What Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens' Win Means for Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2017

Photo credit: WWE.com.

After Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens' victory over Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura on Sunday at Clash of Champions in Boston, the stage is set for tensions to continue to rise between SmackDown Live general manager Daniel Bryan and commissioner Shane McMahon.

Orton appeared to have the match won after hitting Sami Zayn with the RKO. However, Owens pushed Bryan into Orton, which broke up the pinfall attempt. McMahon, who believed Bryan intentionally stopped the count, retaliated by refusing to count to three while Zayn had Orton in a pinning combination.

Bryan responded by quickly counting to three after Zayn countered an RKO attempt into a roll-up.

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A series of disagreements involving Bryan and McMahon led to Sunday's match with Shane-O-Mac enlisting himself as the special guest referee.

McMahon also created the stipulation that if Zayn and Owens were to lose, they would be fired not only from SmackDown, but from all of WWE.

In the interest of fairness, Bryan announced on the go-home episode of SmackDown prior to Clash of Champions that he would suit up as a referee as well.

Bryan had prevented McMahon from firing Zayn and Owens in the past even after they interfered during the Raw vs. SmackDown main event at Survivor Series.

McMahon made it his stated goal to make life miserable for the duo, which was responsible for him crashing through a table after leaping from the top of the cell at Hell in a Cell.

Bryan took a more measured approach, and while he didn't exactly treat Zayn and Owens with the utmost respect, he was reluctant to fire them due to their star power and the fact that they add some much-needed punch to SmackDown roster.

Because of that, Bryan and McMahon appeared to enter Clash of Champions with differing motives as the special guest referees.

In a result that isn't likely to please McMahon, Zayn and Owens prevailed, which means they will continue to be a nuisance on SmackDown Live.

WWE has been building tension between Bryan and McMahon for a reason, and Sunday's result will almost certainly increase them in the weeks and months to come.

There has been no shortage of speculation regarding Bryan returning to face McMahon in a match at WrestleMania since Bryan has such a prominent role in the storyline. Also, by serving as a referee, he has gotten more physically involved than at any other point since his retirement.

Even so, a Bryan in-ring return may not be a risk WWE is willing to take. He retired in February 2016 due to a build up of head injuries, which included seizures brought on by the concussions.

Despite that, Bryan has made it clear that he intends to return to wrestling once his WWE contract is up if WWE is unwilling to let him go back to performing in the ring.

Through myriad tweets and interviews, Bryan has expressed his desire to get back to doing the thing he excelled at for so long both on the independent scene and in WWE.

If Bryan suffers an even more serious injury on WWE's watch, however, the bad PR the company would receive would be enormous.

That tends to rule the day in WWE, meaning that it is far more likely someone will fight Bryan's battle for him in a potential feud with McMahon.

With McMahon continuing to feud against Zayn and Owens, look for Bryan to potentially join forces with the pairing in a managerial-type role. That would set the stage for Zayn and Owens to take on McMahon and a partner of his choice at WrestleMania 34.

AJ Styles, Triple H, Kurt Angle and others stand out as possibilities to fill that role, and even though it wouldn't be as big as a Bryan in-ring return, the match would have show-stealing potential at The Showcase of the Immortals.


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