Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are at the center of turmoil, and not just the kind they stir up onscreen on WWE SmackDown.
Word has emerged KO and Zayn have clashed with the company to the point that it has inspired a punitive response. Suddenly, what's on the horizon for SmackDown, Survivor Series and beyond is unclear.
A storm of questions swirl with few answers to quell it.
The two former NXT champions were reportedly sent home for disciplinary reasons during WWE's current European tour, per Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated:
Pro Wrestling Sheet's Ryan Satin added further details. He reported that Owens and Zayn "went against a creative directive given to them before SmackDown last night."
"Multiple sources reached out saying the duo have been slightly difficult to work with lately and seem unhappy backstage" Satin added.
These peeks behind the scenes have to leave fans unsettled. Two of SmackDown's best may be in line for further repercussions. But there are more unknowns than anything at the moment.
Is This an Elaborate Work?
It would have to be a first-rate con job by WWE, but one has to wonder if this news story isn't a fabricated one designed to play up an onscreen narrative.
Owens and Zayn have made a habit of pushing back against SmackDown management. KO is fresh off feuding with the brand's commissioner. Zayn called Shane McMahon a tyrant:
These two rebels getting kicked off the European tour just ahead of Survivor Series would be an ideal narrative precursor to them storming in to disrupt the Raw vs. SmackDown match.
But that's an unlikely situation. The reports of Owens and Zayn's issues with company brass come from two reputable sources. Barrasso and Satin both getting played feels like quite the long shot.
How Does This Impact Survivor Series?
The seeds had been planted. Owens and Zayn's refusal to play nice with Team SmackDown appeared to be foreshadowing that the two scoundrels would somehow disrupt Survivor Series.
That would make sense considering KO and his "brother" are too hot of an act to not be a part of the PPV.
If WWE is upset enough with them, however, a script rewrite is in order. That would potentially cause a massive ripple effect at the event. Rather than a betrayal of the brand being the night's biggest story, the company would cook something else up.
Before that, though, Owens and Zayn are set to face The New Day on next week's SmackDown:
WWE could decide to shelve that match and showcase someone else in the heels' place. Is getting pulled from the European tour enough punishment in WWE's mind?
Is the Doghouse or Worse Ahead?
Will an exodus from Europe be the only discipline Owens and Zayn receive?
WWE's reactions to internal incidents have been excessive in the past. Titus O'Neil suffered a suspension for grabbing Vince McMahon's arm. Former WWE Creative member Jimmy Jacobs was fired for posting an Instagram pic with the enemy.
Owens and Zayn are likely to be punished with less prominent booking for a short spell. But if the issues go well beyond this moment and the company is tiring of their act behind the curtains, the surreal news that WWE releases KO and The Underdog from the Underground could be ahead.
That would be a gut-punch to SmackDown.
Owens has been a bedrock of the brand. Zayn has quickly risen to be a key part of the show.
Joshua Gagnon of Wrestling Inc went as far as to say those heels have been the highlight of the Raw vs. SmackDown tale:
In a year that has seen Austin Aries, Emma, Simon Gotch and others part ways with WWE, one has to hope Owens and Zayn don't get anywhere near to joining that list.
They have done enough inside the ring to warrant a decent-sized leash. Hopefully, an early exit out of the European tour is the end of all this.