With the Royal Rumble Premium Live Event done and dusted, with both Rhea Ripley and Cody Rhodes given the keys to WrestleMania, we ended the Main Event with Roman Reigns still your WWE Universal World Heavyweight Champion. The brutal main event saw the Head of the Table ravage not only Kevin Owens but also the Honorary Uce Sami Zayn, in a betrayal that stings even if we’ve seen this coming from miles away. And some of the most significant faction betrayals in wrestling history can be like this. Even though some of them can be very predictable, the subsequent fallout, payoffs, and emotional roller coasters that lead to and follow them are what makes them great and significant. So, here is our list of the Top 10 Most Significant Faction Betrayals in Wrestling History with the biggest emotional and storyline payoffs.

10. Adam Cole Turns on Kyle O’Reilly in Shocking Betrayal

Right before he reunited with The Young Bucks at AEW All Out, Adam Cole was running the show at NXT. However, towards the end of his run with the company, he has failed time and time again to reclaim the NXT Championship. Standing in his way are the then-NXT Champion Finn Balor and his Undisputed Era stablemate and long-time friend Kyle O’Reilly. However, it wasn’t him who was chasing the gold but O’Reilly, and soon jealousy and bitterness grew inside Cole’s heart.

When Balor defeated O’Reilly multiple times, it became clear that The Demon was the better competitor between the two. With newfound respect recognizing each other’s talents, Kyle O’Reilly congratulated Balor after their bout at NXT Judgment Day, standing tall and proud alongside the rest of Undisputed Era. However, the prospect of Balor joining the group and the threat of the superstar possibly replacing him as the new leader were just too much for Adam Cole, so he turned on his buddies and kicked Kyle O’Reilly out of Undisputed Era.

This marked a turn in the direction of NXT as it was clearly the ending of an era there. With Adam Cole eventually losing out to Kyle O’Reilly, he left WWE to turn a new page in AEW. O’Reilly would also soon follow, but not after he had his own decent singles run in NXT for a couple more months. But one thing’s for sure: Without The Undisputed Era, NXT definitely changed, for better and for good.

9. Kenny Omega ushers in a new era for the Bullet Club

Bullet Club was definitely one of the most influential and one of the most popular factions in wrestling history. It was already popular back when Prince Devitt was in charge, but the arrival of The Phenomenal One brought the Bullet Club to new heights. However, the Bullet Club was formed to win, and Styles’ failure to lead the group to victory eventually led to his downfall. Thankfully, what really brought the Bullet Club to its Golden Age was when Kenny Omega became its leader after his brutal takeover of the group, turning on AJ Styles and starting The Golden Elite. This was arguably when the Bullet Club peaked, making them the most talked about faction in wrestling for a time.

Omega’s betrayal of Styles also worked out well for Styles, who would then find himself in WWE for the first time, debuting in the 2016 Royal Rumble. AJ would become one of WWE’s top guys and continues to be championship material, still doing phenomenal moves that not a lot of people of his age can do.

8. The Rock turns a new page in his career as the new leader of The Nation of Domination

The story of how Dwayne Johnson used to be a babyface hated by the fans has been told over and over again we dare not repeat it anymore at this point. Still, it’s important to remember that had The Rock not turned heel and eventually taken over the leadership position of the Nation of Domination, he would not have become the Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment and we probably would not have seen him take on his successful road to Hollywood. Had he not become the leader of the Nation, we probably wouldn’t have had him as Maui in Moana or Black Adam in the DC Universe.

Farooq’s ejection from The Nation of Domination also led to his formation of the Acolytes Protection Agency tag team with Bradshaw. This would, of course, lead to Bradshaw becoming The Wrestling God, JBL, and in turn, the creation of “The Modern Wrestling God,” Baron Corbin. Joking aside, we could also attribute a lot of great backstage moments to this duo, a very entertaining ongoing joke that on requires Ron Simmons to say one word to get a huge pop. So, everything worked out in the end.

7. Triple H betrays the rising star Randy Orton

During Triple H’s Reign of Terror in Raw, he formed The Evolution stable alongside Ric Flair, which was meant to represent The Best in the Wrestling World. Evolution had the Best of the Past in The Nature Boy, the Best of the Future in Randy Orton, and the Best of the Present in Triple H. However, when Randy Orton won The World Heavyweight Championship Belt while Triple H didn’t have a title of his own, jealousy led to Triple H betraying Randy Orton. This led to one of the most iconic moments in Monday Night Raw when Triple H turned his thumb down to tell his enforcer Batista to drop the youngest World Heavyweight Champion ever at the time.

