In discussions of Bryan's early retirement, I saw some trying to find a comparison. Another star who had their career ended during their prime or perhaps had yet to even see their best years. Only one name truly fits the bill and, in a way, the story is probably even more tragic than the Bryan injury. That individual was Terry Allen, known to the wrestling world as Magnum T.A.
October of 2016 will mark thirty years since the tragic automobile accident that nearly cost Magnum T.A. his life. Only a few years into his career, Magnum had already made his way through several major wrestling territories including Florida and Mid-South. He was now in Jim Crockett Promotions which at that point was by far the biggest brand under the NWA banner. He was a nationwide television star thanks to Superstation TBS, and he was the protege of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes both in and out of the ring.
Magnum also saw quite a bit of marketing despite starring in the wrestling company that was lesser known for such things. Dusty and the others recognized Magnum's fan following, especially among females. Similarly to the Rock 'n Roll Express, much of the merchandise was designed to appeal to those screaming ladies, desperate to get a glimpse or even a touch of their favorite mustached star. From bandanas to posters, Magnum's mug was one of the most marketed by Jim Crockett Promotions. An over-sized photo book, very obviously marketed to those with an eye for the rugged idol, was even produced. After Magnum's accident, many of those same images made it into the famous NWA trading card set by Wonderama. Even if he could no longer step through the ropes as a competitor, it was obvious that his image was still selling.
Perhaps an even bigger question is if and when Magnum would have shown up in the WWF. Nearly every major star eventually appeared there, and there is no doubt in my mind that Magnum would have followed eventually. His television-star looks were exactly what the WWF was built upon in that era. While he may not have had much room at the top with the other star power in the company during what would have been Magnum's prime, it's easy to imagine him in the ring with the likes of Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels in the early '90s in a solid upper-mid-card position.
Terry Allen is not a bitter man. He recognizes his potential, but also knows that there's nothing that he can do to change history. He carved out a happy life for himself post-wrestling. If Magnum T.A. can do it, so can Daniel Bryan. Not all careers have story book endings, but that fact has little to do with cultivating a happy one.