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WWE SmackDown Live recap & reactions (Mar. 20, 2018): The Agony and the Ecstasy

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WWE SmackDown Live waltzed back into our lives last night (Mar. 20) from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. You can find all the results at the best dang live blog on them there interwebs here.

Grateful

Whew, what an emotional ride.

Daniel Bryan opened the show. Of course he did. They had to address the HUGE news that WWE cleared him to wrestle.

And the man delivered a killer promo. I almost struggle calling it a promo because it felt like he was just a man talking to us about his emotional journey. But he was in the middle of a wrestling ring with a microphone, so I’m going to call it a promo.

Bryan talked about how he vowed to be grateful in his retirement speech and he leaned on that during the hard times that followed giving up his passion. But then he talked about how Brie Bella (now a permanent babyface after this promo) pushed him to not give up on his dream. How she pushed him to go to doctor after doctor as each one cleared him. And that led to today, with the news that he’s finally cleared to wrestle again.

He said he didn’t know when he’d wrestle yet and the crowd jumped in, chanting “WrestleMania.” An entire arena pointed at the WrestleMania sign, and it was awesome.

This was wonderful to watch. I remember watching his retirement speech years ago and feeling so dejected that his career ended just after hitting the pinnacle. And that was only a minimal fraction of the dejection he felt. I never thought we’d be here, in a WWE ring with him delivering a promo that he’s been cleared and it felt wonderful, only a fraction of how wonderful it feels for the man itself I’m sure. He choked up multiple times and I choked up with him.

This was a beautiful moment for Bryan and his fans to share together.


You bastards!

I opted to discuss the opening promo separately because it felt like its own beast. It was a man pouring his heart out to his supporters. But at the same time, it also fed into the main event angle.

Bryan called out Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and pretty much admitted Shane McMahon was right. That he was living vicariously through KO and Sami. He admitted he was in their corner because of where they came from together and how good they are.

But like Shane admitted last week with his own issues, he was wrong.

Sami and Kevin’s attack on Shane last week went too far. It wasn’t a small mistake like the heels played it up. It was a big deal. So big that Bryan had no choice. He had to fire them. He didn’t want to. And this wasn’t necessarily the end. But it had to happen. They had gone too far.

And then they went too far again.

Sami and Kevin attacked Daniel Bryan.

They attacked the man who had their back for months. They attacked their boss again. They attacked the man who JUST got cleared by WWE and realized his dream once again. That’s unforgivable.

Mid beat down, something magnificent happened. Bryan fired up. Drop kicks in the corner! German suplex! Yes Kicks! And the crowd went NUTS for it. It’s something we haven’t seen in years and it was special to see it again.

But it was short lived as the numbers caught up to Bryan and Sami and Kevin brutalized Daniel, ending with an apron powerbomb. The show went off the air as the medics brought out the stretcher for the SmackDown GM.

This was a fantastic segment. Bryan is automatically the biggest babyface in the company and they used that to get major heat on Sami and Kevin. Beating up Shane last week got some boos, but this week it was vitriol. These men jeopardized the career of Bryan just hours after it returned to him. KO and Sami were perfect tonight, with the tension prior to the attack to Owens completely unable to control his rage.

Before tonight, Shane and Daniel teaming didn’t make much sense. But they closed those loops while making KO and Sami the most despicable bastards in the WWE.


Title happenings

Shinsuke Nakamura faced Rusev in a Fastlane rematch last night, with WWE Champion AJ Styles sitting at ringside.

These two have a really good chemistry together and gave us an enjoyable television match.

After Nakamura scored the pinfall, Aiden English attacked Shinsuke and it became a two on one beatdown. Much like Nakamura did last week, Styles took his sweet time getting up to help his WrestleMania opponent.

In fact, he took so long that Nakamura was able to neutralize his foes all by his lonesome. Was he angry? Not at all. He just looked at AJ and gave him a sly smile.

They’re building this match on subtle bits, like that smile. And that’s great. Shinsuke is superb at the small facial expressions that are so emoting. AJ vs. Nak doesn’t need an elaborate story. It just needs subtle mind games as they work their way to a dream match.

As for Rusev, I said it last week and I’ll say it again: It really sucks that he’s likely headed to an Andre Battle Royal spot. Crowds love the Rusev Day gimmick he and Aiden English are working. Hopefully he at least wins the Andre.


Take Two

When they announced Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya, I wondered who Charlotte has had more matches with in WWE - Natalya or Sasha Banks?

But there’s a reason Flair and Nattie go head to head so often: They have great chemistry together. Tonight was no different.

After a long battle tonight, Carmella ran down to try to cash her Money in the Bank briefcase. Again, she failed. But like last time, she failed quickly and the referee never announced the match.

However, this distraction allowed Natalya to roll up Charlotte for the win.

It’s a bit odd seeing the Queen take an L so close to her powerhouse match against Asuka. Even though it was a loss that has an excuse, it’s still a curious move. Not that it hurts anything. I always pop for a cash in attempt and Nattie/Charlotte are always good together so this was enjoyable overall.


US title

There was a little talking segment between the three guys in the US title match at Mania.

Jinder Mahal started. I’m glad when he calls the fans hypocrites, it’s not because of the xenophobia that he mentioned during his WWE title run. Instead, it was how fans want change in the WWE but then cheer for Randy Orton. He’s still not wrong.

Bobby Roode came out to do his spiel. Then came Orton, who told Jinder that people don’t respect him because without Sunil Singh, he kind of sucks. I appreciate the bluntness of Randy Orton.

This fired up Mahal, who tossed Sunil into Roode and Orton and fled to the outside of the ring to posture. That’s pretty good heeling. The Viper and Glorious One then took turns showing each other up by beating up Sunil Singh.

This was all fine. I find it difficult to get invested in any of these three enough to have any real investment in this match, but this segment was good enough.


The Unstoppable Bludgeoners

Jimmy Uso challenged Harper this week as the Usos continue to seek some revenge against the Bludgeon Brothers.

Jimmy had some fight in him and both partners tried to get involved making for some exciting moments. But alas, Harper picked up the win as the Bludge Bros continue to dominate.

While this was just a short match to get this story representation, it was still pretty damn fun. After the match, Jey dragged his brother out of the ring to avoid a very likely post-match beat down, which was a small detail I enjoyed.


Battle Royal Bits

Becky Lynch and Naomi picked up a win over the Riott Squad. Unfortunately, when superstars are in a battle royal at the upcoming PPV, they end up in meaningless matches like these.

Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger in a quick TV match. There was a botch on the End of Days at the end, but they recovered fine and it was a rather inconsequential match anyway. Both men are in the Andre this year.


I could be biased because of how happy I am that Daniel Bryan is back, but this was a great episode of SmackDown. Bryan’s emotional opening promo fed into the vile attack that closed the show perfectly. The rest of the bits on the show, while may not have been as impactful, were all pretty good.

Grade: A

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