Sami Zayn locks in after verbal slaying of Daniel Bryan in front of Seattle SmackDown crowd

After a somewhat lukewarm reaction to last week's in-ring promo, Sami Zayn picked a perfect target in Daniel Bryan and a perfect city in Seattle to throw down the gauntlet and lash out with his best promo since joining the WWE's main roster. Courtesy of WWE

A few minutes into a cathartic, downright combative promo to open up SmackDown Live, Sami Zayn conceded why most people think he is such a bad guy.

And as if bamboozling Shane McMahon a couple of weeks ago at Hell in a Cell wasn't enough, Zayn committed one of the most shameful acts and easiest ploys to turn even the most ardent fan against you. On Tuesday night, he belittled Daniel Bryan, and did it in front of a Seattle crowd that was one of the biggest reasons Bryan became a beloved superstar over the past five years.

Zayn went so far as to call the SmackDown general manager someone who went from putting his body on the line every night, all for the adulation of the fans and the glory that came with it, to a "housewife."


And speaking of hitting someone where it hurts, later on in the main event, Zayn struck Randy Orton with an unscrupulous fist just below The Viper's breadbasket, leading the show's latest heel and partner Kevin Owens to a shady tag team win.

On a night in which Jinder Mahal teased two major-league-level challengers in Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles, it was Zayn's gut-wrenching words toward Bryan that hit hardest.

"My whole career, I spent trying to catch you, but you always two steps ahead of me," Zayn said. "But now you are the last person I would ever want to be like."

Feeling disenfranchised from a tenure of what can only be described as mediocrity at best since joining the main roster, Zayn solidified his newfound villainous direction with near perfection. If ever there was a shred of doubt as to who Zayn will be moving forward, consider those doubts eradicated.

The parallels between Bryan and Zayn are undeniable. As a matter of fact, for some time it seemed as though the idea behind Zayn's struggles were to eventually groom him to be Bryan 2.0. Bryan was the undersized, ultimate underdog who never gave up -- the lovable hard-luck guy who would eventually fend off all foes and work his way into the main event of WrestleMania.

But it never panned out. Zayn occasionally found himself in big matches, including a Royal Rumble qualifier win against Seth Rollins, but it was rarely about him in the big picture. He found himself somewhere north of enhancement talent, but often falling into filler time rivalries and matches in between clashes with Owens for months on end before finally reuniting with his now former bitter rival.

In Tuesday's main event, Zayn and Owens teamed up to take on Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura in a high-energy, back-and-forth match that saw each competitor shine for at least a few minutes. It served as an instant reminder (or introduction) of the smooth chemistry and dynamic between KO and Zayn as a team that we hadn't really seen much of to this point.

"We are SmackDown Live, and there is nothing you or anybody can do about it," a gloating Owens said on his way back to the locker room area, following their win. "This is KO; that is Sami Zayn, and he is my best friend. Hug me. Hold me tight."

Their love for each other is clear, but they've got a deep-seated contempt for everyone else on the SmackDown roster. It's them against the world, but there's still hell to be paid. As Zayn and Owens gloated backstage, Bryan informed them that their fate and future are not in his hands -- they're in Shane McMahon's.

Throwing it down the big guys

Jinder Mahal wants Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. AJ Styles wants Mahal now. Sounds like an awful lot to take on, even if you are the WWE champ. Fresh off a media tour of India, Mahal walked out with a special announcement to make: He wants Raw's Universal champ in the ring. He barely began to run down the lack of competition on SmackDown when Styles came out. That's when chaos ensued.

That's an awful lot to take on at once, even as the WWE champ, so Mahal promised his revenge by setting up Sunil Singh as Styles' opponent for next week.

But this is what Mahal needs. Yes, he's overcome Orton and Nakamura multiple times, and that speaks to the champ's staying power. Still, a beef with Lesnar, even a short one, would be something on an entirely different level.

While the matchup at November's pay-per-view is not a done deal by any means -- Lesnar is going to respond to Mahal's challenge Monday night -- champ vs. champ would be a fresh, exciting way to for the brands to clash. Or, they could fall back on the old standby and just lead teams into Houston's co-branded event.

The problem, of course, even if this is a non-title one-on-one bout, is that one show will appear discernibly stronger if Mahal-Lesnar ends cleanly and with one competitor looking dominant. This bout spells Singh brothers interference all over it, unless Styles gets into the action and causes Mahal to fail.

With more than a month to go before Survivor Series, there's plenty of time for Mahal and Styles to heat up. Look for Mahal and his underhanded tactics to gain an early advantage, building this feud through Survivor Series until the ultimate payoff, which could come at the Royal Rumble.

There has to be a reason Mahal has been suddenly thrust into two new storylines. We'll find out soon enough.

Hits and misses

  • Once again, for what feels like the umpteenth time in a row, nearly every woman on the SmackDown roster was forced into a six-person tag team match. Ironically, with Survivor Series looming, we might finally get a legit one-on-one rematch between Charlotte Flair (who pinned Lana on Tuesday for the win) and Natalya, unless there's any truth to a Four Horsewomen reunion that has a shrinking runway by the week

    Nonetheless, the division again did little to advance a single storyline in any significant way. Really, the only interesting question remains whether Carmella will cash in her briefcase anytime soon. We thought it might happen at Hell in a Cell, but smart money now says she'll cash in at Survivor Series, if given the opportunity

  • Baron Corbin's first challenger was Sin Cara? Hmmm. Might seem like a step backwards, but Sin Cara brings energy to the ring. He dove through the second rope just minutes into the match, landing on Corbin with enough force that the United States champ was counted out. We'll just say this: Give us more Sin Cara, for whom this was just his third televised appearance since WrestleMania. Heck, if Dolph Ziggler is a thing again, Sin Cara has to be feeling good about himself.

  • Speaking of Ziggler, he handed Bobby Roode his first main-roster loss. They've exchanged wins with both matches decided by one man grabbing the other's tights for the pin. Like their Hell in a Cell match, Tuesday night's clash seemed rushed and underwhelming. We'd love to know what would unfold if both were allowed 12-15 minutes to work, and with no end in sight to their rivalry, hopefully that's what the future holds.

  • Freaky taped segment with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, whose nonsensical, diabolical words made Sister Abigail seem as innocuous as Michael Cole. Hard to say what's in store for the Bludgeon Brothers when they make their return/re-debut, but here's hoping for a feud with Breezango because ... why not? The Ascension certainly hinted at something on the latest edition of "The Fashion Files".

  • Now that neither The Usos nor the The New Day has a legit rival, both seem, well, lost. While Jimmy and Jey will tangle with Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, their backstage segment was simply awkward, with an old-school handshake psyche for maximum cheesiness effect on Gable's part. Some things are left for the ring. Just sayin'. As for the New Day, what was the point of their quick interaction with Rusev and Aiden English? A question for which we have no answers, as of yet.