WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction and Highlights from March 20
Daniel Bryan has been cleared to return to the squared circle, and Tuesday night he addressed the WWE Universe on a noteworthy episode of SmackDown Live.
He also addressed the actions of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in what amounted to a mistake that earned him a trip to the emergency room.
In between the general manager's emotional night was a show that continued to build the rivalries that will culminate on April 8 at WrestleMania 34.
There was a teased Money in the Bank cash-in, continued dominance from The Bludgeon Brothers and an addition to the United States Championship match on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
Relive the explosive March 20 episode of SmackDown with this recap of Tuesday's show.
Daniel Bryan Addresses the WWE Universe
On the heels of the massive WWE.com announcement that he has been cleared to compete, Daniel Bryan kicked off the show with an emotional promo that recapped his journey back to the squared circle.
Bryan discussed the roller coaster his career has taken and how his wife, Brie Bella, was always there for him, encouraging him not to give up on his dream to get back in the ring. He admitted he is not sure when his next match will be but, after looking at the WrestleMania sign, seemed to hint it could come as soon as April 8.
Bryan thanked the WWE Universe for their support and led them in a YES! chant.
There is a locker room of talented Superstars who all wish they could inspire the type of emotion Bryan does from the WWE fans.
He spoke from the heart here, recalling every up and down of the last three years and thanking those who stood by him. It was emotional, it tugged at the heartstrings and it made him somehow more likable than he was before.
This was a brilliant way to start the show after the news of this afternoon.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
In a rematch from Fastlane, No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship Shinsuke Nakamura battled Rusev in singles competition.
WWE champion AJ Styles watched from the arena floor as The Bulgarian Brute and The Artist traded offense, neither gaining much of a sustained advantage.
Eventually, Nakamura ducked Rusev's Machka Kick and scored a pinfall victory moments later.
After the match, Rusev and accomplice Aiden English double-teamed Nakamura while Styles watched at ringside. The Phenomenal One intentionally took his time taking his jacket off, not in any hurry to assist his fellow babyface.
Nakamura gained the upper hand and was able to clear the ring to a pop.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev
The match itself was good, if a step down from their Fastlane bout. With less time and heat, though, that is to be expected.
The interaction between Styles and Nakamura, and the former's reluctance to help his WrestleMania opponent, suggests Styles may be perfectly fine playing the de facto heel come April 8.
Given the chemistry between the Superstars in those roles, that may be the best way to ensure the quality match fans are expecting out of champion and challenger.
Tye Dillinger vs. Baron Corbin
On the heels of the announcement that Baron Corbin and Tye Dillinger will enter the fifth Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania, the NXT alumni battled in singles competition.
The Lone Wolf dominated the action, grounding and pounding the smaller Dillinger.
After a botched attempt at End of Days moments earlier, Corbin delivered his finisher and scored the one-sided win.
Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger
If this was intended to rebuild Corbin ahead of WrestleMania, it failed miserably.
Dillinger has been so mismanaged and underutilized to this point that a win over him means nothing. Thus, Corbin can hardly benefit, and the result is a match that happened for the sake of happening.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya
Charlotte and Natalya rekindled their rivalry, as the longtime rivals battled in a singles contest that was the result of a backstage confrontation.
After back-and-forth action to start, The Queen of Harts grounded her opponent and even trapped her in the Sharpshooter.
The SmackDown women's champion turned the tide in her favor with a big spear on the arena floor. A big superplex from Natalya put both women down in the middle of the ring.
Suddenly, Carmella made a beeline for the squared circle, teasing a cash-in of her Money in the Bank briefcase.
She ended up eating a big boot from Charlotte. The distraction allowed Natalya to roll her up for the upset win.
Natalya defeated Charlotte
Charlotte and Natalya rarely have bad matches. Their styles mesh, and their chemistry is undeniable. This was no different, as the women brought the work rate and delivered what was arguably the best match on the show.
The tease of Carmella cashing in is a great way to remind fans that the Money in the Bank is still in play and that she may very well influence the outcome of Charlotte vs. Asuka come WrestleMania.
At the very least, it is a quality television rivalry to keep Charlotte busy until her showdown with The Empress of Tomorrow.
Jimmy Uso vs. Harper
After a brief in-ring promo in which The Usos promised to introduce The Bludgeon Brothers to the Uso Penitentiary, Jimmy Uso went one-on-one with Harper.
