TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 3/20: Bryan announces his return, then fires KO & Sami, then takes a beating, plus Styles-Nakamura hype, MITB resurfaces

By Jeff Vandrew Jr., PWTorch Specialist

Carmella NXT (photo credit Tom Gibson © PWTorch)


Daniel Bryan Announces His Return…

Recap: As was widely expected, the show began with Daniel Bryan in the ring. He gave an emotional speech, choking back tears while thanking his wife for inspiring him to fight for his dreams. He also thanked the fans. He indicated that he wasn’t yet sure exactly when he’d be returning to the ring, which provoked the crowd to point at the WrestleMania sign and chant. The written recap here doesn’t do the emotion of the segment justice; if you haven’t seen it it’s worth seeking out online.

Evaluation: One of the most notable lines of the speech was when Bryan thanked WWE’s doctors for “looking at him as the person, not the wrestler”. His putting over WWE’s medical staff is noteworthy in light of the defamation litigation between a WWE physician and CM Punk which essentially revolves around Punk’s negative opinion of WWE’s medical staff.

The speech seemed genuine. The fans loved it. It’s more or less exactly what you’d want from a segment where Daniel Bryan announces his return.

Forecast: The return of Daniel Bryan is such a huge event that I imagine WWE would want it to happen at WrestleMania (more on that below).

Sami and Kevin are Fired…

Recap: At the end of the show, Daniel Bryan returned to the ring to address the situation with Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Owens and Zayn seemed happy for Bryan’s return, and spent the early parts of the segment flattering him. They even indicated that they considered Zayn-Owens-Bryan to be a dream team of sorts.

Bryan admitted that Shane McMahon was right when he accused Bryan of living vicariously through Owens and Zayn, and Bryan admitted that they were two of the best performers of their generation. However, Bryan stated that their actions against Shane last week were more than simply getting “carried away”. He also said he couldn’t understand why they beat down Shane since they were getting everything they wanted; Shane had already admitted he treated Owens and Zayn unfairly, and was stepping down as commissioner.

Bryan then reluctantly told them that based on their actions, he had to fire them. He indicated they weren’t gone forever, but had to be gone for now. He offered them each a handshake, which they accepted. However, before leaving the ring, Owens and Zayn assaulted Bryan, who was carried out on a stretcher.

Evaluation: This was the only way this angle could conclude. There was no way fans would boo Daniel Bryan, so pairing him with Owens and Zayn was more likely to get them over as faces than Bryan over as a heel. Bryan’s reluctance to fire them, along with his indication that they could later return makes him even more sympathetic in this situation.

Forecast: Based on tonight’s actions, the most likely outcome appears to be a tag match between Owens-Zayn and Bryan-Shane at WrestleMania. A tag match will mean that Bryan doesn’t need to work the whole match while he’s still shaking off his ring rust. His return will create so much buzz that I can’t see it not happening at WrestleMania.

A.J. Looks Frustrated with Shinsuke…

Recap: AJ Styles and Rusev had a match, which ended with a rollup pin by Nakamura. After the finish, Aiden English joined Rusev in the ring for a double team beatdown of Shinsuke.

AJ Styles did not rush into the ring to save Nakamura. He observed the scene for a while, then slowly began to take off his jacket and belt. By the time he was ready to enter the ring, Shinsuke had already fought off Rusev and English on his own.

Later backstage, Shinsuke approached AJ, informing him that he didn’t need any help. A frustrated AJ said he could tell by what happened in the ring. Before Shinsuke could speak further, AJ cut him off and completed Shinsuke’s oft-repeated line about winning at WrestleMania.

Evalaution: AJ not entering the ring when Shinsuke was double teamed by Rusev and Aiden English could be an indication that his injury ruled out his taking any bumps. On the other hand, the injury was not mentioned tonight, and they were clearly continuing the tension between AJ and Shinsuke backstage, which is a good sign that whatever his mystery injury may be, he’ll be ready for WrestleMania.

If AJ is expected to compete at WrestleMania as planned, while not a full heel turn, tonight’s lack of action and general attitude by AJ makes it seem like WWE wants the fans behind Nakamura in the match.

Forecast: If AJ weren’t going to be ready for WrestleMania, with so little time before the show WWE likely would’ve began the setup for his replacement tonight. Considering nothing of the sort happened, I’d predict it’s at least better than 50/50 that the WrestleMania match will continue as planned.

If WWE’s plan is to have the fans behind Nakamura at WrestleMania, it’s an interesting choice. AJ is the most over guy in the company, and Nakamura’s performance since hitting the main roster has been less than stellar. Those factors combined would seem to make attempting to pit the fans against AJ in the match an uphill climb.

Random Thoughts…

•Carmella’s near cash-in tonight was likely intended to remind the fans that Carmella still holds the Money in the Bank briefcase. This reminder adds another dimension in fans’ minds at WrestleMania, and may be an indication that the real cash-in is soon to come…

NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: TOP 3 DEVELOPMENTS – SMACKDOWN 3/13: AJ and Nakamura begin build to dream match, Charlotte and Asuka face off, waters muddied for Shane/Owens/Zayn

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