Kevin Owens Cools off as Push Stalls and More SmackDown Fallout
The Superstars of SmackDown rolled into the historic Madison Square Garden Tuesday for the blue brand's final episode ahead of this Sunday's Clash of Champions pay-per-view, a show with mostly questionable booking.
The Undertaker's return was mostly meaningless, while the once red-hot Kevin Owens suffered another booking speedbump that left him reeling rather than thriving.
Chad Gable remained the brand's bright spot, rolling into the King of the Ring finals with a victory over Shane McMahon.
Now, dive deeper into each Superstar's night with this recap of the September 10 episode and find out why they were among the night's buzziest topics.
Once-Hot Kevin Owens Cools Significantly Due to Questionable Booking
A month ago, Kevin Owens was among the hottest stars in professional wrestling, thanks to a renewed push that put him opposite Shane McMahon.
The anti-authority rebel, he wasted no opportunity to drop McMahon with a stunner, and at SummerSlam, he enjoyed a career highlight with a victory over the prodigal son that was met with one of the loudest pops of the entire show.
Since then, KO has been neutered, his edge lost and his push cooled thanks to questionable booking.
Tuesday night on SmackDown, a meek Owens was forced to officiate McMahon's King of the Ring tournament match with Chad Gable. If he did so in favor of Shane-O-Mac, he would save his family the $100,000 fine McMahon issued a few weeks back.
And therein lies the problem.
WWE Creative not-so-secretly used "Stone Cold" Steve Austin as the inspiration for Owens' push, down to The Prizefighter utilizing the stunner as his finisher. The problem? Austin never would have allowed a monetary fine to stop him from raising hell and bucking the system.
Yes, KO has a family and it makes sense that he would want to spare them the hardships of the fine, but this is one instance where a character did not need that emotional edge or sympathetic purpose. He needed to keep raising hell, dropping the boss with his finisher and reaping the reward of fan appreciation.
Instead, the push has cooled and Owens is essentially right back where he was a year ago: fired.
The conclusion of Tuesday's show, which saw Owens terminated, is literally the third time in the last 12 months that he has either been fired or quit the company. That is a trend that needs to stop for the sake of the character's credibility and legitimacy.
Chad Gable Continues Magical Run as Breakout Star of King of the Ring Tournament
The most engaging story of the entire King of the Ring tournament has been Chad Gable's magical run through the field, which will culminate Monday night on Raw when he battles Baron Corbin for the crown in the finals.
The Olympian defeated Shane McMahon in two straight falls Tuesday night, capping an unexpected march through the competition that saw him defeat former tag team partner Shelton Benjamin and Andrade.
Long one of the most talented in-ring performers on the roster, not to mention one of its most charismatic, Gable has suffered through more than one start-and-stop push. The inconsistency, on top of his lack of size, has hurt his ability to benefit from a sustained push.
The new creative team in charge of the blue brand, though, appears intent on rewarding his skills and work and it has made for compelling television. Gable, the underdog, has steadily built heat for himself through stellar performances and unexpected victories.
Even if he does not win the King of the Ring tournament, he has earned a push going forward that should put him at the heart of the Intercontinental Championship picture, at the very least.
That the fans in New York reacted as favorably to his win over McMahon as they did suggests he may be capable of even greater things—if WWE commits to pushing him without hesitation, that is.
WWE Misses Opportunity with Undertaker Appearance
The Undertaker returned to Madison Square Garden Tuesday, drawing the sort of reaction from the WWE Universe reserved for legendary performers and iconic personalities the likes of which he has been for three decades.
His appearance on the show, just days from Clash of Champions, should have been used to put over a Superstar or enhance a storyline. Say what you will about "Stone Cold" Steve Austin getting as much TV time as he did on Raw but at least he put the spotlight on Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman ahead of their universal title match Sunday.
Undertaker did not, through no fault of his own.
Instead of being involved in something meaningful that benefited the show as a whole, he was booked to drop the loudmouth Sami Zayn with a chokeslam before returning to the Darkside until he is needed to boost ratings or the appeal of a Saudi Arabia show again.
WWE Creative missed a massive opportunity to bring some sort of excitement or anticipation to the pay-per-view by using Undertaker's star power. Instead, they produced a segment that not-so-subtly reminded fans that the stars of yesterday are, and always will be, better than today's crop of Superstars.