By Jake Barnett, Prowrestling.net Senior Staffer (@barnettjake)
WWE Smackdown Live on USA Network
Live from Dallas, Texas at American Airlines Center
The show began with a video package that recapped Daniel Bryan’s previous highs and lows in WWE. It focused on his title win at WrestleMania 30, and his retirement speech from Raw. Renee Young was then shown recapping today’s events with Bryan being medically cleared to wrestle. In the arena, Bryan made his entrance to a big ovation.
Bryan soaked in the cheers and the welcome back chants. There was a large Daniel Bryan chant that followed. He thanked the crowd and then immediately turned to last week’s events around Shane McMahon. He said he couldn’t address the situation yet because the two people he needed to talk to weren’t there yet. Instead, he would talk about something else. He said two years ago when he retired, it was the hardest period of his life. He focused on being grateful, despite going through periods of depression and anger over not being able to do what he loves to do.
Bryan said he has a lot ot be grateful for, including family, friends, and the best fans in the world. He singled out his wife, and said that when he was focusing on being grateful, she encouraged him to continue to fight for his dreams. She told him to see specialists, and when they would give him encouraging news, she’d tell him to go see another one. She continued to encourage him to fight for his dreams, because that’s what Daniel Bryan does. He said when he got down, she got in his ears and told him to fight for his dreams, and when you fight for your dreams they will start to fight for you.
He said he took his case to WWE and asked them to look it over again. They sent him to the best neurologists in the world and all of them said he was cleared. Bryan said he now has a lot of people to thank. First he thanked WWE and their doctors for looking at his as a person and not just a wrestler. He thanked the fans in the arena and at home for supporting him the entire time.
Bryan got teary and thanked his wife again, and reiterated how much she’s supported him for the last few years, and for that he’s incredibly grateful. Bryan then moved into the fun stuff, but said he didn’t know when or where he would get back in the ring. The fans chanted WrestleMania and Bryan stared up at the sign per his contractual obligation. He then asked the crowd if that sounded like a good idea. He said he wasn’t sure if that was going to happen, but will Daniel Bryan compete in a WWE ring again……and he then led a yes chant and walked to the back.
Tom Phillips then said later we would find out if there would be repercussions for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, and Nakamura vs. Rusev is next…[c]
My Take: This was a great opening segment, and highlighted some of the special qualities that Bryan has a babyface that few others do. People believe in him as a person, and his sincerity comes through in a way it doesn’t for other babyfaces on the roster. The touching and emotional comments about his wife were clearly from the heart, and at least from this point forward things are looking bright for him.
Backstage, Bryan walked up to Charles Robinson and asked him to send Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn his way when he sees them. Dolph Ziggler then walked up and congratulated him on his return, and said he can’t wait to beat him. Bryan welcomed him to try. Rusev was in the ring, and AJ Styles was on commentary. Shinsuke Nakamura made his ring entrance.
1. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev: Rusev grabbed an arm twist, and Nakamura cartwheeled out of it. Rusev whiffed a lariat, and Nakamura begged him to come on. They traded blows mid ring, and Rusev tossed him into the corner for some inside leg kicks. Rusev then hit a wheel kick and covered for a close near fall…[c]
Rusev hit a kick that took down Nakamura, but couldn’t capitalize. Nakamura hit some knees and placed Rusev across the top rope for a big knee to the ribs. He went for Kinshasa, but Rusev avoided it and went for the Accolade, but Shinsuke wriggled free. Rusev hit a big kick and covered for a near fall. Rusev set up for a machka kick, but Nakamura avoided it and moved into a jumping armbar. They rolled around into several pinning attempts and Nakamura trapped Rusev for a three count.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev at 9:33.
After the match, English attacked Nakamura and a beat down started. Rusev and English took some cheap shots, and Styles took his time getting ready to intervene. After a moment, Nakamura took them both down, and Styles was left looking a bit surprised. An Asuka video package was shown, and then Charlotte was shown backstage watchign it. Natalya approached and told Charlotte she knew she was scared. She said Asuka had taken her opportunity at WrestleMania, and the only reason she was undefeated is because she hadn’t faced her yet. Charlotte said she can’t face her at Summerslam, but she can face her tonight…[c]
My Take: A decent match from Nakamura and Rusev, but nothing to write home about. The post match seemed to be sending message that Nakamura is in better condition heading in WrestleMania because he didn’t need help to fend off Rusev Day like Styles did last week. I think it’s a pretty weak story, and I hope they accelerate things later tonight or in the coming weeks.
Backstage, Nakamura stopped Styles and told him he didn’t need his help. Styles said he saw, he was out there. Nakamura said one more thing….and Styles stopped him. He said he knows, he’ll beat him at Wrestlemania. Nakamura told him he should have more confidence, but yes, he will beat him at WrestleMania with a knee to face. In the arena, Baron Corbin made his entrance for match against Tye Dillinger, who was already in the ring.
