Kevin Owens had just finished power-bombing Shane McMahon through a merchandise table in the Pepsi Center concession area, when he turned around, chin held high, and walked methodically through the crowd and back down the stairs to the ring.
He'd made his point with eye-popping brutality. This feud, already deeply personal, had ballooned into something in which a label like hatred now seemed too serene a word.
In just a few days' time, Owens and McMahon will settle a beef borne from resentment inside the massive steel structure of Hell in a Cell. They've been building to this point for weeks -- months, really, as the post-Superstar Shakeup clip that aired to open SmackDown Tuesday night -- and Tuesday was Owens' chance to preview the intense physicality to come on Sunday.
On a night in which much of the storytelling played out on the microphone, hitting most of the classic go-home show clichés, SmackDown Live seemed like an hour and 45 minutes' worth of filler time just to get to the climax, but it was worth the wait as KO and McMahon alone made us wish we could fast-forward time to Sunday.
McMahon made his way to the ring initially, calling out his next opponent. He reminded us, as if we'd forgotten, that Owens had called out his children, an off-limits subject to any parent, while beating down his father, WWE CEO Vince McMahon, weeks earlier. Shane also announced an added falls-count-anywhere stipulation to the match before spewing out more fighting words ("I will beat the humility into you; I will beat you beyond recognition.")
Of course, it was just a matter of time before Owens was going to interrupt McMahon, and when the villain finally showed up, he did so walking through the crowd, Shield style, leading to the incident inside the concession area.
- WWE (@WWE) October 4, 2017
Owens walked back down to the ring, and offered his retort with even more powerful words -- promising McMahon that he will powerbomb him to the point that the SmackDown commissioner won't remember his kids' names, while pointing out that there is no need for Shane to jump off the Hell in a Cell because KO would throw him off.
Granted, with falls now counting anywhere, doesn't it somewhat defeat the purpose of having a cage in the first place? How anticlimactic would it be if the payoff Sunday devolved into something of a street fight?
Regardless of that questionable decision, we know Shane's history in these matches, particularly his leap of faith at WrestleMania 32. What can he possibly do next?
As Shane stumbled back to the ring, just to receive a head-butt and a pop-up powerbomb for his troubles, it didn't so much matter that the rest of the show failed to add much intrigue for Sunday's pay-per-view. We've got Shane and KO. And we have a Hell in a Cell.
That seems like enough.
Hits and misses
Solid win for Natalya and Carmella, with the current women's champ forcing Charlotte Flair to tap out in a tag-team match. The obvious question moving forward is whether Carmella will cash in her briefcase and walk out of Hell in a Cell as a women's champ. But the other, less pressing but equally important, question is what's next for the fourth person in that tag match, Becky Lynch? She's been a non-factor for what seems like months and will play no part in Sunday's pay-per-view. An eventual heel turn would do Becky wonders and likely set up another high-end feud with Charlotte.
Bobby Roode's entrance lasted longer than his one-minute win against Mike Kanellis, which seemed fitting given Roode's upcoming opponent at Hell in a Cell. So what does Dolph Ziggler have in mind for his walk to the ring, after a month of maligning pretty much every other star's introduction? Will it be stripped down, with no music, no dancing, no bells and whistles to drive home his point that he is all about the in-ring product? Or maybe he does a 180 and embraces his past by revisiting the Spirit Squad. It seems as though all will be for naught, as Ziggler has almost no chance of leaving HIAC with a W.
- WWE (@WWE) October 4, 2017
AJ Styles is Baron Corbin's opponent Sunday, but on Tuesday night, he might as well have been the Lone Wolf's personal motivational speaker. "You have the ability of a thoroughbred, but the attitude of a jacka--," Styles said over the big screen. "Maybe if you had tried harder, you wouldn't have lost to John Cena at SummerSlam or [maybe you would have] successfully cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase. Or maybe you would have beat [Tye] Dillinger tonight." Maybe it's the wake-up call Corbin needed, the one that could lead to the United States championship changing hands.
Loved the stare-down between Randy Orton, who RKO'd Aiden English in yet another 60-second match, and Rusev, who was standing ringside waiting for his chance to get his hands on "The Viper." This has all the makings of the opening bout at Hell in a Cell, but even if it is, it could be one of the best matches of the night. No gimmicks, no stipulations -- just straight-up mano a mano between two ruthless dudes.
Huzzah! For the first time in a month, the Jinder Mahal-Shinsuke Nakamura segment was new and fresh. Of course, it helped that Nakamura, facilitated the confrontation after a brief interview with Renee Young to open the show. Still, it was Mahal's cronies, the Singh brothers, who interrupted Nakamura and ultimately led to Mahal landing a Khallas on the challenger. Something tells me, though, things are going to end quite differently come Sunday.