The Greatest Story in Pro Wrestling History: Sami Zayn splitting from the Bloodline

Poetry on the canvas.

I love professional wrestling. I love professional wrestling because at its peak it is cinema and art and beautiful storytelling that grabs you by the heartstrings and pulls on every other emotional lever and you forget that you’re watching professional wrestling. The best kind of art immerses you in that way: You forget where the contours of what you’re watching are, whether that’s a film, a television show, even a sporting event like professional football, or when you’re reading a book. The action, the storytelling, the moment, brings you in and you forget that it’s all fiction or that it’s all just a game. In that moment, it means something more. I think that’s why as humans we gravitate toward and yearn for the arts because we’re a storytelling species and we love seeing and experiencing stories.

Pro wrestling when you look at its contours is silly, of course. If you scaled anything back to its contours, it would likely be silly, but pro wrestling can be really silly. You obviously have to suspend a fair amount of disbelief. But when pro wrestling hits, it hits unlike anything else for me. The way it makes me feel is unlike anything I can describe from any other source of entertainment.

Currently, for those who don’t know, the last two and a half-some years, WWE’s top storyline and the top storyline in professional wrestling (I don’t think that’s a stretch, but some may quibble) has been Roman Reigns and the Bloodline. Let me give you the quick backstory. Roman Reigns initially left WWE prior to WrestleMania 36 in March 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns. He left as the good guy and the top guy he’d been positioned as for the prior six years. When he returned at Summerslam that same year, subsequently winning the Universal Title, he aligned himself with Paul Heyman of all people, which signaled that he was turning bad guy or heel. From there, Roman Reigns took on the persona of the Tribal Chief, the Head of the Table, and existing in God Mode. Everyone had to bend to his will and acknowledge him — that became his signature catchphrase, asking each city he appears in to acknowledge him, which itself is a brilliant play on the WWE audience rejecting him as the top babyface for the last six years. And it wasn’t just other wrestlers and the audience Roman wanted to acknowledge him, he also wanted his only family, his own blood, to acknowledge him. That started with Jey Uso. In a brutal Hell in a Cell “I Quit” match, he forced both Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso to fall in line and acknowledge him as their Tribal Chief.

For the next number of months and longer, Roman dominated the division, defeating each subsequent challenger. At WrestleMania 37, he “smashed and stacked” Edge, who had won the 2021 Royal Rumble, and perennial fan favorite, Daniel Bryan. By WrestleMania 38, Roman was back to facing off against the one man he couldn’t defeat, Brock Lesnar, who was now a babyface. They faced each for the Undisputed WWE Universal World Championship (because Brock came into the match as WWE Champion and Roman as the Universal Champion). Roman won again. By that year’s Summerslam, he defeated Brock again in one of the craziest darn matches I’ve ever seen (Brock tipped the ring with a tractor).

At the following premium live event, Clash at the Castle, Roman defeated Drew McIntyre, who looked like he might just win, with the event in his backyard of sorts, Cardiff, Wales. Instead, he was thwarted in his efforts with the addition of a new member of the Bloodline, Solo Sikoa, who is yet another wrestle in the Anoa’i family of Samoan wrestlers and acts as the street fighter-type enforcer for the Bloodline.

Around the fall of 2022 is when Sami Zayn entered the picture. He was trying to find his footing for the year, trying to stay relevant, and decided to latch on to the Bloodline because they’re the biggest act on the show with the biggest star, Roman Reigns. Over time, he seemed to ingratiate himself to Roman Reigns, but Jey Uso was highly skeptical and thought Sami couldn’t be trusted. After all, Sami Zayn isn’t from the Anoa’i family; he isn’t blood. And watching this story unfold, I wasn’t quite sure what Roman’s motivation was. Why would he want some “court jester” dude like Sami Zayn cramping his style and top guy vibe in the Bloodline? My best theory was that he wanted to show his power at making yet another wrestler bend the knee to his will. This was evidenced by Roman being the ultimate gaslighter to get Sami into the fold.

