Two days after the two-ref tango devolved into all-out anarchy at Clash of Champions, Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon started Tuesday's edition of SmackDown by discussing the tension that has all but boiled over between the two figures of authority on the show.
They talked about their respective decisions in making suspect officiating calls, with the final decision made by Bryan ultimately handing Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn a win and continued employment in the WWE. They both made their case, and as they did so, the atmosphere went from cordial conversation to discontent in a hurry. McMahon made it clear that his grudge against Owens and Zayn for their antics at Hell in a Cell and Survivor Series is far from satisfied, while a more reasoned Bryan argued that bygones be bygones -- that SmackDown be a land of opportunity is for everyone.
As they continued to debate their actions and the fallout from the final pay-per-view of 2017, Bryan wondered aloud whether Shane O'Mac was channeling too much of his father, owner and chairman Vince McMahon, while Shane warned Bryan to be careful because odds are, Owens and Zayn will betray the GM as quickly as the former bitter enemies reunited to become the biggest hindrance to Shane himself.
Finally, a long, awkward silence ensued and McMahon wished Bryan good luck with the show before walking out of the ring and back to the locker room. And that was that. No resolution, and no true moment of tensions reaching their peak between commissioner and general manager. Not a modicum of finality. After such a heated moment on Sunday, there was a ton of potential for Tuesday to devolve into an all-out war, or a struggle for power.
It was almost as if you put a bag of popcorn in the microwave and it didn't pop. It looks, instead, like this will instead continue to be a long, slow storyline to carry us through the next few weeks -- which is understandable -- but then again, the longer these narratives tend to drag, the more juice they lose from flash points like Clash of Champions was. And because there was no clear direction after the opening segment Tuesday on SmackDown, we were left without a visceral feeling of anything toward either man. In this business, deep-seated emotion means everything. In honesty, Owens and Zayn did a far better job in stoking the flames in less than 90 seconds than anything Bryan and McMahon did in the ring.
The juxtaposition between this series of events and Dolph Ziggler's impassioned moment in the ring (which we'll touch on momentarily) to his win on Sunday was striking, and proof that good storytelling needs some semblance of a settlement -- or, if anything, at least a progression to the next chapter. We got very little of that.
In the main event, Owens and Zayn teamed up with Jinder Mahal to face Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles. No doubt it was a fun, entertaining match to close the show, especially with a sweet ending that included an Orton-assisted Phenomenal Forearm by Styles, then a Kinshasa by Nakamura to win it, but there was no sign of either Bryan or McMahon. Crickets. It was essentially a live event, send everyone home happy without making much of an impact at all moment.
It was almost as if their tepid discussion earlier was nothing more than filler time, chunking off one of the six weeks between that point and the Royal Rumble. At a minimum, in the final stages of the show Tuesday, the WWE could have at least teased each authority figure looking on from the backstage. But as Zayn and Owens enjoyed their job security, even in a loss, it was as if the actions of Bryan and McMahon in Sunday's tag-team soap opera never happened.
There's little question the Bryan-McMahon saga will carry on, and while we didn't need all of the answers to their actions at Clash of Champions and their intentions moving forward Tuesday, we did need something more than a half-baked explanation that was quickly brushed past. Here's hoping next week gives us some direction.
- WWE (@WWE) December 20, 2017
Hits & misses
Perhaps more than anyone on either roster, Dolph Ziggler can make his spiel, whatever it is, seem personal to the core -- and that's what he did two days after winning the United States championship. After a series of flashbacks showing us the list of his accomplishments (of which there a lot), a dejected, disrespected Ziggler placed his title in the middle of the ring and walked away. Was this it for Ziggler, who has publically stated he is contemplating other opportunities outside the WWE? Or just another moment of trolling from a guy who's gotten very good at it? Either way, I have a feeling that if Ziggler is indeed done that I am not the only one who is going to regret taking his talent in the ring and on the mic for granted. Of course, that remorse is probably the reaction what Ziggler was aiming for.
Loved the unbridled pride from Charlotte Flair in acknowledging the announcement of the first-ever women's Royal Rumble, which was announced on Monday. And while I get that she's the champ and possibly awaiting the winner of the Rumble at WrestleMania, her exclusion from such an historic occasion seems like a massive miscalculation. One of the biggest stars to ever set foot into the women's division belongs as part of the first Rumble.
I'm trying to understand why the Riott Squad fell so flat against Flair and Naomi, when it seemed clear the creative team was building the triumvirate as the new unbeatable renegades in town. I can completely understand sparing Flair for obvious reasons, but there's no reason her partner couldn't have taken one for the team -- and their opponents. The Riott Squad's existence so far has given us no reason to believe they'll turn out anything close to as well as Raw's latest additions in Absolution.
OK, let's just make this as clear as we can. Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin are legit stars. There should be no waffling as to what their future holds. The duo beat The Usos in a non-title match Tuesday, most likely setting up a future bout between the teams for the gold. Gable and Benjamin can't afford to take any more missteps, because the more they do, the more we think of the unfortunate path that teams such as Breezango and Gallows & Anderson (among others) have been on after short-lived moments of stardom.
- WWE (@WWE) December 20, 2017
The more I watch Rusev, the more I am buying into his irreverent side, which is ironic for a guy who was built as a big, bad, no BS brute. Rusev Day is a thing, and if you don't believe me, just listen to the crowd. It's too bad he and Aiden English fell to The New Day in a Christmas-themed dress-up bout Tuesday, when, like Gable and Benjamin, it seems they have the chops to be a bona fide tag team on a show that is already strong in that division. Think about it: The Usos, New Day, Benjamin-Gable, Rusev-English, The The Bludgeon Brothers, all on one show. At this rate, maybe the WWE could announce a first-ever tag-team Royal Rumble in 2019?