As WWE.com revealed earlier in the day, SmackDown LIVE General Manager Daniel Bryan was cleared for in-ring competition. In a touching address to the WWE Universe, Bryan spoke openly about the struggles of being unable to do what he loved most and compete in the ring over the past two years.
The “Yes!” Man even said the night he had to step away from the ring was one of the toughest nights of his life. However, tonight was one of the best, as he could announce his return! Bryan spoke extensively on how his wife, Brie Bella, pushed him to keep trying to return. The former WWE Champion then thanked the WWE Universe, saying that there was nothing better in the world than entertaining them.
While he wasn't sure whether he would be able to compete at WrestleMania, Bryan said he was definitely on the path back. And did he seem excited about it? “YES!”
With WWE Champion AJ Styles watching on at ringside, The King of Strong Style and Bulgarian Brute faced off in an ultra-physical confrontation with stiff strikes a plenty. Rusev kept Shinsuke Nakamura grounded for most of the contest, but Nakamura caught The Super Athlete with an elaborate rollup following a thrilling sequence for the victory.
After the bell, English immediately pounced on WWE's Rockstar, and the staggered Rusev soon joined in on the beating. The Phenomenal One looked ready to come to Nakamura's aid (albeit slowly), but by the time Styles was finally “ready” to assist, Nakamura had already turned the tide with a flurry of kicks and cleared the ring of Rusev Day.
The mutual respect between Styles and Nakamura doesn't necessarily seem to equate to the lending of a helping hand on The Road to WrestleMania.
Tye Dillinger looked to make a major impact on SmackDown LIVE in his bout against Baron Corbin, the winner of the 2016 Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, as both Superstars eyed their participation in this year's annual over-the-top-rope tradition.
In a renewal of their hard-hitting rivalry, Corbin and Dillinger unloaded on each other en route to the epic free-for-all at The Show of Shows. The Perfect 10 had his moments, but The Lone Wolf prevailed by fending Dillinger off with the devastating End of Days for the win.
With Natalya incredibly offended that Asuka and not her would face off against Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women's Championship at WrestleMania, The Queen of Harts figured that a one-on-one contest against The Queen tonight would be the next best thing.
With the two having embarked in so many classic battles before, both Superstars were at the point where they could seemingly anticipate counters to the other's counters. In the pivotal moments, however, Carmella changed the landscape of the contest when she dashed out with a new official, seemingly ready to cash in her Money in the Bank contract and turn the clash into a Triple Threat Match for the title.
However, Carmella's plan was thwarted when Charlotte dropped her with a big boot right to her kisser before the referee could start the match. The distraction cost Charlotte, though, as Natalya, amidst the ruckus, rolled her up for the win.
Natalya and Carmella have seemingly been real chummy over the past several weeks, so was this an elaborate ruse from The Queen of Black Harts and Ms. Money in the Bank?
Prior to Jimmy Uso's match against Harper, SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos let The Bludgeon Brothers know that they would be put in The Uso Penitentiary, despite the recent beatings administered by the behemoths. However, the clearly still-battered Jimmy struggled to find openings against the much larger Harper. Uso battled valiantly and even looked as though he had Harper on the ropes when Jey Uso interfered by connecting with a superkick, and Jimmy did the same. However, it proved futile, as Harper defeated Jimmy with a ring-rattling clothesline.
With the WrestleMania 34 Triple Threat Match for the United States Title now official, Jinder Mahal arrived on SmackDown LIVE with the mission of degrading his opponents, Bobby Roode and United States Champion Randy Orton.
Naturally, this brought out both Roode and Orton, who were determined to bring The Modern Day Maharaja's arrogance down a peg or two. Mahal took great offense to Orton's comments and appeared as though he was going to lash out at The Apex Predator. Instead, Jinder threw Sunil Singh into Orton and slid out of the ring. Sunil tried to get away, but Orton dragged the faithful follower back and delivered a DDT off the ropes, and Roode dropped Singh with a Glorious DDT for his troubles.
The Glorious One then followed up by attempting a Glorious DDT on The Viper, only for Orton to reverse and try to strike with an RKO. Roode was also able to counter and stop the attack, leaving the two to stare one another down while Mahal just watched on from ringside.
With all eyes on the WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal, Becky Lynch & Naomi took on Riott Squad members Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan. Morgan & Logan took the fight to The Irish Lass Kicker & The Glow, but Lynch broke through and submitted Logan with the agonizing Dis-arm-her to secure the victory.
Following their heinous actions last week, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn were all smiles tonight on SmackDown LIVE — both because of their attack on Shane McMahon last week and, seemingly, because of Daniel Bryan's announcement that he was now cleared for competition.
Owens and Zayn seemed overjoyed, hugging Bryan and claiming that their attack on Shane-O-Mac last week was a gift to the SmackDown LIVE General Manager, but The “Yes!” Man saw it differently. Bryan was disappointed, not only by Owens & Zayn's actions, but also their lack of remorse. Because of this, the General Manager said that he finally saw things clearly and had only one move to make: firing Owens and Zayn.
After expressing some regret, Bryan shook their hands and told them they could one day make it back to WWE, but a seething KO initiated an assault on Bryan. Owens and Zayn were relentless, but the General Manager ferociously fired back, bringing the WWE Universe to a state of absolute frenzy as he darted about the ring and unleashed a flurry of “Yes!” Kicks. However, Owens and Zayn soon overwhelmed Bryan, and the attack concluded with them decimating Bryan with an Apron Powerbomb.
KO & Sami were enraged, while medical personnel tended to the battered Bryan.
- Numbers in parentheses indicate the length of the match.
- (c) refers to the champion(s) heading into the match.
- Dark Match: Breezango (Fandango & Tyler Breeze) & Zack Ryder defeated Chad Gable, Mojo Rawley & Shelton Benjamin via pinfall.
- Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev (w/ Aiden English) (7:50)
- Baron Corbin defeated Tye Dillinger (2:27)
- Natalya defeated Charlotte Flair (14:09)
- Harper (w/ Rowan) defeated Jimmy Uso (w/ Jey Uso) (4:14)
- Becky Lynch & Naomi defeated The Riott Squad (Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan) (w/ Ruby Riott) by submission (2:39)
Other on-screen talent
Daniel Bryan spoke candidly on being cleared for in-ring competition
Shinsuke Nakamura v Rusev
Baron Corbin v Tye Dillinger
Natalya v Charlotte Flair
Harper v Jimmy Uso
The animosity grew between Randy Orton, Bobby Roode & Jinder Mahal
Becky Lynch & Naomi v Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan
Daniel Bryan fired Owens & Zayn & The “Yep!” Movement assaulted him
- WWE Smackdown Live #970 at CAGEMATCH.net
- WWE Smackdown Live #970 at WWE.com
- Smackdown #970 on WWE Network