2. Tye Dillinger vs. Baron Corbin: They started slowly with a headlock. Dillinger hit some forearm shivers, but Corbin turned the tables with a couple of right hands. The action spilled to the floor, but Corbin couldn’t capitalize, and Dillinger ended up back in the ring. He took to the top rope and jumped at Corbin, who caught him, but they manage to botch End of Days. They reset and went back to the same spot, and Corbin hit End of Days and got the pin.
Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger at 4:22.
After the match, Charlotte made her ring entrance for the next match…[c]
My Take: Clumsy match between Corbin and Dillinger. It seemed they both had an off night. Going back to the End of Days spot immediately after the botch wasn’t terribly good improvisation either.
Natalya made her ring entrance and a Charlotte/Asuka plug was shown.
Natalya made her ring entrance and a Charlotte/Asuka plug was shown.
3. Charlotte vs. Natalya: The match started with some chain wrestling, and Natalya worked Charlotte into a pinning position and got a two count. Charlotte hit a waistlock takeover and covered for a two count. She then evaded Natalya charging in the corner and rolled her up for another near fall. She then locked in a triangle around Natalya’s head and neck, and did three somersault slams for a near fall. Charlotte continued the assault with a neckbreaker and a kick that sent Natalya to the outside…[c]
Natalya held Charlotte in an abdominal stretch, but she escaped and sent her into the corner. Charlotte missed a kick in the corner and jammed her knee. Natalya then teed off with kicks to the bad leg. She then went for her stepover seated dropkick, but Charlotte kipped up and hit a lariat. She then followed up with a fallaway slam towards the corner. Charlotte went to pull Natalya to her feet, but she got pulled into the bottom turnbuckle. Nattie then went for a discus clothesline, but Charlotte fired back with a kick.
Charlotte went for a Figure Eight, but Nattie escaped to the corner. Charlotte then sent her into the top turnbuckle, and climbed up top for a moonsault. Nattie got up quickly and hit a powerbomb for a near fall, and the followed up with a Sharpshooter. Charlotte struggled to reach the bottom rope, but Nattie quickly hit a slingshot into the middle rope. She then followed up with a discus lariat for a close near fall.
Charlotte surprised Nattie with an inside cradle for two. She then went for a Figure Eight, but Nattie pushed her out to the floor. Charlotte hit a spear on the outside and sent Natalya back into the ring. She then locked in a figure four, but Nattie rolled towards the ropes. Charlotte maneuvered under the ropes and held the figure four over the apron. Charlotte climbed back to the top rope, and Natalya intercepted for a Superplex.
As both women were laid out, Carmella ran down and started to cash in her briefcase, but Charlotte hit a big boot and she never officially cashed in. Natalya then rolled up Charlotte and got a surprise win.
Natalya defeated Charlotte at 13:22.
Owens and Zayn were advertised for later, and Jimmy Uso vs. Luke Harper is next…[c]
My Take: Man, I hate to see a very good match like that end with distraction roll up, but I guess we have to…..keep Natalya strong? Maybe this was just to raise the profile of the briefcase heading into WrestleMania. In either case, this was the best Smackdown Women’s match in ages, and a reminder of what could have been had more singles matches would have happened throughout 2017. Natalya and Charlotte don’t always hit the bullseye with their encounters, but this was great.
The Usos made their entrance. They got some chants and they gave the crowd some love. They talked about their match at Fastlane, and how they were putting on a classic with New Day until the Bludgeon Brothers got involved. They talked up their rivalry, and talked about how the Bludgeons don’t want a that, they wanted to hurt them. They said it was ok though, because they were still here, and they still had their Championships.
Jey addressed the Bludgeons directory and told them they don’t know how to stand down. All they do is go hard, and all they know is being the best Tag Team the WWE has ever seen. It doesn’t matter if they are 90%…all the way down, it doesn’t matter, once you step in the ring with them it’s locked down. Bludgeon Brothers, welcome to the Uso Penitentiary…[c]
My Take: Solid promo from the Usos. They continue to do themselves proud with their updated personas.
4. Luke Harper vs. Jimmy Uso: The match was joined in progress as Luke Harper hit some big chops on Jimmy Uso inside and outside the ring. Jimmy Uso fired back with some shots, but Harper looked mostly unstoppable. He splashed Jimmy in the corner, but ended up out on the floor after whiffing the second time. Harper charged at Jimmy on the floor, but he avoided it and Harper collided with the screen. There were a couple of distractions, and the Usos got the better of it, leading to a near fall after two superkicks.
Harper recovered and smashed Jimmy off the ringpost in the corner. He then hit a huge lariat and got the win.
Luke Harper defeated Jimmy Uso at 5:39.
Sami and Kevin were hyped for later. Corey Graves said Jinder Mahal is next, and mentioned he was added to the US Championship match at WrestleMania…[c]
My Take: This wasn’t mind blowing, but it got some important story bits accomplished. I liked the spot with the ring post in the corner, and the Usos getting a near fall. You got to see the Bludgeons aren’t invincible, but they will be extremely tough to beat.
