Rest now dear brother,-cm
Like a soldier on that bed
One made of roses
The story of The Bloodline has been a bit polarizing, albeit very popular. Even when I personally found it getting stale, there was enough to sink just enough into. It’s a story that’s nearing three years now.
In that time, we’ve seen so much happen in the industry, with so many stories being worth checking out, such as the developments in The Bullet Club, “Hangman” Adam Page’s journey of self-realization, or the FTR/Briscoes trilogy to prove who was the superior tag team worthy of the ROH gold.
This story, The Bloodline’s story, joins these as some of my favorite wrestling stories through the pandemic and in a post-shutdown world.
Now, it is reaching an end, where a new era begins, and though I’ll miss this, I am excited for the future. The finish line is in sight, but a distance away. Simultaneously lightyears and milliseconds away.
Though the backstories of those involved go a long way, this particular story began at Roman Reigns’s return as The Tribal Chief at SummerSlam 2020. His road, paved with manipulation, gaslighting, and downright abuse, saw him enforce power that humiliated and emasculated his cousins, Sami Zayn, and also Paul Heyman as he would hold the Universal Championships and later the WWE Championship, while The Usos carried the Tag Team Titles on both Raw and Smackdown. He did this with the responsibility of providing for his family; heavy may the lei rest on the shoulders of The Tribal Chief.
The story of Sami Zayn’s journey to self-realization, however, hit its end in one of the most powerful in WWE history. As everyone argues about whether or not the quality of the storyline lives up to the hype, one thing is undeniable – so many people are invested.
The lengths Sami Zayn has gone to in telling this story and developing his character has completely shaped the trajectory of The Bloodline significantly. Just when the stable felt like it was losing steam, The Honorary Uce won his way into our hearts with his “My dawg”, “ucey”, and his improper usage of “yeet”, coalesced with how dedicated he was to The Bloodline, and we somehow rooted for him while wishing he would get out of this dangerous situation. This was actually supposed to last a few weeks, but nobody counted on just how damn good Sami is! His triumphs were our catharsis in being accepted and his pains and fears wrung our hearts like a damp washcloth.
Zayn’s role harkens back to someone like Mick Foley, a bearded and wild-haired man who is so lovable and easy to root for. Yet, he already was exactly that on NXT as the “heart and soul” who became a darling to fans of the black-and-gold brand. Along the way, however, with his failures and betrayals at the hands of his off-and-on friend Kevin Owens, he was lost. Even in alliance with this bully, he was lost. He thought everyone was conspiring against him, and was spiraling. Even Johnny Knoxville of Jackass was out to get him!
Speaking of Kevin Owens, this extra wild card would ruffle the feathers of everyone involved in the form of The Prizefighter. His own separate journey while Sami was on his own saw him wonder if he was right in trying to be better than he was the day before, going so far as to return to his old habits until he realized that none of that matters – that he just needs to do what he needs to in order to win. Fight Owens Fight. If that brings his morality to good or bad, so be it. And so he would once again find himself in the thorns of the Bloodline by challenging Roman Reigns at the 2023 Royal Rumble event.
January 28 in the Alamodome was something else. A vast improvement upon the Royal Rumble the year prior, San Antonio, Texas saw some stars show up and show out, with two favorites winning the men’s and women’s Rumble matches, but this match was deemed important enough to be the main event, and rightfully so, given the post-match events.
The well-documented symbolism of the match and moment started the moment Sami and Kevin sat on turnbuckles opposite each other; Kevin was bathed in the light, representing that he knew who he was while Sami was dwelling in Roman’s dark shadow, accompanied by Roman’s request, unsure of himself. Roman, as of late, was doubting Sami’s allegiance and this was another test, because Roman is going to be absolutely ruthless. He needs Sami to have that same energy, for The Bloodline.
Immediately, Sami is on edge, standing in fear as Roman fights Owens across the ring and outside, but he dare not interrupt. Roman may be nice and kind to Sami now, but when’s that going to break?. It’s that uncomfortable feeling that many who deal with abuse may sympathize with – when someone seems so calm and collected, but you don’t know when the next moment they blow up happens, and you’re on pins and needles. Walking on eggshells. Any minute now, Roman could be red-faced and yelling, threatening harm, until he puts his hand on your shoulder and tells you he loves you.
