Sami Zayn is the MVP of WWE right now. Hands down. Roman Reigns is my guy in the territory right now because I think he’s the best all-around doing it, but as far as who is the most important cat on the roster, who plays the most important role in WWE’s best story? That’s Zayn. Sami carried the emotion tonight, starting with a one-on-one convo with Roman before the match. Roman asked Sami if he talked to Kevin Owens on the most recent SmackDown episode. And if so, why did he lie to Jey Uso? Sami looked Roman in the eyes, answered his questions, and explained his actions. Roman seemed pleased but he’s still a paranoid mob boss, so that satisfaction only goes but so far. That didn’t stop the question from looming over the main event: Was Sami loyal to the Best Man at his wedding or to The Bloodline? His family or his adopted family?
The story developed in the simplest way during the War Games match: Sami and Jey working together against the Brawling Brutes. Butch dismantled Jey when the match started, picking apart his fingers and elbows. Then Ridge Holland crashed the party with his own brand of pain. So when the timer stopped at zero and the Bloodline cage opened, Jimmy Uso happily stepped out. But as soon as he did, Roman grabbed him by the arm and motioned for Sami to leave the cage and enter the ring. What better way to test Sami’s loyalty and cook the beef between he and Jey than putting them together in a fight for their lives? Sami hesitated but eventually got in the ring. Jey begrudgingly worked with him but snapped a few times, despite the fact Sami saved him from taking a boot to the face while pinned against the cage. No matter what Sami did, it just wasn’t enough for Jey.
Even after Jimmy entered and saved the both of them from a three-on-two courtesy of Ridge, Butch, & Drew McIntyre, Jey and Sami still went at each other. Well, mostly Jey going at Sami until Sami snapped back out of frustration. What more did he need to do? How many more ways could he prove his loyalty to the crew? We soon found out when Kevin Owens entered the ring, followed by Solo Sikoa, Sheamus, and Roman Reigns.
Shortly after the match officially began, Butch tangled with Roman. Sami attacked Butch like a rabid dog and asked if Butch knew who Roman was? After verbally and physically disrespecting Butch, Sami held him in position for a Jey Uso superkick. But Butch ducked, Jey hit Sami instead. Jimmy tried helping Sami to his feet but Jey said “nah.” Well, he said da lot of things but that was the gist. Roman eventually regained his footing and the battle continued but this time between KO and Roman.
That’s what it’s all about, right? For Sami, those two represent the fulcrum of his entire story. Is he loyal to his best friend or the Tribal Chief? Roman and Kevin dealt big blows but both survived the other’s best shot. Until KO hit Roman with that stunner and that’s when Sami made his appearance. Zayn grabbed the ref’s hand before it hit the mat for a three count, which served as the catalyst for an argument between Owens and Zayn. Sami hit KO with a low blow but looked torn.
As Cole pointed out, he low blowed his Best Man and lifelong friend. Sami’s facial expressions and body language after that low blow said more than any punch or suplex. But he made a choice and for Sami, this felt like the point of no return. He got on one knee and talked to a recuperating Roman, got a head nod from the Head of the Table, and nailed KO with a Helluva Kick. And he did all of this with Jey watching and waiting in the wings.
Owens dropped to the mat, Sami looked at Jey, and signaled that KO was all his. Jey shook his head, took the top rope, hit KO with an Uso splash, and got the big victory for The Bloodline.
Roman, showing the emotion he seemingly only shows with Sami, hugged the honorary Uce, with a giant bear hug from Jey Uso coming right after. Jey damn near hugged the life out of Sami. The Bloodline stood tall and, more importantly, stood together as the credits rolled.
Sami proved his loyalty and as he told Roman when the show ended, he’s loyal to him today, yesterday, and tomorrow. If he said it, he meant it, biting his tongue for no one.
This was just dope from beginning to end. As I said, this is WWE’s best story and they keep finding fresh angles. A story of Sami turning on the crew for his best friend seemed like the obvious route to go here. Instead, we got one about a man truly at his wits end and pulling out all the stops just for a little acceptance from a group in which he truly believes and loves.
But none of it works without Sami. Not the match, not the angle, not any of its intricacies work without Sami Zayn hitting home runs every at every plate appearance.
Characters Welcome Part Deux
Everyone on the Cageside staff has a thing that draws them into the professional sports entertainment wrestling world. Some of us focus on the in-ring action, some are all about a specific style—shoutout to Manolo and his love for a Hoss fight—while others are really into mic work. I’m all about characters and how the in-ring product mirrors who the wrestlers are as people. Well, wrestling’s facsimile of them anyway.
