Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Bloodline, William Shakespeare's Macbeth, and the Best Storyline Wrestling Has Ever Produced

"You shall be King." (1.3.86b)

Getting noticed in a large family has to be tough on a kid. Getting noticed in a family full of world renowned professional athletes has to be damn near impossible. And yet, this was the task which befell Leati "Joe" Anoa'i, now known around the globe as Roman Reigns.

Growing up a member of the Anoa'i family, he saw his father and uncle wrestle as The Wild Samoans in the then-WWF capturing tag team gold. As an adolescent and young man, while preparing for a career in professional football, he witnessed even more family members take the plunge into the squared circle with great success. While his own brother, Matthew, never made it past the midcard and tag division as various iterations of Rosey, his cousins Rodney as well Edward Fatu as Yokozuna and Umaga respectively held the World title and challenged for it. Edward's brother, Solofa, as Rikishi may never have held a title higher up the card than the Intercontinental strap but was arguably the most over of them all. Mention "Stinkface" to anyone who watched during the Attitude Era and you're assured a reaction.

And then there was Dwayne.

Pro wrestling had never seen anyone like Dwayne Johnson before and likely never will again. The combination of charisma and athleticism coupled with an almost preternatural instinct for what the fanbase would pop for is something folks have been chasing for 20 years and will probably continue chasing forevermore. Quite simply, The Rock stands alone in the annals of professional wrestling history.

Imagine growing up in that shadow. It can't be surprising Reigns sought out fame and fortune on the gridiron rather than the squared circle. Despite our arm-chair quarterbacking and complaints that even our blind grandma could have caught that pass, achieving the level of NFL player is something less than a couple thousand men on the entire planet accomplish at one time. Unfortunately for Reigns and his hopes and dreams, he was not of one of those 2,000. At the end of 2008, he hung up his football cleats and traded them for wrestling boots a year and a half later.

With his size, look, and lineage behind him, by the beginning of 2002 he was challenging for the main event title of WWE's developmental promotion and the writing was on the wall we were witnessing the birth of a future Superstar. This continued onto the main roster when he debuted alongside Seth Rollins and Seth Ambrose, two blue-chip prospects in and of themselves, as a trio known as The Shield. All three men oozed potential and the eventual break-up of the faction and subsequent feuds was something fans began to greatly anticipate.

It seemed Reigns was poised to carry on the proud Anoa'i name into the 2010s and beyond and in 2014, Reigns began challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Less than four years separated Reigns from his pro wrestling debut and his first pay-per-view main event as a singles competitor. Reigns seemed destined to rule.

In one of William Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, the main character of Macbeth, a general in the army of King Duncan of Scotland, is enjoying the success following a defeat of Norwegian and Irish forces. Life is good and there is little else the general could ask for. But soon after, he is met by three witches who prophesy he will one day be king. Leading an army is one thing but a country? Never had he considered it... but now that the seed is planted, Macbeth could think of nothing else. He, too, seemed destined to rule.

But at what cost?

"Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill." (3.2.55)

Skipping over Reigns' ill-advised and terrible babyface run in the middle of the previous decade, his story truly begins upon his return at SummerSlam 2020 following a brief hiatus. Shedding the babyface persona of his past, Reigns quickly aligned himself with Paul Heyman and captured the Universal title in the process before starting a feud with his cousin, Jey Uso.

At this point, the overtures of familial lineage began. Reigns began referring to himself as the "Tribal Chief" and as "Head of the Table." In fact, the feud with Jey was centered around the tag team specialist refusing to acknowledge Reigns as such. It culminated in an incredibly brutal and emotional I Quit match at that year's Hell in a Cell which easily is the high point of the entire Thunderdome Era.

"Since we were kids, you know I was better," Reigns taunted his cousin, pinned against the mat under a set of steel steps. Lifting the stairs over his head and poised to deliver the coup de grace on Jey, Jimmy Uso rushes in and pleads with his cousin invoking the blood times between them all. Reigns in tears, collapses to the mat, head in his hands... before grabbing the recently injured Jimmy and sinking in a guillotine choke causing Jey to scream, "I quit" in order to save his brother.

The shot of Reigns standing over The Usos is iconic. Following this, Reigns walks up the ramp to find his father and brother awaiting him to place the Ula Fala around his neck, a symbol of High Chiefs in Samoan culture. The ends justified the means, it would seem.

Like Reigns, Macbeth does not stop with killing King Duncan. In order to cover his murderous tracks, he must also kill the guards who find the slain king's body. Over the course of the play, he murders even more people in order to retain his hold on power all the while destabilizing the country making the once strong nation prime for invasion.

Macbeth is assured his actions are justified and assumes protection due to the prophecy given to him by the witches. He is blind to chaos swirling around him and even more unaware he is the cause behind it all. Much how Reigns attained his position by being ruthless, by inflicting violence on his own family, Macbeth did so by killing anyone who would stand in his way. They both did so without second thought assured of their destiny as Tribal Chief, as King. If this is what it takes to get there - and stay there - then this is what must be done.

But both reigns were "things bad begun" and continuously made "strong themselves by ill." Macbeth's reign as King would soon come to a bloody end; would it be safe to assume the same of Roman's?

"What's done cannot be undone" (5.1.59)

Sami has turned his back on The Bloodline. "The Honorary Uce" is an Uce no more. Even Jey has seemingly regressed to his position from Fall 2020 of being staunchly against Reigns' behavior and possibly even position as "Head of the Table." His posts on social media certainly indicate he's out and wants another shot at Reigns. The screams from the undisputed champion of "You broke my family!" as he continued assaulting Zayn at the Royal Rumble were more apt than we may have suspected.

It seems we are entering the final act of The Bloodline tragedy. In Macbeth's final act, the now desperate and depressed king of Scotland is left with a deceased wife, dead at her own hands while also anticipating an invading English army approaching his country before ultimately dying himself at the business end of a sword held by a man loyal to king murdered at Macbeth's hands.

Reigns contends with Sami Zayne, the recipient of one of the loudest pops in recent history after smacking Reigns in the back with a chair. Reigns contends with Jey Uso, a family member - his own blood - who has defied him before and seems deadset on defying him again. And finally, Reigns contends with Cody Rhodes, a man recently returned to the WWE Universe in a bid to capture what had always eluded him while also attempting to live up to the weight of his own familial lineage. All are poised and eager to relieve the Tribal Chief of the crown he has worn for so long, a crown that he has gone to great, and often dishonorable, lengths to keep.

Macbeth grasped and held onto his power by any means necessary. Reigns has done the same. Will The Tribal Chief's story end much like the Scots? Or will Reigns find another way to remain on top.

Don't let anyone fool you into thinking Shakespeare was some upper class elite who sought to entertain only the intellectuals. His plays were written explicitly for the common folk. They were the ones buying the tickets to his plays. He wrote what would entertain the masses, his works bawdy and crass and filled with violence and blood. His immense talent, however, was such that his works have become timeless and almost universally recognized as some of the greatest writings of the English language.

In a day and age of storylines dropped without warning and hot shot title changes, a storyline such as this which has unfolded since late Summer 2020 is unparalleled. But quantity should not be mistaken for quality and yet this is also a trait this angle has in spades. Everyone involved has played their roles masterfully, most of all Reigns himself. In the span of 10 years on the WWE roster, he has evolved from faction muscle to rejected babyface to one of the most efficient heels working today. His character work and storytelling are at the highest level and have allowed this storyline from being muddled in the "heel champ wins constantly due to his lackies" trapping to instead transcending into the rarified air of professional wrestling as art.

Bawdy and crass and filled with violence and blood. But art nonetheless.

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