After an extremely eventful pay per view event on Sunday night at Hell In A Cell, this week's edition of WWE SmackDown Live was one of the most anticipated in several weeks.
Sami Zayn shocked the wrestling world at Hell In A Cell by giving Kevin Owens an assist and helping him defeat Shane McMahon. Did Zayn explain his actions? He sure did, and then some.
The Usos recaptured the WWE tag team titles, which wasn't all that surprising given the hot streak they have been on lately. Did they lay the groundwork to continue their feud with the New Day? Or are they on to something fresh?
And what about Shinsuke Nakamura, who once again came up short trying to capture the WWE Championship.
All of the above points were addressed this week on SmackDown Live, so let's get to five things we learned on the show.
1. A Moment of Respect and A Truce (Uce)
The new SmackDown tag team champions, the Usos, started off the show by making their way out to the ring with microphones in hand. They weren't simply coming out to gloat, however, as they quickly called out the New Day to the ring.
The Usos then talked about what a great match the two teams had at Hell In A Cell and how they run the tag team division. Both teams agreed that nobody else in the SmackDown tag division can compare with either of them. The Usos spoke about how beat up they were after the match and how the New Day are the only ones who can possibly understand what they are going through.
The teams ended up shaking hands in mid-ring for a moment of respect, reminiscent of what happened on RAW back in 1999 after the Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian had tore the house down at No Mercy the night before in a ladder match.
This was also clearly a set-up for something fresh for the Usos, as I've been predicting would happen following Hell In A Cell if you've been reading these columns here on PopCulture. Mojo and Zack Ryder, Shelton and Gable, The Ascension, and Breezango all ended up interrupting the segment saying they'd like a title shot. This brought out Daniel Bryan to make a fatal four-way match between the teams to determine the new tag team number one contenders.
Following a pretty good bout that teased a Hype Bros break-up, Benjamin and Gable emerged victorious. No real shock here, easily the best babyface tag team that could feud with a heel Usos team (though wouldn't be shocked to see a double turn given how the Usos played nice guys with the New Day). Coming off a great series with the New Day, Gable and Benjamin are the type of guys that can give the Usos a fresh series of matches that shouldn't disappoint.
2. No New Direction For The WWE Championship
Two days after successfully defending his championship against Shinsuke Nakamura, Jinder Mahal was not on this week's SmackDown.
Instead, we got an odd tag team matching pitting Nakamura and Randy Orton against Rusev and Aiden English. There was no set-up for this or anything, it just kind of happened. It started off decent with Rusev getting tossed over the announce table by Orton, which the fans popped for. And then pretty much nothing of note happened until this finish: Orton gave Rusev an RKO and Nakamura gave English the Kinshasa and picked up the pinfall.
Interesting that Orton again lays out Rusev, who continues to be done no favors by the booking committee in favor of a guy who peaked a decade ago. Nakamura and English have no reason to be wrestling, so this was just kind of there.
Based on a tweet from Triple H last week, Mahal was sent to India following Hell In A Cell to promote the WWE's tour coming up over there. That also means they knew far ahead of time that Mahal wouldn't be on this show and this match was still thrown at us out of nowhere.
3. So This Is Going To Continue
The fact that Bobby Roode excels as a heel but has become a middling babyface because of a popular theme song is only the second worst part about his main roster run so far. The worst part is that he is stuck in a feud with Dolph Ziggler.
This Ziggler character gets worse week after week. The way he comes out and obviously doesn't care about losing nearly every week for the last, oh, 67 years, reminds me of the way Kevin Nash used to come out and give promos with zero emotion and a lackadaisical tone during Nitro. The difference there, of course, is Nash actually was a gigantic star.
But Dolph doesn't care about losing apparently because he has good matches? Wins and losses don't matter because he's a great performer, according to this character. Are we supposed to be acknowledging during an angle that this is all just a performance now? Because in what universe is someone great who loses nearly every time out?
Yes, Ziggler is talented between the ropes, very talented in fact, but his character is beyond dead and sticking Roode in a long-term feud with him is the kiss of death for yet another NXT star on the main roster. Run, Bobby, run.
4. A Rekindled Friendship
The Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens friendship is back. Zayn explained his motives for helping Owens merge victorious at Hell In A Cell.
The best part? It all made logical sense.
Sami went through a timeline of events that lead to him making the decision that he did. He talked about being the nice guy but getting nothing in return while watching his friends (Owens) succeed to such a high level. He talked about Shane McMahon's false promises in bringing him to SmackDown. He talked about Shane brushing off his warning backstage when it came to wrestling Owens. And lastly, he talked about how Shane had the match won on Sunday but cared more about ending Kevin's career by trying to come off the top of the cage.
All of this lead to him helping out Owens because it was the right thing to do, in his mind.
This was great. The best heel storylines are the ones where, even if you don't like it, you can see why they did what they did. The Zayn angle is relatable, because we've all seen him as a talented performer continue to be underitilized on the main roster.
This is fresh, this is well scripted, and it's well executed. I'm a big fan and can't wait to see where it all goes from here.
5. A Clean Victory Over Styles For The New Champ
Following AJ Styles' loss of the U.S. title to Baron Corbin at Hell In A Cell, Styles was granted a rematch at SmackDown. The bout main evented the show and was given a decent amount of time to showcase each man's skill set.
In the end, Corbin got a clean victory over Styles, firmly entrenching him as a force to be reckoned with as the new U.S. champion. Following Styles locking the Calf Crusher, Corbin grabbed Styles and threw him hard into the mat to break the hold. Corbin then went on to hit the End of Days and gain the pinfall in the center of the ring.
Renee Young came in the ring to interview Corbin, and this was a rare moment where a heel running down the live crowd was the last thing on the broadcast. Part of me wondered if a new challenger would emerge to surprise the crowd and send them home happy, but no such luck this week.
Corbin told the fans that they can "cry, cry, cry" and he'll sail down a river of their tears.