Jinder Mahal was introduced as the next US Champion in the ring by Sunil Singh. He said everyone that is booing him is a hypocrite. He has sacrificed everything to be in WWE. He could be starring in movies on Bollywood with his looks and physique, or vacationing anywhere in the world with his money. He then said he chose to make Smackdown relevant again, along with the WWE Championship. He said people should be worshipping him, but instead they defend the status quo like Randy Orton.
Bobby Roode interrupted and told Mahal that he was a hypocrite. He called respect a two way street, and he doesn’t deserve any. He said the only thing he deserves at WrestleMania is being pinned in the middle of the ring to reclaim his US Title. This prompted Randy Orton. He told Jinder that the reason he’s not on anybody’s list of the greatest Champion is because without the help of his little stooge, he sucks. Mahal got bothered and tossed Sunil Singh at Orton and ran out of the ring.
Orton hit a draping DDT on Singh, and then went for an RKO, but Roode hit a Glorious DDT first. He then went for a DDT on Orton, but Randy slipped and went for an RKO. Roode slipped and they ran into a stalemate. Mahal pointed at the WrestleMania sign per contractual obligation to end the segment. The Riott Squad vs. Becky and Naomi is next…[c]
My Take: Try as I might, I just don’t care about this feud. It’s like a fictional game show with three unlikable characters vying for a used Toyota.
Everybody was already in the ring for the next match. It was announced they would all be in the Women’s WrestleMania Battle Royal.
5. Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. The Riott Squad: Naomi took out both Logan and Morgan with kicks, and covered Liv for a two count. Becky tagged in and they hit a double hip toss. Becky pressed the offense a bit before being tripped into the heel corner and isolated. Logan tagged in and hit a seated knee to the face of Becky Lynch for a near fall. Becky escaped an arm twist and went for a tag, but got slammed to the mat. Becky sent Logan to the floor, but was prevented from making a tag by Liv Morgan.
Logan re-entered Becky managed to quickly maneuver her into a Disarmer. Naomi entered and hit a Rear View on Liv to prevent her from breaking up the hold. Logan tapped out.
Becky Lynch and Naomi defeated The Riott Squad at 6:02.
After the match, Daniel Bryan was told that Sami and Kevin were in the building. He told someone backstage to tell them he would meet them in the ring…[c]
My Take: Pretty much the same match we’ve seen from these teams for the past weeks. It’s just 50/50 all the way. I assume the Riott Squad will win the next one.
Daniel Bryan was in the ring firing up the crowd. He asked Sami and Kevin to come down to the ring. They were both flashing smiles and looked very happy. They both shook Bryan’s hand and hugged him. They told him they were thrilled for him, and they weren’t going to come until they got the news that he was cleared to wrestle. He said they would have come earlier, but they got pulled over by Walker Texas Ranger for going 10-15 over, but they managed to talk their way out of it because everyone is dumber in Texas. Sami said they wouldn’t have missed this for the world, because he had been their biggest supporters since Day One. They told him he was fair, when everyone else hated them. Sami brought up Shane’s personal vendetta, and how Bryan understood them when no one else did.
Sami continued and said that any show with Bryan, Sami, and Kevin is a dream show, and they would be a dream team. Bryan said he appreciated it, but that’s not exactly why he brought them out there. He then rolled footage of the beating they gave Shane last week. Owens was laughing at the footage as the crowd booed. Bryan asked them if they thought it was funny. Owen said they were man enough to admit they got carried away. Sami said that Bryan has to know he kind of deserved it.
Bryan told them that it was a big deal. He said Shane was right when he said Bryan was living vicariously through them, he was right. They had known each other for 15 years, and when they succeeded it made him excited. But he doesn’t understand them. Despite Shane coming out and agreeing to leave the show, admitting he was wrong at WrestleMania, and gave them a match together at WrestleMania. He asked them to imagine themselves 10 years ago in an Armory being offered that match, and how crazy it would have sounded.
Bryan started apologizing and told them that he’d been fired from the company twice and came back a better man. He said he was sorry, but they were fired. He offered his hand to them to shake, and initially they did, but they turned around to beat him down. Initially they got the better of him, but Bryan turned it around with a German to Sami and some running kicks in the corners. They eventually overwhelmed him, and Owens hit a superkick. Sami then hit a Helluva Kick in the corner.
Owens screamed and Sami tossed Bryan out to the floor. Owens then hit Bryan with a powerbomb on the apro and continued screaming at him. A stretcher was rolled out, and Bryan was placed on the board to close the show as Owens screamed up the ramp. Sami seemed a bit remorseful, but went along with it.
My Take: Well, I guess the tag match with Shane and Bryan vs. Owens and Zayn is going to happen. It was nice to see Bryan back into the mix physically, but I’d be lying if it didn’t make might slightly uneasy watching it. I guess that’s something that will work to their advantage as this feud goes on. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting Daniel Bryan to stay permanently healthy.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Brian Fritz of Sporting News and Between The Ropes discussing WrestleMania 36, WWE television from the empty WWE Performance Center, his own travel woes, NFL free agency, and more...