Daniel Bryan’s Return to WWE Competition Hands ‘SmackDown Live’ Its Top Rating in Almost a Year



WWE

Tuesday’s installment of USA Network’s “SmackDown Live” drew the program’s highest ratings since last April, thanks to the return to action for fan-favorite Daniel Bryan.
The “Raw” sister show had 2.888 million total viewers tune in to watch Bryan open the show with the announcement that WWE had cleared him to wrestle again. The 8-10 p.m. telecast marked the best viewership for the program since the second installment that aired after “WrestleMania 33” last April.
“SmackDown” scored 1.271 million viewers in the key adults 18-49 demographic — that’s 8 percent better than the prior week’s episode. The overall audience was 4 percent higher than last Tuesday.
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“Over the last two months, I’ve asked WWE to re-look at my case,” Bryan said in his tearful return on Tuesday. “And they sent me to the best neurologists all over the country … every doctor I’ve seen has said the same thing and it is this: ‘You are cleared.’”
Then he was beat up by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who last week beat up “SmackDown” commissioner Shane McMahon. Watch both clips below.
The “SmackDown Live” general manager has been medically cleared to wrestle again for the first time since his career was shut down by a series of concussions two years ago. His return comes just in time for “WrestleMania 34” on Sunday, April 8, from New Orleans.
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Here are some highlights from Tuesday’s show:

