Roman Reigns defeated Sami Zayn at WWE Elimination Chamber, leading to the return of Kevin Owens after the match.
The Bell Centre was just as hostile toward Roman Reigns as they were raucous for Sami Zayn. Chants of “Roman sucks” “Sami!” “Olé” and “[Expletive] you, Roman” dominated this match before Zayn and Reigns even touched.
The climactic moments saw Jey Uso fail to make a decision on where his loyalties lie. Zayn accidentally speared Jey before Jey Uso could decide where to swing his steel chair, leading to Zayn’s demise.
Sami Zayn’s meteoric rise as The Bloodline’s fish-out-of-water Honorary Uce, led to a showdown against Reigns in Zayn’s home country of Montreal. Zayn’s undeniable popularity made the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship match one of the rare Roman Reigns world title matches that was legitimately in doubt. Despite a potential Zayn victory being scripted as the biggest upset in WWE history, Sami Zayn has emerged as enough of a ratings draw in recent months to make his Cinderella Story a real possibility.
Zayn drew ubiquitous comparisons to Daniel Bryan and the Yes Movement, which saw a grassroots movement upset the applecart of WrestleMania 30. Despite WWE’s best-laid plans, fans would not be denied as an uproar led to Daniel Bryan being shoehorned into the WrestleMania 30 main event. WWE fought its own fanbase tooth-and-nail and lost.
Almost a decade later, at WrestleMania 39, the Zayn-Bryan comparisons held water, but the situation was entirely different. With goodwill restored between WWE and its fanbase during the Triple H Era, there were zero instances of fans hijacking WWE storylines. Instead of Zayn being a superior choice to far less popular options in a 2014 Batista and a 2014 Randy Orton, Zayn was one of many viable fan favorites who could headline WrestleMania.
Sami, Roman and Cody Rhodes’ Road to WrestleMania
Cody Rhodes, who won the Royal Rumble, has been one of WWE’s biggest draws since returning from injury, sparking massive numbers during his quarter-hours on Raw while drawing record gate numbers on the road. Not only did fans accept Cody Rhodes as a top star, they embraced him—even when WWE dared to put the pair in the same ring together this past Monday on Raw.
Through the strength of The Bloodline storyline, it was Jey Uso, not Zayn, who drew the biggest quarter-hour rating. Due to speculation of whether or not Jey would rejoin Jimmy to defend the SmackDown Tag Team Championships against Ricochet and Braun Strowman, that segment drew the biggest number with 2.721 million viewers. With The Bloodline hitting on all cylinders, an otherwise popular Sami Zayn is closer to a system quarterback. Zayn headlining WrestleMania would be similar to when Jared Goff started a Super Bowl.
Rhodes was positioned as the alpha challenger, giving an under-confident Zayn a fiery pep talk heading into the biggest match of Zayn’s career. This wasn’t WWE fighting with its fans, it was quite the opposite. WWE, Sami Zayn and Cody Rhodes were working together with its fanbase to tell a story. It was like WrestleMania 30 with two Daniel Bryans.
Outcries for Zayn to uproot WWE’s plans and headline WrestleMania were mostly media-driven, and many Zayn truthers were suspiciously linked to AEW, whether it was Chris Jericho, Dax Harwood or consummate AEW cheerleader Dave Meltzer. And why not? Sami Zayn as an unlikely main eventer means disruption within WWE’s booking and its fanbase. With AEW ice-cold in the midst of a WWE surge, WWE infighting is an AEW dream come true.
Doing everything he can to push the Sami Zayn narrative, Meltzer reported plans had changed for Zayn this WrestleMania season. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestling Inc), original plans—which Meltzer claims have since changed–called for Jey Uso to betray Zayn, leading to a tag team showdown pitting Zayn and Owens against The Usos at WrestleMania. Though the Wrestling Observer Newsletter is a leading news source in the pro wrestling industry (a very low bar), it is far from infallible. The Observer was most recently exposed by hoaxers while attempting to report on DragonGate.
“Over the past week, I was alerted that a lot of Dragon Gate information I had received and used last year came from one or two people doing a hoax,” said Meltzer.
“During that period I received correspondence from someone who allegedly worked in the company office and from one of the company’s top wrestlers.”
“It was noted to me that [DragonGate wrestler Kaito Ishida] actually doesn’t know English, and I should have checked with people, but in doing so, that would violate me allowing people to know sources.”
“But the information regarding Nosawa [Rongai] and the booking of the company was not true and I apologize for that.”
WWE has rebuilt trust with its audience during the Triple H Era, and seems empowered to move forward with whatever plans it has for WrestleMania, regardless of who headlines. Whether it’s the overpowered Tribal Chief in Roman Reigns, the lovable underdog in Sami Zayn or the charismatic top babyface and grandson of a plumber in Cody Rhodes WWE has built several three-dimensional characters whom fans are deeply invested in.
In the end, WWE continued to tell its story, with Owens and Zayn splitting off to likely feud with The Usos while Reigns charts off on a collision course with Cody Rhodes.