CHICAGO — As it turns out, the sudden and brilliant chemistry between Randy Orton & Daniel Bryan was, in fact, too good to be true.
Mere days after teaming with Kane to deal The Shield its first submission loss in six-man competition, the potent, albeit makeshift, combination of former World Champions appeared poised to unseat well-oiled WWE Tag Team Champions, Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns, at WWE Payback.
Then, fate kicked in, and the “Hounds of Justice” exploited the circumstance when they saw an opportunity to pounce. In a scene that neither Orton nor Bryan will likely forget anytime soon, a rapid-fire exchange among all four competitors led to match-ending miscommunication, resulting in the referee raising the hands of still-WWE Tag Team Champions, The Shield.
Despite a recent history defined by distrust and punctuated by an RKO that Orton delivered to Bryan a little more than a week ago, the challengers showed cohesion in the early goings. They were also the clear favorites of the WWE Universe, as evident by the way the Allstate Arena erupted with chants of “Yes!” each time Bryan laid a kick into Reigns during the bout’s opening minutes.
The bearded wonder’s flurry didn’t last long, as the bruising power of Reigns — in addition to the textbook, speedy tags between the black-garbed bullies — took over, ostensibly isolating Bryan. Worn down though he was, the persistent Bryan forged ahead and eventually tagged in his partner, who dropped both opponents with draping DDTs and even turned a flying attack by Rollins off the top rope into an organ-quaking powerslam before being caught by a Reigns Superman punch.
But Orton is nothing if not resourceful. After avoiding contact with both members of The Shield in the corner, WWE’s Apex Predator slyly threw Rollins overhead with a T-Bone Suplex into Reigns. The crumpled-up competition was then treated to a series of breathtaking dropkicks from the artful Bryan, whose return to the match thrilled the WWE Universe. Galvanized by the vocal Chicagoans, Bryan then launched himself through the ropes with a suicide dive. Unfortunately for Bryan, Rollins and Reigns shoved each other out of the way and Bryan ended up slamming into his teammate.
Back in the ring, Bryan mustered two consecutive “No!” Locks on Rollins, which — had they not been interrupted by Reigns — may have brought the match to a close. Reigns’ interference inspired Orton to join the fray, and that’s when things truly got messy.
The Viper tried RKO’ing Reigns but the powerhouse threw Orton into Bryan. Orton then sidestepped Reigns’ freight-train-like spear, causing Bryan to be cut in half. Orton succeeded in dropping Reigns with the RKO, but Rollins ran in, disposed of Orton and landed a frightening leaping stomp on Bryan’s skull for the pinfall.
The loss represents a devastating setback for Orton & Bryan. Not only was the duo on the verge of winning championship gold, but Orton & Bryan also appeared, finally, to be moving past the tumult that impaired their previous outings as a tag team. How will this blow affect their relationship going forward? Judging by Orton’s frustrated body language after the match — his arms akimbo and his countenance screaming “disappointment” — could the characteristically ornery Viper place the blame on the Superstar who’s battled his own feelings of being a “weak link”?
More important to the WWE tag team division at large, what’s next in store for The Shield contingent of Reigns & Rollins? Having turned back a high-power team the caliber of Orton & Bryan, where does “The Hounds of Justice’s” thunder-and-lightning duo go from here?
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