Pro-wrestling title belts change hands (or waists) like grapplers change trunks these days, though it wasn’t always that way. With “Survivor Series” just around the corner featuring a card of Champion vs. Champion matches, TheWrap decided to grace the Internet with a little history lesson. Scroll through our gallery to see every WWE Champion ever, ranked by their numbers of title reigns.
Remember: this is a list of those who won the WWWF Championship, the WWF Championship or the WWE Championship. So don’t come after us, Universal Champions, et al.
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Jeff Hardy  # of Reigns: 1  
The un-“Broken” half of the Hardy Boyz has had the more storied singles career.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Bray Wyatt  # of Reigns: 1  
Abigail’s brother used to go by “Husky Harris” — we’d say this run is working out better for him.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Sgt. Slaughter  # of Reigns: 1  
Camel Clutch, Cobra Clutch — whatever “C”-animal it was, it hurt.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Dean Ambrose  # of Reigns: 1  
And “The Lunatic Fringe” pulled this off while wearing jeans.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Chris Jericho  # of Reigns: 1  
You’re a “stupid idiot” if you didn’t know this guy made “The List.”  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Eddie Guerrero  # of Reigns: 1  
Generally considered one of the best ever to have done it held the big-boy belt for 133.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: The Miz  # of Reigns: 1  
The kid from “The Real World” made good on his over-the-top MTV promos. One of the best on the mic, Miz has been holding down the Intercontinental Championship more than any other Superstar of the past few years.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Jinder Mahal  # of Reigns: 1  
Shortly before this publishing, the “Modern-Day Maharaja” dropped the title to A.J. Styles, ending a somewhat confusing run right before the WWE went to India.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: John “Bradshaw” Layfield  # of Reigns: 1  
JBL has taken his heel persona from the ring to the announce table. Never without a cowboy hat, Layfield thankfully leaves his lariat clothesline at home.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: The Ultimate Warrior# of Reigns: 1  
The muscle-bound maniac who handed Hulk Hogan his first-ever “WrestleMania” loss died after suffering a heart attack three days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: “Superstar” Billy Graham  # of Reigns: 1  
“Superstar” Billy Graham was a bodybuilder and buddy of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, blame Graham’s body for Jinder Mahal.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Kevin Nash  # of Reigns: 1  
You mean Tarzan from “Magic Mike”?!?!?   Yes, yes we do.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Pedro Morales  # of Reigns: 1  
History lesson: Back in the WWWF days, Morales became the first guy in wrestling history to win all three of the major men’s titles — the WWF Championship, the Intercontinental Championship and the WWF Tag Team Championship — in the company.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: André the Giant  # of Reigns: 1  
The stories about André the Giant sometimes feel as tall as he was.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: The Iron Sheik  # of Reigns: 1  
This guy is as big a hit on Twitter as he was in the ring.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Kane  # of Reigns: 1  
You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but Kane is one of the smartest Superstars in WWE history.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Rey Mysterio    # of Reigns: 1  
We’re not going to talk about how ridiculous the setup to his finishing move, “The 6-1-9,” became. This is a happy list.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Stan Stasiak  # of Reigns: 1  
Unfortunately Stasiak only held the belt for nine days.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Rob Van Dam  # of Reigns: 1  
One of the most popular ECW wrestlers of all-time, RVD has brought his three initials to seemingly every pro-wrestling promotion with three initials.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Ivan Koloff  # of Reigns: 1  
The “Russian Bear” was actually Canadian.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Buddy Rogers  # of Reigns: 1  
Rogers was kinda-sorta the first champion in the company. It’s complicated — ask Killer Kowalski and Bruno Sammartino.  
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Rank: 29 (tie)  Wrestler: Vince McMahon  # of Reigns: 1  
Hell, Mr. McMahon runs the damn company — of course he made this list.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Batista  # of Reigns: 2  
Guardian of the Galaxy, defender of WWE Championship.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: The Big Show  # of Reigns: 2  
You can’t miss this two-time champ — not even in a mega-arena.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: A.J. Styles  # of Reigns: 2  
“The Phenomenal One” is the reigning WWE Champion, at the time of this writing.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Alberto Del Rio  # of Reigns: 2  
Si! Si! Si! Si! Si! Si! Si!  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Sycho Sid  # of Reigns: 2  
It was a long way down from Shawn Michaels’ former bodyguard’s power-bomb.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair  # of Reigns: 2  
If you haven’t watched ESPN’s new “30 for 30: Nature Boy,” do that. Oh, and look up Flair’s ridiculous NWA runs too.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Sheamus  # of Reigns: 2  
Master of the Brogue Kick, Rocksteady in the “Ninja Turtles” movies — which is the greater accomplishment?  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Seth Rollins  # of Reigns: 2  
He’s BURN(ed) IT DOWN more than once.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Yokozuna  # of Reigns: 2  
That belt needed a few extenders to fit around the sumo.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: CM Punk  # of Reigns: 2  
Let’s just say he was a little less successful in the UFC.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Randy “Macho Man” Savage  # of Reigns: 2  
Before he snapped into Slim Jims, the “Macho Man” was snapping dudes in half.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Bob Backlund  # of Reigns: 2  
Backlund couldn’t “Make Darren Young Great Again” — or even keep the guy employed — but the master of the cross-face chicken wing had a pretty incredible career of his own.  
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Rank: 16 (tie)  Wrestler: Bruno Sammartino# of Reigns: 2  
Google him, kids.  
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Rank: 12 (tie)  Wrestler: Mankind  # of Reigns: 3  
Mick Foley nearly killed himself to raise these titles.  
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Rank: 12 (tie)  Wrestler: Daniel Bryan  # of Reigns: 3  
And if WWE’s medical staff would ever clear the current “SmackDown Live” GM, he’d soon add a fourth.  
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Rank: 12 (tie)  Wrestler: Roman Reigns  # of Reigns: 3  
Go ahead and boo him, Universe — WWE is still the Big Dog’s turf right now.  
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Rank: 12 (tie)  Wrestler: Shawn Michaels  # of Reigns: 3  
Before he found God, the “Heartbreak Kid” found jaws with his foot, popularizing the Superkick.  
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Rank: 8 (tie)  Wrestler: Edge  # of Reigns: 4  
On this day, you can see clearly… that Edge is one of the best to ever lace up.  
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Rank: 8 (tie)  Wrestler: The Undertaker  # of Reigns: 4  
The Dead Man is truly a living legend.  
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Rank: 8 (tie)  Wrestler: Kurt Angle  # of Reigns: 4  
Top 10, it’s true — it’s damn true.  
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Rank: 8 (tie)  Wrestler: Brock Lesnar  # of Reigns: 4  
Eat. Sleep. Win Titles. Repeat.  
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Rank: 7  Wrestler: Bret “Hitman” Hart  # of Reigns: 5  
The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.  
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Rank: 5 (tie)  Wrestler: Hulk Hogan  # of Reigns: 6  
Hulkamania was real. Then again, so was Gawker at one point.  
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Rank: 5 (tie)  Wrestler: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin  # of Reigns: 6  
On the Mt. Rushmore of all-time greats, and that’s the bottom line.  
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Rank: 3 (tie)  Wrestler: The Rock  # of Reigns: 8  
He may be Dwayne Johnson now, but he’ll always be “The Rock” to us.  
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Rank: 3 (tie)  Wrestler: Triple H  # of Reigns: 8  
Boss of The Authority has two words for the other guys on this list. We can’t reprint them.  
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Rank: 2  Wrestler: Randy Orton  # of Reigns: 9  
The Viper has RKO’d a lot of dudes outta nowhere.  
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Rank: 1  Wrestler: John Cena  # of Reigns: 13  
U Can’t See Him.  
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Who’s next — err, NXT? Will it be current WWE “SmackDown Live” Superstar Shinsuke Nakamura? (Probably.) Or how about newbies Tye Dillinger or Bobby Roode?
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From Buddy Rogers to A.J. Styles, here are all the guys from the old WWWF and WWF days — and beyond

Pro-wrestling title belts change hands (or waists) like grapplers change trunks these days, though it wasn’t always that way. With “Survivor Series” just around the corner featuring a card of Champion vs. Champion matches, TheWrap decided to grace the Internet with a little history lesson. Scroll through our gallery to see every WWE Champion ever, ranked by their numbers of title reigns.
Remember: this is a list of those who won the WWWF Championship, the WWF Championship or the WWE Championship. So don’t come after us, Universal Champions, et al.
Also Read:

TheWrap’s up-to-the-minute daily, weekly ratings reports, trends and analysis

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