Sami and Kevin and the ties that bind
Here’s a story:
In 2005, El Generico was in a tag team, wrestling for the Montreal-based promotion IWS. His partner at the time, Beef Wellington, had started feuding with Kevin Steen. At this point, Steen and Generico were still mostly-rivals as well, but they’d started doing shows together in the United States as a tag team (though Steen usually ended up attacking Generico at the end of the match). So Generico had no reason to particularly like Kevin Steen.
Then, at the end of one of Kevin’s matches, Beef Wellington did a run-in and attacked him. The two started brawling, and in the middle of the fight Generico came into the ring to save Wellington from getting hit by a chair:
Kevin yelled at him that Generico had nothing to do with this conflict, and there was a weird and terrible pause:
Kevin yelled it again and Generico stepped back as if Kevin had hit him—not by demanding he choose between him and Wellington, but by demanding he not get involved.
And Generico finally responded… by turning on his own tag partner to side with Kevin and seal their fate as friends and rivals for the rest of their career together. Because it’s always between the two of them.
Everything is between the two of them.
Here’s another story:
By 2008, Kevin and El Generico were an established tag team, wrestling for Ring of Honor. They had a fascinating dynamic: El Generico was an oblivious and increasingly beloved babyface, while Kevin was (most charitably) a tweener with heel leanings—brutal and untrustworthy. At one point, Adam Pearce, at the time the leader of a cult-like faction rather than a beleaguered General Manager, started to target Kevin and try to recruit him, eventually offering up a battered Generico and urging Kevin to turn on him and join them.
Generico was never good with words (in any language), but even without speaking you can see how he doesn’t appeal to Kevin to choose him at all. As Pearce urges Kevin on, Generico closes his eyes and bows his head, waiting for the inevitable.
In the end, Kevin rejected the offer and stuck with Generico, although his reasons were… maybe a bit suspect:
Later, in 2009, Kevin would abruptly turn on Generico and kick off their bloody year-long feud with a vicious chair to the head as Generico gave him the same hopeless, imploring look:
But he made that choice on his own and to benefit himself, not some other guy.
Here’s a third story:
In 2017, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens had reached a point of hostile neutrality after a couple of years of feuding after Kevin’s NXT betrayal (again, one that benefited him alone). Kevin was feuding with then-babyface Shane McMahon, and at the climax of their feud at Hell in a Cell, Shane scaled the Cell, preparing to leap down and crush Kevin.
Sami had slipped to the sidelines to keep an eye on Kevin—as he said later, planning consciously to help Shane! But at the crucial moment, he made another fateful decision, casting his lot in once again with the man that El Generico had irrationally bound himself to all those years ago.
And just like in the earlier examples, Kevin never asked Sami to choose him instead of Shane. In the immediate aftermath of Sami’s rescue, he stares at Sami from the wreckage in shock and amazement.
He later compared Sami’s rescue to having a guardian angel--a being of light, bound to you by destiny all your life--arrive miraculously on the scene.
Five years later, here we are again. But things are a little different this time, aren’t they?
This time, Kevin has specifically asked Sami to leave the Bloodline—“come to Raw with me,” he says, which is I think the first time Kevin has ever openly expressed a desire to ally himself with either Generico or Sami. The other difference, of course, is that the story is slowed down, and there’s no abrupt conversion. For the first time in their long career, one of them is conflicted for more than a handful of seconds about whether to spurn their sometimes-friend:
We’re getting a more detailed, more leisurely take on the motif that has run through all their years together, the latest version of the question: do you take this wrestler to be your partner from this day forward? Sami’s not sure of the answer, he’s still equivocating, still reluctant to turn away from the faction whose respect he’s fought to gain over months.
Sami hasn’t been pushed to the breaking point, hasn’t truly had to make an irrevocable choice, so it’s still a possibility that he might side with the Bloodline. But it would be an unprecedented event across the last two decades. Sami and Kevin have betrayed each other over and over, in ways large and small. But always by their own choice and for their own benefit, never at someone else’s bidding. They’ve been true to each other, in their fashion: a strange fidelity through heel turns and face turns, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health.
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