with Bryan playing the role of CM Punk. Bryan could, in this scenario, earn one final victory over Cena before making a victorious exit with the championship title. Unlike with Punk, however, Bryan would legitimately be gone for good as a wrestler even if he did eventually return to the company as a trainer or in a different role.
1 Shawn Michaels
One of the cruelest things that the WWE has done to fans in recent memory was to even tease that Shawn Michaels, who once trained Bryan, would work a future match with his former student. Michaels has repeatedly said that his second WrestleMania loss to The Undertaker would serve as his last match in the WWE and as an active in-ring worker. Exceptions can be made, particularly in the wrestling industry if history is any indication, and Bryan versus Michaels is the retirement match that fans of both wrestlers would want to see and the retirement match that fans deserve. Make it so.
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