Former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan announced his retirement from wrestling via Twitter on Monday with a promise to address the RAW crowd later in the evening and fully explain his decision. It was an emotional moment for WWE fans in the Seattle arena and all over the world.
Monday night's episode of RAW was all about paying tribute to Bryan. The show opened with a tear-jerking, minute-long video tribute to his career.
But the rabidly partisan Seattle crowd (Bryan is from Aberdeen, Wash.) had to wait to see its hero in the flesh. Video packages recapping highlights of his WWE career were played throughout the episode, but Bryan didn't make an appearance until the end of the show. His farewell address was the main event of RAW.
You can see all of the career highlight packages assembled into one video here:
When Bryan finally appeared in front of the crowd, he soaked in the cheers and chants for several minutes.
#ThankYouDanielBryan #RAW @WWEDanielBryan https://t.co/CiMngTVyfg— WWE (@WWE) February 9, 2016
He started off trying to lighten the mood by talking about his haircut while fans sobbed all over the arena. He finally addressed that he's been suffering concussions for the entirety of his 16-year wrestling career. He said that he's been putting off facing the hard reality for a long time and that he loves wrestling more than anything else, but he recently took a test that indicated the damage to his brain might be worse than he'd hoped.
Bryan elaborated at length about how much he loves the fans and wrestling, showing off his quirky sense of humor and his one-of-a-kind, infectious charisma. He said that above all else he is grateful for everything he experienced and for the fans' support. He led the crowd in one last "YES" chant, then his wife, Brie Bella, came to the ring to embrace him. Bryan gave his mother in the front row a big hug as the show went off the air.
The tribute continued on the WWE Network, where WWE fans got to see the entire locker room -- including Vince McMahon -- come to the top of the ramp to give Bryan a sustained ovation.
Brie @BellaTwins and @WWEDanielBryan enjoy one final #YESChant as the @WWE Superstars salute. #ThankYouDanielBryan pic.twitter.com/qvw2ZLDNNw— WWE (@WWE) February 9, 2016
While it was certainly bittersweet, his retirement speech was a segment that wrestling fans won't soon forget.
WWE's YouTube page had been posting video tributes to Bryan from various wrestlers throughout the day on Monday. Wrestlers from around the world spent the time between Bryan's announcement and the start of RAW sending messages of support and thanks to Bryan on social media.