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Shane McMahon helps Kevin Owens pin WWE Champion

Daniel Bryan commissions a tournament for the vacated United States Championship and a main event featuring Kevin Owens.  Is the runaway general manager causing a frustrated Shane McMahon to make mistakes?

Daniel Bryan kicked off Smackdown Live from Chicago by declaring that Dolph Ziggler is no longer the U.S. Champion after informally relinquishing the belt last week.  An unexpected error by Shane McMahon benefits Kevin Owens and may lead to future repercussions for Bryan.  Meanwhile the Women’s division continues the chaotic journey towards the first ever all female Royal Rumble match.

As McMahon and Bryan continue to have diplomatic disagreements backstage, how long until we see a showdown between the two authority figures?

Tag Team Turbulence

Before Daniel Bryan could name the participants in his tournament he was confronted with another pressing championship situation.  Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin interrupted and proceeded to stake their claim as the number one contenders to the Smackdown Live Tag Team Championships.

I’m not sure why Gable and Benjamin seem to be playing heels right now.  Their “gimmick” is being great wrestlers which is akin to Daniel Bryan’s appeal when he was active.

It is important to note that the Chicago crowd levied deafening Rusev chants throughout the entire opening segment.  But when the warm baritone of Aiden English heralded the arrival of the Bulgarian Brute and declared the day after Christmas Rusev Day the crowd absolutely popped.

Both teams have each won matches over the current tag team champions and have legitimate claims face the Usos for tag team gold.  When the New Day also made their entrance Daniel Bryan finally made a triple threat tag team match to do decide which team was worthy.

This was an exhilarating match.

Each team had significant play here and debuted innovative offensive maneuvers as the momentum constantly shifted.  The highlight had to be when Rusev applied the Accolade to both Xavier Woods and Chad Gable simultaneously.  Unfortunately Rusev and English did not prevail.  Gable and Benjamin were able to pull out a pinfall victory over New Day to cement themselves as the true number one contenders to the Usos next week.

The Odd Couple

Sane McMahon communicated to Bryan that he was bothered by being compared to his father last week.

McMahon questioned Bryan’s motives in putting Kevin Owens in the main event against AJ Styles and also creating the aforementioned US title tournament.  Bryan played true to his character advising that he wanted to create an opportunity for more Superstars with his tournament.

Weekly Bryan seems to continue to invent ways to promote Kevin Owens despite his insufferable behavior.  Although it does not seem as if Bryan is in league with Owens or Sami Zayn it is clearly starting to irritate McMahon.

After considering Bryan’s explanation Shane McMahon simply replied “okay”.

This is the second week in a row that after voicing concern McMahon has taken a back seat to Bryan’s decision making.  I cannot help but feel there is something brewing here.  Whether or not this will come to a head at the Royal Rumble or continue to build to some kind of Wrestlemania showdown.

Fashionable Friends

The Bludgeon Brothers once again decimated Breezango.

There were several times where the Fashion Police could have been easily been dispensed.  However the hellish heels elected to toy with their prey by breaking their own pinfalls to deliver more damage.

Surprisingly, the Ascension came out to intervene on behalf of Breezango causing a disqualification and rushed their friends safely to the locker room.  The Ascension later challenged the Bludgeon Brothers to a rematch on behalf of Breezango to their dismay.

The Bludgeon Brothers continue to look dominant while a new dynamic seems to be taking shape between Ascension and Breezango.

A Royal Riott?

Ruby Riott scored an upset victory over Naomi aided by distractions from her Riott Squad.

This is how the group should continue to be booked.  Fans can get behind hatred for a band of goons who use the numbers game to their advantage.  These up and coming superstars can also continue to score victories over established talent without making anyone look weak. Once the stable has been solidified as a dominant heel faction other talent can rise up to overthrow them, creating a new hero.

I would go as far to say the women’s battle royal should feature the Riott Squad cleaning house for a stretch and possibly showcase a showdown with their Raw counterparts in Absolution.

While still green, Riott looked good in this match.

The segment broke down after the match as the Women’s locker room emptied to give us a taste of the highly anticipated Women’s Royal Rumble Match.

Round One: Bobby Roode vs Baron Corbin…Again

Although this short rivalry is tired the two had a sufficient first round match in the United States Championship tournament.

Roode thankfully caught Corbin in a roll up for a sudden pinfall victory. The tricky way in which Roode won is in line with his character and demonstrates that tournament matches can be spontaneous.  Roode’s character continues to be under utilized however and Corbin lacks charisma.

Fortunately the match is part of a bigger picture.  Tournaments historically serve to create awesome stories and elevate talent that may wonder in the deep mid-card otherwise.

Hopefully Roode can move on and become a bigger player in the main roster.

Round One: Jinder Mahal vs Tye Dillinger

No surprises here as Jinder Mahal defeated Tye Dillinger using some less than savory tactics.

As Dillinger climbed the ropes Mahal kicked his legs out from under him.  The Modern Day Maharaja delivered the Koloss.  So far the tournament is two for two for finishes that fit the character of the victor.

So far so good for the United States Championship.

A Phenomenal Mistake

AJ Styles and Kevin Owens rehashed their feud from earlier this year in a top notch match.

Sami Zayn provided a momentary distraction which prompted Shane McMahon to emerge form backstage and eject Zayn from ringside.  During the excitement Styles had rolled up Owens for what would have been a victory had the referee not been distracted with carrying out McMahon’s orders.  As the official turned his attention back to the match Owens acted quickly to roll up Styles for the victory.

McMahon will most likely attempt to pin this unintended outcome on Bryan for failing to remove Sami Zayn from the equation before the match.  Bryan will point out that McMahon interjected himself into the match and created the opportunity for Owens to steal a victory.

Both are correct.

This will keep fans guessing who is going to be the first to crack and take out their frustrations on the other as the tensions continue to build.  The question is how long are we going to wait?  Also could this be the path for an in-ring return for Daniel Bryan?

We have the Royal Rumble around the corner and Wrestlemania not too far away after that.  April would give WWE enough time to make up their mind regarding Bryan as contention about his health continues to fuel internet rumors.  Either pay per view would allow time to create an even more captivating story as well. 

Don’t let us down.


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