Where would The Bloodline be without Sami Zayn — no, seriously?
Published: 2022-09-27 10:56 am
Sami Zayn is injecting new life into WWE’s Bloodline story
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The Post’s Joseph Staszewski brings you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.

Where would The Bloodline be without Sami Zayn — no, seriously?

Zayn’s successful quest to be welcomed into the group as an “Honorary Uce” has been arguably the most compelling thing going in WWE over the last five-plus months. It’s also given The Bloodline the ability to further the story every night beyond just traditional match-making with Roman Reigns working a limited schedule.

What makes it even better is we all know how this story likely ends, with The Bloodline — to Jey Uso’s delight — finally turning on Zayn. (Wouldn’t it be something though if it’s Zayn who stabs them in the back to help friend Kevin Owens?) But it’s been such good TV we don’t want it to end. Especially when Zayn is so good, that Reigns and the Usos can’t help but crack on camera.

Last week’s segment on SmackDown saw everyone in the group working at the height of their storytelling powers. Reigns has become a puppet master of the audience, making them and Zayn believe he was about to kick him out of the group. Jey Uso’s passion while ripping the shirt off Zayn and his look of disgust when Reigns gave him a new shirt instead was beautiful to watch. So was Reigns’ hug — that felt more manipulative than genuine because for now Zayn is an asset to them.

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Sami Zayn gets his “Honorary Uce” T-shirt on SmackDown this week.
WWE

Also, the pure joy that Zayn displays whenever he gets any kind of acceptance — plus the funky handshake he shares with Jimmy Uso — makes it easy to root for him. That’s because on a human level you can relate to being the awkward kid wanting to hang with the cool crowd even if you know it’s only for a short time. (Zayn’s character work has been second to none for a while now, especially since he entered his conspiracy-theory phase.) Solo Sikoa then having Zayn’s back by attacking Ricochet and Madcap Moss backstage just reinforced The Bloodline’s commitment to their honorary Uce after all the help he’s given them over the past four months. Sikoa even helped Zayn score a win over A.J. Styles on “Monday Night Raw.”

But there are a few things that make what The Bloodline and WWE are doing with Zayn even better on a deeper level. There was certainly some concern about how you keep Reigns and the Usos from getting stale as they hold all of the world titles and tag team gold in WWE and the Tribal Chief was only going to be wrestling at major events. Zayn’s presence has kept things moving.

He’s been able to step in and try to prove his worth to the group by wrestling a number of Reigns’ eventual challengers, including Riddle and Drew McIntyre, on TV. Zayn has also stuck his nose into tag team matches for the Usos and with Sikoa and the NXT North American title to help them retain, so they aren’t just beating everyone clean. And it doesn’t feel like a wonky finish because Zayn is often sacrificing his well-being to only further his story and the sympathy he’s gaining with the audience. It all allows you to make the case Zayn — now a mega-babyface after being a heel — is the first performer The Bloodline and Reigns, outside their true family, will leave better than they found them. Fans chanted “Sami!” as he put his new shirt on.

Owens trying to convince Zayn about the error of his ways four weeks ago was also compelling TV and will likely be revisited as we get close to the WarGames matches at Survivor Series. Consider Zayn like Lucas hanging out with the basketball jocks in Season 4 of “Stranger Things” and Owens like Dustin trying to pull him back into the Hellfire Club where he belongs. When he does, The Bloodline will have a whole new story to tell.

So it all begs the question: where would The Bloodline be without Sami Zayn?

Turning the Paige

AEW is Saraya’s house now and it’s such a massive get for the company — even more so if she will be wrestling on a regular basis, which there have been mixed signals about. As Paige, she was one of the faces of WWE’s women’s evolution and a huge fan favorite. The 30-year-old has the potential to become the person who takes AEW’s division to the next level as well after her stirring debut at AEW Grand Slam on Wednesday. AEW hasn’t had a special debut like that in a while.  

The company’s women’s division has amassed plenty of talent, but needs that well-known star to shine a bright light on it and give Tony Khan a greater reason to invest meaningful TV time and stories in it. If it doesn’t happen now, will it ever? Saraya will bring plenty of audience intrigue and goodwill, having not wrestled since a WWE live event at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 26, 2017, and being forced to retire from in-ring action because of a neck injury shortly thereafter. Another potential benefit to signing Saraya is the women in WWE have so much respect for her that her presence in AEW might at least be a conversation starter to bringing over more top-level talent in the future.

AEW wasted no time putting her in its women’s world championship storyline as she came to the aid of champion Toni Storm and Athena after they were attacked by Britt Baker, Serena Deeb and Jamie Hayter after a fatal four-way on Dynamite. It feels like Saraya could act in more of a managerial role for a few weeks as they build to her in-ring debut on a Dynamite or the Full Gear pay-per-view Nov. 19 at Prudential Center, maybe in a six-woman tag to start. Fans’ treatment of her should be similar to what we saw from Edge, Bryan Danielson and Christian Cage, who all unretired after serious injuries.

