This Saturday, WWE presents one of its flagship events, the Royal Rumble. It was developed from scratch by Quebecer Pat Patterson and presented for the first time in 1988. In terms of popularity, it is second only to WrestleMania, of course.
This year will be no different as we expect some surprises and some good fights.
That’s why I’m starting a series of three blogs. Today I continue my recap of the interview that Montrealer Sami Zayn, one of the participants of the Royal Rumble and who has just signed a new contract with WWE, gave this week to the Anti-Pods of the Fight. Tomorrow I’ll give my predictions for the event and on Sunday I’ll give a recap of what happened the day before.
Entertainment or wrestling, that is the question
But before we think about what will happen this Saturday, let’s go back to Sami Zayn.
There are reasons why WWE wanted to keep the Quebecer in its ranks. Zayn is a professional wrestler who can be described as versatile. His acrobatic and athletic style allows him to provide excellent fights in the arena, but he can also entertain fans in comedy segments, skits or interviews. This makes him a complete wrestler. Not all wrestlers are able to perform well on both a sporting and entertaining level.
Whether he’s wrestling or entertaining, Zayn feels the same satisfaction.
“There are fans who wonder why I do segments like this with Johnny Knoxville, for example. More entertaining things. I love it! People talk about martial arts entertainment. But for me it’s the same. Wrestling is sporting entertainment. But there are fans who say, “You’re such a good wrestler, why are you doing this?” Personally, I love it. I like doing things like that. I know I’m a good wrestler, I know I can give good fights, and if I get the opportunity to give a good fight to anyone, I like that too. But I like to do things with Johnny Knoxville, Logan Paul or Trey Young,” explains the former Intercontinental Champion.
Zayn talks about it. Last year he worked with YouTuber and occasional boxer Logan Paul around WrestleMania. The whole thing made for very good television contributions. The WWE trusts him again this time while he has been in a rivalry with Johnny Knoxville, the main protagonist of the cult series, for several weeks Donkey. Knoxville will be taking part in the Royal Rumble and has had a lot of fun lately preparing to take Zayn over the top rope, the only way to eliminate someone in a Rumble.
“There will definitely be some interaction between us and I can’t wait,” Zayn says. What we have done in the last few weeks has been fun. I admit, I was surprised to see how much the fans love the guy even though it was 20 years ago Donkey. So when you work with people that people are interested in, it’s more interesting because you don’t have to convince people to like this guy. »
Another man Zayn has had the opportunity to work with is current WWE Champion Brock Lesnar. Since his return, Lesnar, now a fan favorite, has shown a look and a side to his personality that we haven’t seen often. When he and Zayn started arguing about who was the true Canadian alpha male (Brock has lived in Saskatchewan for years), it made for a real gem of television on SmackDown!
“I really enjoyed working with Brock,” says Zayn. He’s really good at doing comedy and I didn’t expect that. His instincts are really good. This is the first time we’ve really worked together. It was very good for me to be in the ring with him. But in a way it was good for him because with my character he was able to show a different side of his character. »
NXT 2.0, like the Laval rocket
Zayn is in his 10th year with WWE. Only a few people have worked in the company for so long. At the end of his contract, he will join Kevin Owens as the Quebecer with the most years of service in the WWE.
The journey began for him in 2013 when he made his debut in NXT. In his first match on March 7, he teamed with Kassius Ohno against Erick Rowan and the late Luke Harper. A year and 9 months later he became NXT Champion.
Since then, NXT has changed its calling. When several amateurs condemn this change and several wrestlers who worked on it no longer recognize themselves in it, Zayn analyzes everything with a completely different approach.
“It’s completely different, but it depends on what you like about wrestling. There are my favorite things from the old NXT with Kevin, Finn, Pac, Samoa Joe and all the others. But there are things that I like about NXT 2.0 because it came back with the original intention of being a development promotion,” specifies the 37-year-old athlete.
