Former ROH and current Evolve Booker Gabe Sapolsky posted the following updated “Thank You” letter to Bryan Danielson a.k.a. Daniel Bryan on his Facebook page. The original was posted to The Heyman Hustle early on Monday. The post read as follows:

“Thank you for everything.”

That’s the text I received from Daniel Bryan on April 6th, 2014, just a few hours before he won the WWE World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania XXX. I almost didn’t go to the event that day, now it will end up being the final time I ever saw him wrestle in person.

Wait, what? He was thanking me? In light of yesterday’s emotional and memorable retirement speech by Daniel Bryan, I need to take this space to talk about Bryan, the man.

My reputation as booker of Ring Of Honor, Full Impact Pro, EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA was built by Daniel Bryan. You know about Bryan’s accomplishments in the ring, I’m taking this space to tell you about Bryan, the man, and how he made me who I am today.

In the early years of ROH, Bryan was the backbone. He produced classics while being quiet and unassuming behind-the-scenes. There was a sense that he didn’t realize how good he was, and maybe that rubbed off in how he was used on the shows. You see, he was a central force, but not “the man” like Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Low Ki or Homicide.

In 2005, we had built a story for months for James Gibson to become “the man” as champion. Gibson was suddenly rehired by WWE and the plans were thrown out the window. We went with Bryan.

When Bryan won the title, there wasn’t a big explosion of applause. It was more like a guy who deserved it, was rewarded. It was a tough time for me as booker, losing both Punk and Gibson at around the same time.

Then a switch went off in Bryan. He wrote about it in his book, “My Improbable Journey To The Main Event Of WrestleMania.” He expressed the changes he had to make as a champion. I’ll let you read the book for yourself, but it was this passage that I told our current EVOLVE Champion, Timothy Thatcher, to read when he won the EVOLVE Title. It’s a way I still use Bryan today to teach the new generation.

Bryan matured before all of us during his reign. He went from being the great worker who had “this is awesome” type matches to being “the man.” It all made sense. Bryan always thought ahead-of-the-curve. He was never happy with the status quo. He would always try to figure out how to twist things a little, make it different, and most important, make it his own.

I’m not going to claim to be Bryan’s best friend or anything. I rarely talk to him, but he is very important to me. He has always been there for me. When I was excommunicated from Ring Of Honor, Bryan was one of the few who reached out to me. He not only reached out to me, but he supported me.

He wanted to start something new. Once again, he was trying to be two steps in front of everyone else. He had an idea for a name of a promotion. EVOLVE. We spent hours talking about ideas, new directions to take pro wrestling. Once again, he was trying to set a new standard.

He did this all while I felt abandoned by wrestling, alone with my life shattered. He gave me hope in the middle of this depression and he helped me get back on my feet. We were set to launch EVOLVE when WWE came to him with an offer that would set him up for life. Of course, I was happy to see him take it. He deserved it. I have to admit I didn’t dream that I would watch him win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the Superdome one day.

When we launched EVOLVE, many of his ideas were changed because they wouldn’t work without him. I’m happy to say that things have come full circle, and wrestlers like Timothy Thatcher, Drew Gulak, Zack Sabre Jr, Tommy End, TJ Perkins, Tracy Williams, Matt Riddle and others, are doing exactly the kind of stuff Bryan and I talked about in early 2009. They aren’t doing it because Bryan’s ideas were passed on. They came up with it themselves. They are doing it because it’s the natural course of the business. This just proves that once again Bryan was way ahead of everyone else.

Originally, I wasn’t going to go to WrestleMania XXX. I was already in New Orleans for our EVOLVE and DGUSA shows, but I learned from my mentor Paul Heyman not to go to shows unless there is a payday or you’re invited with a purpose. I was neither.

As I was hanging out in New Orleans that day, I shot Bryan a text telling him to enjoy his day. When he responded with “Thank you for everything” it suddenly smacked me in the face that he was about to do something we all thought was impossible. I had to be there.

About two hours before belltime I was in a panic trying to find a ticket. It was like a force compelled me to be there. Fortunately, Heyman was able to get me a seat by the hard camera.

I walked into the Superdome as Bryan was entering the ring to wrestle HHH. I stopped and took it in with all my senses. I watched the sold out domed stadium enthusiastically respond to Bryan just like 100 fans in Bushnell, FL at FIP did. It was amazing. Tears filled my eyes when his hand was raised after the HHH match. I knew at that moment he had to win the main event.

I thought, For once, everything in the world was right and someone would get the reward they deserved despite all the odds.

As the confetti fell on Bryan after he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, I made sure to stay in the moment and be present. The sea of people exploding for Bryan will always live in my mind. It’s a memory that gives me strength when I feel like the odds are too much.

However, as I was standing in the Superdome, I had no idea it would be the last time I would witness Bryan wrestle in person.

At this moment, I am conflicted and overwhelmed with different emotions about Bryan. I hope his health is fine. I want him to be happy and well for the rest of his life. I am sad I will never see him wrestle again. I feel loss as if something has died.

In fact, something has died, An era of wrestling is gone. It’s an era that has profoundly changed the business. Today we see things that would not have been possible without Bryan. His work will be studied and revered for generations. I am still able to passionately promote and create in EVOLVE because of him.

Bryan, you had it wrong when you thanked me. You would have achieved all this if you had never met me. You had that much skill, intelligence, work ethic, and determination.

Bryan, thank you for everything.

Thank you for everything.

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