The Roman Effect: SmackDown’s Key Players Reel At The Rise Of Reigns


Roman Reigns’s heel turn has not only reinvigorated his character, but the storyline has branched out to include some of SmackDowns key players. The effects of Roman’s draconian command have seeped into the psyche’s of Jey Uso, Daniel Bryan, and Kevin Owens, with more ramifications surely soon to come.

Uso opened the Black Friday episode of Smackdown, singing the praises of his cousin, Reigns, after assisting Reigns in a victory over WWE Champion Drew McIntyre at Survivor Series. Uso had every reason to think he’d close the week on a high note, finally winning his domineering cousin’s respect. It was not to be, as Uso overlooked that he, himself, had not led Team Smackdown to victory over Team Raw at the event. Reigns was not pleased, and berated Uso to what seemed to be a breaking point. The strength of this storyline has been how real the pressure feels, and Uso was clearly being pushed closer to the edge with Reigns’ insistence that for the sake of their bloodline, Uso needed to be feared and respected.

Uso wasted little time in showing Reigns he was up to the challenge. Exiting the ring as Otis walked the ramp for his match with King Corbin, Uso wailed on his Team Smackdown teammate with a steel chair. It was both punishment for Team Blue’s Survivor Series failure, and a message to Reigns that Uso was all in, for the bloodline, on a mission to be feared and respected.

This was not the first time Uso went feral at Reigns’s urging, as Daniel Bryan can attest. The passionate, principled fighter alluded to Uso’s savagery when being interviewed before his match with Sami Zayn, referring to Reigns as a “devil” on Uso’s shoulder.

Byran still lays the blame with Reigns, and the memory of the attack is clearly motivating his edgy ferocity.  Though Zayn was his opponent, the specters of Reigns and Uso hung over the proceedings, as Bryan met Zayn’s wiliness with maximum aggression. When the Intercontinental Champion had enough of Bryan’s formidable dropkicks, he fled the ring, pursued up the ramp and backstage by Bryan, who wasn’t finished with him. As the referee counted down the precious seconds, only Zayn made it back to the ring, winning via Bryan’s disqualification. Bryan was waylaid by the man whose actions still haunt him, Jey Uso, in another savage attack that cost him the Intercontinental Championship.

It was broken up by Kevin Owens, who confronted Reigns and let him know that he was tired of his family drama and head games affecting the wider Smackdown roster. The gauntlet was thrown when K.O. told the Tribal Chief that he treated his family, “like trash”.

An insulted Reigns used the incident to once again lean hard on Uso, hammering home that for the sake of their family, he needed to send Owens a message.

Both Owens and Uso went into the ring with something to prove, both their grievances set in motion by Reigns. The two enraged athletes went for each other with all the brutality of a personal vendetta. Uso, determined to fulfill his cousin’s wishes, nearly deranged with frustration, muttered and raged to himself while battling with Owens, his cousin’s threats and pressure ringing in his ears. Throughout the match, Uso sought to weaken Owens by targeting his injured arm, but that wasn’t enough to put Owens down.

Owens, at the end of his rope, not only sent Uso flying over the announce table, but barraged his body with a steel chair, as Uso had done to Otis earlier in the night. Owens was a man possessed, and addressed his fury directly to Reigns, who was looking on. After getting Uso back into the ring and knocking him inert with a stunner, he didn’t even bother covering him for a count-out, and victory. The match was not as important to him, by that point, as sending a message to Reigns.

Sitting at the announce table, Owens declared, “I’m the Head of this table,” for Reigns to see.

Like Daniel Bryan, Owens clearly sees Uso as only a tool of Reigns’ power plays. Though he was the first to challenge Reigns’ dominance directly, Bryan is still waiting in the wings, nursing a grudge. Uso, himself, is sure to snap, turning on Reigns with all the savagery his cousin has encouraged in him. Even Otis has a valid bone to pick with Reigns, for Uso’s attack. If and when it comes, the seeds of Reigns’ downfall has been sewn from his own abuses of power.