We’ll get back to the match itself, but I personally feel it is important to add context.
The lengths he would go to has been evident, and it is not something that Sami wants. He wanted to be a part of the main event, to feel like he belongs, and to feel like he’s great because he’s doubted himself to the point he became paranoid and delusional and lazy. And now he’s seeing people being hurt by it. He saw Jey almost face the wrath of Roman himself after Jey expressed his annoyance at Sami, expressed how he didn’t care what Roman dictated. And Sami, having the big heart that he does, dissolved the situation with diplomacy, peace, and levity with the viral “ucey” moment.
Sami has plucked The Bloodline out of the fire so many times, even at his own expense. Jey didn’t trust that, because how could you trust someone so pure and so selfless? There’s got to be something to it, and there’s no room for naivety. To him, Sami wasn’t even part of the family. Jey’s gruffness was perhaps the biggest obstacle, and in Sami trying to win him over, that became the thing that made them brothers beyond blood.
That bond would be firmly established once Sami sacrificed Kevin to The Bloodline at the Wargames Match in the main event of Survivor Series. That was the moment he knew Sami was good for the family. Someone who was willing to do the hardest thing for the thing they wanted the most. For Jey, that was trust. For Sami, however, that was selling his soul, though he didn’t realize it. He descended into Inferno; abandoned hope, ye who enter the graces of The Bloodline.
Kevin from there would vow to stop trying to help Sami leave The Bloodline, stop trying to make him see reason. Kevin was just done, and his focus was on the rest of the stable.
Except, despite this proclamation, his actions would ring differently. Sparing Sami the carnage he would inflict on The Bloodline, he knew there would be a moment they’d turn on Sami, and he’d have to learn it the hard way. Or would he?
Now, we get back to the Royal Rumble Match. Solo Sikoa and The Usos are relegated to the back. As Roman said earlier in the night, “It’s Sami’s night”. Only Paul Heyman accompanies them, and he cheers and boasts to Sami the glory of The Bloodline and of The Tribal Chief, the fickle, slimy bastard.
Sami can only watch on apprehensively, as though Kevin does put up a good fight, he’s unable to keep up with the pace of a ruthless Roman, tired of dealing with Owens at this point. He even powerbombs Kevin right onto the steel steps; the image of his spine and back of the head colliding to the edge of the steps is painful to see, no matter the quality of the steps. This is wrong, this isn’t what I wanted at all is written on Sami’s face, and again, all he can do is watch.
Eventually, the match ends and The Bloodline celebrate, decorated in leis. They celebrate in a vicious way, as they handcuff Kevin to the ropes and take turns battering him repeatedly, like men with no moral compass. Like this was a firing squad and The Prizefighter was enemy number one. It was finally enough the moment Roman took a swing with a chair towards Kevin’s face. One smack with it, ready to scramble the brains of the Canadian like eggs in the morning.
In a split second, Sami stops it, pleading and begging with his Tribal Chief not to do it, that it’s beneath him and the match is over. Foolishly he does so, in the hopes there was humanity in Roman’s soul, because he still had good in his.
Roman obliges, on the condition that Sami was to deliver the final blow. Oh, the hesitation that suffocated The Honorary Uce… Even Roman getting in his face was stirring up so much emotions, and he looked more helpless and lost than ever, as he held that steel chair. That look was then replaced with one that held nothing behind his eyes; no emotion, no thoughts, just. fucking. swing.
In that moment, time stopped for everyone in the arena, and for those at home, save for the static, cathartic clamor of the audience.
History repeats itself, Sami smacks the chair on Roman’s back as he collapses and kneels, having flashbacks of when Seth Rollins once did the same thing with The Shield. Poetry. Kevin’s too lifeless to notice, but he comes to. Paul Heyman is floored. Solo is angered. Jimmy is shocked. A world of confused and overwhelming emotions shows on Jey Uso, who stands in paralysis.
