Credit: WWE on Fox
After show-long hype, including input from the best SmackDown stars, Daniel Bryan made his way to the square circle for a shot at Roman Reigns and Universal Champion. A victory and the leader of YES! Movement would cement his legacy. A loss would lead to his banishment from the bruise.
The head of the table entered the arena for new theme music, an orchestral epic with a bad beat that matches the unstoppable power of sports entertainment.
Bryan attacked from the opening bell and tipped the champion with a drop kick. He flattened Reigns with a running knee from the ring spoiler on his way into the break.
The challenger worked on the left arm and shoulder of the master and taunted him with a stream of kicks to the shoulder. Reigns absorbed and returned fire and cut Bryan off with a large elbow in the back for two. Bryan sent him face-first into the lathe, but The Big Dog recovered and delivered a powerbomb from the top rope to a two-count.
Reigns dominated coming back from the break, unloading with clothesline on the floor and then adding big knees and boots to Bryan in the corner. He put the challenger up on the top rope, but Bryan cut him together and seemed to gather.
Bryan delivered a huge side supplex from the top rope and shot half on Reigns, scoring a two-pointer. He continued to roll and took the Tribal Chief to the floor. Reigns tried for the spear, but Bryan moved and the champion crashed into the car seat.
Back from another commercial, Bryan started out of the rope with a diving headbutt for another fall. Reigns responded with a Superman Punch. Bryan caught him in YES! Lock. Reigns escaped and delivered a spear, but he could only hold the challenger down in a count of two as Bryan̵
Reigns caught Bryan in the guillotine, but babyface escaped and used an arm submission. He stepped into YES! Lock. Reigns fought the ropes, but Bryan pulled him back. The champion turned off and finally managed to slap Bryan to the mat. He knocked away the back of Bryan’s head and punished him before delivering another powerbomb.
Reigns used his good arm to use the guillotine, suffocate the fight out of Bryan and retain the title.
After the match, Reigns tried a brutal chair attack on Bryan only for Cesaro to save. The Swiss superman unloaded on the champion until Jey Uso saved. Reigns delivered a presidency to Bryan while Cesaro was tied up in ropes, forced to watch.
Reigns defeated Bryan to win the title
This was one of the best matches of the year, a battle with high stakes not only for championship gold, but the continuation of one of WWE’s most staged careers. WWE made an extraordinary deal out of the competition and the artists delivered exponentially.
Expectations were high, and the match far exceeded them, delivering a dramatic encounter that led fans to believe that an inspiring win might not be off the cards until Reigns beat any sense of hope that still existed.
Not only was the match excellent, it marked a rare pure victory for The Head of the Table.
Cesaro, who saves, further supports the idea that the Swiss superman will be the next up to challenge Reigns. While WWE is all-in with The Big Dog right now, one has to wonder if now is the time to use him to lift Cesaro, especially given how hot the Swiss Cyborg is at the moment.
But that’s until later.
Friday night was the culmination of Reigns and Bryan’s feud, a Match of the Year candidate, and proof that WWE can still deliver the must-see event-style fights whenever it wants.