Daniel Bryan Addressed the Audience
This might have been every bit as amazing as Bryan's retirement speech from two years ago, but for different reasons. You could just tell how genuinely happy he was to finally be cleared to compete by the company, and his promo thanking the fans, the WWE doctors and especially his wife Brie Bella was so tremendously touching and heartwarming. It felt real, because it was, and WWE needs more of that in today's product. To say I'm excited about the possible dream matches we can now see with Bryan is a massive understatement.
Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev
I thoroughly enjoyed the match these two had at Fastlane last week, and this was an entertaining encounter as well. Similar to their last meeting, it was obvious Nakamura was winning, but Rusev at least looked good in defeat. Afterward, Nakamura took out Rusev and Aiden English by himself while AJ Styles stood idly by at ringside. It makes me worried that Styles didn't get physical here coming off reports that he's hurt, but here's hoping it's a case of WWE wanting to keep him as healthy as possible ahead of WrestleMania.
Baron Corbin def. Tye Dillinger
We saw this match a handful of times late last year and even as recently as a month or so ago. Thus, what purpose was this supposed to serve? Corbin seemed to be getting back on track when he was added to the Fastlane main event for the WWE Championship, but that momentum quickly dissipated. I would assume both of these men will be added to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Who cares. As a match, this was fine, but the badly botch finish was hilarious.
Natalya def. SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair (Non-title)
I've seen enough Charlotte vs. Natalya matches to last a lifetime over the past four years, but I can't complain about this outing because it was pretty great. I was pleasantly surprised they received as much time as they did and it was going very well up until Carmella came out and teased cashing in the Money in the Bank briefcase. That was weird, but maybe WWE wants that on the fans' minds going into WrestleMania. Charlotte should get her win back before the event, though, because Natalya pinning the champ so close to the Show of Shows would be pointless otherwise.
Harper def. SmackDown Tag Team Champion Jimmy Uso
Jey was back in Jimmy's corner this week after sitting last week out to sell his "injuries" from Fastlane, while The New Day was nowhere to be seen. Anyway, this was a fun little match that effectively showcased the dominance of The Bludgeon Brothers once again. They have been booked strongly up to this point and I'm looking forward to the likely Triple Threat tag team title match at 'Mania. I'd be upset if it got bumped to the Kickoff show, though.
United States Champion Randy Orton and Bobby Roode Interrupted Jinder Mahal
The announcement of Orton, Roode and Mahal facing each other for the U.S. title at WrestleMania drew a yawn from me. I'm sorry but I couldn't care less about this feud. It feels like we see the same segment from them week after week, and this was no different. It was designed to set up next week's tag team match after Orton and Roode attacked the healthy Singh Brother, but that was about it. Next.
Becky Lynch and Naomi def. The Riott Squad
No joke, I had to go back and check who won this match because I couldn't remember. That's how forgettable it was. I like The Riott Squad and I like Lynch and Naomi, but this was your typical women's tag team match that followed a familiar formula and there was nothing out of the ordinary about it. Lynch and Naomi may have won this one, but it won't be long before the heels get their win back because, well, 50/50 booking.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn Attacked SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan
I honestly expected Bryan to announce here that it would be himself and Shane vs. Owens and Zayn at WrestleMania, but he really didn't have any beef with the two heels until this attack, so I predict that match will be made official for the card next week since that would make the most sense. This beatdown from the "fired" Owens and Zayn was excellent, and Bryan hitting some of his signature spots on the heels before getting laid out was outstanding and elicited a raucous reaction. Bryan hasn't been cleared for more than a day and he's already back to taking hard-hitting bumps!
Needless to say, Bryan was the real star of this show and made a must-see episode. I wouldn't be shocked if the rating ends up being huge just because people wanted to hear what Bryan had to say about his return to the ring. Everything else, though, was business as usual. While nothing was too terrible, there wasn't anything overly amazing, either. A handful of storylines were furthered, but the rest was basic filler.
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