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Why you should care about #ThankYouDanielBryan even if you're not a wrestling fan

Wondering what that hashtag was all about? Was it a new book or movie? No. It's about one man and his incredible journey.

Andrew Schwartz, © Andrew Schwartz/Splash News/Corbis

On Monday, #ThankYouDanielBryan was a top trend worldwide on Twitter. "Daniel Bryan" also trended on Facebook. But who is Daniel Bryan?

Daniel Bryan is the name of a character on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) programming. The man behind the character is named Bryan Danielson. However, the world of wrestling is a unique place. Characters and the talent behind them often blur the lines of reality. This stems from the days of when professional wrestling was presented as a true athletic competition.

Those days are long over and even WWE calls their product "sports entertainment." Its long-running television show "WWE Monday Night Raw" is scripted. But unlike so many other programs, here a live audience has the ability to directly respond while the show plays out in real time.

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Daniel Bryan announces his retirement.

Screenshot by Iyaz Akhtar/CNET

These fans pushed Daniel Bryan into superstardom in the world of professional wrestling. He did not have the traditional look of a wrestler with his long beard, long hair, and short stature. However, the story of Bryan Danielson is on par with some of the greatest underdog stories of all time. Danielson started wrestling at the age of 18. He worked his way up from independent wrestling promotions to the biggest wrestling brand in world, WWE.

Fans got behind him even when WWE was more interested in building other talent as top stars. Danielson worked incredibly hard at his art form and made sure that when Daniel Bryan was in the ring, he was the best professional wrestler in the world. If that meant running faster or hitting harder or flying off the top rope (or through the ropes, Superman-style) -- Daniel Bryan proved every night that not only did he belong in the ring, but that it was his to dominate with his incredible athletic ability and creativity once he set foot inside. And the fans loved him for that.

The connection Bryan had with fans was so great, his one-word catch phrase and chant moved beyond wrestling. If you've ever done a "Yes!" chant at a sporting event, you can thank Daniel Bryan for that. Fans at wrestling events would frequently hijack shows by chanting Daniel Bryan's name even when WWE wanted to push someone like "Guardians of the Galaxy" star, Dave Bautista (who went by the name "Batista" in WWE). The fans' outpouring of support forced the company to rewrite its its biggest show of 2014 (WrestleMania 30) to center around Daniel Bryan.

Danielson announced his retirement on Monday, February 8, 2016, on Twitter. This caused a firestorm in social media. Was this a television storyline that was getting pushed through Twitter? It was hard to tell at first. However, Daniel Bryan came out on WWE television on Monday night and explained how concussions over his 16-year career made him retire. The program featured highlights of Bryan's WWE career with the hashtag "ThankYouDanielBryan" prominently displayed throughout the night.

The moment on television was presented as Daniel Bryan, the character talking, but this was the real-life retirement speech of Bryan Danielson aired on live cable television. Whatever you want to call him, Bryan explained that he wanted to start a family and live a full life. He loved wrestling and loved performing for the fans.

And in what should have been a very down and sad speech, Danielson kept expressing gratitude for all that he's been able to accomplish because of his career as a wrestler. Even though he was explaining that we'd never see him wrestle again, he made everyone smile. That's why #ThankYouDanielBryan was all over social media.

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