If there’s anyone who understands the dilemma facing Daniel Bryan entering 2018, from the physical dangers of being a professional wrestler to the itch to return that comes amid retirement, it might be WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley.
Bryan, 36, who retired in 2016 with concussion issues, has shared publicly his intention to return to the ring when his WWE contract expires this fall provided he can receive medical clearance. Bryan, who currently serves in an on-screen role with WWE as the general manager of SmackDown Live, also said he is willing to depart WWE in order to do so, should the company not allow him to wrestle due to safety concerns.
As WWE prepares for its 25th anniversary episode of Monday Night Raw on Jan. 22, Foley joined CBS Sports’ “In This Corner Podcast” and was asked what advice he would give Bryan regarding his in-ring future.
“I told him years ago that once he was as thoroughly beloved as he was, he didn’t have to do as much on a nightly basis, that he could stay away from some of the things that were most likely going to lead to injuries,” Foley said on this week’s show, which airs Wednesday. “So there is no doubt in my mind that Daniel, if given the chance, could have some great matches. I just hope he makes sparing appearances.”
Foley, 52, who acted as Raw’s on-screen GM as recently as 2017, can speak from experience. At 35, he walked away from a career filled with dangerous high spots and countless hardcore moments following his match at WrestleMania 2000. His retirement from active competition would last four years.
After serving in various on-screen administrative roles (similar to Bryan), Foley’s 2003 in WWE looked a lot like the last year for Bryan. Not only did Foley serve as a referee in a major feud, he took part in storylines in which he was spit at, attacked and called a coward for being unwilling to return to the ring — like Bryan with The Miz.
Eventually, beginning with the 2004 Royal Rumble, Foley began a very selective in-ring return which featured plenty of big moments, including a memorable hardcore match against Edge two years later at WrestleMania 22.
While their two paths hold similarities, Foley doesn’t necessarily believe he has created a blueprint in which Bryan should follow.
“Not really because I had already had a great run and had done everything I wanted to and more, where Bryan’s injury came right in the prime of his career,” Foley said. “So you are looking at a different scenario and I don’t think he can come back and do a three-year plan like I did, where you can have 10 matches over three years. It depends.
“I don’t know what his condition is or what the doctors are saying but I hope in the end he understands that he’s a guy who has a long life ahead of him, and a wife and a child. He needs to make the decision for everyone, not just himself.”
Last week, Bryan told Sports Illustrated he hopes to know his future by WrestleMania 34 in April.
“I assume that if I don’t wrestle by WrestleMania, I probably won’t be wrestling with WWE at all,” said Bryan. “That’s my assumption.
“It’s not a black and white answer. There are a lot of issues…