It didn't take more than two or three minutes into the latest edition of SmackDown Live to ask ourselves the same question Stone Cold Steve Austin had so many times in his career.
What? As in what is going on with the head honchos of Tuesday night's show?
Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan made their way to the ring in the opening promo to join AJ Styles, where the discussion turned to Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and the ongoing passive-aggressive back and forth going on between Bryan and McMahon bubbled beneath the surface. To date, the pair has swung from hot to cold, and friendly to angry without much sense of direction -- and it's given us little sense of where this storyline between all of them is going.
On Tuesday, Styles announced to the Orlando audience that as part of his New Year's resolution, he was going to take out Zayn in the main event. A low-bar goal if Styles were to win, but needless to say, this was going to be anything resembling a straight mano-a-mano matchup no matter what the outcome would be at night's end. You knew Owens was going to be ringside and, of course, so was McMahon. Oh heck, might as well have Bryan join the circus, too.
So what was the latest fiasco going to produce and, more importantly, what advancements would come from the latest chapter in a narrative that seems to produce more bluster and confusion by the week?
What has been the point of Shane O'Mac and Bryan constantly hopscotching on the main-event storylines, aside from the sheer fact their presence garners a lot of Twitter attention and the potential of a big-time payoff, if this tangled web is eventually unraveled into something noteworthy. Yes, it's true a more conventional Styles versus Owens or Zayn battle wouldn't register the same without the added commotion, but we're weeks into the divisive authority angle without any idea how this is going to play out.
Does Bryan really have a sense of loyalty to the villains? Is he tired of McMahon's leadership, or is he perhaps on a power trip of his own? Is he building a false sense of earnestness with Owens and Zayn, only to bamboozle them and all of us down the road, possibly at the Royal Rumble?
On Tuesday, the two bosses and Owens all played a role in the main event. A decent, but certainly not spectacular, match devolved into chaos when McMahon, after a handful of shenanigans, demanded KO leave the ringside area, only for Bryan to get on the mic and counter that Shane should leave, too. Amid the growling, Zayn landed a Helluva Kick on Styles to win the match, leaving AJ a loser for the second straight week. Styles then made his way on to the mic, berating everyone else at the ring, including the inability of Owens and Zayn to do anything on their own and the adolescent behavior of the SmackDown leaders.
- WWE (@WWE) January 3, 2018
Bryan's retort: You're right, AJ. KO and Zayn can't do anything without the other more than 10 feet away, so at the Royal Rumble, you've got both of them -- in a handicap match for the WWE championship. Which begs the question: Who gets the title if Owens and Zayn win, but we'll save that query for a different day.
For Styles, it was not just a New Year's resolution gone bad, but a foreboding sign that more bad luck is coming his way. In the past two weeks, the WWE champ has been treated more like a sacrificial lamb than the face of SmackDown, which is OK for now. But eventually the ongoing muddle needs to evolve into a more streamlined path, or better, come to an end as abruptly as a Stone Cold Stunner.
Hits and misses
Speaking of confusion and chaos, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin appeared to win the SmackDown tag team titles, except the referee erroneously made a three-count on the wrong Uso (and Gable wasn't the legal man in the match to boot). So back to the ring the four men went, only to see The Usos win after a high-flying smash from Jey Uso to close it out. Despite the shenanigans, Benjamin and Gable looked like legit contenders to walk away with the belts at some point early in 2018.
- WWE (@WWE) January 3, 2018
OK, we get it, The Bludgeon Brothers are the real deal, but why does Breezango continue to look like fools at Luke Harper and Erick Rowan's hands? Such a waste of potential for a talented, popular team that easily could have carried SmackDown gold. The Ascension eventually came to the ring, only to get manhandled by the Bludgeon brothers themselves. Wouldn't it have made more sense if they were the original victims and Breezango came down to save the day? Just sayin'.
Aiden English is quickly becoming one of the most popular figures on the show, thanks to his Rusev Day serenades. Like Breezango, it's too bad the creative team treats him more like an irreverent afterthought when it comes to in-ring results rather than someone who could possibly carry around some gold. Those aspirations came to an end Tuesday, when English fell to Xavier Woods in a fun United States tournament first round match.
The Welcoming Committee is officially back together. Sigh. It's almost as if Natalya didn't split on her own for months to carry the women's championship. Needless to say, their existence appears to be little more than a stepping stone for the Riott Squad, who won handily Tuesday night. Here's hoping Natalya and, especially, Carmella, don't lose whatever momentum they had in recent months.
Great to see Becky Lynch, who was out for more than a month, back in action. Although she hasn't shined on SmackDown for quite some time, she has the energy and charisma to carry the women's division along with Charlotte -- and the reaction she got proved that absence can make the heart grow fonder. Can anyone else see a Becky-Ruby Riott squabble in the near future?
Too early to predict the Rumble winners? We're still more than three weeks out and, obviously, there are more possibilities than we could begin to even imagine playing out at the moment? But I say SmackDown could sweep the 30-person matches, with Shinsuke Nakamura winning the men's event, setting up a titanic clash with Styles at WrestleMania, and Riott prevailing on the women's side in an effort to build her as a big-time threat. Of course, I'm sure Asuka might have something to say about that come Rumble time.