Of Friendship, Family, and the WWE Royal Rumble

We recap the pivotal ending to the 2023 Royal Rumble main event and how friendship and belong will define Sami Zayn’s Road to WrestleMania.

One chairshot changed everything at the Royal Rumble. (Credit:

It takes a lot of moving parts to create a wrestling storyline that can be fondly remembered for quite some time. From the performers right down to the story itself, a good wrestling story can turn into an all-time great one in a matter of moments.

Case in point: WWE’s “Bloodline” storyline, which kicked off in 2020 after Roman Reigns returned as a heel. This new persona for Reigns would grow into “The Head of the Table”, a dominant world champion backed by family members he essentially bullied into falling in line.

Sunday’s Royal Rumble event saw Reigns defend his Undisputed WWE World Title against Kevin Owens — with “Honorary Uce” (and KO’s frenemy” Sami Zayn caught right in the middle. That this got to main event over the eponymous 30-man Royal Rumble match felt like a big deal, like something had to happen.

“The Honorary Uce”

Let’s backtrack a bit before we dive into the meat of this story in terms of how we got here. Starting in late 2021, Sami Zayn started hanging around with The Bloodline, with early implications being that he was trying to curry favor with Undisputed WWE World Champion Roman Reigns.

As the months passed, that seemed to go by the wayside as Sami now looked to gain acceptance to be part of “the family”. Being a key catalyst in The Bloodline’s victory at Survivor Series made the case even stronger.

That case seemed to suffer a hit by the end of 2022 when Zayn took the pin in a tag team loss to Kevin Owens and John Cena. Then came a fateful match with Owens on the 1/13/23 Smackdown, when the Bloodline interfered, much to Sami’s dismay.

(We’re only covering the basics of the story so far, but this YouTube playlist has a complete history of compiled clips from WWE’s YouTube page that shows everything from November 2021 all the way to right now.)

This brings us back to the present, and Royal Rumble 2023. Our main event saw Reigns defend his Undisputed World Championship against KO, with Sami Zayn ordered by his Tribal Chief to be in his corner for this one.

A wild, chaotic war between Owens and Reigns saw multiple near-falls and a referee bump, plus a moment of hesitation from Sami that nearly cost Roman everything.

In the end, the “Head of the Table” triumphed after smashing the back of Owens’s head against the steel steps twice, followed by one final spear.

The match’s finish was only the beginning of what would go down, however.

As Jey Uso attempted to place a ceremonial lei around Sami’s neck, Reigns stopped it. The Bloodline then continued to pick apart KO with a brutal beatdown while Sami was forced to watch.

Sami attempted to talk Reigns down from finishing KO off with the chair, stating that this was all “beneath” him. This prompted Roman to hand Sami the chair so he could finish the job. It led to a moment that no fan will soon forget for a long time:

With one chair shot, Sami Zayn changed the complexion of everything within the Bloodline’s orbit. Striking Roman Reigns in the back to a raucous Alamodome pop (in a manner not unlike Seth Rollins’ infamous chair shot that fractured The Shield in 2014), the “Honorary Uce” appeared to seal his own fate.

The members of the Bloodline – save for a very remorseful Jey Uso – proceeded to put the boots to Sami. Jey would eventually leave the ring, not wanting to partake in this violent display.

By the end of the chaos, the San Antonio fans showered Reigns with vulgar jeers as he and the Bloodline left Sami and KO in a broken heap to wrap up the 2023 Royal Rumble event.

Of Friendship and Family

While the “main” story heading into WrestleMania 39 will probably be returning hero Cody Rhodes more than likely dethroning the “Head of the Table”, Royal Rumble 2023’s thrilling conclusion has got wrestling fans talking – with some even hoping that the now-former “Honorary Uce” get a shot at Roman’s titles instead of Cody Rhodes.

To me, the main takeaway of Sami’s story for the past year-and-a-half has never been truly about seeking championship glory – or at least it hasn’t been for the past few months of this story. Sami’s journey up to this point has been predicated on wanting to find acceptance within the Bloodline. To that end, the other members of the group have been largely using this for their own material gains.

It’s none more evident with Roman Reigns’ relationship to Sami. As the Head of the Table, the one constant about Roman’s run at the top has been his manipulative nature. He’s used this emotional gaslighting to bring both Usos under his thumb and looked to do the same with Sami. Unfortunately, Roman didn’t account for a long-time friendship throwing a wrench in those plans.

Which brings us to Sami’s on-again, off-again friendship/rivalry with one Kevin Owens. These two have been within one another’s orbit throughout their wrestling careers. From the indies to Ring of Honor and WWE, they’ve been largely inseperable. It’s something that was definitely on full display at the Royal Rumble, as the incomparable Mith Gifs Wrestling (an esteemed Steenericologist) compiled on this Twitter thread.

This bond is the one thing that will certainly become evident in the coming weeks. WWE’s next big event will be Elimination Chamber on the 18th of February. The venue for this event? Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Yes, the very hometown of both Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Rumors have Sami pencilled in to fight Roman Reigns for the world titles, which is now a bigger match than ever.

The result of this rumored title match is inevitable, yes — Roman vs. Cody has to happen, after all — but like with Royal Rumble, the aftermath is what will be of interest.

That moment when Sami and KO finally reconcile for real and stand united against the Bloodline will be one to remember. It will be the culmination of a storyline that saw its roots begin in 2021. The ultimate proof that a bond forged for years is stronger than ones forced upon someone through brutality. It’s something that will more than likely lead to a Tag Title match at WrestleMania against the Usos. And that brings me to the final point.

The WWE Tag Team Championship is the ultimate prize given to the top team in the company. A metaphysical representation of teamwork that rewards unity and brotherhood more than anything else. And what better way to punctuate the final reconciliation of both Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens than with a big Mania win?

Sami and KO’s victory as a team would honestly mean so much more in terms of the story that WWE is trying to tell here than if they had Sami go for the world titles alone. It would be the proof that the power of friendship supercedes that of forced brotherhood and an absolute perfect way to bring a satisfying ending to Sami’s journey.

Marc Quill is the editor of RingCrashers, GateCrashers’ home for all your All Elite Wrestling and indie wrestling needs. He’s also the web novelist behind Skye Emery: Bluebird, which you can read here. You can chat with him about wrestling, comics, and stuff in general on @MarcQuill on Twitter.

By Marc Quill

Writer of things.

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