PITTSBURGH - A 7-year-old Pittsburgh boy battling cancer got to meet his hero, WWE star Daniel Bryan, on Tuesday.
Dressed in a Daniel Bryan T-shirt and accessorized with Daniel Bryan wristbands, a necklace and title belt, Connor Michalek eagerly waited inside a room at the Consol Energy Center to meet the wrestler.
“Where’s the Stone Crusher (a nickname Connor gave himself)?” Daniel asked as he walked through the door.
“That's me,” Connor said in a little voice with a big smile.
Tears filled the eyes of everyone in the room, especially Connor’s parents, Steve Michalek and Brittany Caligiuri. They told me their son had been counting down the days until he met Daniel at WWE's Pittsburgh show.
“It’s unbelievable. I’m so touched,” said Brittany.
“I can’t even describe how happy we are for him,” said Steve.
Daniel asked Connor to put him in a headlock. The 7-year-old had the move down. They also did Daniel’s chant together.
“He’s my favorite because he does, ‘No, no, no!’” Connor explained.
Later, Connor grabbed a WWE microphone he brought with him and asked Daniel if he could interview him. It was absolutely adorable.
“It’s actually a very humbling experience as far as all of the struggles he’s going through, and for him to want to meet me, I mean, I’m just a small town guy from Washington. Anything you can do for someone like Connor, oh my gosh, I’m equally as thrilled to meet him,” said Daniel.
Daniel gave Connor some cool wrestling T-shirts and signed autographs for him.
Connor made sure his younger brother, Jackson, got an autograph and insisted that Jackson be in the photos with him.
“Come stand here, Jackson,” said Connor.
It was obvious the brothers are best friends.
While watching Connor interact warmly with his family, Daniel called the meeting “special.” He had been looking forward to meeting Connor since watching his YouTube video in October.
In the video “Help Connor meet Daniel Bryan,” Connor says, “Daniel Bryan, I want to meet you so bad.”
Television and radio stations got word of Connor’s wish, and a Facebook group “Help Connor meet Daniel Bryan” was created.
In less than a day, Daniel and WWE confirmed Connor would meet his hero.
“I found out by Twitter. Social media is incredible. I went to WWE and was like, ‘Hey, can we make this happen?’ They said, ‘It’s already getting taken care of because everyone in this area has come together to make this happen,’” Daniel said.
Connor’s family was grateful for everyone’s help.
“We try to keep him as happy as we can because there are no medicines that can help him. We try to keep his spirits high, and maybe we’ll get a miracle through it,” said Steve.
Connor has medulloblastoma, cancer of the brain and spine. He was diagnosed in September 2009 when he was 3 years old.
After his diagnosis, Brittany said Connor underwent brain surgery, several other intensive surgeries, nine full rounds of chemotherapy and six full weeks of full spine and brain radiation.
Brittany said Connor’s options are limited because he has exceeded his lifetime amount of radiation to the brain and spine and can't have surgery.
Connor started a clinical trial of chemotherapy and has been undergoing treatments since May 2011.
“We try to focus on the positive, and I try to enjoy him when he feels good. I try to put it in the back of my mind to get through it and focus on him and enjoy him,” Brittany said.
Daniel joined the WWE team in 2010 and has quickly become a popular wrestler. He humbly said he is not sure why.
“I don’t know what it is. I’m 5-foot-8 and weigh 200 pounds. John Cena, you can see why people are like, ‘Oh, look at this guy.’ He looks like a superhero,” Daniel said.
To Connor, impressive body measurements don't make a hero. Daniel's big heart and fun chant are what make the WWE star Connor's hero.