Another installment of Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn was good, but not enough to boost SmackDown

A rivalry was renewed as Sami Zayn faced Kevin Owens on SmackDown Live. Courtesy @WWE

The reality is that there is only so much wrestling fans can consume.

Even the most ardent fan needs to catch his breath, digest the fallout and ponder the ramifications. The unrelenting trade is exhausting, and you'd imagine the performers and the creative teams feel this as well during the year.

One of the obvious downfalls is that storylines become stale and new endeavors fall flat. Look no further than the past two days following No Mercy, which was the culmination of weeks' worth of build with a focus on two WrestleMania-worthy matches. We all needed an extended timeout after that excitement, and you could sense that in this week's episodes.

You could probably sift through every narrative since that event, on Monday Night Raw (which largely fell flat) and SmackDown Live, and wonder aloud (or silently) about the overall appeal and long-term direction.

And then there's Kevin Owens.

For all the blasé chronicles this week, Owens was far and away the most sunlit superstar, which is ironic considering the depths of his dour, scornful character.

While the rest of the show Tuesday by and large looked like a rerun of last week, KO was at his absolute best. His opening promo, in which he disingenuously lamented the absence of Shane McMahon, as well as his verbal spars with longtime rival Sami Zayn, whom he'd meet later in the night, were spoken with such emotion and infection that the bellyaching could have gone on for an hour and we wouldn't have thought twice about it.

As we've seen often lately, the real-life backdrop became part of the verbal assault. "What have you ever done in your life that had as much impact as my head butt on Vince [McMahon] had," KO said as he stared down Zayn. Owens continued: "You signed with the WWE two and a half years before me, and I have two intercontinental titles and a Universal championship, while you watched in the back, just as you will when I take on Shane in Hell in a Cell."

Later in the night, Owens matched his smack talk with a terrific match against Zayn, which ended in a de facto TKO after Owens powerbombed his foe into the edge of the ring before attacking him afterward.

Zayn was used as a means to advance the McMahon feud ahead of their Hell in a Cell match, but the truth is that the feud between Zayn and Owens was so intense, so organic (which isn't terribly surprising given their long and heated history), that we could have been forgiven for forgetting the commissioner was going to make an appearance in some fashion before the show went off the air.

But he did, of course.

With Zayn lying in excruciating pain after the attack, McMahon charged the ring to come to the defense of Zayn and get his hands on the guy who viciously attacked his father two weeks earlier. This was the same Owens who subsequently and incessantly spewed hateful words toward Shane while showing anything but a lick of contrition toward the younger McMahon.

Owens, though, was able to weasel his way out of the pickle, shoving Zayn -- who had a chair wrapped around his neck (that the heel was going to stomp on) -- into Shane and then squirmed his way deep into the crowd. It was as cowardly as it was brilliant.

It was Owens at his best, and it was Owens showing why no single other performer on either show comes close to matching his villainous ways. He almost single-handedly salvaged an otherwise uneventful, languid couple of days of action.

Hits and misses

  • Tye Dillinger put on a solid performance, though he ultimately lost by countout to Baron Corbin. Even though he won't be part of the United States championship match at Hell in a Cell, Dillinger has risen to high mid-card status. All indications suggest his storyline with Corbin won't end anytime soon, regardless of Corbin leaving HIAC with a title or not.

    Separately, what's up with AJ Styles accepting Corbin's challenge for the belt during the commercial break? Wasn't that the entire point of this match Tuesday?

  • It was the sea of sameness for Jinder Mahal and his mocking of Shinsuke Nakamura over the big screen, until the challenger stunned the champ and his cronies, delivering a Kinshasa to Mahal. Still, there was very little unique or entertaining in this segment, but after three weeks, at least we saw Nakamura in the ring. The bottom line is that this upcoming bout for the most-prized title on SmackDown might be the most lifeless match on the Hell in a Cell card.

  • Speaking of the sea of sameness, thank goodness Bobby Roode broke up another mocking performance from Dolph Ziggler, who this time came to the ring disguised as The Undertaker. We knew Roode would eventually insert himself into the storyline, but did it have to take so long? Ziggler's antics aside, one thing is true: He is a tremendous in-ring performer. Now it's up to Roode to see if he can hang with a far superior athlete at Hell in a Cell.

  • Good to see Charlotte back in one-on-one action and not involved in an all-out free-for-all with every other woman on the roster. On Tuesday, she beat Carmella in a pretty entertaining match. It seems as though that renewed rivalry has more legs and appeal than Charlotte's current one with Natalya. This could come to fruition, as there isn't a better time for Carmella to cash in than at Hell in a Cell. Matter of fact, count on it. It's going to happen.

  • Good entertainment with the New Day sitting in the front row during the Usos and Hype Bros match. The rhetoric was amusing afterward, especially when Big E took a mic out of a tub of popcorn. The New Day challenged the champs to a Hell in the Cell match in less than two weeks' time. This, in every sense, could be the match of the year.

  • The ridiculousness of Rusev having a Pride of Bulgaria ceremony because of one cheap win against Randy Orton was weirdly amusing. The operatic Aiden English, acting as the emcee for the celebration while singing the Bulgarian national anthem, made it that much more entertaining -- never mind an appearance by the mayor of Rusev's hometown. But it was Orton who ultimately stole the show, stunning both Rusev and English with RKOs. Here's hoping all the irreverence turns into something of a high-end feud for Rusev and Orton, both of whom need a good performance following lackluster, fluid feuds in recent months.