“Because when we were there, we weren’t people who needed to evolve because we had already been fighting for ten years,” he continues. So if you are an amateur who enjoys watching a wrestler’s progress, this is something interesting. Like in hockey, if you look at the Laval Rocket to see who will be playing for the Canadiens in a few years, and you’re a very big hockey fan, it’s interesting to watch their evolution. And I think it’s the same now. NXT 2.0 has truly become a developmental area again. »
Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, tag team champions?
2021 was a year full of twists and turns for Zayn. He was used in every way, both for his qualities as a wrestler and for his skills on the microphone. However, his first half of the year was something very special for him.
“The first part of 2021 with the conspiracy theorist character and the documentary is really the most fun I have had in my career,” he explains in the language of Molière, a language in which he gets along very well, but which is is not his native language. The promo with Logan Paul when I played that Trailer I really liked the documentary. The fight with Kevin at WrestleMania, but also the fight on SmackDown afterwards last man standing, I loved this fight. »
It’s hard to talk about Zayn without mentioning his friend of the last 19 years, Kevin Owens. It’s pretty amazing that the two have and have such similar backgrounds. Both made a name for themselves in the US at the same time, often at the same events. They competed all over the world. Otherwise they were a team. Although they didn’t come to WWE at the same time, their paths quickly crossed. They faced each other at WrestleMania and teamed up at WrestleMania. And now they both sign a new contract almost at the same time.
What do they still have to do? A team championship perhaps?
“I don’t understand why this hasn’t happened already,” Zayn admits. Anyone who knows me also knows Kevin because our careers have been going on for almost 20 years. And we were tag team champions in other companies like ROH and PWG. Becoming champions here in the WWE would be very special for me and Kevin. It’s something that has to happen one day. »
Even though Owens was his biggest rival in his career, Zayn dreamed of a match at WrestleMania with one of his childhood idols. So much so that he suggested the idea. However, he was unlucky.
“I had spoken to the creative team about planning a story with Jeff Hardy,” Sami tells us. My idea was to have a ladder match against him at WrestleMania. I had a big story in mind, but unfortunately he was fired two weeks later. Jeff was one of my heroes when I was a teenager. He was one of my big inspirations when I started. At least I was able to have a ranking fight with him and AJ Styles in 2020, and that was one of my favorite moments of 2020.”
Sami for Syria, a nice gesture from Zayn
There’s Sami Zayn the wrestler, Sami Zayn the artist, but there’s also Sami Zayn the speaker. In fact, Zayn has been committed to raising funds for the Sami for Syria foundation he founded for five years. Syria is his parents’ country of origin and, due to the war, one of the countries in greatest need of humanitarian aid. A cause that is close to his heart and for which he has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars to date.
“In 2017 it was initially more work. I began working with a non-profit company, the Syrian American Medical Society, and am working with them to provide mobile clinics that provide medical services to those affected by the war in Syria. This is the first time this year that we have had two clinics at the same time. The only thing that stresses me out is when people get tired of giving money. But it’s been five years and people are still giving. I’m not the one doing most of the work. I am their spokesman, I share the information on my social networks, but they are the ones who do the work,” he explains.
A Mike Bossy fan!
Finally, we couldn’t talk to Sami without talking to him about hockey. He is a huge Canadiens fan and attends games at the Bell Center or elsewhere whenever he gets the chance. Given the season she’s currently playing, we’re wondering about Kent Hughes’ team! Rather, we asked him to tell us about his all-time team.
The concept is simple: three attackers, two defenders and a goalkeeper.
First he took Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Two easy decisions! On defense, Nicklas Lidstrom and PK Subban, “for Montreal,” he said. Then in front of the Nets was none other than Patrick Roy, who Sami met at a young age after winning the Stanley Cup in 1993.
But it was his third attacker who caught our attention.
“Mike Bossy!” He truly is one of the greatest goalscorers in history, but for one reason or another his name doesn’t come up often when we think of the greatest goal scorer! Zayn concludes.
A beautiful tribute to our colleague from TVA Sports, who just celebrated his 65th birthday and is currently fighting the fight of his life. Sami knows wrestling, but he also knows hockey. And just like Mike, a Quebecer who makes us very proud!
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