Down the ‘White Rabbit’ Hole

The final verdict on WWE viral “White Rabbit” campaign will be withheld until the person or group it’s ushering in is revealed (and it better include Bray Wyatt), but for now it’s been nothing but a success. It’s a sign the company is up for telling stories a different way –using social media to spread it playing Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” with the lights out at live events and commercial breaks at TV tapings, dropping clues in QR codes and even leaving flyers on cars has wrestling fans in a frenzy trying to read into every hint WWE is giving it — many of which point to Wyatt. It feels like something out of The Elite’s “Being the Elite” playbook just on a grander scale. The tease of Wyatt’s return helped WWE pop a huge rating of 2.5 million of SmackDown last week and we will see if the trend continues. For now keep the clues coming because who doesn’t love a good mystery.

The 10 Count

On the surface, I could see how people might be upset with Chris Jericho defeating Claudio Castagnoli for the Ring of Honor world title. But it was the right decision business and storyline-wise. AEW president Tony Khan getting Jericho attached to the belt, like when he was the first AEW champion, could be vital for ROH trying to get a TV deal. And it only advances the story with Daniel Garcia, who didn’t look all to happy Jericho cheated to beat yet another Blackpool Combat Club member. Either Castagnoli wins the belt back or you have Garcia beat Jericho for it.

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Chris Jericho celebrates winning the Ring of Honor world championship with a not-too-pleases Daniel Garcia.
AEW

You can see the Survivor Series WarGames matches teams starting to form on “Monday Night Raw.” Bianca Belair, Asuka, Alexa Bliss and the returning Candice LeRae vs. Bayley, Io Sky, Dakota Kai and maybe an unhinged Nikki Cross on the women’s side. The men’s match could be The Bloodline vs. Kevin Owens, Riddle, Drew McIntyre and Ricochet. The Judgement Day vs. Rey Mysterio, Edge and A.J. Styles feels more like a trios match than WarGames.

We really are seeing Liv Morgan and her character grow up before our eyes and her going extreme on Lacey Evans was the next step. Her facial expressions and those camera angles made for quite a moment on SmackDown as he feels less and less like an underdog.

So WWE basically had Solo Sikoa win the North American championship so The Bloodline could have more gold at the Roman Reigns-Logan Paul press conference and then have him defend it on SmackDown only to have Shawn Michaels strip him of it without defending it in actual NXT. He then put the title up for grabs in yet another ladder match. Got it.

JD McDonagh’s reaction to Ilija Dragunov showing up on NXT is work of art. Also, no reason why Dragunov can’t be the one to eventually defeat Bron Breakker for the NXT championship.

Steve Maclin may have gotten one of the biggest wins of his career in the Barbed Wire Massacre match at Impact Victory Road, but Sami Callihan dressing in tribute to Mick Foley/Cactus Jack and using another barbed-wired N64 controller was pretty darn cool touch.

Taz told me to expect The Porsche and the Tank out of Hook and Action Bronson and that’s exactly what we got on Rampage. The hip-hop artist wasn’t Bad Bunny in his in-ring debut, but he acquitted himself well with some shoulder tackles, a power slam and dual Red Rums with Hook to finish an entertaining contest.

TBS champion Jade Cargill and TNT champion Wardlow have so much potential, yet AEW can’t get them enough credible opponents or intriguing storylines, recently. But it has time for a trios titles, the All-Atlantic championship and Ring of Honor’s three title belts. 

Here’s how next-level MJF is. He’s been getting cheered a lot more since his return. So how does he stick it to those doing so? By calling them, “devil worshipers.” MJF just won’t let fans win.

Stop complaining and booing about Jon Moxley winning the AEW world title for third time. It was the absolute right call. Dude cancelled his vacation to help the company in a time of need, he has the more compelling story with MJF — who will be champ soon enough. When Bryan Danielson does get the belt you want his reign to have time to breathe. 

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The Great Muta and Sting at AEW Grand Slam.
Joseph Staszewski

Extra, Extra: Belated congratulations to MJF and Mandy Rose on their engagements. Also seeing the Great Muta and Sting in a ring together was something very special.  

Wrestlers of the Week

Max Caster and Anthony Bowens, All Elite Wrestling

The Acclaimed’s match against Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland was better at All Out, but what a moment for the New Jersey native Bowens and Long Island native Caster so close to home at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Acclaimed winning the AEW tag team titles got by far the biggest pop of the night. They feel like the first home-grown AEW team to rise up and win the belts after Khan made them a unit and they spent a lot of time on Dark in 2020-21. To also go from heels to beloved babyfaces and getting Billy Gunn (Daddy Ass) this over again at 58 is quite the accomplishment. Everybody loves the Acclaimed, and rightfully so.

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The Acclaimed celebrate winning the AEW tag team championship.
Joseph Staszewski

Match to Watch

Gunther (c.) vs. Sheamus, Intercontinental championship (“Friday Night SmackDown”, Fox, 8 p.m.)

These two absolutely stole the show at Clash at the Castle with their compelling brutality and more European-style match. So what do they do for an encore? And while Sheamus is unlikely to win, my gut tells me this leads to some sort of match at Extreme Rules between the Brawling Brutes and Imperium.

Honorable Mention: Jon Moxley vs. Juice Robinson, AEW championship eliminator match, (AEW Dynamite)

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As first reported by Post colleague Ryan Glasspiegel, “Monday Night Raw” on Oct. 10 at Barclays Center will celebrate D-Generation X’s 25th anniversary.  

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