WWE Survivor Series WarGames on Saturday night from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts felt like one of the best pro wrestling events of the year.
A huge chunk of that credit goes to Sami Zayn’s storyline in the Bloodline drama and the way he has totally revitalized a Roman Reigns unified-title storyline that was stuck in purgatory.
The Honorary Uce was by far the centerpiece to the night’s main event as The Bloodline (Reigns, Solo Sikoa, Zayn and The Usos) went against the hodgepodge of The Brawling Brutes (Sheamus, Ridge Holland, and Butch), Drew McIntyre, and Kevin Owens.
This was, without exaggeration, one of the best modern bits of storytelling in wrestling to date.
The biggest takeaway from the match? It is going to hurt if and when The Bloodline turns on Zayn.
Saturday night’s events will play a huge part in that. And that’s probably the point. If WWE wants to capture the lighting in a bottle that was Daniel Bryan’s “Yes Movement” all those years ago, it’s blatantly right here with Zayn.
But even as a standalone thing, the WarGames match was a gluttony of great storytelling. Zayn had his tension-filled dustups with Jey Uso. After close chats with Reigns throughout the night, the unified champ always had a close eye on things.
And there was a long, long callback to the friendship between Zayn and Owens that was strong enough to make even the smartest of fans second-guess whether the adopted Uso might just betray his new family.
And while fans understand that big takeaway, there’s something to be said for the sheer entertainment value of the match.
There’s now the question of where things go from here and at what pace. Zayn will eventually figure out The Bloodline might not intend to keep him around for the long term. While they did appear to patch things up, the Jey-Sami relationship continues to be volatile.
There’s a real chance, too, that Saturday night’s event could ultimately lead to Zayn playing a role in the outright main event of WrestleMania 39. Things are so good on this front that he could be a dark horse to shove the likes of Cody Rhodes and perhaps even The Rock out of the limelight like ‘Mania season.
It’s worth pointing out that the WarGames match itself played a pivotal role here, as just any other Survivor Series showdown wouldn’t have carried the same weight. It meant no silly “wrestlers laying around” stuff so other story beats could happen. Some guys just weren’t allowed in the ring yet, as one prominent example.
The new man in charge of creative as of roughly six months ago, Triple H, has given new prominence to the WarGames stipulation amid a host of other changes to the direction of WWE.
The first WarGames match of the night benefited from the match type, too. First up was Team Belair (Bianca Belair, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Mia Yim, and Becky Lynch) clashing with Team Bayley (Damage CTRL’s Bayley, Dakota Kai and Iyo Sky, plus Nikki Cross and Rhea Ripley).
The match was a thriller with outstanding storytelling. Sure, the big thing was Lynch’s return as the fifth member of the team and her working with, not against, Belair. But little things in that match, like planting the seeds for Lynch vs. Bayley and only Asuka’s mist being able to slow Ripley really showed a respect for the wrestlers and viewers alike.
Was the match an all-time classic that moved the needle dramatically? Absolutely not, but it was an entertaining affair that made more sense than the usual cobbled-together Survivor Series matches. This had meaning and the fallout will, too.
It’s one step in WWE revamping the pay-per-view schedule in refreshing ways. None of it works without a talent like Zayn in a prominent role, but the creative match type also really let his story spread its wings in refreshing ways.
Maybe that’s underselling the 38-year-old, the outright MVP of WWE’s main event scene right now (one can almost see that acknowledgment on Reigns’ face, too). Few Superstars can step in and do what he’s doing right now. He is the guy, after all, who ruined (the good kind of ruined) a super-serious segment recently by making Reigns and The Usos crack up during a live segment.
Paul Heyman himself, also slightly corpsing in that segment thanks to Zayn, actually hit on these notes about the adopted Uso in the post-event press conference.
“Sami brings a dynamic none of us were prepared for, and we’re prepared for everything,” he told reporters. “What Sami also brings is a connection with the audience that none of us can have because we have been too busy being the top act in the entire industry for over two years.”
That character and storytelling range—from goofy to the serious happenings of the WarGames match—makes Zayn must-see television, and he’s carrying Reigns and Co. right along with him. He’s invested, fans are invested, and Survivor Series 2022 will be remembered mostly for his moments.
It’s unfathomable momentum for a fresh-feeling WWE that hasn’t seemed this great in a long time. Saturday night, Zayn simply proved once more that he’s the one controlling the ship, even if the guy next to him is the supposed gold-wearing captain.