Here's what you need to know about Tuesday's edition of SmackDown Live in a nutshell: We didn't learn much. The episode was more or less pro forma as far as go-home shows, and it didn't really stimulate much more interest in Sunday's Extreme Rules pay-per-view.
But it was entertaining.
It won't come as much of a surprise, though, that on a night in which AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura revisited their ongoing rivalry, it was Daniel Bryan who again was the ace of the two-hour adventure, as he ended the show with a pin against a quintet of villains in a 10-man tag team.
Team Hell No joined the New Day to face off against SAnitY and the Bludgeon Brothers. It some ways, this was another lazy way of throwing a pool of performers into the ring at once to avoid one person standing out too much or looking weak, create chaos and endeavor to add some heat to their respective feuds.
But on the flip side, there was at least a clean ending to this main event. It was a highly entertaining match in which Bryan and Kane got in a few licks on their forthcoming foes in Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, while the New Day, who will face SAnitY in the Extreme Rules Kickoff Show, had some explosive spots of their own. Ultimately, Bryan knocked Eric Young silly with a running knee kick to the head for the three-count. An amusing moment followed in which Bryan, who was halfway back down the ramp, attempted channeled his partner's demon-like abilities to create lightning bolts by thrusting his arms downward. It took Bryan three tries before his divine powers finally worked.
- WWE (@WWE) July 11, 2018
The reality is that 75 percent of go-home shows are essentially promotional tools. Sure, you get your occasional one-offs like the Raw before Elimination Chamber in February, but the boilerplate affairs typically add little value.
Still, take it for what it's worth. Throw in a few "Yes!" chants as the curtains close and everyone goes home happy. The irreverent dynamic between Bryan and Kane continued Tuesday, as early in the show, the WWE creative team attempted to forge more doubt that they can co-exist or, more specifically, that Kane has Bryan's best interests at heart. But he did, and considering Bryan had little direction for some time outside the blue brand's popular cheerleader, any speculation that a swerve might be in play now that he has reunited with Kane doesn't seem to make much sense.
The only question is whether the creative team is ready to take the belts off the Bludgeon Brothers, who have not exactly strung together a memorable run, despite dominating the tag-team scene since winning the championship at WrestleMania. Is it too early to hand over the gold to Bryan and Kane?
As longtime veterans of the ring, Hell No could easily carry the tag-team torches for some time, if anything to keep Bryan relevant in the inner sanctum of the show. But it's hard to imagine Harper and Rowan maintaining their momentum very long, should they lose. Simply, their shtick does not resonate and neither has the charisma to keep the duo in the spotlight. It's a tough call to make, for sure.
With all these moving parts unfolding, perhaps lost in the disarray was the growing tension between Bryan and The Miz, who began Tuesday's show by interviewing team Hell No.
"Your history is impressive," Miz said of Bryan and Kane. "You're a well-oiled machine. I never thought I would see day [you got back together] -- like Justin Timberlake reunited with NSYNC." (To which Kane reminded Miz that Timberlake is too big a star to get back with his former band.)
"I know this is going to implode. Kane will betray you," The Miz continued. The sentiments incensed Bryan, who promptly began calming breathing techniques, thanks to advice from Kane ("breathe from the diaphragm") to help alleviate the anger. Later, The Miz brazenly told Bryan he can no longer hang with him in the ring. No question we'll find out soon enough whether that's true. But first, Bryan and his demon partner have some gold to try and win to come Sunday.
Hits and misses
At this point, the idea of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura squaring off in the ring has run its course. But they put on a solid showing Tuesday before Rusev, who was ringside and who will take on Styles at Extreme Rules, predictably interfered. The abrupt ending led to fisticuffs, which led to Nakamura's opponent Sunday, Jeff Hardy, to make his way to the ring. General manager Paige then appeared from the backstage and called for a tag-team match between the four of them. It was short and somewhat sweet, ending with a Rusev Machka Kick to Hardy for the win.
It's hard not to be amused by Ellsworth, whose cheeky side spawns a few laughs. Before his lumberjack match against Asuka, he was shown backstage attempting one pushup, then two sit-ups before redlining. During the match, he tried his best to escape the Empress of Tomorrow, but when the lumberjacks weren't brawling on their own, they were tossing Ellsworth back in the ring. A losing Ellsworth got some revenge, when afterward, he sprayed Asuka with pepper spray, allowing the champ Carmella to get in a few chops of her own on her upcoming opponent.
But Ellsworth would not have the last laugh. Paige announced that he would be locked in a shark cage during the Asuka-Carmella championship bout Sunday. The added stipulation only lends more support that the title will change hands in a few days' time.
Easily the match with the fewest ramifications was the best of the night as Andrade "Cien" Almas beat longtime rival Sin Cara in a high-flying, exciting match. The two former luchadors have fantastic chemistry, and while this was their first televised bout, they have squared off more than 10 times in house shows in recent weeks. Sin Cara was explosive, with diving takedowns through the ropes, sunset flips, and a sweet reverse hurricanrana. In the end, Almas ended the match with a double-knee strike to Sin Cara's mug for the win. Let's see these two get more spotlight, please.
- WWE (@WWE) July 11, 2018
We'll have our full set of predictions come Friday, but if we had to guess one title that will absolutely change hands, it has to be Nakamura taking the United States championship from Hardy. If he's not going to have the WWE title anytime soon, Nakamura deserves some hardware -- and what better scenario than Sunday against a veteran opponent who doesn't have a bona fide rival or storyline at the moment?