The wrestling universe was united in its excitement for Daniel Bryan versus Samoa Joe on this week's episode of SmackDown Live. It would've been the first one-on-one meeting between those two in WWE, and the first since they battled for the Ring of Honor world title in a steel cage all the way back in December 2006.
Instead, we got the addition of Big Cass to spoil the dream rematch scenario nearly a dozen years in the making -- and the silent reaction from the fans in the building echoed how most of us felt at home at that moment.
Once the initial shock of such a change wore off, was it really such a bad thing, considering where each of the three players involved ended up? No. Each has a purpose and a path going forward.
Let's start with Bryan, even though he not only didn't win on Tuesday, he actually took the fall when he got put to sleep by Joe's Coquina Clutch. He seemingly had a victory locked up following a running knee to Cass, only for Joe to swoop in and catch him prone.
With Bryan's injury history, maybe holding him out of a ladder match about two months after his return isn't such a bad thing. Knowing that his Intercontinental title ladder match at WrestleMania 31 was his final pay-per-view match before he retired, it would be a risk to put him in a match of this sort, and an unnecessary one if he wasn't going to win the briefcase anyways.
It doesn't really make much sense for him to have the briefcase right now either, because it would've bypassed the story that's developing around his long road back to the WWE championship -- one wrought with heartbreaking losses, self-doubt and, you would hope, an eventual road to redemption.
It's not like WWE is burying Bryan on the card. He's main-evented SmackDown against the likes of AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy and Rusev. His status is being used to elevate Big Cass in the meantime, and he's really done that about as well as anyone could've hoped for.
Big Cass, also not victorious in Tuesday's main event, ends up ahead just by being in the ring with Joe and Bryan. But he also gains much-needed heat by keeping us from getting a much-coveted one-on-one match between Joe and Bryan. It's getting harder and harder to get true, bitter vitriol from the WWE audience, but one surefire way to do it is keeping them from getting what they want. Mission achieved.
As for Joe, he actually won the match by making Bryan go to sleep -- just as he promised -- and now moves on to the Money in the Bank match, where he instantly becomes one of the two or three favorites to win it. If he leaves Chicago with that briefcase in hand, he is constantly in the title picture with a move in his arsenal in the Coquina Clutch that could put anybody to sleep at any time. He might be the most fitting figure to hold the briefcase of any of the eight participants in the match.
We all know Joe can flat-out go in the ring, but his mic skills and ability to carry a feud put him in a position to lead SmackDown Live in the very near future. If he can stay healthy, it seems like this is the first step to him being the featured player on SmackDown.
And while there's a whole host of dream matches to be had now that Bryan is back on SmackDown, Joe could be the one generating the most intrigue with the work he's put in with Bryan and Styles, and how he could resume his NXT championship feud with Shinsuke Nakamura down the line.
We may not have gotten what we wanted as far as the instant gratification with a singles match between Bryan and Joe, but based on where those two, and even Big Cass, came out on Tuesday, we may have gotten exactly what we need.
- WWE (@WWE) May 30, 2018
Hits and Misses
- The SmackDown tag-team division has hit an absolute standstill after The Bludgeon Brothers won the titles. Things are starting to move forward a little bit, at least, with The New Day in the MITB mix, and The Bar involved in a solid outing Tuesday in a six-man tag match involving New Day and The Miz to stay in the mix. But to see The Usos relegated to dance contest bystanders, fresh off doing the best work of their career, was disappointing to say the least.
I can understand three ladder matches might be a bit much, but I'd love to see a tag team MITB match as well, even if it's at some point down the line. There's so much talent in the tag division across both shows; imagine, if you will, the level of excitement as the B-Team pulled down the briefcases.
- The Bludgeon Brothers promised that "bodies will be liquefied" in their tag-team title match against the Good Brothers, Gallows & Anderson. Sounds more gross and messy than intimidating, to be fair, but to each his own.
- The WWE championship feud has taken a temporary backseat to setting the field for the Money in the Bank, but Nakamura and Styles did a solid job of getting over Nakamura's ability to put an opponent out for a 10 count, like he did to Tye Dillinger. Speaking of Dillinger, he remains over with the crowd, but WWE can't find much for him to do. It's both a curse and a blessing that the rosters are as stacked as they are right now -- though Dillinger did hang in for longer than most would've expected.
- There was a dance-off with a Kid 'N Play reference, and it all set up a six-person tag-team match between Rusev, Lana & Aiden English and The Usos & Naomi for next week. Next Tuesday, we'll also get a small preview of the women's MITB match when Charlotte Flair takes on Becky Lynch. It appears things are looking up.