Tuesday's episode of SmackDown Live served as a way to accomplish two goals.
First, it served as a pre-"go-home" show going to Extreme Rules. Jeff Hardy and Shinsuke Nakamura for the U.S. title was added to the pay-per-view card, and there was a continued build in hyping up feuds for the WWE championship (AJ Styles vs. Rusev) and the SmackDown women's championship (Carmella vs. Asuka).
WWE made a serious effort to remind of everyone of how this unlikely pairing of Bryan and Kane got together six years ago, and how they further defied the odds by being so entertaining. Although there weren't any Dr. Shelby sightings on Tuesday night (though he did, of course, return Monday to try to work with Bayley and Sasha Banks), we got video montages showing their love-hate relationship, along with their early claims in which each declared, "I am the tag team champions."
Often in WWE, fans are expected to have a limited memory -- which is why certain illogical stories come together. So let's give credit to the creative team for not only going into the vault to show all the video of the team's best moments, but also allowing for Bryan's recollection of everything that's happened since they broke up as a team five years ago.
Like the fact that the last time the two of them were in the ring together, Kane was giving him the Tombstone Piledriver on the floor, table and stairs, and even tried to abduct his wife, Brie. As if to hammer home the usual path WWE takes in thinking fans forget anything more than a few months ago, Bryan closed out his promo by asking, "Wait, am I the only one who remembers this?"
The script was a little clunky at times, but it showed a respect for the fan who follows WWE closely and remembers that was Bryan's last feud before being forced into retirement. It also helped remind everyone of the dual awkwardness and humor Bryan and Kane thrived on as a tag team.
A lot of fans might be ready for Bryan's immediate placement in the WWE championship picture, but the place he holds right now on the card put him in both the opening and closing segment of SmackDown. It also makes The Bludgeon Brothers the most relevant and interesting they've been since reuniting as a tag team, and that says something because they were fast-tracked into becoming the SmackDown tag champions.
What this hopefully won't lead to is another Kane-Daniel Bryan feud. Kane, for all he's done in WWE, doesn't feel like a legitimate threat as a solo act anymore -- especially against someone like Bryan, who has been red hot since his comeback with the crowd. A Kane feud not only has a predictable story arc, but could potentially kill the crowd's enthusiasm for Bryan. Remember what happened after WrestleMania 30, when Bryan faced Kane after becoming WWE champion?
Bryan's road eventually runs into The Miz, and it's a good thing that they didn't rush to do that ASAP upon his comeback -- it's a moment and a rivalry that's worth saving for a major show like SummerSlam or even as far away as WrestleMania.
For now, let's remember the last time Bryan won the tag titles with Kane. It helped Bryan fully connect with the crowd, and a championship reign wasn't far behind. It seems that this partnership could again serve the same purpose, as long as it's not speedbumped by a rivalry with the Big Red Machine once all is said and done.
Hits and Misses
-- There were a lot of ways a match between Asuka and James Ellsworth could've gone wrong, and not many ways it could've been done right. Ellsworth running away leading to an attack by Carmella was one of the best-case scenarios, even if it didn't do a great job of highlighting Asuka. A lumberjack match next week will seemingly allow for Asuka to get a true measure of revenge.
They used flashback video of the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs "Battle of the Sexes" to get us ready for Asuka vs. Ellsworth. I'm all about tongue-in-cheek presentations, but please don't let this end next week with an Ellsworth victory, even with any and all of the Carmella interference that's sure to come.
-- Sign me up for a New Day-SAnitY feud. The New Day has stayed really relevant and fun without being in the tag title picture, and their six-man tag matches rarely disappoint. The pancake-eating contest was never going to end well.
-- On the flip side, despite being in the main event, The Usos have dropped back among the pack in the SmackDown tag team division. The Usos-New Day feud was some of the best 2017 had to offer, but The Usos have been rudderless since losing the titles. Their combination of mic and in-ring skills begs for more use in a loaded SmackDown tag team division -- but another title opportunity wasn't to be as they lost to Bryan and Kane in Tuesday's main event.
-- AJ Styles defeated Aiden English, and we got a little bit closer to Rusev's forthcoming WWE title shot.