By Edward Baruela
Former WWE wrestling superstar Daniel Bryan (real name Bryan Danielson) is a great fighter, not just inside the ring, but also for the community.
Bryan is a world-renowned fan favourite for his technical abilities and high energy athleticism inside the squared circle. But what isn’t as well known about the short-statured, bearded underdog is his ability to advocate for worthwhile change that extends beyond predetermined storylines.
Through these specific examples, Daniel Bryan’s philanthropy compels fans to point their index fingers to the sky and scream “Yes!” for a meaningful reason.
At a 2014 televised WWE event in Pittsburgh, cancer fighter Connor “The Crusher” Michalek, 7, managed to persuade his way backstage to meet his favourite wrestler, Daniel Bryan. His quick wit and lovable personality captivated the attention of the WWE, and the organization decided to send him and his family to New Orleans for WrestleMania.
While sitting in the front row at WrestleMania, Michalek witnessed Daniel Bryan winning the World Heavyweight Championship. Amid the championship celebration, Bryan walked over to the boy and gave him a big hug, creating a lasting WrestleMania moment for Michalek and his family. He passed away a month later at the age of eight, but his spirit would not be forgotten.
To honour his memory, the WWE partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to create Connor’s Cure. The charity raises funds for pediatric cancer research and has raised nearly $1 million since 2014. Connor’s Cure bracelets are sold through the WWE shop, donating all proceeds to Connor’s Cure.
This chance meeting between Bryan and Michalek sparked the catalyst for a charitable initiative that will continue for years to come.
Wigs for Kids
Daniel Bryan is widely known for his unkempt beard and long locks. Prior to his retirement announcement in February 2016, he trimmed his trademark beard and mane. This was not done in vain — his hair went to an organization called Wigs for Kids. The charitable organization takes donated hair and fashions it into wigs for cancer patients free of charge. Bryan mentioned the organization during his televised speech on Monday Night Raw as a way of providing national awareness for the charity in front of millions of people.
On Feb. 8, 2016 in front of his hometown fans in Seattle on Monday Night Raw, Daniel Bryan abruptly announced he was walking away from professional wrestling. He made it clear that this was not part of a storyline between him and the authority, but that suffering multiple concussions from wrestling for over 16 years had taken a serious toll on his health.
Prior to calling it a career, Bryan went through a series of electroencephalogram (EEG) and reflex testing to determine his brain health and the possibility of returning to action. It was discovered that Bryan suffered from a brain lesion that caused post-concussion seizures he never reported.
As the face of concussion awareness, Bryan highlights the dangers of not reporting concussion-like symptoms and advocates for taking responsibility of your own safety. By placing a greater importance on his long-term health, Bryan sets a precedent for other athletes within combat sports to be responsible and aware of their own health.