The only thing Jey Uso has ever known is tag team wrestling with his brother. For the past decade, Jey and Jimmy Uso have arguably been the class of WWE’s tag team division. Real-life brothers who have dedicated themselves to the lost art of tag team wrestling has paid off in dividends as The Usos are six-time tag team champions and on the shortlist of greatest tag teams in the history of pro wrestling.
However, an injury to Jimmy Uso back at WrestleMania 36 in March left Jey without his brother for the first time in his pro wrestling career. But it’s been a blessing in disguise as Jey has found himself in a Universal Championship match against his cousin Roman Reigns at Clash of Champions on Sunday on the WWE Network (7pm ET).
Before Jey attempts to shock the world and pick up his first singles championship, he sat down with Sporting News to discuss facing Reigns, why being a tag team wrestler will always be more significant than any singles run, the possibility of joining his cousin for an all-Samoan faction and more.
Sporting News: Before we discuss the match with Reigns, I want to go back to 2016 when you and your brother turned heel. It was a defining moment for you and your brother as we finally saw your spread your wings as personalities. Was there a debate over the turn backstage?
Jey Uso: No, there was no debate. The seeds were planted when we were teaming with Roman. The crowd was just not having Roman and would boo his ass every week. We came out with him and that rubbed off on us! When the crowd started turning that’s when we realized that now was the time.
You always have to pay attention to the reactions. We were excited and knew the people wanted to see us switch up. The bright colors and paint came from the Ultimate Warrior. That was our favorite wrestler along with the Great Muta. When it was time to switch we knew we needed to go black and white. The Nike Air Force 1s came from that. You can’t go wrong with the white ones.
SN: How excited were you that you didn’t have to be the smiling and always happy babyfaces anymore?
JU: It propelled us into the Usos that you see today. You don’t remember that side of the Usos anymore. You know this side, the heel side. We got to show that we can talk, how we talk, the way we talk. When they gave us the microphone against American Alpha, that promo was the one that set us off. We spit that fire on them. I was ready for this moment. As soon as they let us talk, we were taking off. And it’s just a matter of time when you love the bad guys so much it turns us back to babyfaces. Once you get the real level of who you are, that’s the route you want to be in.
SN: How is Jimmy doing? I heard this is the first injury he has ever had.
JU: He is doing great! This is the first injury since we were 11 years old that put him on the shelf. He’s rehabbing every single day. He’s watching every Friday, he tells me what to do, what not to do and how I look. He’s enjoying time at home with his kids. It’s been a blessing to work during this pandemic because it has cut our travel game in half. We get to stay at home with our family and our kids. And he’s loving it.
SN: Would you have been in this position if your brother didn’t get hurt?
JU: To be honest, Uce? Probably not. I would 100 percent still be in a tag team. When he went down, I was hosting karaoke shows! And then I show up at work and they tell me that I’m about to have a run with Roman. Get the hell outta here, bruh! I was legitimately off of work and then right back on. You gotta stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. In this business, you are either sitting still or you’re going 100 miles per hour. There’s no halfway.
SN: What does this match mean for the family? Not as individuals, but as close family who are now competing for the Universal Championship in a pay per view.
JU: We have so many marks on the wall of our achievements and this is just another one. My family has done so much, and people are loving this? Hell yeah! I have to get a grasp on this. It hasn’t hit me all the way yet. Every week I’m looking and wondering if this is me. Oh, s—, this is me! I’m just happy to make my family proud and to be in a position to do this with my cousin in the biggest wrestling company for a prestigious title. When I’m standing across the ring from him, you might catch me cheesing a little bit because look at how far we’ve come.
SN: You couldn’t have fathomed this. It’s like a dream.
JU: I’m pretty sure that I’ll wake up from it as soon as he slaps me. I’ll snap out of it real quick. This is real emotion but it’s going to be really physical. I know he’s going to bring it to me but I’m going to bring it to him because he’s my cousin and this is what we do. You are going to see two true Samoans go at it. I know there are some haters out there, thinking that I got no damn chance of what I’m doing in this position. If you don’t know I’m about to light his ass up on Sunday. He knows and I’m going to let the world know.
SN: You have a WWE “Chronicle” coming up that’s focused on you. How strange was it to do without your brother there?
JU: When I stutter during my promos, my brother is always there to tag in and let me collect my bearings. We lean on each other. But now I’m a lone soldier that has to stand on my own two feet. But it feels good. It allows me to grow. I want everyone to see “Chronicle” so you get to see Josh Fatu more than Jey Uso.
SN: Let’s just say you become Universal Champion and your brother comes back into the picture. Is there a scenario where you defend the title but remain in a tag team with your brother to chase the tag titles?
JU: Hell yeah, Uce! Why tag teams have to break up before someone has to win the title? I can keep the Universal title and then go whoop on the Street Profits to get the Raw Tag Team titles. Tag team wrestling has always been our goal. We take pride in that. We love it. I’m never going to break up with my brother.
SN: Speaking of tag teams, what tag team, past or present, would you like to face?
JU: The past is easy. Harlem Heat, Hart Foundation and Yokozuna and Owen Hart. We won our first tag titles from the New Age Outlaws and then we wrestled the Dudley Boys and the Hardy Boyz. We grew up idolizing these fools! As far as the present, we haven’t rocked with the Street Profits yet or the Viking Raiders. I have to keep an eye on the young tag teams coming up. Anybody can get it.
SN: You have had some great feuds but there’s something about your chemistry with The New Day that brings out the best in you. Why is that?
JU: We have great chemistry with them because they are not selfish. They are just like us where everything isn’t just about how we look. It’s all for the match. We had several matches and my favorite part is trying to outdo the last match.
Originally, that feud was only supposed to go for a PPV or two. One of the matches was the SummerSlam kickoff match. We lit it up. They’ve helped me pay my house off with that feud. I love them and will fight them every single day of the week.
SN: Instead of facing Roman Reigns at Clash of Champions, is there a part of you that wonders what it would be like to team up with your cousin and brother as a faction?
JU: Hell yes! People would be like “The Shield who?” Look, The Shield was great but if they saw the three of us together? Nothing would be tighter than this. The Shield were brothers but we’re real life family. Look, I could whoop Roman’s ass on Sunday and then we’ll have breakfast Monday morning. That’s just how we roll. We can fight and love each other two minutes afterward. There will always be a bond between us no matter what. All three of us together? Come on, now! We just need a dope name.
SN: Have you thought of one?
JU: I’m thinking Samoan SWAT Team 2.0! Or, we bring back The Samoan Gangsta Party! Oh yeah.
SN: If you had to choose between the Universal Championship or the Tag Team Championship, which is more significant to you and why?
JU: To answer the question honestly, I’m trying to be a part of the greatest tag team of all time. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a singles wrestler and being the Universal Champion would take me to another level. But being the best tag team ever was the goal since me and my brother were kids. We want to be the best at everything as a tag team. If it wasn’t for my brother being hurt, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now. People are doubting me now as a singles wrestler. But we’ve been doubted our whole lives. I like that part because you get to find out how strong you are.