Long-time frenemies Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn take the spotlight in this new arc. As Hell in a Cell looms, will KO finally corrupt Sami to his side? Also featuring a series of shorts celebrating 25 years of Monday Night RAW.
WWE Volume 5: The Sami and Kevin Show zeroes in on the long and storied relationship between, wait for it, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, going all the way back to their time together on the indie circuit. “Some armory in the middle of Ohio, eight years ago.” That’s where this thing kicks off.
“Some armory.” That’s a poke at ROH, PWG, and Chikara, for whom the pair were lacing up the boots during that period. Opening this story in the parking lot, post show, conveniently dodges the fact that Zayn was performing under a mask at the time as the hilarious and highly entertaining “El Generico.”
From those humble beginnings, we follow the pair through their NXT feud to their calls up to the main roster. Those roster promotions are strange animals. Getting a shot on the main roster is a goal shared by most of the NXT locker room. Doing something meaningful with that opportunity has proven difficult, at best.
The crowd dynamic is so different, many performers that are insanely “over” in NXT struggle to get a pop on Raw or Smackdown. For every Seth Rollins, there are dozens of gimmicks that fail to land with the WWE Universe. Anyone remember The Ascension? American Alpha? The Vaudevillains? Tyler Breeze? Bobby Rude?
It’s not hard to see where guys like Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens would feel like they need to make some waves in order to stay relevant and keep their spots on WWE prime time programming. Unfortunately for the pair, there’s always going to be blowback. Former friends and allies in the back aren’t necessarily going to share the vision. And while the brass may appreciate the ratings, once the heat dies down, you may very well be staring down a pink slip.
I’m convinced Dennis Hallum moonlights as a professional wrestler. He’s got a firm grasp on the ins and outs of the industry and has a knack for realistically expanding the television storylines into an easily accessible, relatable package. The timeline bounces around through various points from the duo’s indie circuit road trips to their individual WWE roster call-ups. There’s an underlying tension throughout their entire relationship that never fully resolves, but there’s a clear progression from green-as-grass rookies to the popular “anti-faces” the pair ultimately became.
The whole “WWE employee vs. an evil McMahon” angle has been visited a ridiculous number of times since 1997 when Stone Cold first took a shot at Vince McMahon. At this point, it’s so overplayed, it’s a hard sell. Fortunately, Zayn and Owens have an amazing understanding of the business and the WWE Universe is putty in the veterans’ hands. Hallum simply extends the pair’s amazing televised promos and ring work into a highly entertaining and easily relatable backstory.
The artwork is amazing, as usual. Serg Acuna’s attention to detail is ridiculous. The only (slight) issue I have with this arc is that KO isn’t quite that ripped. Part of the appeal of Owens’ character is that he’s built like like the dude up the street. Makes it seem like an average guy could hang on the main roster. I don’t know what the deal is with not being allowed to show any of the McMahons’ faces (Stephanie was shown/not shown at the beginning of the last arc), but Acuna is still able to deliver an undeniable likeness of Shane-O Mac, using some slick tricks with perspective.
Acuna’s attention to the visual details is insane. Every character’s ring gear is spot on, down to the sequin. I’ve literally gone back and replayed PPVs, RAW episodes, and Smackdown episodes. The ring aprons, ramps, ring steps, gear, boots…He gets it all right. Every time. I’m looking for errors at this point. There aren’t any. Do you know how many different singlets Big E owns? Or different pairs of red pleather pants Shinsuke has in his locker? Hint: It’s a lot.
I can’t tell you how badly I wanted to see a Brainbustaaa!!!!! or an Ole! kick or that iconic mask, just once. There are clearly some proprietary guidelines the creative team has to work within, and anything having to do with rival organizations and previous gimmicks has to be handled delicately. Despite these restrictions, the creative team still slips in a few nods to The Generic Luchador. I never got my mask, but Hallum and Acuna faithfully delivered another brilliant story with some of my favorite characters.
WWE: The Sami and Kevin Show SC collects Collects WWE #13, 18-20, BOOM! Studios, releases 27 February 2019. The Sami & Kevin Show written by Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, illustrated by Serg Acuna, color by Doug Garbark, letters by Jim Campbell, cover by Dan Mora. Undrafted written by Samoa Joe and Michael Kingston, illustrated by Michel Mulipola, color by Doug Garbark, The YEs! Movement written by Julian May, illustrated by Rodrigo Lorenzo, color by Doug Garbark, Unbroken written by Lan Pitts, illustrated by Kendall Goodw, Fest Prep written by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Daniel Bayliss.