Date: March 20, 2018
Location: American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX
The Big Takeaway --
They didn’t waste any time getting Daniel Bryan back in action. Bryan announced his return in the opening segment but did not announce exactly when he would return to the ring. Later in the show, he fired Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn for what they did to Shane McMahon.
This led to Owens and Zayn attacking Bryan, who made his own comeback. The crowd erupted as Bryan hit much of his trademark offense (kicks, running dropkicks and a German suplex) but he was eventually swarmed by Owens and Zayn. Finally, Owens gave Bryan a powerbomb on the apron and the show ended with Bryan getting placed on a stretcher.
Show Recap --
The show started with a quick video package covering Daniel Bryan’s big win at WrestleMania 30, his retirement and the news of his return. They cut to the live crowd, already chanting “Yes.”
Bryan came out to a huge reaction. The announcers gave him a standing ovation and the crowd loudly chanted for Bryan. He didn’t let them go for too long before saying thank you.
He talked about the serious beating Shane McMahon received last week but the two responsible parties weren’t here yet, so he would address them later. He then cheered up and said, “I’m gonna talk about something else!”
He talked about how depressing it was having to retire two years ago, but he wanted to remain focused on being grateful. He spoke about his supportive friends, family and the best fans in the world.
He choked up when bringing up his wife. She told him it was great that he was grateful, but he needed to fight for his dreams. She’s the one who pushed him to see specialists. Every time he received a good review from a specialist, she’d encourage him to see another. The crowd chanted, “Thank you, Brie.”
She encouraged him to fight, so he did. There were times he wanted to quit. Bryan then fired up when talking about Brie pushing him to keep fighting. “Every hard thing seems impossible until it becomes real.” He asked WWE to take another look at his case, so they sent him to the best specialists and they all said the same thing -- “You are cleared.” The crowd chanted “Yes.”
Bryan said it seemed impossible he would get cleared, but now it’s real. He thanked the WWE and their doctors because they looked at him as a person, not a wrestler. He also thanked them for giving the case a second look. He thanked every fan here and at home for supporting him the entire time.
Lastly, Bryan thanked Brie, saying no one could understand how much she supported him and he was forever grateful.
Bryan said it was time to move on to the fun stuff. He didn’t know where or when he would return and people started people to the sign, and a big “Wrestlemania” chant broke out. Bryan looked at the sign. He asked the crowd if that was a good idea and they chanted Yes.
Bryan said he didn’t know if that would happen for sure, but knew he would return to the ring and led the crowd in another Yes chant. They played his music, he waived to the crowd and left.
After a break, Charles Robinson congratulated Bryan. Bryan asked Robinson to notify him when Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn arrive. Bryan was then approached by Ziggler, who congratulated him, but then added, “I can’t wait to beat you.” Bryan smiled and said he could try.
Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev (w/Aiden English) (7:47)
AJ Styles watched the match from ringside. Tom Phillips said his Mania match with Nakamura was 20 years in the making. They did not acknowledge Styles’ injury.
Rusev had control through a break until Nakamura came back with a flying kick, strikes, kicks to the chest and face. Rusev slipped out of a Kinshasa attempt and hit a kick to the head for a nearfall. They traded kick attempts until Nakamura caught him with a flying armbar. After a few more counters, Nakamura rolled up Rusev for the pinfall win.
English immediately attacked Nakamura from behind afterwards. English and Rusev put the boots to him as Styles slowly rose to his feet. Styles took his time taking off his vest, and as he did, Nakamura made his own come back and took out both guys. He smiled and bowed at Styles, who appeared somewhat annoyed.
They aired a video package for Asuka. Natalya approached Charlotte Flair backstage and accused her of being afraid. Charlotte said she was excited for her greatest challenge. Natalya claimed she was better than both of them. She said Asuka stole her WrestleMania moment and she’s only undefeated because they haven’t had a match yet. Natalya knows Charlotte can’t beat Asuka. Charlotte let Natalya know they have a match tonight and Natalya was happy with this. Natalya left and the camera focused on Charlotte who stared off into the abyss.
Nakamura approached Styles backstage and told him that he didn’t need him tonight. Styles said, “Yeah, I know, I was out there.” Nakamura was about to say something, but Styles cut him off and said, “You’re going to beat me at Wrestlemania, right?” Nakamura responded, “You should have more confidence,” which got a laugh from the crowd. He told Styles he would beat him with a knee-to-face and Styles was upset.
I like Nakamura antagonizing Styles but they need a better response from Styles sooner than later.
Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger (2:29)
They messed up the finish. Dillinger came off the top and Corbin caught him, went for End of Days, but Dillinger didn’t quite go up right for it and they had to stop what they were doing. Corbin held him in place in a front facelock then tossed him from the ring. He brought Dillinger back in the ring and hit End of Days for the win. Not sure you can blame one over the other on the botched finish, but Corbin did the best he could to recover.
That was just the 9th TV match for Dillinger since last September (if you include the Fastlane kickoff show) and the 6th involving Corbin.
Non-title match: Natalya defeated Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair (14:06)
Charlotte did not get an entrance and Natalya’s entrance was wrapping up as they came back from break.
Charlotte went to the top but Natalya grabbed her and hit a nice spinning sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall. Natalya applied the Sharpshooter but Charlotte got a rope break. Natalya followed with a discus clothesline for two. Charlotte went for the Figure Eight for the second time in the match but Natalya kicked her out of the ring.