Eventually, this led to clashes between the Bloodline and Sami and Kevin Owens, another perennial fan favorite and underdog, but also real life best friend and on-screen best friend, and at times, enemy, of Sami’s. Their stories have been connected for nearly 20 years. Kevin perpetually warned Sami that the Bloodline couldn’t be trusted, and that they were just using him and would turn on him. Sami didn’t believe KO and only further ingratiated himself with the Bloodline by helping them defeat KO and his team at War Games in November 2022. Sami became an “honorary uce” at that point. And in a beautiful storytelling moment, at that event, Jey hugged Sami, thereby accepting him into the fold finally.

Still, fissures existed, because Sami kept unintentionally messing things up and/or appearing like he was reluctant to fully turn against KO, his former best friend. Where did his loyalties really lie? This eventually led to the most recent Monday Night Raw, the 30th anniversary episode on January 23rd, with the “Trial of Sami Zayn.” Roman was ready to “convict” Sami and have Solo take him out. But who came to Sami’s defense? None other than the man who distrusted him initially: Jey Uso! It was a damn near teary-eyed moment for me and the crowd. It was beautiful. Jey himself was nearly in tears talking about how Sami was like a real brother to him, always taking bullets for the Bloodline. His defense bought Sami a reprieve from Roman and Solo … for the time being.

Last night at the WWE Royal Rumble was where it all culminated after the match between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens. Roman wanted Sami by his side during the match, saying Sami had to perform one more test to prove his loyalty to him and the Bloodline, but we didn’t know what the test was. At the end of the match, Roman asked Sami for a steel chair to get the advantage over KO and Sami seemed to hesitate. Later, Sami begged KO to just give up. Instead, KO didn’t, and Roman brutalized him with a spear through the barricade and two vicious head-snapping assaults on the ringside steel steps. Roman won the match, but the brutalizing wasn’t over. The rest of the Bloodline, Jimmy and Jey Uso and Solo, came out and mauled KO. They then handcuffed him to the ring ropes and continued to brutalize him.

Roman picked up a steel chair to finish KO off and Sami interjected, arguing that this was beneath Roman and KO was finished. So, Roman, ever the gaslighter, handed the chair to Sami to be the one who finished KO off. This was the test. This was Sami’s moment. Would he choose the Bloodline or save his best friend? He chose his best friend. In a moment I didn’t predict happening, whereby Sami would be the one initiating the break with the Bloodline, Sami swung the chair and hit Roman Reigns from behind.

So, so good.

Jey was incredulous! Not even a week prior, he defended Sami to Roman, and now, here was Sami turning on Roman! Jimmy then attacked Sami, followed by Solo. When Jimmy implored Jey to aide in the assault, Jey … walked away from the Bloodline! He was conflicted and it was freakin’ beautiful. He was conflicted between someone he came to see as a brother, even if he wasn’t blood, and those who are his actual blood. But that didn’t stop Roman. No. He brutalized Sami, too. To the point where the crowd began chanting, “F–k you, Roman!” Amazing. That kind of reaction is exactly what you want in that moment for Roman.

The Bloodline storyline I’ve recapped overall is one of the greatest stories I’ve ever seen in professional wrestling, and perhaps at this point, the greatest. The story that unfolded and culminated last night, with Sami and the Bloodline officially splitting, was the greatest singular segment I’ve ever seen in professional wrestling because of its cinematic, artful quality. Which itself followed one of the greatest professional wrestling segments not even a week earlier with the “Trial of Sami Zayn.”

The facial expressions say it all.

Pro wrestling, man.

And the reaction to the crowd in Texas watching live, and myself at home, showed the power of the storytelling. The crowd lost its mind with a loud cheer (or “pop” as well call it in wrestling) when Sami hit Roman with the chair, and then as mentioned, showered Roman with hate when he viciously assaulted Sami. Emotional investment is everything.

I can’t wait to see where this emotional rollercoaster takes us next.

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