It appears that former WWE champion Daniel Bryan, who was forced to retire in February because of concussion-related symptoms, hasn't officially closed the door on making a return to the ring.
Bryan, 35, whose real name is Bryan Danielson, has been the center of rumors in recent weeks regarding his status after a fiery confrontation with The Miz on "Talking Smack," the after-show for "SmackDown Live." He appeared on SportsCenter's weekly WWE segment, Off the Top Rope, with Jonathan Coachman on Wednesday and spoke candidly about whether he believes he'll ever wrestle again.
"If you were to ask me nine days out of 10, I would say, 'Absolutely!'" Bryan said about his desire to return. "I keep trying to convince people that I'm OK to wrestle, and I think that's probably the hard part. A lot of times I'm trying to convince myself, too, that I can wrestle. It's really hard, because the concussion issue is very subjective, and that's the part that a lot of people don't understand."
In February, Bryan told Coachman he had suffered 10 documented concussions throughout his career and that it would be difficult to estimate how many more went unreported. He also admitted to hiding post-concussion seizures for years.
But Bryan has undergone further testing since his retirement, which he alluded to Wednesday.
"I was cleared by a lot of concussion specialists," Bryan said. "There was one test that kind of flagged me, but then the more I learned about that test, the more I learned, 'Hey, maybe that shouldn't have stopped me.'
"There's a lot more than meets the eye to this situation. I feel great, and I feel like every day that I can wrestle. I'm doing jiu-jitsu and kickboxing and stuff like that, and I feel 100 percent."
Bryan made his return to WWE television in recent months as a color commentator on the "WWE Cruiserweight Classic" and, most prominently, as the on-screen general manager of "SmackDown Live." But it was a heated argument he had with The Miz during an appearance last week on the WWE Network's "Talking Smack" show that had social media buzzing.
- WWE Network (@WWENetwork) August 24, 2016
Considering The Miz's use of real-life events surrounding Bryan's retirement in his rant, fans were questioning whether portions of the segment were a shoot -- a direct attack on elements of Bryan's life. They were also wondering whether it could be the opposite, serving as the beginning of WWE planting seeds, storyline-wise, for Bryan's eventual return.
With "Talking Smack," essentially a postgame show for Tuesday's "SmackDown Live," featuring a very unscripted and loose feel, Bryan said he knew "very little" about what The Miz was going to say when he joined the desk backstage.
"I just knew that Miz was going to come up and we were going to banter back and forth," Bryan said. "But Miz and I have known each other for a long time, and we really know how to get at each other's nerves. I brought up the idea that he wrestled like a coward. He knows I don't like the way he wrestles. I just don't like it. It's not my thing. And I called him out on that."
But when The Miz countered by calling out Bryan for constantly telling fans he would return in the lead-up to his retirement, only to then walk away from the ring for good, Bryan admits his anger was real.
"He knows that's really pushing on a nerve," Bryan said. "And calling me a coward for not doing it -- which I kind of sometimes think of myself as a coward for not doing it -- you know, it's tough. Part of me wanted to punch him in the face, but I figured that probably wasn't such a smart idea on live TV."
It's fair to question how much of what Bryan himself has said is a work. This is pro wrestling, after all.
But, as far as he has said, it seems that WWE has plans to keep him and The Miz away from each other on screen moving forward. He also admitted just how difficult it has been for him to be close to the current product on "SmackDown" and not be able to compete
"When I go out there, the whole arena is like, 'Yes! Yes! Yes!' and then I just sit in a chair, and I just watch the match," Bryan said. "And then I go home to Brie [Bella, his wife] and say, 'I'm going to quit. I'm going to go wrestle somewhere.' And then she talks me down off the ledge, and I'm just like, 'OK.' I've got to think about her, and we are trying to have a family and that sort of thing. But that part of it is tough."
Much of Bryan's post-retirement journey has been documented for the new E! series "Total Bellas," a spin-off of the reality show "Total Divas." Bryan admitted to going through serious heartache and depression during the filming of the show. He was also quite candid about not looking forward to reliving it through his upcoming media obligations ahead of the Oct. 5 premiere.