WWE SmackDown Results: Team Hell No Reunion and Top Takeaways
The June 26 edition of SmackDown Live was a surprisingly limited event with AJ Styles, Carmella, Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura all confirmed to not be in the building for the show. The remaining stars were asked to shoulder the responsibility of carrying two hours of WWE programming instead.
This allowed Sanity to stand out as they got a chance to compete against three of the best in Jeff Hardy and The Usos, while Becky Lynch continued to rack up wins with an impressive submission victory over Sonya Deville.
Meanwhile, No. 1 contender Rusev did not fare as well without The Phenomenal One, proving he needed his WWE Championship opponent to help sell his status at the top of SmackDown.
The biggest story of the night came from an unexpected source, as Kane returned to WWE to aid Daniel Bryan, reuniting former tag team champions Team Hell No for the first time in three years.
These moments made up a show with some unique takeaways that focus on how much depth this roster has. It was a night of unique long matches with one major moment.
Team Hell No Reunite as Kane Comes to Daniel Bryan's Aid
Fighting against The Bludgeon Brothers looked bleak for Daniel Bryan after the pair of monsters attacked The Yes Man. He had no allies by his side, and the pickings backstage were slim.
No one on the SmackDown roster sounded right to be Bryan's partner, but then one unlikely wrestler returned to aid The Beard.
After months away, Kane arrived just in time to get in the way of Harper and Rowan before hugging his former Team Hell No partner.
SmackDown Live general manager Paige took advantage of the opportunity and immediately announced the pair would fight for the tag titles at Extreme Rules on July 15.
Before this week's SmackDown, there had been uncertainty over whether Kane would return to a WWE ring. The Big Red Machine has been with the company for over 20 years but looked to be moving on as he prepared to campaign for the mayoral seat in Knox County, Tennessee.
Kane may not remain with WWE for long, but for now fans can enjoy a surprise reunion of one of the most popular tag teams in recent memory. Team Hell No was a short-lived but entertaining pairing that should bring new excitement to the SmackDown tag team division.
Harper and Bryan had a strong main event clash this week, and they should be able to do even more at Extreme Rules with Rowan and Kane in their respective corners.
Without AJ Styles, It Still Feels Odd to Call Rusev a WWE Championship Contender
AJ Styles did not appear this week due to other WWE obligations, which left Rusev battling against The New Day.
While The Bulgarian Brute won in strong fashion over Xavier Woods, it felt like he was returning to the same position he has been in for the past few years.
He ran down The Phenomenal One in a post-match promo with a collection of catchphrases and jokes. As over as Rusev is, he needed more of a spotlight this week than he got. There's only so much time to build up this WWE Championship rivalry.
Perhaps future SmackDown episodes will fully commit to Styles vs. Rusev and make this feel like more than a one-off contest, but right now the feud is coasting on Rusev's popularity. It isn't even clear whether the man behind Rusev Day is turning face or staying heel.
As good as Styles is, this is not a new trend for his title matches. His rivalry with Shinsuke Nakamura fell slowly into the background, and he does not feel like the clear top star on SmackDown now.
Styles vs. Rusev should be a great match, but it may not be a great feud.
Sanity Look Like Top Stars Against Top Stars
With SmackDown short-staffed, the brand relied on a trio of relative newcomers to carry the product, and Sanity delivered.
First, Eric Young put on a fun match with Jeff Hardy that transitioned into a six-man tag match that included The Usos.
While it is not surprising to see Jeff and The Usos put on quality matches, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe and Young have not been seen on a stage this big so far. They had some strong matches in NXT, but they were not the standout performers on that roster.
While it is a shame Sanity lost this week, they certainly made an impact with their work. Young came off as a vicious rival to a current champion in WWE, while Dain looked like a monster who would not go down to anything. The trio were treated like a group of veteran heels.
It is likely Sanity will get momentum back quickly and defeat The Usos in the near future, but it doesn't feel like the trio need it. They are already major players on this roster.
Becky Lynch Continues to Build Momentum, Perhaps to Challenge Carmella
Last week, Becky Lynch made Billie Kay tap out; this week, it was Sonya Deville.
Before Money in the Bank, she also made Charlotte Flair submit to the Dis-arm-her. While most of these wins are not massive, it is rare to see The Irish Lass Kicker building up this much momentum.
Carmella vs. Asuka is still the headline feud of the women's division, but it is looking more likely than ever that The Princess of Staten Island could survive that rivalry and still hold the title. If she does, Lynch has already been built up as a worthy next challenger.
WWE's track record with booking Lynch has been sketchy at best. Despite being mentioned alongside multiple-time champions such as Charlotte and Sasha Banks, she has been taken for granted for a long time.
After MITB 2017, it seemed the plan was for Lynch vs. Carmella, but that fell through. That same feud would now be a much bigger deal, but it can never materialize if the former cannot keep up this winning run.