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Daniel Bryan takes big step at Clash of Champions

Aaron Oster
Contact ReporterFor The Baltimore Sun

The featured tag match at Clash of Champions was billed as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn taking on Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura, with Owens’ and Zayn’s careers on the line. When the dust settled on the match, it was clear that it had nothing to do with the competitors, and instead was all about what happened between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon.

Most of the story in the match revolved around the fact that there were two refs in the ring with very different motives. Shane McMahon clearly was just a ref because he wanted to make sure that he had the opportunity to fire Owens and Zayn at the end of the night. Daniel Bryan on the other hand simply wanted to see a fair match. Those two motives butted heads as the match progressed.

At first, it was simply figuring out the kinks of how two refs in the same match would work. But as the match progressed, Shane became more and more biased. At one point, it seemed like Randy Orton was about to get a pin as he RKO’d Zayn. However, when Owens tried to break up the pin, he ran into Bryan, who fell into Shane before he could count three. Shortly after, Orton and Zayn exchanged rollups, as the two refs took turns counting. However, Zayn rolled up Orton tightly, Shane counted, but despite clearly having him down, Shane refused to make the third count. This upset Bryan, and when Zayn once again rolled up Orton, Bryan made a quick count to give Zayn and Owens the win.

To answer the first obvious question, no, I do not believe this was a heel turn for Daniel Bryan. The match was crafted very carefully to make it show that Daniel Bryan was in the right, at least morally. Shane McMahon openly screwed Zayn and Owens out of winning the match, and Bryan was simply trying to correct that. It was no different from a face using the tights to win a match right after a heel tried the same tactic on him. If the idea was to make Bryan a heel, then they would have done it in a very different way. If anything, I think this might be pushing toward Shane becoming more and more like his father, and Daniel Bryan having to step into the ring to stop him.

Which brings me to my next point: Daniel Bryan took a bump in this match. Yes, it was a very weak one, and was just about the safest bump possible. But it was a bump, the first bump of any type that he has taken since he had to retire. It’s hard to see that without envisioning the possibility of him stepping back into the ring. He’s been open about how badly he wants to get back in the ring. He’s even said that if it’s not in WWE, he’d go elsewhere when his contract expires in order to wrestle again. It’s certainly no guarantee that this is going to lead to a match in WWE (say, at Wrestlemania in New Orleans where the biggest moment of his career happened). However, this is certainly a step in that direction.

While the match itself was clunky, and barely about the competitors, it certainly opened up some major storyline questions as we head down the Road to Wrestlemania.

The rest of Clash of Champions:

-While the match with the most storyline implications was the tag match, the main event was the WWE title match. AJ Styles ended up winning cleanly with a calf crusher, but not before a strong match between him and Jinder Mahal. While Mahal ended up looking good in the match, the finish, where Mahal tapped in the middle of the ring, felt like a final sendoff for Mahal. Not a sendoff from the company or anything like that, but an official end to his main event run. It was certainly a polarizing one, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from here.

-We have a new United States champion, and it’s a bit of a surprise. After a great back and forth triple threat match where all three men really got to show off, it was Dolph Ziggler, who hit a Zig Zag on Corbin at the same time as he hit an End of Days on Roode, holding the gold. It was surprising to be sure, and we’ll have to see if it’s a real run or if it’s just a transitional reign.

-Charlotte successfully defended her title in a clumsy match. The lumberjacks really didn’t help the match at all, and in fact, overwhelmed the match at times. It was all about the brawling around the ring, and not really about the competitors. Unlike in the tag match, this didn’t really further any storylines though, so it’s far less forgivable. Charlotte ended up winning at the end, and Natalya cut a promo about turning her back on the fans, which seemed weird considering she was already a heel.

-The Usos also retained their titles. This was a match that really highlighted every competitor, and the argument could be made that all four teams came out of this match looking better than they did before. Chad Gable in particular really was able to show off his wrestling ability, and Rusev and Aiden English might have been the most over team in the match.

-The Bludgeon Brothers beat The Fashion Police in a quick squash.

-Mojo Rawley, wearing Maryland-inspired gear and with a new heel theme, beat Zack Ryder.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout

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