He's baaaack. Again.
It wasn't the most shocking moment in wrestling history, but the demonic organ sound of Kane's music in the closing moments of SmackDown Tuesday night was undeniably a surprise.
The moment came as his longtime compatriot Daniel Bryan was being pulverized by the tag team champions, The Bludgeon Brothers, following a main event that was short-circuited just as Bryan looked ready to put Harper away.
Absent from WWE television since the WrestleMania 34 Kickoff Show in early April, Kane seemed unlikely to return any time soon with his Knox County mayoral run in full swing. Instead, he shocked us all by coming through when his long lost teammate was in peril.
- WWE (@WWE) June 27, 2018
As Rowan, who saved the day for Harper by interrupting the Yes Lock and triggering a DQ, joined Harper in a two-on-one beating, Kane almost singlehandedly fought off the pair of giants. Once Bryan recovered, he delivered a dropkick of his own to aid in the attack, and then the ring was cleared.
The real drama came in the moments that followed. Bryan and Kane have a long love-hate, love some more, hate some more relationship. After a long feud between them, and some famous counseling by a certain Dr. Shelby, they joined forces six years ago and subsequently won the WWE tag team championship. Kane and Bryan held those belts for 245 days before running into The Shield.
The last time they were in a match, it was on opposite sides of a six-man tag team match on SmackDown in March 2015; the last time they teamed up on TV was more than five years ago. As the show was winding down Tuesday, Kane opened his arms to embrace Bryan, who at first appeared reluctant, or even unwilling, to reciprocate the hug.
But wouldn't you know it, Bryan jumped into Kane's arms the way a toddler does to his parents after a long day away. Together again. The reunion of Team Hell No.
Because of Bryan's long hiatus, and then Kane's shifting priorities, it seemed as though this reunion was impossible -- but here we are. As the chaos slowed Tuesday night, SmackDown general manager Paige closed out the show by announcing Bryan and Kane would get a shot at the Bludgeon Brothers' SmackDown tag titles at Extreme Rules. With Gallows & Anderson sufficiently defeated, this was one clear way to get new contenders together in a hurry.
A lot has happened since the last time Team Hell No ran together. Bryan rose all the way to the top and had it all taken away, only to rise again in the unlikeliest of returns. The aura of Kane has diminished to a degree, with the various stages of corporate Kane and various one-off rivalries that often had others as the true focus, like when he was relegated to third wheel status in a rivalry that featured Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman.
Will Team Hell No Version II thrive? Anyone who's been associated with Bryan over the last five years has benefited -- Big Cass excepted -- but with the depth of the SmackDown tag team division, can we expect this to last long?
Whatever the long-term plans are, Kane will add cachet and an old-school appeal that ought to get a positive reaction for as long as the pair stays together.
Hits & misses
- There were quite a few absences on Tuesday night. Champions AJ Styles and Carmella are in the midst of a publicity tour in Australia and Asia, with Charlotte Flair, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura also absent on Tuesday night. The latter was supposed to have a shot at Jeff Hardy's United States championship, but an undisclosed injury put him on the shelf and necessitated an open challenge instead.
- Not loving the unabashed heel vibe from Rusev, not after fans have embraced him so unconditionally. After dismissing Xavier Woods in an entertaining showdown Tuesday, Rusev grabbed the mic and began to boast that "Tonight was not about Xavier, Booty O's, pancakes or trombones, but about AJ Styles." A stern warning -- perhaps a threat -- from a guy who has been enveloped with cheers for months. So please, give the audience a reason to espouse this Bulgarian Brute. His type doesn't come around very often.
- Speaking of things I do not quite understand, how can you afford for SAnitY to take a clean loss this early in their run after such a long wait for their debut? After Eric Young answered Hardy's U.S. Championship Open challenge, The Usos sought revenge for last week's attack. After the fight spilled into the ring and triggered a DQ, a six-man tag team match was thrown together.
Young, Alexander Wolfe and Killian Dain have the look and feel of a team that could dominate, yet in that three-on-three battle Tuesday, they fell to Hardy and The Usos, who could take a loss or two without their reputations taking much of a hit.
- The narrative of a resurgence for Becky Lynch continued Tuesday as she forced Sonya Deville to tap out. The question here is how far will Lynch go? This is a roster that already features Flair, Asuka and Naomi among those chasing the champion, Carmella -- not to mention a slew of up-and-comers including the IIconics. It's still hard to imagine Lynch finding a clear path to the title anytime soon.
- Love the potential pairing of Naomi and Lana. The latter is still a work in progress, but she is riding the coattails of Rusev's recent wave of poularity, so the creative team might as well capitalize on that. Who better to work with than Naomi, one of the most complete and exciting stars in the business, and someone who can carry Lana as long as she needs to? It was also an interesting enough way to get the cast of Netflix's "GLOW" involved without trampling too hard on any of SmackDown's ongoing stories.
- So next week we get Asuka vs. James Ellsworth, eh? Oh boy. That's all I have to say about that.
- Hey, was that Tye Dillinger backstage? Where has he been? Maybe he's not the stuff of heavyweight championship material, but c'mon, he is worthy of some more air time. Right?