WWE SmackDown Results: The New Daniel Bryan and Biggest Takeaways from Dec. 4
The New Daniel Bryan unleashed his brand of chaos on SmackDown Live Tuesday night, punishing AJ Styles and leaving the former WWE champion lying in a heap.
The bearded bad guy's actions were one of a few takeaways from another quality episode of the blue brand's weekly show, which broadcast from Texas just 12 days from TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
Which Superstars left the greatest impression, and which stories are hitting their strides ahead of the pay-per-view extravaganza.
Find out with this recap of the December 4 episode.
The New Daniel Bryan Descends Further into Madness
Don't like the New Daniel Bryan?
The current WWE champion joined Miz TV Tuesday night for a hard-hitting interview in which he blasted the fans, calling them "fickle" for changing their allegiances so quickly after his one sin when they sin against the planet every day.
While his promo may have come across as an amplified CJ Parker NXT dialogue, it was spoken with such conviction and anger that it hit home way harder than the future Juice Robinson's words ever did. His interactions with Miz, who attempted to take credit for the champion's new attitude, made sense given their long history.
It was the beatdown of AJ Styles after The Phenomenal One's victory over The Hollywood A-Lister, though, that demonstrated the depths the newly minted villain will go.
He brutalized Styles and left the popular babyface writhing in a heap. Then, he took to the microphone to chastise the same fans that championed his YES! Movement and demanded his spot in the WrestleMania 30 main event, his feelings hurt that his one moment of weakness generated such harsh criticism.
This new character is a revelation of sorts.
For so long, Bryan had been such an admirable babyface that some forgot just how strong a heel he can be. We have seen it before, back when he first started using the dorky YES! chants to generate heat, but this is a whole other beast.
He is dismayed and disgusted by how quickly fans are to turn their backs when someone shiny, bright and new comes along. He feels betrayed and is lashing out, pointing out the sins of the people in an attempt to justify his own actions.
It is great writing and something Bryan almost certainly had a hand in given the current state of WWE Creative.
Samoa Joe Unleashes Mind Games on Jeff Hardy
Samoa Joe continued his crusade against the most popular Superstars in WWE, interrupting Jeff Hardy's match with Randy Orton Tuesday night, broadcasting live from a bar somewhere in Texas. Not only did he provide the distraction that allowed The Viper to score the victory over The Charismatic Enigma, he continued to mock Hardy's sordid, controversial past after the bell.
Joe, pouring beer for local patrons, disingenuously reminded fans of drinking responsibly while Hardy watched from the squared circle. It was a not-at-all-subtle reminder of Hardy's past substance abuse, a topic that Joe exploited last week as the SmackDown brand attempted to honor Jeff on his 20 years in WWE.
The Joe character has been an interesting one to watch over the last six months or so.
No longer getting by just by being The Destroyer, he has become a cerebral Superstar utilizing mind games to create great discomfort with his opponents. It did not work to great success with AJ Styles, who retained his WWE Championship in their feud, but it has clearly affected Hardy to this point.
This feud represents Joe's second chance to make a first impression with his personal attacks on the top babyfaces on SmackDown. Hopefully, WWE Creative realizes the full potential of the character and does not use this as another opportunity for a Superstar to overcome emotional hurdles.
Rusev Cuts Best Babyface Promo Yet
Rusev's babyface run has been an interesting one to this point in that he remains incredibly over despite WWE Creative's lackluster use of him in that role.
The recent ignition of a rivalry with Shinsuke Nakamura over the United States Championship, though, may be just what the Bulgarian Brute needs to really evolve as a babyface in WWE.
Tuesday night, he cut a promo backstage with Kayla Braxton in which his charisma was on full display. He referred to his traps as double-decker taco supremes and referenced the hunger he has for the United States Championship. And just when it looked like the promo would end on a rather abrupt note, he lept back into the picture and delivered his "Rusev Day" catchphrase to a big pop.
The promo was simple, but it was effective. You could hear the crowd laughing and cheering along to Rusev's words, hanging on every one.
That is the sign of a Superstar that fans genuinely want to see succeed, and though it is no guarantee that he defeats Nakamura for the title, now would be the time to make the switch and pay off the babyface's rise to popularity in 2018.
Asuka Leaps Back into Relevance in SmackDown's Women's Division
Charlotte Flair, Asuka and SmackDown women's champion Becky Lynch kicked off this week's show with a contract signing for their Tables, Ladders and Chairs match on December 16.
Flair dominated the verbal exchange, talking over the immensely more popular Lynch, but it was Asuka who was allowed to shine on the mic for the first time in what felt like forever.
Claiming she would have defeated Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series and reminding Lynch that she has never beaten The Empress of Tomorrow, Asuka reinserted herself into a meaningful program after being let down so many times by WWE Creative this year.
She would then team with Flair in a loss to Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose, with the dissension between the partners too much to overcome. In the process, Asuka cashed her ticket to next week's show, where she will battle Flair in a rematch from their WrestleMania 34 classic.
The centerpiece of NXT for two years and one of the biggest stars that brand has ever produced, Asuka suffered through a lethargic year that saw her significance diminished and her win-loss record take a hit, thanks to a creative team that clearly did not understand what made her such a huge attraction in NXT.
While her presence in the upcoming TLC match feels like a last-minute addition to protect Lynch from having to take too much punishment fresh off the injury list, one can only hope she can turn in the type of performance that reminds Vince McMahon and his writers just how extraordinary a talent the former women's champion is.
Tuesday night was a step in the right direction.