Since they first went face-to-face in December of 2014, the friendship/rivalry between Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens has been front and center in anything involving the Superstars. That night, Zayn won the NXT Championship and was joined by Owens in the ring to congratulate him on his hard fought victory. Then, Owens turned on his best friend, slamming him into the diamond plated steel ramp and powerbombing Zayn onto the ring apron. The two were at odds for the better part of the next three years. How this came about in the first place and why their situation suddenly changed at Hell in a Cell 2017 is detailed in BOOM!’s WWE #18 and is perhaps the best writing this feud/partnership has ever seen.
Usually, BOOM!’s WWE comic has several stories, some ridiculous, some fairly close to reality, but all existing in some strange land that straddles both the kayfabe world of professional wrestling and real life. Issue 18, however, focuses nearly all of its pages on the story of Zayn and Owens, beginning as the pair leave an armory show somewhere in Ohio. In covering the pair’s life on the road, significant real-world moments, such as Owens’ wedding where Zayn served as best man, are detailed — building the relationship up, showing, unlike much of pro wrestling, how the two truly became best friends. The breakup on that night in 2014 was monumental to those who were aware of the history between the two. When both eventually made their way to the main roster and continued their feud, even more background knowledge was needed by an audience that often isn’t provided with the backstory they need.
Writer Dennis Hopeless has done what WWE Creative spent three years trying to do but just kept missing the mark: he established clearly the relationship these two men have had, why it broke down, and why the ultimate babyface Zayn would suddenly rescue Owens from a disastrous defeat at the hands of Shane McMahon. Artist Serg Acuña captures both Zayn and Owens well, but also establishes his own version of in-ring action in comic form. The idea that Owens did everything he did over the three years of their rivalry to get what he wanted was obvious. That he did what he did to Zayn to wake him up to “reality” and get him to be the strong person that Owens knew all along is something that never appeared on WWE television but would have gone a long way towards explaining why Zayn turned on the fans.
In the short bonus story, writer Kevin Panetta and artist Domo Stanton take on the old Rusev Day story, ‘Twas the Day Before Rusev Day. If you don’t know when Rusev Day is, you’re in luck! Every day is Rusev Day! Embrace the odd, folks. It’s pro wrestling and sometimes things just work. Aiden English as a mouthpiece for the Bulgarian Brute is delightful and I, for one, want this read out one night on SmackDown Live word for word. Happy Rusev Day!
Quick question though: why is a Zack Ryder action figure an alt cover? Was there no one else available after only 17 issues? Is this what fans are really clamoring for? Long Island Iced Z in his WrestleMania 32 gear?