Roman Reigns recently marked 365 days, and counting, as World Wrestling Entertainment’s Universal Champion. Reigns is hardly a stranger to accolades, main event matches, nor his place as the de facto face of WWE. However, for most of the preceding decade that status was contentious, as the WWE audience intermittently wholesale rejected the babyface iteration of Reigns and the obvious corporate machinery behind it. The heel version of Reigns emerged as one of WWE’s hottest properties during the “Pandemic Era.” Since returning to touring and live broadcasts, the saga of The Bloodline continued to evolve, with Reigns’s latest adversary revealed to be a returning Brock Lesnar, and The Usos locking horns with the Street Profits over the SmackDown Tag Team Championship.
The Story of The Bloodline
The strength of the storyline is how generously and naturally it incorporates other WWE talent. There has been a compelling naturalism and dramatic tension to each step of the story, which elevates the performers around Reigns with a dignity that is not always to be found elsewhere in WWE’s storytelling. Kevin Owens, who often finds himself in mid-card feuds or in the Intercontinental Championship race, itself increasingly a motley crew of eccentrics, was cast as the only man on the SmackDown roster willing to call Reigns out for his personality change, and humble “The Tribal Chief.”
Owens looked strong in their feud, a lone man on a mission driven by one-pointed aggression. Edge’s quest for the Universal Championship was driven by his backstory, having rescinded an equivalent title due to an injury, casting “The Ultimate Opportunist” as a gritty, passionate babyface. The genuine heroism of Edge’s recovery and return to wrestling shone all the brighter for being pitted against the draconian Reigns.
Finn Bálor, Reigns’s most recent antagonist, would be adrift on the main roster without his role as a spoiler in Reigns’s angle. Like Edge, Bálor was driven by the ghost of what could have been: what trajectory would the first Universal Champion have continued on, had it not been for his shoulder injury in 2016? His time on NXT could have been a detriment elsewhere on the main roster, but on SmackDown instead, Bálor looks as good as his word: as he’s often alluded was his objective in interviews, he rebuilt on NXT and now he’s back to finish business on the main roster. He first challenged Reigns for a SummerSlam match, which was spoiled by John Cena.
Further Challenges Encountered By Roman Reigns and His Family
At his peril, Bálor challenged Reigns again. At the September 3 broadcast of SmackDown in Jacksonville, Florida, “The Prince” was jumped by The Usos shortly after entering the ring. The stage was set: a physically weakened Bálor facing a Roman Reigns increasingly shook by the edging specter of Brock Lesnar. Reigns’s vulnerability was apparent throughout the match, wherein Bálor at times dominated, utilizing key moves like his Coup de Grâce and also the irrepressible fighting spirit which once palpably filled the Capitol Wrestling Center. Though he is a pawn in Reigns’s world, he was still allowed to show the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena who “The Prince” was. There was no chance that Reigns would be dropping the title on September 3 when his date with Lesnar is obviously looming, but the victory wasn’t a cheap one.
As for The Usos, they have broken the Street Profits out of “mid-card prison.” After a great run with the SmackDown Tag Team titles, which began after the 2020 draft when they swapped titles with The New Day, Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins languished in an aimless feud with Alpha Academy. Unlike Alpha Academy, The Usos and The Street Profits have great chemistry, playing well off each other on the mic and in the ring. The Jacksonville crowd was electrified during their match in the opening hour of SmackDown. Toward the end of the broadcast when The Usos attack on Bálor was interrupted by an assault from The Profits, ensuing in a chase through the crowd.
The Bloodline storyline eschews gimmicks, gags, and obvious jobbing, casting the opponents of The Usos and Roman Reigns as adversaries with dignity, allowing the natural chemistry between opposing sides, and every performer’s inherent strengths, to shine. In other words, The Bloodline is the gift that keeps giving.