Sami apologizes, but only to Jey Uso. He’s seen Solo ready to eliminate him, and Jimmy was not there as much for Sami to depend on, but ever since Wargames, Jey has earned Sami’s trust in return.
The rest of the Bloodline shed their leis and assault Sami with every drop of virulent venom that incapacitates the now former Honorary Uce. Roman’s punches are particularly vicious, angry that someone would dare to question him. He scoffs as he plucks the petals off of the lei meant for Sami and drops it around his corpse.
At once, Jimmy orders his brother to join in, that he’s his real brother, exposing the jealousy he harbored once Sami and Jey bonded. So much is going on, his world is falling apart, and he leaves, hiding his face. Everything he had just accepted is crumbling and now, while Sami finally remembered who the hell he is, Jey doesn’t even recognize who he’s become. He would later declare on social media that he was out.
Jimmy, Roman, and Solo’s assault destroys their former family, as a tired and groggy Kevin struggles wearily from his handcuffs, kicking and flailing his legs to help – but it’s for naught, and he must watch his dear friend be immolated. He must sit there, knowing he’s in pain and his heart is shattered in red across the mat.
Kevin, the Vergil to Sami’s Dante, knows his role shall be shortened hereafter until his calling time. He, albeit unintentionally, guided Zayn from Inferno to Purgatorio, and now Paradiso awaits for he who has been reborn in his own personal holy light.
The trio finish their work on Sami and leave, declaring war from now on – no prisoners. The crown is now squeezing Roman’s head as his right-hand man for the night lay, a body on a bed of roses, on a canvas painted with pain and heartbreak.
What sticks in my mind is that Solo was steadfast in standing behind Roman, despite looking up to Sami, Jimmy readily accepted everything in the name of the family, and Roman was so shaky and twisted at this point that there may be no coming back, but Jey…Jey had to have his respect and trust earned, and once someone who is sealed up like that opens up to you, that bond is hard to break, even when you wish it could shatter.
Whether or not Jey changes or returns, he must adapt with the season and learn from the fall. His brother Sami has.
But man, the pop that Sami received after that chair collided with Roman felt unreal. It wasn’t someone kicking out of a finisher at the last second, a return, or a debut. It was something beautiful and exciting. It’s like watching a friend finally waking up and doing what they need to do for themselves. This was storytelling. Whether or not you agree as to how good this moment was, I don’t give a shit. This was a moment. It’s times like these I’m glad to be a fan of wrestling.
That chair shot was euphoric for everyone who was lost and under the grip of someone, or something, in control. This was someone overcoming abuse and reclaiming their agency. Fictional or not, that is a wondrous thing.
The weeks following saw Sami standing up to Roman and Paul, even if he knew he’d fall to Jimmy and Solo. Roman’s family is falling apart, and his rage and anxiety is bubbling to a monstrous rage, but Sami’s fire is just as hot. He may doubt himself now, but he knows he can’t give up.
Sure, other men that were bigger, stronger, wiser, and smarter than Roman have lost to him, but Sami had the keys to the kingdom at one point, and Roman’s vest no longer protects him from the ensuing bullets. Moreover, Sami Zayn is filled with an intense passion and renewed sense of self, the combination of which will increase his fighting spirit.
It’s not about how strong you are or how smart you are, it’s about how dedicated you are to see things through and get back up even when it’s the hardest thing to do. When people love you and care about you, they want you to succeed. When you want something for yourself, you love yourself to succeed, and that’s been Sami’s arc, learning to believe in himself and love himself. He doesn’t need a bloodline or a conspiracy; Sami need only his own inner strength to become the heart and soul once more.
Royal Rumble winner Cody Rhodes believes. Jey Uso believes. Kevin Owens believes. Roman Reigns believes, deep down. Sami Zayn believes, even deeper down. We all believe Roman won’t end Sami, that he doesn’t get to end Sami. that Sami could end Roman’s story and his reign with the titles – all he has to do is believe.
In their moments to come, all performers involved can look at this moment and see that this was a story well executed, and rest knowing they saw it to the right points.
All because of a man laying, surrounded by red flowers, separating blood and water.