It was reported late last week that Daniel Bryan had suffered a concussion. He'd been used sparingly during WWE's European tour, barely worked in a tag team match taped for Smackdown, and was sent home after all TV had been filmed. Clearly, the company found him to be physically compromised in some way. Bryan Alvarez claims that Bryan had sustained the concussion after a very physical bout with Sheamus, taped March 31. Since then, Bryan's worked only in multi-person matches.
WWE has contradicted the concussion story, claiming that Bryan was merely 'banged up' at the time he was sent home. That's nice little vague diagnosis. Surprised they didn't say Bryan had a 'boo-boo'. 'Banged up' could really mean anything, from a back ailment to sore knees to neck pain to, yes, a concussion.
Concussions are wrestling's C-word; as Rob Van Dam noted to me in a forthcoming interview for Fighting Spirit Magazine, in today's wrestling world, saying the word 'concussion' in the locker room stops everyone in their tracks. They're taken seriously more than ever, with the Benoit incident and the NFL's own troubles igniting the subject. Banning chairs to the head is one thing, but concussions still do happen. Say it in Jim Ross' voice when you utter, "It ain't ballet", as concussions still do pop up.
Ask CM Punk. He claims to have wrestled on a European tour, despite having a concussion of his own. You don't need me to rehash his claims; that 'Art of Wrestling' interview in November said it all, and it's why WWE doctor Chris Amann has brought litigation against Punk and Colt Cabana both, claiming that Punk's words have cast him as an incompetent medic. WWE, for their part, is backing Amann in the case, as I'm sure they'd love to shove their thumb into Punk's eye, metaphorically and probably physically.
What would *not* look good for Amann's lawsuit would be Bryan working on a European tour while concussed. Even if he was well-protected and took no bumps, it might not look good to a prospective judge or jury that Bryan, one of the most popular wrestlers on the planet, donned the tights with a serious medical ailment.
It does seem fishy that he made TV appearances before being sent home, as if the company didn't think he was 'banged up' until after he was well-protected in a tag team match. Then again, in WWE's defense, it was a way to keep him on TV without putting him at further risk, so you can understand why he was allowed a flight back to the states once he had fulfilled television appearances. Labeling it a case of being 'banged up' doesn't really sound too official, however, and a more formal diagnosis would cut out the vagueness. Unless WWE prefers vagueness, which wouldn't be a first.
It makes sense that WWE is vigorously denying that Bryan had a concussion. Hell, if it's a false statement, if Bryan actually *doesn't* have a concussion, the company probably has a right to say publicly, "Oh no, you've got this all wrong." The stigma of making somebody work with a no-no injury, one that is such a critical issue in today's sports world, is especially damaging for a company that thrives on good, largely-plastic public relations. This is the same WWE that's run by Vince McMahon, the very Vince that told Congress that he gives out rehab stints to former employees for reasons of 'public relations'. Perception is reality to WWE, and they're probably not wrong.
Perception will be the story of the Amann/Punk lawsuit, especially if there are character witnesses that can claim WWE coerced them to work with a devastating injury to the brain, following diagnosis from Amann. Hell, if Amann was the one that treated Bryan, and he *did* have a concussion, the case is torpedoed. I'd expect WWE to sever ties with the doctor then as a means of self-preservation.
What's being written off right now as a headline miscommunication-turned-'correction' could get very interesting before long.