Why, Sami? Why?
That was the first, and certainly most pressing, question heading into SmackDown Live on Tuesday night, just two days after a dramatic twist left the WWE universe silent, stunned and searching for answers.
Sami Zayn never viewed himself as decidedly inferior since joining the main roster nearly two years ago. Despite a long, backbreaking journey to the big leagues, he lamented his current existence, one largely ridden with unexceptional moments.
For two years, he and Kevin Owens were bitter enemies -- they deplored even the idea of each other. Owens was the more successful performer, by far, racking up titles as quickly as Zayn was heading to the vortex that had long sucked in the careers of other disappointing talents. But Zayn could sleep at night. His conscience was clear.
That meant something, until it didn't.
Joining Owens in the ring and speaking to a discerning, confused audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zayn explained why he would come to the aid of the man he hated so much. At Hell in a Cell, Zayn miraculously appeared just as Shane McMahon was falling 20 feet from a steel cage and pulled Owens out of the way with nanoseconds to spare. The decision saved Owens from what surely would have been a physically excruciating moment, not to mention a big-time morale setback.
When life is hard, you have to change.
- Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) October 11, 2017
"I truly wanted to be the good guy and do everything the right way," Zayn said. "That was until two weeks ago when Shane brushed me off and said, 'You worry about you and I worry about me.' I realized Shane never really cared about me."
Moments after rescuing Owens, Zayn shoved the emergency crew that had come McMahon's aid and tossed KO on top of the SmackDown commissioner for the win. Zayn despised Owens, but, as he said, even in their most heated moments, never stopped thinking of him as a "brother." Meanwhile, McMahon, instead of pinning Owens while he had the chance a few minutes earlier in their match, decided to forgo the victory, instead climbing the steel structure for whatever aggrandizing statement he was trying to make. That didn't sit well with Zayn.
And just like that, the business' newest heel was born. So while the question of "why" was answered, we can't help but wonder whether Sami Zayn, bad guy and likely sidekick of Owens, will work. Wasn't Chris Jericho that guy not long ago? Yes, he has a much stronger pedigree and a bigger personality than Zayn, but through friendship and acrimony, Jericho was more or less playing second banana to KO.
Still, while the creative team needs to be cognizant about producing a fresh theme, realistically, the show of solidarity between these two will work whatever the exact direction. Zayn and Owens have a long, intertwined history that dates back before their WWE tenure.
The immediate storyline will likely focus on their renewed partnership, but the bigger payoff will come down the road as Zayn pieces together a winning blueprint and takes advantage of this land of opportunity.
In his soliloquy Tuesday, Owens called Zayn his guardian angel -- the guy who saved him from stepping through the pearly gates and straight into the afterlife.
But the bigger save Zayn made was giving his own career another shot at the legitimacy it desperately needs.
Hits and misses
So much for the shortcut kid, the cheap-shot artist known as Baron Corbin. On Tuesday, he secured a clean -- yes, clean -- win against AJ Styles to retain the United States championship he won at Hell in a Cell. It was a strong statement that Corbin is going to be more than a guy defined by fleeting moments and boneheaded decisions since joining the WWE roster.
The result was also an indication that the feud between Corbin and Styles is (hopefully) finished. Look for Tye Dillinger or perhaps Bobby Roode to contend with Corbin, while Styles will likely toil around with various opponents before entering the WWE championship mix down the road.
An odd moment when The Usos and New Day, bitter enemies all year, called a truce in the ring, only to see four other teams make their case to challenge the champs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable ultimately won a Fatal 4-Way tag-team match, and there's little question they will have an entertaining rivalry with The Usos. But the circumstances have left the New Day in the dust, at least for now. While their cachet alone is enough to make them star attractions, the timing seems off given how dominant they have been since joining SmackDown, unless ...
... They mix it up with the Bludgeon Brothers. Who, you ask? Luke Harper and Erick Rowan have apparently teamed up, and their shtick will be reminiscent of their diabolical days with Bray Wyatt. While we would rather see them play it straighter -- Harper in particular was stellar in his brief attempt at the WWE championship earlier this year -- it's good to have them back.
Solid win by Becky over Carmella, but there was no organic heat between them. Again, the women's division is beset by all-out melees between the entire roster, as we saw in the backstage area, instead of allowing any one narrative to grow. The sum is not greater than the parts. Repeat, the sum is not greater than the parts.
Enjoyed watching Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura dominate Rusev and Aiden English, but the pairing between the winners only made me wish they could expand on their brief singles feud. Neither was able to showcase his athleticism against the more methodical WWE champ Jinder Mahal, but against each other, they could put on an explosive display.
Dolph Ziggler = meh. He barked at Bobby Roode, demanding a rematch on his terms in a segment that screamed filler time. The audience was near silent. As WWE contributor Sean Coyle said, this would have worked a lot better if their roles were reversed, if Bobby Roode were the heel. But alas, that's not the case.