The big man and former intercontinental champion punished his smaller opponent, using strength and fury to offset his speed and agility.
Uso mounted a comeback late and, with Rowan inadvertently distracting the official, benefited from Jey Uso sneaking in and delivering a superkick. The interference only netted Jimmy a two-count. Moments later, Harper finished his overmatched opponent and earned a big victory ahead of WrestleMania 34.
Harper defeated Jimmy Uso
A sprint of a match that did what it set out to: establish The Bludgeon Brothers as the greatest threat to The Usos' tag team titles.
Not even interference from Jey could help his brother pick up the win against Harper, let alone against both Bludgeon Brothers when the time comes.
After months of questionable booking in regard to the former Wyatt Family members, they appear to be back on track and ready to rise to the top of the tag team division on Tuesday nights.
Jinder Mahal Promo
Sunil Singh joined former WWE champion Jinder Mahal in the ring for a promo in which Mahal celebrated his addition to the United States Championship match at WrestleMania, where he and Bobby Roode will challenge Randy Orton in a Triple Threat match.
Roode interfered and vowed to beat Mahal in the center of the ring.
Orton joined the fray, said Mahal sucks without the assistance of Singh and dropped the mic.
As Mahal left, he essentially threw Singh to the wolves. Orton dropped him with a DDT and set Singh up for the RKO, but Roode interjected and delivered the Glorious DDT. Orton tried for an RKO to Roode, but the segment ended with a stalemate instead.
This was every single segment fans have witnessed between these three over the last three weeks.
Not a single thing accomplished. There was no furthering of a storyline and no stipulations announced for the upcoming match.
Hell, there was no tag match set up until after the commercial break that preceded the segment.
This was a waste of a segment that existed only to announce the addition of Mahal to the WrestleMania match, something that was accomplished earlier in the day on WWE.com.
Naomi and Becky Lynch vs. Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan
The rivalry between Becky Lynch, Naomi and The Riott Squad continued, as the babyfaces teamed up to battle Riott Squad's Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan in tag team action.
The heels isolated Lynch, grounding The Lass Kicker and keeping her away from her partner.
Late, Logan blasted Naomi, preventing Lynch from making the tag.
That proved costly, as Naomi entered the ring, blasted an interfering Morgan, and Lynch trapped Logan in the Disarmer for the win.
Becky Lynch and Naomi defeated The Riott Squad
Unfortunately, there are so many talented female performers that there simply are not enough spots for them in big-match situations.
That is the scenario facing these four competitors, all of whom are likely to be shoved into the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal rather than being given an opportunity to shine in something more meaningful.
The match itself was too short to mean anything.
Daniel Bryan Calls Out Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
Daniel Bryan called out Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to cap off the show.
Owens and Zayn appeared genuinely excited at the news that Bryan would be returning to the ring. Bryan was seemingly flattered, flashing a grin more than once. The love-in was halted when Bryan aired footage from last week's show of Zayn and Owens brutally assaulting Shane McMahon.
Bryan admitted he thinks Zayn and Owens are two of the best performers of this generation and even confirmed McMahon's suspicions that he was living vicariously through his friends.
Bryan chastised his friends for their attack on McMahon, particularly because the commissioner had admitted his wrongdoing in treating Owens and Zayn the way he did. Bryan said he hated that he had to do it but proceeded to fire Owens and Zayn.
The general manager apologized but soon found himself on the receiving end of a beatdown at the hands of Zayn and Owens. Bryan fought back and drew a huge ovation but ultimately fell prey to the numbers game, eating a Helluva Kick from Zayn to a chorus of boos.
The show ended with Owens delivering a nasty powerbomb onto the apron and Bryan being strapped to a stretcher.
First, Bryan paid off months of storytelling by admitting McMahon was right the whole time. Second, he did what was necessary and fired two of his friends for actions that would have resulted in the same fate anywhere else.
Thirdly, and most importantly, he rallied off a fierce and ferocious comeback that saw him get physical in a WWE ring for the first time in three years. He did not appear to miss a beat as he delivered running dropkicks, his patented YES! kicks and even took a few big bumps.
Bryan is back and, with two bookending promos, is the most interesting character in WWE, not because of the internet allure but because of his story.