Monday, 26 May 2014

Protect Your Neck

Neck injuries have sidelined many wrestlers. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, Terry 'Rhino' Gerrin, Chris Benoit, Hurricane Helms, BJ Whitmer, and Scotty Riggs are some. It was neck troubles that prematurely ended the career of Edge. And it was a very severe neck injury that paralysed Darren Drozdov from the neck down. Basically neck problems are something that wrestlers take very seriously.

The last few weeks have seen Daniel Bryan admitted to the neck troubles club. It doesn't come as a surprise. Bryan's in-ring style does not mesh well with his personal safety. Whenever Bryan returns to the ring, whether it's in a week, a month or a year, it's clear certain moves are going to have to be dropped. Or at least become less frequent.

The most obvious is probably the diving headbutt. It's a move synonymous with Chris Benoit (which has made me uncomfortable with Bryan using it regularly for entirely different reasons) and was almost certainly a contributing factor to his neck troubles. The suicide dives will probably have to go too. The running drop kicks may be on the list too. D-Bry has less control over his landings when performing the move at the speed he does.

Personally I'd like to see him drop the headbutts altogether. It's uncomfortable to watch him perform a move that's noted for having such an effect on the neck (and the Benoit thing really doesn't help: Bryan's style is not dissimilar and he shouldn't be doing anything to invite further comparisons). I'd be fine seeing the suicide dives scaled back to special occasions only. Pay-per-views and major television matches specifically, although how often do we get the letter these days? The running drop kicks I like but if they're endangering the man doing them I'm happy not seeing them, or seeing them used rarely.

Eliminating moves from a repertoire necessitates the introduction of new moves. That's true of any wrestler but it's particularly true for high profile WWE stars (which D-Bry is, obvs). The average WWE match is so short that a wrestler needs a handful of signature moves to structure the match around and a finisher to end with to stand the best possible chance of ensuring consistent reactions. There's no room for variety in the average bout.

Being a well-travelled and versatile performer Bryan has plenty of options open to him. A secondary submission move could be established as a wear down hold for the Yes Lock. One that could be applied to a standing opponent would be pretty interesting as it's not something seen often in WWE (even AJ Lee's Black Widow hold usually ends up with the opponents sagging down to the ground). The octopus abdominal stretch would be good and most wrestlers in WWE are sturdy enough to allow Bryan to completely leave the ground while applying it.

No direct replacement for the diving headbutt springs to mind but to be honest I don't think one's needed. Bryan is not, by any reasonable standards, a flyer. If it's something that's deemed an integral part of his act then a splash would work well enough. Better would be a cross body block rolled through into a small package-like pin. That would fit with Bryan's use of the flash pin gimmick and be safer than the headbutt. The only major change would be that the person taking the move would be standing rather than lying down, which isn’t particularly significant.

My guess is Bryan will swipe a couple of fresh moves from Japan. KENTA's probably been (proverbially) bled dry by this point but I'm sure there are plenty of other guys who could be cribbed from. Whatever solution he goes with I think a change is coming for Bryan. And I also think he's easily talented and popular enough to pull it off seamlessly.

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