I love Sami Zayn. I didn’t really follow his career in the indies as El Generico, but his introduction on NXT instantly made me start supporting him. With an infectious theme song plus his incredible wrestling ability, it wasn’t hard to find reasons to support Sami Zayn. Many people at the time saw him as the next Daniel Bryan, who whilst Zayn was wrestling in NXT, was vying for the WWE Championship on Raw. However, after winning the NXT Championship, Zayn’s main roster run hasn’t been what many people expected it to be. Most people expected the same scrappy underdog face they were used to in NXT. Now, he doesn’t wrestle that often and instead manages Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura as a slimy heel. But I’ve got a controversial take about Zayn’s current character on the main roster, it’s far superior to his work in NXT.
As a babyface, Zayn was reasonably solid on the microphone. He arguably did his best work in NXT, especially in his feud Adrian Neville, who is now back to being called PAC in AEW. The passion Zayn would show in promos was so believable, this led many to think he could be a big underdog character on the main roster that fans of all ages could rally behind. His storyline about finally winning the big one and beating Neville at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, was awesome and a prime example of pro wrestling booking and long-term storytelling. It seemed inconceivable that someone so good at being a babyface could possibly be anything else.
No one would’ve guessed what a great heel Sami Zayn would turn out to be. As mentioned above, like Rey Mysterio or Kofi Kingston, Zayn was one of those characters people thought would remain a babyface for most if not all of his WWE career. But Zayn was languishing as a face with no real storyline and his heel turn saving Kevin Owens at Hell in a Cell 2017 was a huge boost to his character. It was then that people discovered how good of a heel Zayn was.
Instead of turning dark and disregarding all the fun aspects of his character like current Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley, he dialed it up to 11. Things like his over the top dancing to his entrance song and his happy-go-lucky attitude made Zayn more than just entertaining inside the ring, but outside of it as well. Still, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t overly convinced yet that this was the right direction for Zayn. I still felt that way up until the Raw after Wrestlemania this year when he wrestled Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship. Zayn acted like a face before and during the match, until he was defeated by Balor which upset me a little bit as he had just come back from a long injury layoff only to lose his first match. His post-match promo sold me on Sami Zayn the heel. The character he showed in that promo was riveting and it was at that point where I was onboard with Zayn the heel.
Tragically, Zayn again fell back into mediocrity. Despite having an entertaining persona and great wrestling ability, Zayn couldn’t break into a title picture or any meaningful storylines. There is nothing wrong with losing, but when it comes match after match with no meaning behind it, that’s when losing doesn’t help anyone. It sucked to see someone of his ability struggle to gain any proper showcase on a WWE show. Zayn was completely directionless, until out of nowhere on an episode of Miz TV, Zayn formed an alliance with a former opponent of his, Shinsuke Nakamura. Both Nakamura and Zayn had history with each other, dating back to Nakamura’s debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas in 2016, which also happened to be Zayn’s last match in NXT.
Whilst it annoyed me that Zayn wouldn’t be wrestling, and still does to a degree, Zayn finally has a place on the main roster. Plus, with his microphone skills, Zayn has provided something that Nakamura has been missing on the main roster. I was recently at the WWE show they had in Melbourne last week and Nakamura was defending against Ali. Whilst Ali got a decent pop, his reaction became even stronger once Zayn came out and cut a pre-match promo on the fans. His topical promo on Australia was one of the best I’ve ever seen in the 8 years I’ve been going to WWE events in Australia, and he arguably gathered the most heat of the night, with a loud “Sami Sucks” chant reigning through Rod Laver Arena.
Had Shinsuke Nakamura had Zayn whilst competing for the WWE Title in 2018, I would argue he may have clinched the title due to how well the duo is doing. With the source being leaker Wrestlevotes, recent news articles have claimed that the angle would lead to a blow-off match between them.
If I were WWE, I would wait as long as possible and ride this alliance between Nakamura and Zayn and milk it for all it’s worth. Even wait until Wrestlemania and do the match for the IC Title. Or better, have Nakamura lose the IC Title to Daniel Bryan and aim for the WWE Title he couldn’t win, then do the blow-off feud for the championship. Zayn’s new heel persona with Nakamura has so much life in it, it would be a shame to end it prematurely.
Eventually, Zayn will go back to being a face. But it will be as a far more entertaining character who will have more experience having played the other side of the coin. Now though, his heel run is something to be admired as he has done the impossible and now found himself exchanging words with Hulk Hogan on Smackdown. Sami Zayn has finally found purpose in the WWE and who would’ve guessed it would be as a heel manager?
For those who have made it this far, I’ve got an article planned for later this week talking about the Strowman/Fury match. Stay tuned for that, and if people are interested, I could potentially do a review into the WWE Live Event I attended last week.