This would, of course, also lead to Batista’s rise when he would later do the same thing to Triple H and challenge him for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. This event might have stumbled Orton’s career a bit, but he was still young back then and he needed more time to grow before he could carry the entire company on his back, so in the end, it turned out to be the right call.

6. Cody gives Kenny the Cross Rhodes

Kenny sacrificed everything when he went on with the Bullet Club, betraying his Golden ✰ Lovers tag team partner Kota Ibushi so that he could advance his career alongside The Bullet Club.

However, the arrival of Cody Rhodes on the scene led to disunity within the Club, as tensions rose on who is the real leader of The Bullet Club between him and Omega. Just like before, when the leader of the Bullet Club started showing signs of weakness, the Bullet Club would ruthlessly turn on their leader and move on with the next big thing. When Omega continuously failed to bring gold to The Bullet Club, he himself became frustrated, and, probably fearing how he could also be betrayed by The Young Bucks the same way they kicked out AJ Styles years ago, he ended up shoving Matt Jackson during a heated argument with Cody in the ring. This led everyone to leave him in the ring, disappointed in him. But Cody was the last person to leave the ring, who ended up hitting him with the Cross Rhodes in the middle of the ring.

While eventually, Cody would win a match against Kenny that will determine who is the new leader of The Bullet Club, what instead happened was an even wider rift between the members of the group, which would eventually see a complete breakup of it into many different smaller factions, each with their own loyalties. But perhaps the most significant thing to lead from this is the reunion of Kenny and Ibushi, the subsequent rise to stardom of The Elite around the Globe, and the eventual road to All In as a result.

5. Minoru Suzuki takes over to create his own army

While not as emotional or as exciting as the other events in this list, Kojima-gun’s betrayal of its own leader to elevate Minoru Suzuki was one of the most significant events in the history of AEW. This led to the establishment of Suzuki-gun, one of wrestling’s longest-running stables until its recent dissolution. It became one of NJPW’s most reliable stables in the company. It would later succeed in winning numerous championships and accolades, and while Suzuki never won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt during his entire run, his role as the leader of Suzuki-gun registered him as one of the most influential wrestlers in the history of NJPW.

4. Seth Rollins betrays The Shield

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Once upon a time, three of what could be considered today as the wrestling industry’s future was all concentrated into one group: The Shield. At its height, The Shield was the hottest, most over group in all of wrestling. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns all looked good, performed really well, and were all popular with the crowd. Their run as The Hounds of Justice and as foils to the reformed Evolution led to memorable matches.

Some would say that The Shield shouldn’t have ended as early as it did, but WWE made the right call in striking the iron while it was hot. The betrayal of Seth Rollins would catapult him to the Main Event, and their dissolution serviced all three by allowing them to all shine on their own. Each one had great runs in WWE, with both Rollins and Reigns dominating the Main Event scene up to this day, while Dean Ambrose, as Jon Moxley, became the perennial champion of AEW once he moved on from the company.

The Shield’s dissolution, had it come later, could have stalled the growth and rise to stardom for each of its members, and thankfully, WWE pulled the trigger when they did, as it later led to 2022’s biggest and most over storylines, which would lead to the big payoff in the 2023 Royal Rumble that was the catalyst to this entire article.

3. Triple H starts his Reign of Terror with The Corporation

De-Generation X was the antithesis of The Corporation, always foiling the plans of The Authority with the chaos and mayhem they bring with them and the levels of degeneracy they brought to Monday Nights. So, it was really surprising at the time when Chyna turned on Triple H to join Kane and The Corporation. Months later, Triple H would do the same, double-crossing De-Generation X and leaving X-Pac for dead.

While this meant the end for DX, which was one of the most over and most popular stables of all time, this led to a new era for Triple H. He worked best as a heel and he became the Big Boss To Beat in WWE for years to come. Triple H’s career took off at the time, leading to multiple title runs and making him a staple of the Main Event picture for the next two decades. This would also establish him as an authority figure in the years to come, which mended the timeline and the storylines, as Triple H also started becoming a more prominent figure behind the scenes.

2. Stone Cold Steve Austin savagely beats down The Rock to join The Corporation

Stone Cold joining The Corporation was the biggest curve ball of the entire career of Steve Austin. He has always been the foil to the Mr. McMahon character, and the two have always been each other’s nemeses. So, seeing him join forces with the man that was supposed to be his mortal enemy was shocking to fans all over the world. It would lead to a lot of criticism, but the significance of this event was the Two-Man Power Trip, which would cement both him and Triple H as the biggest heels in the company and the biggest names in wrestling. The heel turn also allowed Steve Austin to fulfill many dream matches against the company’s babyfaces at the time, including a tag team match with Triple H against The Undertaker and Kane, which also led to the classic match against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, where Triple H tore his quadriceps but still fought on, even taking a Walls of Jericho on the announcer’s table through immense pain.

