My starting point, my baseline for enjoying pro wrestling is that it makes sense from a story perspective. If it can add to that, I'm pretty easy to please.
Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso did so much more than that in less than a month.
At the end of August, we were all shocked, hands on our cheeks (not those cheeks) in awe of Roman Reigns returning. Subsequently, many of us were joyous over the Reigns heel turn, and the masterful execution we've all known for five years he could pull off.
But then what?
We don't need The Fiend in the title scene. That's been the wrap for a year. Braun Strowman was never intended for it, and probably should have had his coronation two years prior. AJ Styles was in the Intercontinental Title picture, Matt Riddle just isn't past the 50/50 point with WWE yet.
Enter Jey Uso.
I think we all knew what was going to happen from the time Jey Uso popped up talking to Roman on the September 4 Smackdown. He won the top contender match to face his cousin, and the three week build that followed was nothing short of masterful. We didn't need 5 rematches before their big match. We didn't need silly antics. The right amount of humor and emotion was injected to make this much more than a satisfying story.
We know Roman Reigns is going to beat Jey Uso. I don't care. I'm far more interested in this foregone conclusion than anything else on the WWE Clash of Champions show. It's full of rematches and things we've seen before, sometimes ad naseum. Unless you were hanging out in Florida a decade ago, you probably haven't seen Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso.
WWE's acknowledgement and capitalization on the relation between Jey and Reigns has been off and on for a while. Jey, a babyface by traditional standards, accepted his newly-heel cousin as presented when he returned to WWE. That's family. They're given the benefit of the doubt more than someone you're not tied to by blood.
WWE often insults the intelligence of the viewer. Ignoring plot points or their self-imposed rules can be frustrating. Don't come at me with the "wrestling has had plot holes forever," thing. It shouldn't. It should make sense and respect the viewer, which the Reigns and Uso storyline has done.
Everything came together on the September 25 Smackdown. Reigns had seemed annoyed by his boisterous cousin, even when he fought off attackers, worked the lion's share of a match and scored a pinfall. Far too often, the look that Reigns shot Uso the week before would be outright ignored. Are we to believe these characters, much less the individuals portraying them, don't pay attention to the show? That they don't use social media? This program treated us better than that. Uso wanted an answer as to why someone he's supported, grew up with, and loved would respond in such a way. After all, Reigns didn't bother helping Uso fight off Sheamus and King Corbin at all at one point, and showed up to steal a win. Where does Reigns get off looking at Uso like that?
So Uso asked, and he got an answer. A great one.
Reigns' storytelling ability has reached the point where he speaks with his eyes and his facial expressions for weeks. The questions raised do far more than anything he could say. Well, you'd think that, until he spoke, and uncorked a great promo.
For too long, such pivotal points regarding financial motivations were rarely if ever broached on WWE programming. There are always exceptions, but it became clear WWE wanted their performers to seem "above" being concerned about money. After all, they're superstars! Only recently has talk of the "winner's purse" returned, and it showed up in a big way on Friday.
After seeing Rikishi, Afa, Sika, and Jimmy Uso speaking on the friendly but family affair set to culminate at Clash of Champions, Roman Reigns told Jey he made the family proud. However, Reigns was the man that provided for the historic family at this point. Did Reigns feel that responsibility truly fell on his shoulders? Was it all ego? Is there a lack of trust that Jey Uso or anyone else with his bloodlines can carry that torch? Reigns wants his family to succeed, he just claims that they don't understand how to carry the burden.
Jey took exception to that, and rewarded longtime viewers and people who care. We know Jey Uso hasn't been portrayed as a main eventer. WWE isn't trying to convince us he is. He was provided an opportunity via Heyman and Reigns, and has been on a hot streak. Uso outright mentioned that he's always lived in the shadow of Reigns and instead of being treated like a top talent, he's asked "which one are you?"
The seemingly respectful Reigns didn't give his cousin the courtesy of turning around on the ramp to look him in the face. The emotion and realism conveyed in Jey's words were matched when Reigns sucker punched him outside the ring. Even at that point, was it a tough love beating? The fact that these questions can be asked instead of it glaringly beating us over the head is one of the reasons the story is so good.
The heritage and history of the Samoan Wrestling Dynasty is often mentioned. It's never much more than "they're related, so they like each other, and here are some other people they're related to." There were many times going more in-depth would have worked to their favor, but not doing so may have saved more meat on the bone for this story. Reigns has surpassed Rikishi, Yokozuna, Umaga and others to be the most well known A
Jey Uso has went above and beyond here, too. Slyly mentioning that Paul Heyman managed his father three decades ago was a great way of explaining why the perennial champion and ring-smart Uso would trust the slime ball. He'd already earned that trust. If he's good enough for Rikishi, Samu, and Roman Reigns, he was good in Jey Uso's book.
Uso's light hearted and jovial nature the first several weeks built to his heartfelt words. As viewers we were set up to believe that he was just happy to be there, that he wasn't putting that much thought into it, and that he was more excited than anxious. When his tone changed on Friday night, it was a shattering contrast. Then he got punched.
"You will take this pay day," was the most telling line in Reigns' closing words to me. He wants to be the provider, he trusts only himself, and was hoping that Jey would just be happy making that main event money as a favor. He got more than he bargained for.
We can't all relate to being "the Big Dog," the former pro football player who stands 6-3, 260ish pounds with multiple WrestleMania main events under his belt. That's Roman Reigns. Who can't relate to being overlooked? That's Jey Uso.
We care, and as a result, Roman Reigns, Jey Uso and Paul Heyman are serving us filet mignon.