When Roman came back and showed us his more aggressive stance along with his new manager Paul Heyman, it seemed to me that he was taking action simply to reclaim what was his and doing it such a way that no one would get the drop on him again – no cashing in the briefcase, no surprise run ins, no one in the back stacking the odds against him to make his tasks impossible to complete. Breaking Jey Uso in the hard way, as dastardly and abusive as it was, was about getting things in order to make sure no one would snake their way into taking him down again. The new level of brutality and the willingness to break the rules was about protecting what was theirs above all.
Or so we thought. Jimmy Uso’s return has changed everything, as now the two members of the best tag team in the world are back together with a chance to return to the top of their division. Now that should make Roman happy, right? The visual of the three of them all wearing championship belts after all would represent their bloodline, their family finally getting something that entrenched their place in wrestling history as leaders and not just laborers. With Roman on this run and then the Usos joining as tag champs the family would be at the forefront of not just the best story going today but would get to take it’s official place among the great factions of history. Sounds like a real win-win, right?
Well yeah, but those who seize power by force are often revealed to only to be in it for themselves no matter how much they talk about family and legacy and all of that. And what we saw most recently that Roman Reigns is in this for himself and himself alone. First it’s telling Jimmy that he needs to fall in line like his brother did. Then there’s the clear and obvious disdain that he’s showing at the mere possibility that Jimmy and Jey will win the tag team titles. But the kicker was when he told Jey that being ‘Main Event Jey Uso’ was more important than being a champion with his brother. A nickname gained by getting your ass kicked is more valuable than a championship? Really?
What’s Roman’s angle here, is it jealousy or selfishness? Will the Usos winning the tag belts make him feel less special, or is it that being a tag champion will keep Jey away from doing what Roman needs from him?We don’t know yet, we just know that he wasn’t pleased with Jey seeking another title with his brother. It could be both. Roman did what any self absorbed psychopath would do – appeal to Jey’s own selfish desires to get him to keep serving his. The message was clear: I got you in the main event, teaming with your brother is a ticket back to curtain jerking and not being seen as your own man again. Beating a future Hall of Fame team in the Street Profits doesn’t mean anything if it’s the first match of the night, after all. The comfort you feel with your brother comes with a cost but the path you’ve walked with me, no matter much discomfort it’s brought you, has come with a prize.
That prize is recognition. People call you Jey now and not ‘one of the Usos’. Even as a tag team champion you’re still just ‘one of them’ whereas you are THE right hand man with me. It’s a tempting choice. In sports there are players who have to choose between scoring 25 a night on an ok team or scoring 12 on one that wins the title. The latter comes with a ring, but the former comes with everyone knowing exactly what you did out there and how good you are. Roman is telling Jey that winning another title with Jimmy, as great as that is, would be the latter and that at this point in his career it’s more important that people know how good HE is than to win another title with his brother.
My father told me once that recognition is one of the things we all chase after in life, and I’ve come to find that he was right. Accomplishments no matter how big don’t hit the same if no one understands just what you did to reach that goal. As a tag champion Jey gets asked ‘which one are you?’ but we knew exactly who he is when he walks out next to Roman or helps him win a match. The big question now is where does this go next? Does Jey eventually turn on Jimmy to keep his place next to Roman? And will that happen before they can win another tag title or will it cost them belts afterwards? Asking to Jey to forfeit winning the titles is pretty cruel but to demand he essentially give them back after he’s earned them is next level bad. It’s gonna be exciting to find out for sure.
Finally we can’t talk about this without recognizing the acting job that Roman and Jey are doing here. Most pro wrestling ‘acting’ consists of shouting and being angry or ridiculing one’s adversaries. We’re getting a full range of emotion here, from jealousy and envy to insecurity to ambitious posturing to flat out manipulation along with the usual wrasslin anger. Jey’s internal conflict feels real, as does Jimmy’s dismissive defiance and all the different directions Roman has gone in. This isn’t the usual graded on a curve performance that takes place on a wrestling show, it feels like an actual TV drama here. Nobody is coming close to this right now and no one has in a long time before. So we should take this all in and enjoy the ride, and acknowledge not just Roman, but Jimmy and Jey too.