Charlotte speared Natalya on the outside then applied the Figure Four in the ring. They rolled toward the ropes which resulted in Charlotte using the move while hanging from the apron (visually similar to Bret Hart doing the move between the ring post). Charlotte went to the top but Natalya cut her off again and hit a superplex.
Carmella’s music hit and she ran down with a referee. Before she could officially cash in, Charlotte nailed her with a big boot. Natalya then rolled up Charlotte and got the pinfall win. Good match. The announcers told the story that Charlotte has more than Asuka to worry about at WrestleMania.
Tom Phillips gave us an update on Shane McMahon’s fake-sounding injuries and said he was resting at home. After a break, they showed news coverage of Bryan’s return announcement.
Harper (w/Rowan) defeated Jimmy Uso (w/Jey Uso)
The Usos cut a promo before the match, letting the Bludgeon Brothers know they weren’t afraid and would continue to do whatever it took to remain champions. There was more to it than that, but this was another strong Uso promo.
Jimmy went for a dive but Rowan jumped on the apron to stop him. The distraction allowed Jey to give Harper a superkick and Jimmy gave him another one for a nearfall. Jimmy’s momentum didn’t last long though, as Harper nailed him with a discus clothesline for the win. (The match started during a break but it was no more than 4 minutes.)
Jinder Mahal (with Sunil Singh) came out for a promo. He called the fans hypocrites for booing him. He said he could be doing anything else with his millions of dollars and could be the biggest star in Bollywood with his physique. Mahal claimed he brought prestige back to the WWE Championship and made Smackdown the premier show. He said the fans should worship him and Bobby Roode interrupted.
Roode said the only thing he deserved was getting beat so Roode could win back the US Title. Roode was about to call it Glorious but Randy Orton interrupted. Orton told Mahal to shut up. Orton said people don’t respect Mahal and don’t ever mention his name when discussing the greatest champions ever because without his little stooge, he sucks.
Mahal amped up like he was ready to fight but instead pushed Sunil in his place and bailed. Orton gave Sunil a draping DDT and set up for an RKO, but Roode jumped in and gave Sunil a Glorious DDT instead. Roode went for a DDT on Orton, but Orton countered and went for an RKO and Roode countered that too. They stared each other down as Mahal watched and the crowd chanted RKO.
Becky Lynch & Naomi defeated Sarah Logan & Liv Morgan (w/Ruby Riott) (2:38)
Lynch won quickly with the Disarmer on Logan. Morgan tried to break up the submission but Naomi knocked her out of the ring and Logan tapped.
Sasha Banks, Lynch, Naomi, Logan, Morgan and Riott are all official for the Women’s Battle Royal at Mania.
Backstage, a producer let Bryan know that Owens and Zayn have arrived. Bryan said he would meet them in the ring.
Daniel Bryan came to the ring and called out Owens and Zayn. Owens and Zayn entered and they appeared giddy. They each hugged Bryan upon entering the ring. Owens said they weren’t going to be here tonight until they heard the news that Bryan was cleared.
Owens said they raced to the arena but were late because they got pulled over by Walker, Texas Ranger for exceeding the speed limit by 10-15 mph. Owens said they talked their way out of it because “everything is dumber in Texas.”
Zayn said Bryan understood them and stuck up for them after everything that happened and he jumped up and down in excitement at the idea of Bryan’s return to the ring. He didn’t care about the Raw vs. Smackdown, “A” show vs. “B” show debate, because any show with the three of them was a dream show and said that they could be a dream team.
Bryan said he wasn’t out there for that and showed a replay of the beating they gave Shane. Owens and Zayn laughed at the replay. Owens said they got carried away a bit and Zayn said Shane kind of deserved it. Bryan said they don’t get it.
Bryan said they were two of the best and Shane was right when he said he was living vicariously through them. But they assaulted their boss. Not only that, they had already won--Shane admitted he was wrong and granted them a match at WrestleMania.
Bryan asked them to imagine if someone told them they would have a match at WrestleMania back when the three of them were wrestling in front of 300 people. They also would’ve had Bryan in their corner with Shane leaving. But now he has no choice. Bryan mentioned that he had been fired twice before by WWE. He fired them.
Bryan said this doesn’t mean they’re gone forever, but they are gone for now. Bryan said they meant a lot to him and offered a handshake. The crowd sang the goodbye song. They both shook his hand.
Owens then ran and knocked Bryan down. Zayn mounted him and punched him in the head. Bryan knocked down Zayn and kicked away at Owens. He killed Zayn with a snap German then gave both guys running dropkicks. The crowd went wild for this.
He kicked the crap out of Owens until Zayn made the save. Zayn held Bryan and Owens gave him a superkick. Zayn then gave him a Helluva kick. The crowd booed and chanted “you suck.”
They yanked Bryan out of the ring as officials pleaded with them to stop. Owens gave Bryan a powerbomb on the apron. Owens and Zayn backed off as EMTs ran down with a stretcher and the crowd chanted, “You’re still fired.”
Final Thoughts --
Count me among the many who have missed Daniel Bryan greatly the past two years and it’s incredible watching the crowd erupt as he beats the crap out of people, even if it was just briefly tonight. Welcome back.