Royal Rumble 2023 is in the books and as far as show quality goes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better launchpad for WWE heading into the busiest time of the year. A spectacle from start to finish, amidst a host of storylines, the main event of the night undoubtedly stole the show. Our King of the Ring, Andy Spoors, takes us on a deepdive into what went down at the end of the night…

There is a widely accepted theory that there are only seven types of stories. No matter what film, book or television programme you think of, it will fit inside one of these overarching themes. Despite that theory, on occasion, something can feel fresh and new. Like it can’t be neatly tied up by one theme and to do so would feel an egregious affront to the quality of you have witnessed. Instead, it deserves to be held aloft, heralded and championed.

By the time the Royal Rumble Premium Live Event wrapped up from inside the Alamodome in San Antonio, you’d be hard pressed to find a wrestling fan that wasn’t astonished by what they had just witnessed. When wrestling is at its best, it is a high drama, high emotion, edge of your seat ride that can leave you exhilarated.

Simply put, what transpired after the bell sounded to end the main event, was cinematic in its execution. A once in a generation performance from all involved that will set the level of expectation of what can be achieved when everyone is invested. 

Across all of WWE’s social media platforms, the ending to this year’s excellent Royal Rumble was viewed well over 20 million times in under 24 hours. So what exactly happened? Why was this special? How did we get to this point and what comes next?

Sowing The Seeds

When trying to pinpoint the exact starting moment that charted a collision course to the centre of the Alamodome, things become a little tricky. That is also, however, the exact reason why Saturday night was so successful in its execution. This angle is not just the sum of its parts, it is a living breathing organism that seems to evolve with each new strand added.

On a surface level, the relationship between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens was a mere vehicle to move to an ultimate destination. The pair’s careers have been intertwined from their days as El Generico and Kevin Steen respectively. Battles on the independent scene, NXT feuds to main WWE roster wars. Tapping into such a rich vein of content and context would normally be enough, but here it is only one of many ingredients.

One of the other key components is the evolution and renaissance of Roman Reigns as a character. Since his return as a heel, Roman has undisputedly established himself as the head of the table, veering from cocky but cool, to an emotionally abusive champion that will do whatever it takes to stay on top.

It is here that we see his reign as one of the most dominant champions in recent times, collide with family issues. The spectacular blood feud shared with Jey Uso over the Universal Championship back in late 2020 laid the foundations for everything that has come since.

Since the indoctrination of Sami into The Bloodline, all of the aforementioned history has swirled together and combined with very real life issues that some may have experienced. Without going too deep, we’ve witnessed gaslighting and emotional crippling of the highest order and have eagerly awaited the instigator (here Roman Reigns) to get their comeuppance. Saturday marked the closest we have come to receiving that…     

The Bloodline Implodes

After a brutal, but fairly routine victory for Roman Reigns in his defence of the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship over a valiant Kevin Owens, fans expected something big to go down. From the moment the men’s Royal Rumble match started the show, speculation ramped up that WWE must have something epic to close out the night.

Weeks of rumour and innuendo seemed to point towards a return of The Rock ahead of some sort of angle heading into WrestleMania. Instead, what the WWE Universe received was a lesson in how to further a storyline and lace it in pure emotion.

Four hours, eight minutes and 56 seconds into the event, with Kevin Owens handcuffed to the ring ropes and receiving a brutal beatdown, colour commentator Corey Graves stated ‘This is what power looks like’.

Displaying the very definition of conflict at seeing his long term frenemy beaten and defenceless, Sami Zayn was urged by the Alamodome to do the right thing and help. And as the Honorary Uce did just that, the crowd bubbled with anticipation. Ever the manipulator, Reigns agreed that it should not be him that landed the final blow, but Sami himself.

Berated and belittled one too many times, Zayn took the steel chair and smashed it across the Tribal Chief’s back. Cue bedlam. The only way to truly appreciate the level of noise created in that moment is to listen to it. A guttural Texan roar that released weeks, if not months, of build in one moment.

As Reigns hit the mat in pain, Zayn notably turned to long term sceptic Jey Uso and apologised. In return, Jey looked a whirlwind mix of emotions. Angry, shocked, disappointed, confused. As his twin brother Jimmy and youngest brother Solo Sikoa laid waste to Zayn for daring to strike out at their leader, Jey instead stood in the corner convulsing in anger.

After regaining his feet, Reigns directed the Bloodline to destroy the usurper in their midst. Jey however rolled out of the ring, shooting an interesting look towards his cousin before making a long, slow walk down the gigantic walkway to backstage, head in hands.

A total of eight minutes and eleven seconds passed with the only words from commentary delivered, ‘Sami Zayn made his choice and he’s going to pay’. Such a small point on paper but a perfect case of less is more. We didn’t need someone telling us how to feel. The actions of every single Superstar in that ring did it for us.         

Where Do We Go From Here?

The explosion of noise that reverberated through the San Antonio arena might have been expected but potentially not to that level. WWE only gets a handful of stories and moments this level of fan buy in. Whatever the plans might have been originally, the performance and pay off will surely play a part in what comes next.

Sami Zayn, Jey Uso and Roman Reigns deserve huge amounts of praise for the way they have executed a storyline that started almost as a throwaway joke. Zayn was never meant to be this over. Jey only found himself in the main event picture during the tumultuous ThunderDome pandemic era and an injury to his brother.

We are now on the infamous ‘Road To WrestleMania’ and with Cody Rhodes emerging victorious in the Rumble match, there has never felt like a more uncertain and bumpy journey to get to the show of shows.

At this stage there are more questions than answers. Will Sami get his shot at retribution? Has Jey walked out on The Bloodline? Where does this leave the relationship of Owens and Zayn? Where does Cody factor in? Can WWE sustain this level of emotion and drama moving forward? 

After Saturday’s historic event, the one thing we do know, it’s going to be a hell of a ride to Los Angeles and we can’t wait to see it unfold…