The world of professional wrestling is the strongest it has been in decades. For the first time since the death of WCW over 20 years ago, WWE finally has some competition in the form of Tony Khan’s AEW. However, all the creation of an upstart promotion has done is trigger Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment behemoth to up its game.
Throughout the course of the last year, the multi-billion dollar company has broken record after record. Since January, they have put on the highest-grossing Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, WrestleMania, Backlash, Night of Champions, and Money in the Bank pay-per-view events in history. And the run doesn’t look like stopping there.
Next month, SummerSlam emanates from the home of one of Canada’s best-supported NFL teams, namely the 65,000-capacity Ford Field, which is the home of the Detroit Lions – one of the most popular NFL teams across the country. Plenty more records are set to tumble as Roman Reigns main events against real-life cousin, Jey Uso, for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, a championship the former has held for over 1,000 days, the fourth longest reign in company history.
That promises to be an extravaganza unlike any other, but what have been the highlights of this record-breaking year thus far?
Sami Zayn Turns on Roman Reigns
Throughout the course of 2020, Sami Zayn’s integration into Roman Reigns’ Bloodline faction was the highlight of WWE programming. However, no matter how much the ginger-haired Canuck proved himself to his Tribal Chief, it wasn’t enough. That would culminate at January’s Royal Rumble event in San Antonio.
Zayn would accompany Reigns to the ring for his successful title defense against his Montreal brethren. Following the match, the champion decided to give his understudy one final test, a test that involved blasting his long-time friend with a steel chair despite having already been handed a beating by the Bloodline.
In the end, that was one step too far. Rather than smashing Owens with the chair, Zayn instead turned his attention to Reigns, delivering a crushing blow to the Head of the Table’s back, much to the delight of everyone in attendance at the Alamodome. That would set up a title match between Reigns and Zayn at Elimination Chamber in Montreal, a contest that the champion would win following a highly charged and emotional affair.
Cody Rhodes Fails to Finish the Story at WrestleMania
While Roman Reigns’ was busy being betrayed by Sami Zayn, Cody Rhodes was punching his ticket to the main event of WrestleMania. The American Nightmare returned from a gruesome torn pectoral muscle to win the 30-man over-the-top-rope Royal Rumble match back in January and as such, secured his spot at the top of the marquee for the biggest show of the year for the first time in the Rhodes family history. After Reigns defeated Zayn in Montreal at Elimination Chamber, the match was made official: Roman Reigns vs Cody Rhodes for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship.
Heading into the money-spinning clash, the main talking point was about Cody and his aim to “Finish the Story,” that story being that no member of the aforementioned Rhodes family has ever held the WWE Championship. For the first time in almost three years, Roman Reigns was somewhat of an afterthought, despite holding all the gold for well over 900 days at that time. All the attention was on the challenger, and the bookies lapped it up, making the American Nightmare a -300 favorite for his maiden world championship tilt.
In the end, however, it is indeed the hope that kills you. Much to the dismay of the 82,000+ fans in attendance inside Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium it was the champion that retained his crown, just as he had in each of the last three WrestleMania main events. The match itself was an absolute classic and it will go down as one of the best main events in the history of the nearly 40-year-old event, and the swerve of Reigns retaining his title was one that no fans saw coming.
Roman Reigns is pinned for the First Time Since December 2019
The third and final major highlight of 2023 came earlier this month at London’s Money in the Bank event. Following dissension in the Bloodline, both Jimmy Uso and his brother Jey turned on their Tribal Chief, setting up a main event at the O2 Arena billed as the Bloodline Civil War. The Usos were set to face off against Roman Reigns and their real-life brother Solo Sikoa in a tag team match.
Many expected The Usos to win however, no one expected them to win in the way they did. The Head of the Table has become a larger-than-life character and has not been pinned or submitted since December 2019 however, that all changed in the capital of the United Kingdom. Following a plethora of sniper-like super kicks from both brothers, Jey Uso climbed to the top rope, hit the Uso splash, and the rest, as they say, is history.