With a little under three weeks to go until WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, the SmackDown Live brand received one hell of a jolt on Tuesday with the news that. Understandably, Tuesday's show centered around the SmackDown Live general manager and his dealings with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, two men who are in some hot water after what they pulled on commissioner Shane McMahon last week.
And let's just say it didn't take long to see Bryan get back to working in the squared circle.
Owens and Zayn welcome Bryan back
SmackDown opened Tuesday with a video package detailing Bryan's retirement speech from 2016, followed by the announcement earlier in the day that he has been cleared to return to the ring. Then ... it was time. Bryan made his way out to officially kick off the show to an amazing pop from the crowd in Dallas. Then, of course, he was serenaded by "YES!" chants from the fans. After announcing that the two men he needed to address -- Owens and Zayn -- weren't at the building yet, Bryan went on to discuss his return to the squared circle.
In what was an amazing speech -- as is expected from him -- Bryan went on to thank the WWE doctors, fans and his wife Brie Bella. The now-cleared Bryan was quick to point out how effective his wife was in pushing him to do all he needed to return to his passion. To end the opening segment, Bryan pondered when he could step into the ring for the first time since his retirement, which prompted the crowd in attendance to point to the hanging WrestleMania sign while chanting the event's name.
Bryan began the final segment of the show by inviting Owens and Zayn down to the ring, and the two buddies came out to hug the GM in the squared circle. Owens admitted they weren't originally going to attend the show with McMahon no longer in charge as commissioner, but when they heard the news Bryan was returning, they just had to rush over to the arena. Zayn then took the mic and praised Bryan for being the only person to stick up for him and Owens when no one else would, before stating the three of them would work well together as a team.
They were thanked for all the love, but Bryan then wanted to point to the reason they were brought out to the ring on as he showed last week's attack of McMahon on the Titantron. Owens and Zayn laughed before Bryan pointed out how serious of a matter the attack really was last week. Bryan admitted that he was living vicariously through the two as they competed while he couldn't, but assaulting the boss was going too far. Ultimately, Bryan couldn't understand their actions last week given that they got everything they wanted -- such as a WrestleMania match as well as McMahon no longer in charge.
Bryan then fired Owens and Zayn. Naturally, the two best friends went on the attack before departing from the building, and in his first appearance since being cleared, Bryan got some nice licks in as he was fighting off the duo. But the 2-on-1 disadvantage was too much for Bryan to overcome, and the show closed on Tuesday with Owens and Zayn handing their former general manager a beating on their way out the door.
Well, it certainly didn't take Bryan long to start getting those bumps in, huh? Although, the apron bomb seen above made me a tad uneasy, but it's still going to take some time getting used to seeing Bryan endure some of that physicality on a regular basis again. That aside, Tuesday was Bryan's night and his alone, and all of it was magical from that incredible show-opening promo to seeing him bump around in that ring. It's truly a joy to have him back for active competition, and there's no question he'll be ready to put on a show -- likely with McMahon as his partner -- at WrestleMania after he eventually reinstates Owens and Zayn so he can get his hands on them for the act they just committed.
What else happened on SmackDown?
- Shinsuke Nakamura def. Rusev via pinfall: Following the pin, Aiden English entered the ring so he and Rusev could put the beat down on Nakamura. WWE champion AJ Styles was scouting on the outside, and as he got up from his seat to potentially help out his WrestleMania opponent, Nakamura promptly disposed of "Rusev Day," showing Styles that he can take care of himself. The WrestleMania WWE championship feud is taking a bit of a backseat on this Tuesday night, but given the Bryan news, that's completely understandable. Backstage, Nakamura once again reminded Styles that he's gonna beat him at WrestleMania ... with a knee to the face, of course.
- Baron Corbin def. Tye Dillinger via pinfall: Corbin earned the win in a quick match with the End of Days. Well, the second End of Days, actually. There was a pretty horrific botch on the first attempt which forced the two to regroup for a few seconds, but the second attempt went much smoother.
- Natalya def. Charlotte Flair via pinfall: Flair and Natalya had themselves a solid back-and-forth, hard-hitting matchup, but it was interrupted by women's Money in the Bank briefcase holder Carmella. Flair was able to stop Carmella from cashing in but that attempt led to her getting rolled up by Nattie for the 1-2-3. While everyone is looking forward to the Flair vs. Asuka showdown at WrestleMania, they're doing a good job of reminding everyone that Carmella and her briefcase are a factor.
- Luke Harper def. Jimmy Uso via pinfall: Harper was able to pick up the victory after a devastating discus clothesline, keeping the Bludgeon Brothers looking strong. There was no official SmackDown tag team championship match announced for WrestleMania, but one would assume that should be coming shortly.
- United States championship match segment: It was announced earlier that Randy Orton would defend the title against Jinder Mahal and Bobby Roode at WrestleMania. Mahal made his way to the ring to rant about what he deserves, but he was eventually interrupted by Roode. Just as Roode was about to one-up Mahal on the microphone, the champion made his way out to the squared circle. Orton proceeded to tell Mahal that he simply sucks, then the former WWE champion bolted from the ring, sacrificing Sunil Singh in the process. Singh ate a DDT from Orton, before Roode swooped in to hit a Glorious DDT just as Orton was about to land the RKO.
- Becky Lynch & Naomi def. Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan via submission: Lynch got the win for her team with the Dis-Arm-Her on Logan. This match was simply a promotion for the inaugural women's battle royal coming our way in New Orleans.