Austin’s alignment with McMahon also allowed him to betray WWE later on during The Invasion angle, which would have him fight in another critically-acclaimed match which saw Chris Jericho unify both the WWF Championship and the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Vengeance.

1. Sami Zayn stands up to Roman Reigns to protect Kevin Owens

And we’re down to number one, Sami Zayn’s betrayal of Roman Reigns to protect Kevin Owens from The Bloodline.

This storyline was just pure gold. Intricately woven to make the best story that pulled on our heartstrings over the past several months, we finally got the payoff that we’ve been waiting for ever since Sami Zayn tried entering the Island of Relevancy.

It took literal months, but this story bit wove together years of history – Roman Reigns’ frustration in becoming the face of the company, to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn’s decades-long friendship, and even Jey Uso’s frustrations with Roman Reigns and the Bloodline, all culminating to this moment. Let us break this down.

Owens and Zayn have had a long history fighter alongside each other and even against each other long before they joined WWE, but even those who are only familiar with this product would know that the two have a storied history, dating all the way back to their NXT Days. They would also team up together multiple times, and even feud against each other. The chemistry and friendship between these two run deep, and it was this friendship that would become the roadblock to Sami’s acceptance into the group.

Reigns has done everything he could to reach the pinnacle of sports entertainment, enduring the jeers and ridicule of the people for years before finally turning heel and fully accepting the hatred fans have for him. He thus became the most powerful, most dangerous monster on WWE, even more dangerous than giants like Brock Lesnar, Bobby Lashley, and Braun Strowman. He will do everything in his power to keep himself in the position he’s in, and he sees Kevin Owens as a threat to this as he guns for his World Title.

Meanwhile, even before the Bloodline formed, Jey Uso was frustrated at Roman, frustrated at how his cousin was becoming the monster heel that he is today. He did his best to turn Roman back to the light, but his championship matches against Roman as Main Event Jey Uso only led to his downfall. He had to take the knee to save his brother, Jimmy Uso, and while being part of the Bloodline has been beneficial for him in hindsight, at the time of his joining, Jey was only forced to do so.

Now, the storyline played out perfectly well, with Jey staving off Sami from the group as he doesn’t see him as part of The Family. The reason for this, perhaps, is that the only thing that is making him stay is that The Bloodline is his family, and that is important to him. Sami, not being of their blood, does not belong, not until Jey realized that Sami is a brother to them after Sami has taken shot after shot after shot for them just to make sure that the gold belts stay around the waists of The Bloodline members.

And thus, at the Rumble, when Reigns pinned Owens and had him tied up in the ring for an extended punishment, things went down. Sami, still trying to prove his loyalty to the Tribal Chief, only watched in horror as The Bloodline beat up a knocked-out Kevin Owens. When Reigns himself was going to bring the punishment to Owens, it took all of his courage for Sami to interject, putting his body in between Owens and Reigns. But Sami stopping Reigns only prompted the champion to give him the chair, asking him to hit Owens. But instead of hitting his best friend, he hit the Tribal Chief.

Reigns knows the taste of betrayal, which is probably why he needed to do everything to know where Sami’s true loyalties lie. After all, this isn’t the first time he’s getting his back hit with a steel chair, and the knowing stare that the Tribal Chief had on Sami afterwards tells the whole story.

This led to Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa beating up Sami as well, punishing him for his betrayal. But the extra layers of drama were there, as it was Jey who felt the most betrayed by Sami, as it took him a long time to finally accept him as part of their family. Jey also started seeing how The Bloodline is ruining him, and instead of participating in the beatdown, turned his back on Roman.

We don’t know yet where this will lead as there are many ways the story could go from here. With Cody Rhodes winning the Rumble, he’s now set up to challenge Reigns for the Title. But WrestleMania is still months away, and it’s exciting to see how WWE will let the next couple of months play out. How will Sami and Owens move on from here? Will they be able to challenge The Usos, who, as we’ve seen, is also now disjointed? Will it be Cody, Sami, Owens, or even Jey who would dethrone Roman Reigns? The implications of this single moment is many, and thus making this betrayal one of the best in the history of wrestling.

We will be able to get to see these moments unfold in the following months, but before then, we’d also be able to fantasy book this when WWE 2K23 comes out in March 17, 2023. To know more about Visual Concept’s upcoming game, check out everything we know so far about WWE 2K23.