WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan was in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to visit the Special Olympics IX Mena Games at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
Bryan, who is currently on-screen on WWE programming as SmackDown's General Manager took time out to talk to The National about his visit, the impending show in Saudi Arabia next month, and his chances of being cleared by WWE doctors to compete at WrestleMania 34.
On being in Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics IX Mena Games
“It is pretty incredible being here and seeing the facility. This is the regional Special Olympics, right, but they are gearing up for the World Games and it is pretty awesome.”
On one of the few plus points of not being an active competitor at present
“My last full year of wrestling was 2013 [Daniel has not competed in a match in the WWE since April 2015 as medical staff have not cleared him following a number of concussions] and I did 227 matches. That does not give me much time to come to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics. It is one of the great things about being the General Manager [of SmackDown]. Not only does it allow me more time with our new-born child but it also allows me to do things like this, which is awesome.”
On still receiving the Yes! chant whenever he comes to the ring as SmackDown General Manager
“That is actually the hard part. Because I still really deep down really want to wrestle still and that is no secret. But when you go out there and people are so into it and then you can’t do what you love to do. That sometimes makes it harder.”
On his memories of returning to New Orleans in April for WrestleMania. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome was where he won the main event in 2014 to win the WWE World Heavyweight title
“It is interesting. Because when I think of the memories honestly I think of the night [itself] because everything else was a blur. We were filming my wife’s reality TV show and then the WWE cameras were following me around. My wife and I were also getting married the following Friday. Then you have all the appearances you have during WrestleMania week. So, as far as that goes, the week itself was a blur. If you were to ask me where anything was in New Orleans I would have no idea.
“I don’t even remember what the back stage arena looks like because I was hustling back and forth so much. I hurt my shoulder pretty bad in the first match and then I ended up having neck surgery and having a horrible pain down my arm at the time. After the first match I was getting taped up and trying to get myself back to where I could compete so it will be interesting to go back there and be like ‘Oh, this is what the arena is like’.”
On if he will be involved in a match at WrestleMania 34 with rumours linking him to a possible tag match with Shane McMahon against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
“I don’t know and I don’t think they know. I think it all depends on whether or not I get cleared. As of this moment, as of today, I am not cleared by WWE.
“I have done everything in my power. Everything they have asked me to and I have gone above and beyond as far as ‘Ok, what doctors do you need me to see. Send me to any doctor you want, any doctor that you want and lets get their feedback on what is going on with me’. So far every doctor has cleared me that they have sent me too and so there is a chance.
“I used to think that the percentage of the WWE ever clearing me was low. I think with the stuff that I have done it has gone a little higher but I don’t know how much higher.
“With how everything is there is one day to go if I don’t get cleared [storyline wise] and then there is another way to go if I am cleared. I am hoping to be cleared but I don’t know which way it goes.”
On working with Shane McMahon
“I have really liked working with Shane. One of the things that is really nice about Shane is that he is a positive person. When we first started working together it was really interesting because we were shooting a shot back stage and it didn’t go as planned because the camera guy was new. But he didn’t chew him out or anything like that. ‘Hey man, welcome here. This is how we do things here so next time do it like this’. And that is a great way for a leader to talk to people who work for him rather than being ‘Argh, you idiot, what are you doing’. So yeah, I really enjoy working with him.”
On his storyline with McMahon, Owens and Zayn
“I think there is so much that is similar between me, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. In terms of where we come from and also kind of the perception of some of the people in the office about Sami and Kevin and the way that people perceived me as far as thinking ‘Sami Zayn does not have the look to be a top level WWE superstar’. But he has the ability. Like people connect with him and I think the same thing with Kevin Owens and I think that makes it a very natural storyline to tell.”
On how the WWE roster is feeling about coming to Saudi Arabia next month for the Greatest Royal Rumble event in Jeddah on April 27
“Every talent reacts to stuff like that differently. I think most of them are very excited. One of the things I get most excited about is things like quick changes in the world for the better.
“So, like now Saudi Arabia is bringing in more entertainment acts. They are trying to do what the Special Olympics, their message is, which is inclusion. They are no longer stay away this is our country. They are saying we want to be part of what is going on globally. So that, as a broader message, is awesome.
“Now, because they want to do this they are participating in this inclusion we are having the largest Royal Rumble match ever. Which to me is crazy! 50 people in a Royal Rumble? It is going to be nuts. But to me that is exciting and what that also means is if this is successful we are going to do more shows in the Middle East, which means more people are included.”