As the reigning WWE RAW and SmackDown Tag Team Champions, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, are enjoying a dominant run with the titles, steamrolling through teams with ease ever since they dethroned The Usos at WrestleMania. To anyone new to following WWE, the friendship between Kevin and Sami seems unbreakable.
But it hasn't always been this way.
It's easy to overlook the tumultuous, rollercoaster-like history between the two men when they are enjoying one of the only times in their histories that they're on the same page. Today, USA Insider looks at the one-of-a-kind friendship that has defined both Superstars' careers.
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn: The Early Years
Growing up as best friends in the suburbs of Montreal, Canada, Kevin and Sami always dreamed of competing at professional wrestling's highest level. And, of course, we can't tell the full story of Kevin and Sami without talking about their pre-WWE days in a small independent promotion called Ring of Honor. In that organization, they not only climbed to the top of the tag team ranks but also battled each other – endlessly, of course – for the first time. Debuting as a team in 2007, Kevin and Sami, then performing under different names, ignited the independent scene with their flawless tag team wrestling.
After capturing Ring of Honor's tag team championship, animosity built between the future WWE Superstars, eventually leading them to point fingers at each other when they finally lost the titles. The animosity between the men reached a fever pitch as they began to compete against each other in an increasingly violent series of matches. Their rivalry culminated in December 2012, when they fought against each other in a ladder match that was so brutal it was coined a ladder war.
Shortly after, things changed personally, as Sami Zayn was signed to a WWE contract early in 2013 and soon debuted on NXT. Kevin Owens would quickly follow in his footsteps, but as the WWE Universe hopefully knows, KO arrived in NXT with a chip on his shoulder.
The NXT Backstabbing
Upon arriving in NXT in 2013, Sami Zayn made the most of his opportunity, riding the organic crowd support en route to capturing the NXT Championship in 2014. Not only did Sami beat then-champion, Neville, in one of the greatest matches in NXT history, but the WWE Universe's collective heart was also warmed when Kevin Owens personally congratulated his long-time friend-turned-enemy-turned friend on his championship victory.
For a few glorious moments, the WWE Universe stood and cheered this sign of solidarity between two lifelong friends – until Kevin Owens powerbombed Sami onto the apron:
Enraged with jealousy over Sami's success in NXT, Kevin Owens definitively turned on his childhood best friend (it doesn't get any rougher than an apron powerbomb). A few months later, Kevin steamrolled Sami for the NXT Championship in a bout so vicious that the title changed hands due to a referee stoppage. Kevin Owens had officially arrived in NXT; Sami had to fall so that Kevin could stand tall.
The Main Roster Rollercoaster Relationship
Eventually, thanks to countless memorable performances in NXT, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were both called up to the main roster in 2016. Although they traded stints on RAW and SmackDown, the two Superstars found themselves unable to escape the other's gravitational pull. Kevin and Sami brought their decade-long rivalry to the main roster and, in true fashion, never failed to disappoint in the ring.
Their tenure on RAW and SmackDown from 2016 to 2023 could be defined by one word: Chaotic. While they occasionally reconciled and formed an uneasy alliance, both Superstars knew they were always destined to fight each other. So, while they had each other's backs at times, more often than not, they found themselves in a loop that would make the robots in Westworld proud – they were put on this Earth to wrestle each other. The two even battled at WrestleMania 37 in a classic bout – but not even that match could permanently drive them apart.
Present Day: United (For Now)
The WWE Universe was transfixed by Sami Zayn's involvement in The Bloodline throughout 2022 and early 2023. The hottest WWE storyline in years saw Sami welcomed as a full-fledged member of The Bloodline, only to be caught up in the never-ending drama involving everyone Roman Reigns has ever known. Kevin Owens, willing to let bygones be bygones, tried to convince Sami to reassess his alliance with Reigns, but it fell on deaf ears.
Only at Royal Rumble 2023 did Sami see the light, choosing to hit Roman Reigns with a steel chair instead of his lifelong friend. From that point forward, Kevin and Sami entered a new phase of their friendship. They were bonded by brotherhood in a way that The Bloodline could only dream of.
Born Rivals: Examining the Storied History Between Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens
Taking advantage of their newfound focus on destroying Roman Reigns and the rest of The Bloodline, Kevin and Sami found themselves aligned again as a tag team for the first time in a long time. Against all odds, the duo captured the WWE Undisputed Tag Team titles from The Usos at WrestleMania 39, winning WWE tag team gold for the first together and putting a significant dent in The Bloodline in the process.
Since that fateful day in April, it has been smooth sailing for the two men from Montreal. Their tag title reign is still going strong – and no team on the WWE roster has shown they can keep up with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
In 2023, it's easy for the WWE Universe to look at Kevin and Sami – and the tag team gold they currently have around their waists – and think that the two Superstars have finally put their endless animosity behind them. However, it's essential for fans to realize that history has shown that will never be the case. The relationship between Kevin and Sami is cyclical. They are destined to be combustible. Their eventual dissolution is inevitable – but so is their future reconciliation. It's an endless cycle.
It's time to look at a hard truth: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will not be tag team champions forever. And when the day comes that they lose their titles, the smart money says that they will point fingers at each other, break up the friendship, and start punching each other in the face once again.
The WWE Universe shouldn't shed a tear when this happens, though. Fortunately, they've done it so often that it's become second nature.