The Women’s War Games match had all of that in spades. Yes, of course, violence ruled the day because it’s called “War Games.” We got trash cans, kendo sticks, tables, ladders, and even handcuffs. But how all those things happened, along with the order of entrants, put the match over the top in my eyes.
Bianca Belair started the match because she’s the captain. Everything we know about Bianca says she’s not letting anyone else on her squad start the match. Especially knowing her team doesn’t have the advantage. Bianca started against Dakota Kai, then along came IYO SKY. Booking the tag team champs against the Raw Women’s champ and team leader? Perfect sense. It ups the ante for Bianca and underlines Damage CTRL’s two on one advantage. Bianca did her best but the tag champs dominated her as they should. Asuka hit the ring next and squared off with IYO, as WWE keeps teasing a solo feud between these two and why it needs to happen. Nikki Cross showed up next and rather than enter the ring, she pulled out the plunder.
Putting that responsibility on Nikki’s shoulders is perfectly in keeping with the character. She’s a wild card that Bayley harnessed for her purposes. That wild card threw in trash cans, kendo sticks, and immediately turned the match into a backyard brawl. Alexa Bliss heard her name next, and, like any good tag partner, sought out her partner and went to work. When they called Bayley’s number, she brought out the ladder and the table, but dropped all of that when she set her sights on Bianca.
Then came Mia Yim, who happily upped the violence with trash cans—took her a while—but changed the tone because, like Nikki, she marches to her own drum. Rhea, Bayley’s last ace up her sleeve, turned the field with raw power. She handled Alexa with ease, and cleared the ring.
But then the Man came around, and everything changed. Booking Becky as the last entrant was smart. Besides the fact she’s coming off injury, it built anticipation for her eventual arrival. Much like Rhea wiped the floor with the babyfaces, Becky did the same with the heels, beckoning them to come get some if they felt lucky. And after a lot of chaos, the match finished the way it started: with character.
Nikki wanted her revenge on Alexa and tried handcuffing her to the cage. But Alexa outsmarted her former friend, and handcuffed them to each other, then dropped Nikki on her back with an Electric Chair Drop. Rhea, recovering from Asuka’s green mist, found herself in a sleeper hold courtesy of Mia. But using that power she showed when the match started, Rhea feel backwards into a ladder which broke the hold, broke Mia, and possibly broke herself in the process.
This meant Damage CTRL, Bianca, and Becky were the last women standing. Becky wanted her vengeance on those three women for putting her out of commission and Bianca has beef as well. Kai & SKY found themselves in precarious positions on a table, Bayley took a KOD into the cage, and Becky launched herself from the top of the cage onto Dakota & IYO’s limp bodies on top of the table.
The rich team won, the right people finished the match, and everything made sense. This was damn fine storytelling and displayed so much character in the process.
Number One with a Bullet
AJ Styles is, according to this match, the better Bullet Club leader. The match between Styles and Finn Balor wasn’t fancy. It was pure technical wrestling with one brawl mixed in just to get Judgment Day and The O.C. off the board. The factions battled into the audience and might still be fighting somewhere in Boston.
I’m surprised the match didn’t get that much time but I also shouldn’t be. They sandwiched it between the opening War Games match and the SmackDown Women’s championship match. They went for a little psychology when AJ beat up on Finn’s knee, but that never factored into the outcome. Finn thought he handled AJ with a kick to the head while they battled between rings, but AJ recovered and hit his challenger with a Phenomenal Forearm.
That headline refers to the way Ronda Rousey successfully defended her title against Shotzi, and how I wish someone played that tune when the match ended. That was bowling shoe ugly, to borrow a term. No rhythm, no fluidity, and no real character stuff outside of Ronda’s usual trash talking. The less said about this match the bettie sooooo...
If you didn’t expect the triple threat match for the United States championship to bang, then I don’t know what to tell you. Austin Theory is the new champion after an incredible three-way dance. And that’s poetic because Bobby Lashley and Seth Rollins both dismissed Theory from the ring at the start of the match. Bobby and Seth wanted each other and Theory, to them, felt inconsequential. But he hung around, despite their best efforts. Theory survived a Hurt Lock, a double Hurt Lock, and reminded everyone he’s not an afterthought. He literally fell into a win when he landed on Seth Rollins after Rollins, who positioned Theory for a Falcon Arrow, found himself on the wrong end of a spear from Lashley.
Every once in a while I say there’s a match you really need to watch if you missed the show. This is that match.
There was one dud of the show. Everything else succeeded or succeeded with flying colors.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your Turn.