Last night on SmackDown, Daniel Bryan & Roman Reigns had to face six other teams in a Tag Team Turmoil, which carried on over the entire second half of the show. I’ve already seen some people complain about the length of this match. The criticism is that the WWE was “stretching it”, having been forced to work with only half a roster, the other half – doing shows in Abu Dhabi.
I, as usual, happen to be sitting on the other side of the fence. In my opinion, this match was a beautiful example of good storytelling and it effectively gave Reigns and Bryan more character development than most superstars normally get over the course of a few months. Bryan, as a well-established performer, didn’t necessarily need this. Reigns, on the other hand, was desperate for that character depth.
Reigns and Bryan started off the war on the same side of the ring but with so much tension between them that they almost made Miz & Mizdow look like a well-oiled wrestling machine. There was a deep-seated feeling of disdain, mixed with competitiveness. It was a perfect example of “All you can do, I can do better” that started off with the altercation between Reigns and Bryan on RAW. Roman Reigns was somewhat jealous of Bryan’s popularity and felt aggravated over the fact that DB feels entitled to steal his rightful spot at WM31. Wrestling blue blood Roman Reigns expressed that by treating Bryan with contempt. Being looked down upon by Reigns pushed Bryan’s buttons, which is not a surprise, having in mind that being called a B+ player has become a sensitive issue for him. In fact, wanting to prove that he’s fit for the top is exactly what makes Bryan believe he has the moral right to replace Reigns at Mania. On Monday night, I was satisfied with this level of depth to their relationship. However, last night, took it to another level.
Facing off against the Usos is what made the biggest difference. This match was the longest in the Tag Team Turmoil and lasted almost a third of the entire SmackDown but it was absolutely worth it. Reigns has been subject to a lot of criticism, regarding the lack of depth in his character. Being made to fight against his own blood showed that underneath the thick armor of a though, ruthless powerhouse Roman Reigns truly cares about someone. His reluctance to hurt his family, regardless of the stakes, uncovered a great weakness. The cautious and humble way, in which Jimmy and Jey approached facing their cousin, made it feel as if Roman is looked up to in the Anoa’i family.
Daniel Bryan picked up the scent of a weakened prey. He accidentally learned what hurts Roman Reigns and he didn’t shy away from using it. Bryan went over and beyond to inflict pain on the Usos, just to see Roman suffer. Bryan is close to a saint in the eyes of the WWE Universe. He is the average man, who climbed to the top against all odds. He’s an ideal that can do no wrong. Hurting Seth Rollins to prove a point to the Authority, for example, would be justified. Torturing the Usos, who have done nothing to him, only to get to Reigns, is an entirely different question. It shows a rather cruel side of Bryan that we’ve never seen before.
Roman Reigns kept running interferences to spare Jimmy and Jey any punishment that wasn’t absolutely necessary for acquiring a win and it made him look more human than ever. His family was more important to him than the One vs. All gimmick. Bryan, in his unapologetic decimation of the Usos, executed as a deliberate taunt to Reigns, proved that even the nicest guy has an ego that can tip the scales in favor of the dark side. This is a perfect example of adding layers to create characters that feel real.
Despite all, when placed in real danger, in the face of the Ascension, Bryan and Reigns did all in their power to defend one another. They got hurt badly but neither man was willing to save himself by sitting quietly in a corner and watching the other one get torn apart by Konnor and Viktor. That showed the heart of Bryan and Reigns. They proved themselves as the type of warriors that would never leave a man behind, by which they earned the respect of the WWE Universe.
In the end, fighting a common enemy – the Authority, put Bryan and Reigns on the same page. They had the broader vision that allowed them to put their personal issues aside, in order to defeat greater evil. Big Show and Kane’s bickering served to strengthen this impression, since they failed miserably at coexisting, only because of their egos.
Bryan and Reigns came out of this SmackDown war as heroes. Despite still being reluctant to show appreciation, Roman helped Bryan up and they shared a nod of mutual respect before staring at the WrestleMania dream they are both after.
The Tag Team Turmoil on its own told a better story than rivalries that develop over weeks and weeks of build-up. Maybe it was a fluke on the part of the WWE, caused by the limited amount of superstars available that night, but it couldn’t matter less. What’s important is that SmackDown produced two much stronger vivid characters and a multi-perspective story, leading up to Fast Lane and WrestleMania 31 afterwards.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.