Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn become pillars of WrestleMania

On a night and weekend that’s meant to celebrate the sheer enormity of WWE—the ostentation, the cultural reach, the money, the sheer scale of it all—these were two men who made their names in various, darkly lit auditoriums and armories and bingo halls. And whatever other busy corner you can find indie wrestling shows. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, no matter how long their WWE careers go on from here on out, will always be seen as the two men, perhaps the only two men other than Bryan Danielson, to have climbed the longest road to the highest point in the wrestling industry. It made winning the tag team titles over The Usos in the main event of WrestleMania Night 1 so sweet.

This is of course compared with Frenzy, and what the rest of the cards shape up. Everything else about Mania is just so WWE. brand mascot were at ringside for some matches. Catering naked to non-wrestling fans and whatever the company sees as mainstream through Logan Paul. And above all, WWE’s vision of wrestling. Pretty much everyone that’s populating the top of the card on both nights are WWE product wrestling WWE matches. The other main event tonight is Roman Reigns. Kodi Can Promote Your Indie Credits as empty asBut he’s a New York boy whether he likes it or not. Charlotte Flair lost to Rhea Ripley, who came through NXT after mostly going from a WWE Network experimental lab to just another TV product. Austin Theory, Bianca Belair, Edge, Sheamus, Drew McIntyre (a bit unfair considering their history but they also had two setbacks in WWE), Dominik MysterioThis is what WWE values.

Owens and Zayn were also introduced to the WWE audience through NXT, but they led when Triple H was using independence, forcing him to turn NXT into an independent wrestling workshop. Where it felt like he wanted to find a way to bring what WWE didn’t have and what he couldn’t do into the world of WWE. Sami and KO had made their way through PWG and ROH and dozens of other companies and had real street cred among indie fans, a crowd that HHH once wanted to welcome into the world of WWE they had been turned away from.

They’ve been in the company for a long time now, but they haven’t really changed who they are, and they’re both so good at it that WWE hasn’t been able or really even wanted to make them as plastic as they have others. Owens’ gig has always been that he actually watches the show and can point out every problem with it, as have all of his fans, when he comes to the ring to have a great match with someone, that fan’s Looks like and wrestles who jumps off the top. railing and just got into the ring and saw that no one at home bothered to stop him.

Zayn’s road has been a bit of a bumpy one, bouncing around on TV for his entire main roster career until he found something that connected his infighting and eventual betrayal of Bloodline. But whether she’s a daring DIY face or a conspiracy-theorist heel, she’s still Sami. Hairy as shit, a little weird in every way, and making it by diving head first for With a wicked sense of humor in everything and never taking himself too seriously.

They can wrestle WWE style, but they can do a lot of other things too. because they’ve been so good at it, the powers that be have never really been able to To give them so much water. The fans won’t allow it.

They’ve always been connected. They come from the same region, they toured the indies together, they joined NXT together, and They originally arrived together on the main roster. Their first Mania match together was in a seven-man ladder match. It was destined that their greatest moment would come together.

this moment and the match call Back then, the two were at odds with each other for much of the first big PPV match when Zayn hit Owens with several helluva kicks. They only had a Mania match against each other two years ago. They are never without each other.

Was it the equivalent of claiming the Undisputed Title over Reigns in Montreal six weeks ago? no way! It was the easy route for WWE, considering how it usually treats the tag division And doesn’t knock the company down the more glitzy but more empty path of Rance and Rhodes. After all, that’s what WWE does, big, shiny, hollow.

Owens and Zayn are not that. Zayn claiming the title in his hometown will stand out as a legendary moment in its own right. It’ll just happen in a collection of “Mania Moments”. But the fact that two guys like Owens and Zayn that WWE usually projects on opposing sides—grisly, tainted, with depth and history—ended up on the first night of the biggest show is still really special. It’s a reward for the fans who won’t let these two change and stuck with them through some rough times. This is a reward for the entire wrestling world.

And to be honest, the first night of WrestleMania needed it. Charlotte and Rhea had an absolute classic, proving that even the four to six times a year when Charlotte really wants to she’s still capable of stealing any show. As hard-hitting and brutal as any women’s match you’ll find in WWE. Combined with the main event it revolved around a show that was fairly listless. Whatever confusion Dominik Mysterio has, I have yet to suffer from it. He’s cardboard in the ring and on the mic, and neither he nor the creatives can get anywhere near enough to poke fun at themselves as one. Prison hardened to the reality of being a pampered submissive. None of this works.

The four-team tag match wanted to be a car crash of the good kind, a spot-fest where the brakes never hit But it took too long to wander between those spots to hit that speed. They didn’t even manage to try and promote Theory’s representative with a clean win, as they had to defend a man who wrestled twice a year, And thus no one liked it. Seth Rollins and Paul were Fair enough, but WWE is for Paul fans not really wrestling fans and this feud hasn’t gone on long enough or been explained well enough to realize that it was actually laxative for Rollins.

In the turmoil of the night, Trish Stratus saved a six-woman tag match from being a complete disaster, as the chemistry between the other five women hovered somewhere around “sixth grade dance.” Stratus turned back the clock and looked playful and lively in the ring, which no one else in the match managed.

But no one cares when it ends like it did, with only one other match providing catharsis. Sami and KO delivered what wrestling fans want, as they always have, even when things were stacked against them. That’s the basic story of wrestling, isn’t it?