Anyone who thinks WWE officials don't view Daniel Bryan and Kane as key players in the company obviously didn't watch Friday night's Smackdown.
The Tag Team Champions were featured on the show from top to bottom and brought some humor and light-hearted fun to the show.
Many have questioned the decision to hot-shot this team to the titles ahead of other teams who were being built up, ala the Prime Time Players, but I personally applaud WWE for striking when the iron was hot.
A comedy-based gimmick like the one Bryan and Kane are doing could just as easily flop as succeed, but these two have embraced the situation and created gold -- as well as bronze.
And in the process of taking over Smackdown, they helped several other teams gain exposure. Their main-event match against Damien Sandow and Cody Rhodes, who defeated both champs in singles action earlier in the night, featured The Usos, the Prime Time Players and Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd as lumberjacks. The only duo missing was Kofi Kingston and R-Truth.
That match alone got five teams exposure on television and may have been the turning point in establishing Rhodes and Sandow as a real team rather than occasional partners. The tag team division has been undergoing a revitalization lately, and this episode illustrated that point.
On top of that, Bryan got the rub by going toe-to-toe with Hall of Famer Edge, who is a top-notch promo guy himself, on the microphone. Kane got his time in, too, as Edge added another layer to the "Kane's dysfunctional past" storyline. It all culminated in an awkward hug between Kane and Edge, which was great.
All that on top of multiple backstage segments. In total, my best estimations are that they had about 40 minutes of screen time.
The win-loss record for the champs may not have been the brightest spot in their tandem pairing, as they caused each other to lose singles matches against Sandow and Rhodes, and the main event ended in a disqualification when Rhodes hit Kane with a chair, leading to the champs mutually agreeing to just swing for the fences on everyone else with chairs.
The tag-champs-who-don't-get-along angle has been done to death, but it really feels fresh with this duo. Hopefully WWE doesn't overdo it when it comes to segments with these two, which would likely prematurely kill the story.
But if WWE plays its cards right, this could be one of the best angles of this decade, as awkward as that sounds. Right now, Bryan and Punk are challenging CM Punk and John Cena as being the No. 1 reason to tune into the show.
It's still hard to watch Bryan in WWE ring and believe he's actually made it this far. It's unbelievable and sends a clear message to those who said he was destined for failure.
Quick Hits **
It appears a new "Midcard Mafia" was born Friday night, as Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal assaulted Brodus Clay during the Funkasaurus' match with Slater. This group doesn't seem all that imposing, but here's hoping they're really just the underlings for a greater master, say, Antonio Cesaro. Cesaro has long been associated with stables from the Kings of Wrestling to the Bruderschaft Des Kreuzes, so it would be great to see that come into play in WWE.
** Cesaro may have freed himself up to be the leader of such a group, as his affiliation with Aksana has ended. Cesaro's girlfriend and valet cost him a match against Santino Marella, when she injured herself and captured the referee's attention, allowing the former champ to catch the current one with a roll-up. Sadly, this likely means Marella is back in title contention. At least Marella doesn't have a horrible back tattoo like some people who have beaten Cesaro.
** The first-hour main event pitting Sheamus and Randy Orton against Dolph Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio was good and featured some quality in-ring action. The problem is that almost every combination of these pairings has been played to death in recent history in WWE, and the same result always seems to happen. Hopefully all four men now put this all behind them and move on to something new and fresh.
** Layla made quick work of Natalya in a decent divas match. It was too short to really mean anything of substance, but it gave Layla a win back after losing the title to Eve on Sunday. Like most divas matches lately, though, the commentary focused on telling the story of peripheral characters than the action in the ring, which continues to be disappointing.
** There wasn't much to the Kane vs. Sandow match. They kept it really short and simple before the distraction finish. Bryan vs. Rhodes, while also short, was a little faster paced, but it, too, didn't offer much. This isn't a bad thing, though, given what was coming later in the show. Both these bouts were about furthering a story, and that's exactly what they did.
Damien Sandow d. Kane
Layla d. Natalya
Cody Rhodes d. Daniel Bryan
Brodus Clay d. Heath Slater by disqualification
Santino Marella d. Antonio Cesaro
Kane and Daniel Bryan d. Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow by disqualification.
This was a very different style for an episode of Smackdown, as it was basically the Kane and Daniel Bryan show. And it worked. This wouldn't work on a weekly basis, but having an ongoing story that carries through an entire episode breaks up to monotony of the typical show format. I really enjoyed Friday night's episode, but those who aren't big on the tag team storyline right now probably wouldn't. I give this a big thumbs up with a wide grin on my face. I loved it.
Ring Posts’ Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents and All American Pro Wrestling to bring you From the Rafters Radio, a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing from 8-10 EST every Thursday on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net.