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WWE SmackDown results, recap, reactions (Jan. 15, 2015): Welcome back, Daniel Bryan

Thank god, Daniel Bryan is back.

I was afraid for him. SmackDown, despite moving to Thursday nights on SyFy, is still taped on Tuesday evening, so detailed reports for this week's episode were readily available before the broadcast. There wasn't anything unusual in any of the reports sent to the Cageside offices regarding Bryan's match with Kane to start the evening, and his six-man tag to end it.

Still, I was afraid, at least at first.

Then, he opened the evening with a rapid fire dropkick with the trademark aggression that helped him become such a big star. As his match with Kane wore on, the picture came into focus so clearly you couldn't miss it.

We needed this man, perhaps more than we ever could have realized.

That's not an indictment against Roman Reigns, who continues to cut painful promos that act like a fart in church but maintains his popularity, nor Dean Ambrose, who does his best with what's given to him, nor Seth Rollins, who has been hitting home runs for months now. That's also not to take anything away from Brock Lesnar, who still creates an atmosphere no other star can, nor John Cena, who continues to be the face who runs the place. All of these men bring something unique to the table that will greatly assist WWE in the near future and beyond.

But none of them (Rollins may be getting close but he's not there just yet) can do what Bryan can.

This man missed nine months of action with a serious neck injury, his greatest successes ripped out from underneath him almost immediately after achieving them. His very future in professional wrestling was in doubt at various points throughout the process.

Yet here he was, playing the lead role on a major WWE show -- and make no mistake, WWE treated him like one of its biggest stars relying on him to sell the company moving its secondary show to a new night -- despite having missed so much time. Here he was being asked to pull double duty and work two matches after missing all that time while facing all that uncertainty.

And he didn't miss a beat.

Hell, if you didn't know any better you wouldn't have thought he missed any time at all. He was the exact same Bryan he was before he left, the hot tag house of fire who cleaned out the ring and brought the crowd to its feet not with his words but with his wrestling.

In late 2013 and early 2014 it wasn't hard to ignore WWE's creative failures because the in-ring product was spectacular. Then The Shield broke up and Bryan was knocked out of action and it all went to hell. There were exceptions, of course, but no consistency.

In one show, Bryan brought back all the energy that was seemingly sucked out of the company when he left it. He didn't deliver a five-star classic but he left no doubt that he is absolutely capable of doing just that if called upon once more.

In the main event of WrestleMania 31 perhaps?

Quick hits:

  • This is one of those increasingly rare instances that Kane was the perfect guy for the job. His slow but safe style allowed Bryan to settle in and find his groove while ensuring he wasn't risking further injury. Right away, kudos to Kane.
  • Meanwhile, to circle back to Bryan, his booking on this show absolutely points to his winning the Royal Rumble, right? They built sympathy in his matches, then placed a roadblock to gain entry into the Rumble match on the go home SmackDown, and built the entire show around him. Perhaps the suits aren't sold on Roman Reigns just yet after all?
  • Speaking of Reigns, I'm not saying WWE should abandon his push but his promos are ridiculous and it's starting to look more and more like fans are going to turn on him sooner rather than later.
  • The Usos vs. The Miz & Damien Mizdow is a great example of too much TV killing a program.
  • Seth Rollins and Paul Heyman gave us all flashbacks to Heidenreich and that creepy segment he ran with Michael Cole all those years ago but it also provided a nice blueprint for the future. If Brock Lesnar leaves, they're setting up so Heyman has someone else to turn to. That's the smart play, and with Rollins already established as one of the top heels in the company, the pairing would almost certainly be a success.
  • The women's match was painfully bad and they deserve better.
  • Sin Cara is quite clearly a speed bump for Bad News Barrett but he deserves credit for giving the Intercontinental champion a decent match in a bad spot.

Daniel Bryan made this an enjoyable evening of pro wrestling entertainment. The fact that it wasn't Friday night definitely helped.

Grade: B-

That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?

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