SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath-the-surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Roman’s shine is rubbing off
No one has benefited more than Roman Reigns from The Bloodline story line.
Over the past three years, Reigns has cemented himself as an all-time great. He is long removed from the period in time when he was forced upon viewers, instead earning his place as the very top star in the industry.
When Reigns speaks, we listen. His matches are always tense and gripping. He is at the center of all things in The Bloodline, wrestling’s most compelling story.
Yet after Reigns, a real debate exists as to who has flourished most since the inception of The Bloodline. There are many who could provide convincing arguments. Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Solo Sikoa and Paul Heyman have all risen due to their respective work with and against Reigns.
The immediate choice for those who have benefited most from The Bloodline are The Usos. Their work in the ring was never questioned during their run as a popular babyface tag team, then they finally started to connect with the crowd as heels. A key turning point was when they engaged in an extremely compelling feud with The New Day. That may have been their ceiling, if not for entry into The Bloodline.
The Usos have elevated their work to an entirely new tier over the past three years, beginning with Jey Uso’s first singles main-event match against Reigns at Clash of Champions in 2020. That was followed up with the opener at Hell in Cell. (As an aside, it is fascinating to see how much the upper echelon of the card has changed since then, with Sasha Banks, Bayley, Randy Orton and Drew McIntyre all integral parts of that Hell in a Cell.) The Usos haven’t looked back, even headlining the first night of WrestleMania in April, the first time a tag match was in the main-event spot since Hulk Hogan teamed with Mr. T at the original ’Mania. Now they are on the precipice of another main event this summer against Reigns and Solo Sikoa, who is their younger brother.
Sikoa’s inclusion in The Bloodline has also propelled him into a top spot very quickly in his run with the company. He was even involved in the finishing sequence of the WrestleMania 39 main event, a remarkable achievement for a performer who has only five years in the business.
Partnering with Reigns has also bestowed new life upon Heyman. His work with Brock Lesnar was so perfectly aligned that it didn’t make sense to put Heyman with anyone else. Now, after years beside Reigns, it is impossible to picture Heyman advocating for anyone other than the “Tribal Chief.”
This story line extends beyond those within The Bloodline. Two adversaries have also reached new heights in the company: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
Owens has flourished as an unrelenting force that refused to cower to The Bloodline, wrestling Reigns in outstanding matches at the Royal Rumble in 2021 and again this past January. Zayn was exceptional as the newest member of The Bloodline, a story arc that carried WWE programming through the second half of ’22. Reigns laying out Zayn and Owens at the Rumble set up the main event at Elimination Chamber, Zayn’s first main-event shot at the world title. That was followed by the main event with Owens and The Usos at the first night of WrestleMania 39, and the main event this past weekend at Night of Champions. The story line with Reigns has reintroduced Owens to the main event, and finally brought Zayn there, too.
Yet that’s not all. Cody Rhodes is another who has reached a new level as an adversary to The Bloodline, helping to break decades-old company records in his WrestleMania 39 main event against Reigns. Their rematch, whenever that may occur, has the potential to be even bigger.
More than 1,000 days into his title reign, Reigns remains atop WWE. But, just as importantly, he is not standing there alone.
The (online) week in wrestling
- AEW’s Double or Nothing pay-per-view opened hot, struggled during the mid-card, and then finished strong with two absurdly entertaining matches—the four-way for the world title and the “Anarchy in the Arena” match. Moving forward, there is no clear opponent to challenge MJF for the world title, though there are plenty (Ricky Starks included) who would make sense in that role. As for Anarchy in the Arena, it was an interesting choice to have Wheeler Yuta score the winning pin, easily the biggest victory of his young career.
- Raw now has its own world champion, and Seth Rollins is adding structure and value to the show in that role.
- WWE’s next major event is a month away with Money in the Bank. Shinsuke Nakamura and Ricochet are the first two to qualify for the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match, but until the field is fully populated, it feels like the contract winner will be a heel. It could, however, be an interesting role for Cody Rhodes—and that would also help extend his feud with Brock Lesnar until SummerSlam.
- New Japan Pro-Wrestling will run its Dominion show Sunday. It is headlined by IWGP world heavyweight champion Sanada defending the belt against Yota Tsuji. There are also direct connections to the upcoming AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door pay-per-view. The winner of Will Ospreay–Lance Archer will face Omega at Forbidden Door, and there is a must-see six-man tag pitting Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tomohiro Ishii—who are the NEVER openweight six-man champs—against Jon Moxley, Shota Umino and Claudio Castagnoli. Watching Castagnoli share the ring with Okada, Tanahashi and Ishii should be a moment of pure bliss for wrestling fans.
- Ronda Rousey has a new piece of championship gold, winning the WWE women’s tag titles with Shayna Baszler this past Monday on Raw. She spoke with the New York Post following the win, calling the women’s tag division “dismally shallow.”
Rhea Ripley: “I’m having the time of my life”
WWE has its next main-event talent in Rhea Ripley.
Her latest pay-per-view appearance was a complete destruction of Natalya Neidhart this past Saturday at Night of Champions. Ripley ripped Neidhart apart, winning the match in only a minute and nine seconds. It was a perfect presentation, capturing Ripley’s pure strength and ruthlessness.
As soon as Ripley appears on-screen, she owns the moment. Yet that wasn’t always the case. It took her time to develop the confidence to be herself in the ring.
“I’m a very genuine person,” says Ripley. “When I first started in WWE, I was very timid and scared that I was going to do something wrong. I wanted to please everyone. That’s why you saw the Rhea Ripley you did. I didn’t think people would gravitate toward me. I thought they wanted something else from me. But it’s amazing. I stopped caring. I know myself better than anyone else. I found the confidence within myself to be myself. That’s the Rhea Ripley you see today.”
Ripley’s inner confidence is now instantly recognizable. There is no one like her in WWE, and she has flourished in The Judgment Day. Despite Finn Bálor’s star presence, it feels like Ripley is the head of the group. Her partnership with Dom Mysterio has been exceptional, with Mysterio serving as a ringside pest that the crowd loves to boo while Ripley showcases her strength in the ring.
“Seeing Dom’s growth in the past few months has been incredible,” says Ripley. “He’s paving his own path. That’s really inspiring to me. I don’t think people give him the credit he deserves.”
Personality and presence have been determining factors in Ripley’s success. Her work in the ring—winning the Royal Rumble match and then defeating Charlotte Flair in an outstanding, violent affair at WrestleMania 39—has further cemented her place as one of WWE’s top stars.
“It’s a funny feeling when I step out there,” says Ripley. “It’s like I’m stepping into a different body and different version of myself. There are weeks when my legs are killing me because I killed leg day, but then I walk out there and I feel great. I don’t think out there; I just do. I’m naturally reacting and sometimes I’ve even surprising myself. I’m having the time of my life.”
Tweet of the Week
The wrestling world still misses Chris Candido.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.