By Steven Flora
On one of the biggest nights of his life, SmackDown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan spoke emotionally about once again being cleared to compete in WWE. When he fired Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn later in the night, however, his celebration turned upside down, as he suffered a brutal assault at the hands of The "Yep!" Movement.
Bryan fires Owens & Zayn and The “Yep!” Movement assaults him
Following their heinous actions last week, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn were all smiles tonight on SmackDown — both because of their attack on Shane McMahon last week and, seemingly, because of Daniel Bryan’s announcement that he was now cleared for competition.
Owens and Zayn seemed overjoyed, hugging Bryan and claiming their attack on Shane-O-Mac last week was a gift to the General Manager, but The “Yes!” Man saw it differently. Bryan was disappointed, not only by Owens & Zayn’s actions, but also their lack of remorse. Because of this, the General Manager said he finally saw things clearly and had only one move to make: firing Owens and Zayn.
After expressing some regret, Bryan shook their hands and told them they could one day make it back to WWE, but a seething KO initiated an assault on Bryan. Owens and Zayn were relentless, but the GM ferociously fired back, bringing the WWE Universe to a state of absolute frenzy as he darted about the ring and unleashed a flurry of “Yes!” Kicks. However, Owens and Zayn soon overwhelmed Bryan, and the attack concluded with them decimating Bryan with an Apron Powerbomb.
Side Note: I said last week the WrestleMania card doesn't look full at all … enter the AMERICAN DRAGON. MAAAAAN DANIEL BRYAN IS SO OVER IT'S CRAZY! He hasn't wrestled in almost three years and he got the biggest cheers in years! Bryan being cleared to wrestle will likely be a boom for WWE and WrestleMania because as far as this feud is concerned, looks like we're gonna have a tag match at Mania.
Nakamura continues his Strong Style heading into WrestleMania 34
Nakamura def. Rusev
With WWE Champion AJ Styles watching on at ringside, The King of Strong Style and Bulgarian Brute faced off in an ultra-physical confrontation with stiff strikes a plenty. Rusev kept Nakamura grounded for most of the contest, but Nakamura caught The Super Athlete with an elaborate rollup following a thrilling sequence for the victory.
After the bell, English immediately pounced on WWE’s Rockstar, and the staggered Rusev soon joined in on the beating. The Phenomenal One looked ready to come to Nakamura’s aid (albeit slowly), but by the time Styles was finally “ready” to assist, Nakamura had already turned the tide with a flurry of kicks and cleared the ring of Rusev Day.
The mutual respect between Styles and Nakamura doesn’t necessarily seem to equate to the lending of a helping hand on The Road to WrestleMania.
Side Note: I'm all for building this incredible match but why does Rusev have to be in this. He was the hottest thing going with his great gimmick and WWE seems hell bent on derailing it. It's such a shame.
The animosity grows between Orton, Roode and Mahal
With the WrestleMania 34 Triple Threat Match for the United States Title now official, Jinder Mahal arrived on SmackDown with the mission of degrading his opponents, Bobby Roode and United States Champion Randy Orton.
Naturally, this brought out both Roode and Orton, who were determined to bring The Modern Day Maharaja’s arrogance down a peg or two. Mahal took great offense to Orton’s comments and appeared as though he was going to lash out at The Apex Predator. Instead, Jinder threw Sunil Singh into Orton and slid out of the ring. Sunil tried to get away, but Orton dragged the faithful follower back and delivered a DDT off the ropes, and Roode dropped Singh with a Glorious DDT for his troubles.
The Glorious One then followed up by attempting a Glorious DDT on The Viper, only for Orton to reverse and try to strike with an RKO. Roode was also able to counter and stop the attack, leaving the two to stare one another down while Mahal just watched on from ringside.
Side Note: Match doesn't interest me in the slightest. Orton needs to drop the title to Roode. Roode needs the big stage to show off how good he is and I'm actually glad Mahal gets his WrestleMania moment, he deserves it.
Other Notable Moments:
Harper def. Jimmy Uso: Prior to Jimmy Uso’s match against Harper, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos let The Bludgeon Brothers know they would be put in The Uso Penitentiary, despite the recent beatings administered by the behemoths. However, the clearly still-battered Jimmy struggled to find openings against the much larger Harper. Uso battled valiantly and even looked as though he had Harper on the ropes when Jey Uso interfered by connecting with a superkick, and Jimmy did the same. However, it proved futile, as Harper defeated Jimmy with a ring-rattling clothesline.
Becky Lynch & Naomi def. Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan: With all eyes on the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal, Becky Lynch & Naomi took on Riott Squad members Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan. Morgan & Logan took the fight to The Irish Lass Kicker & The Glow, but Lynch broke through and submitted Logan with the agonizing Dis-arm-her to secure the victory
Natalya def. Charlotte Flair: With Natalya incredibly offended that Asuka and not her would face off against Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania, The Queen of Harts figured that a one-on-one contest against The Queen tonight would be the next best thing. With the two having embarked in so many classic battles before, both Superstars were at the point where they could seemingly anticipate counters to the other’s counters. In the pivotal moments, however, Carmella changed the landscape of the contest when she dashed out with a new official, seemingly ready to cash in her Money in the Bank contract and turn the clash into a Triple Threat Match for the title. However, Carmella’s plan was thwarted when Charlotte dropped her with a big boot right to her kisser before the referee could start the match. The distraction cost Charlotte, though, as Natalya, amidst the ruckus, rolled her up for the win.
Baron Corbin def. Tye Dillinger: Tye Dillinger looked to make a major impact on SmackDown in his bout against Baron Corbin, the winner of the 2016 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, as both Superstars eyed their participation in this year’s annual over-the-top-rope tradition. In a renewal of their hard-hitting rivalry, Corbin and Dillinger unloaded on each other en route to the epic free-for-all at The Show of Shows. The Perfect 10 had his moments, but The Lone Wolf prevailed by fending Dillinger off with the devastating End of Days for the win.
Overall SmackDown Live Rating: B
Things to look forward to next week
How will Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan react to the heinous actions of Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens?
Is Nakamura playing mind games with the phenomenal one?
The Burial of Rusev Day
More Becky Lynch? Criminally underrated performer
Triple threat match for the WWE SmackDown Live Tag Team Championships?