SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
The tribal council storyline in WWE has been one of the best stories WWE has told in the last twenty years. Roman Reigns, as a heel paired with a subservient Paul Heyman, has been amazing as “The Head of the Table,” a catch phrase and role that is relatable to so many people. A role that for Reigns, goes back to his samoan roots. The leader leads and the rest fall in line, but what about Reign’s real life cousin Jey Uso?
Simply put, if wrestling had a best supporting actor award, Jey would win it hands down. With his brother Jimmy out of action due to a leg injury, Jey has stepped up above and beyond for WWE and been an incredible number two to Reigns’s number one in the tribal council storyline.
Jey immediately noticed a change in his cousin when the storyline began. Their first match took place at Clash of Champions 2020 with the WWE Universal Championship on the line. The WWE Universal Championship, like most major WWE titles, has taken a backseat in terms of its importance in storylines, but Reigns holding set a new tone.
The title was used as a catalyst to turn Reigns heel. The pressure to not only win the title, but to hold the title and retain the title in the face of challenger after challenger has driven Reigns to do dastardly things in a way a heel hasn’t acted on WWE TV in a long time.
Heavy Lies the Crown…
The pressure to not only retain the title, but to get his family to fall in line weighed heavily on Reigns when his storyline with Jey began last fall. It was the first time in a long time where good compelling facial expressions and storytelling in a match took a front seat in a WWE ring.
At Clash of Champions, WWE presented the first of two matches in the Reigns and Jey Uso feud. In the first match, Reigns told Jey to fall in line. Reigns threatened to send Jey out of the family and out of WWE if he didn’t. Jey had great facial expressions throughout the match. He looked concerned and Reigns beat him down and scolded him. Jey’s facial expressions showed he knew the title had changed his cousin. This wasn’t the Roman Reigns he grew up with.
Reigns hit a low blow late in the match while kicking out of Jey’s signature top rope splash. Jey wouldn’t acknowledge him as his leader. Jimmy Uso limped down to the ring and when he could take on more he said, “We’re family. What’s the hell wrong with you? You’re the chief. You’re the tribal chief, man. Just leave him alone. Just chill.”
The second match took place in October at Hell In a Cell 2020. This time instead of main eventing, the match between Reigns and Jey for the WWE Universal Championship opened the Hell in a Cell PPV. They had an I Quit match inside the structure. Reigns put a beating on Jey and talked down to him saying he had to change for the good of the family.
It was intriguing to watch Reigns as a cold heel beating on his family member and acting like a totally different person than he had been during his entire WWE run during this match. He was cold and calculated. He explained his actions away in a matter-of-fact manner to Jey during the match. WWE wasn’t messing with their fans and presenting some ridiculous storytelling here. They grabbed fans by their collars and forced them to invest in this match given the high level of emotion shown by both men.
The man in white…
It wasn’t lost on me the symbolism of Jey wearing white pants during this match. It was a symbol of hope for Roman and hope for their family. Reigns ran the emotional gamut during the match. Reigns did everything he could to punish Jey, but he couldn’t make Jey say, “I quit.” Jey had his chances as well, but he couldn’t make Roman quit.
WWE officials entered the ring to intervene as Reigns told Jey he was going to force him to do something to him that he couldn’t walk back from. Jimmy eventually ran in to save Jey when Reigns was going to smash the ring steps on him.
The emotion from this moment in the match was beautiful to watch. For everything WWE does poorly a lot of the time from a storytelling standpoint to make you question why you are watching their programming, this particular portion of the match felt more authentic than almost anything I’ve experienced in wrestling across the board.
After Jimmy ran in to save his brother, Reigns broke down in tears. I wondered watching the segment whether or not there was a way to get out of this match with a happy ending for everyone. Jey, the representation of hope for Reigns, was rescued by his brother.
Reigns broke down in tears. Reigns said, “I don’t even know who I am.” Jey and Jimmy offered to help their cousin through whatever it was that he was going through since capturing the WWE Universal Championship. Then Reigns grabbed Jimmy in a guillotine. Jey was too beaten down to help his brother. He couldn’t get Reigns off of his brother so he said, “I quit” to save Jimmy from further damage.
After the match, Afa and Sikas stood at the top of the stage and greeted Reigns. They symbolically recognized him as Tribal Chief. Jey had no choice but to fall in line. He had until the end of Smackdown the following week to recognize Reigns as Tribal Chief. You could see the inner conflict in his face at the beginning of the show when Reigns talked down to him and reminded him what would happen to him and his family if he didn’t recognize him as their leader.
Jey surprised people by violently attacking Daniel Bryan to end Smackdown. He may not have wanted to do it, but his beating of Bryan showed he was loyal to Reigns. In the months that followed, Uso was there for Reigns every step of the way.
Reigns placed Jey in a position to fight his battles for him week after week on Smackdown. When Jey didn’t produce the results he wanted, he put a beating on him. Reigns told Jey how and when to talk backstage as well.
Jey’s facial expressions while Reigns talked backstage or in the ring when he was near him said everything. They weren’t over the top or overt, but he had the look of a man that had no choice. For the good of his family, Jey had to fall in line.
Jey has been there for Reigns just about every step of the way during his reign as Universal Champion since losing to him at Hell in a Cell 2020. He has helped him fend off numerous challenges from Kevin Owens and others.
It’s hard not to watch this storyline unfold and not want Jey to be the one to unseat Reigns to knock some sense into him. Jey continues to serve as Reign’s doorman so to speak. He does all of his dirty work for him.
I have watched and enjoyed Jey’s performances in the ring and during promos and he just has not gotten enough credit for the work he’s done to make Roman’s Tribal Chief character work at the level that it has.
Part of the problem in terms of Jey getting the recognition he deserves for his performance since the angle launched is that Reigns has been incredible and his dynamic with Heyman is unlike anything we’ve seen with Heyman before. Jey might not be the one to unseat Reigns, but he’s certainly shown that he is more than capable of being a top singles act.
Jey is currently fending off the challenge of Daniel Bryan leading into the Fastlane PPV, but here’s to hoping he gets a seminal moment at WrestleMania this year. He hasn’t gotten enough recognition, but as the road to WrestleMania heats up in the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to seeing him get a big moment during Reigns’s match against Edge at WrestleMania this year.
Once this angle ends, Jey will have proved he is worthy of being pushed as a top tier singles act in WWE. He has been an incredible tag wrestler for WWE in the past, but his stock as a singles star is soaring right now.
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