WADE KELLER PODCAST - EARLY PREVIEW OF ROYAL RUMBLE 2020 MEN'S MATCH, PLUS 2019 AND 2010 LOOK-BACK ROUNDTABLES
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Sami Zayn is a brilliantly talented wrestler. His feud with Kevin Owens launched his profile and I’m yet to see him have a bad match. So, what’s the problem? Why isn’t he flying to the upper echelons of the main event and wrecking everything? Well, to put it bluntly, they don’t know what to do with him.
Let’s have a look at what they’ve done so far.
Sami Zayn’s first major appearance on WWE was on May 4, 2015 when he essentially John Cena’d John Cena. Sami Zayn answered Cena’s open challenge for the U.S. Title on Monday Night Raw, put on a great match, and vanished again.
Now, clearly they thought he was ready enough to be thrown in the mix, but they didn’t do so. Why? Bit of bad luck and a more important Kevin Owens storyline. Essentially, NXT still had storylines to tell and he was needed. Fair enough.
His next appearance was once again Kevin Owens-based. He emerged as a surprise entrant at the Royal Rumble and eliminated Kevin Owens before going not very far afterwards. This was big. This was great. I loved it. People who didn’t know much of the story between them, not as much, but it was a gamble by WWE that paid off big time.
You’d have thought that Sami Zayn had a storyline ready to go against Owens, but the WrestleMania storyline involved a lot more people than just Sami Zayn. Things got busy, and Sami Zayn was a standout in the massive ladder match for the WWE Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania. This provided a big assist in the relaunching of the Intercontinental Title, and Sami Zayn seemed destined for the belt and for glory.
This is when it all started to get a bit silly for Sami Zayn. His next match was his third major pay-per-view appearance that was defined by Kevin Owens. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great match and a great way to show what Sami Zayn is capable of, but it was about Kevin Owens again. That’s okay, though. Sami Zayn wasn’t going to be defined by KO for much longer!
At Extreme Rules, Sami Zayn was once again featured in a match with Owens. Sorry, I lied. This was the fatal four-way Intercontinental Title match and it was glorious. The Miz and Cesaro were added to a match that very nearly stole the show. Sami definitely managed to get out of the shadow of Kevin Owens! Except, you know, he didn’t. Sami Zayn didn’t win the belt and he didn’t beat Kevin Owens.
So at this point I was hopeful that Sami Zayn would be written into another storyline, or at least be given some promo time. Fast forward to Money in the Bank and Sami Zayn was yet again in a match with Kevin Owens. Another ladder match at that in the Money in the Bank ladder match. Now, this is still a good push. Being in that match at all is a coup, and given how much time was dedicated to it beforehand, Sami Zayn was being billed as a major contender.
Unfortunately, by this point it gets very close to having him being carried by Owens. Not in a wrestling sense certainly because Sami Zayn can wrestle with tremendous talent. At this point though, Zayn didn’t have a character. He hadn’t had a chance to talk. He hadn’t been able to develop a new feud. The writers didn’t seem like they were even aware of him but were instead writing his name under Owens’. Maybe they thought Owens and Sami were middle names of that infamously creative Kevin Zayn.
Instead, what we saw a lot of was nothing matches like the one above, where Zayn was added to a big group match with no real tension just to give him time on TV. No progression was given to his character because he still didn’t have a character to develop.
On July 19 the brand split took place and splitting up Owens and Zayn seemed to be the best thing to do. Zayn could then develop into his own person away from Owens, and given that the two were booked into a match at Battleground a week later it seemed the right way to keep them apart for as long as possible. Then they were both drafted to Raw. That really happened. Zayn followed Owens once again.
But one thing that did change was that Zayn finally got a win over Owens. Yes, Sami Zayn was once again following Kevin Owens, but this time he actually got a win. Clearly this meant that it was over. It was supposed to be over. They were supposed to go nowhere near each other for a long time.
And that’s when WWE forgot that Sami Zayn existed. Summerslam? Nope. Dark match. They gave him a shot against Chris Jericho at Clash of Champions in September, but Zayn’s promos weren’t up to scratch because he had no character. The only thing we had ever been told was that Zayn hated Owens. He had nothing else to fall back on. Was this supposed to develop his character? Who knows. The next day it was all forgotten and they’ve barely been involved since.
Why was Jericho fighting Zayn? Did Zayn have his own feud? No. It was because of Kevin Owens. It is utterly ridiculous how vacant Zayn’s storylines are when Kevin Owens is not involved.
Let’s skip forward to Hell in a Cell. Nope, he wasn’t on it.
Following this, Zayn was given a big moment. Mick Foley’s choice to challenge for the Intercontinental Title (that same title he’s been chasing for a while) against The Miz. Again, the match was good. Zayn has obvious and blatant talent. How did it end? Cheating. Sami Zayn was cheated. He was alright with it, though. He never followed up. Did he even mention it? Not sure.
Eurgh. Poor Sami.
So what was left for Sami there? Well, this is when they started up the Underdog from the Underground business again. That only works when you eventually get a win, though. A win over Seth Rollins in a match for a Royal Rumble entry was a good match that wasn’t about Sami. It was about Rollins. His matches against Braun Strowman were a bigger deal. Sami Zayn even got a win! Without even winning. He just didn’t get murdered in less than ten minutes. Great. Way to build a character.
And essentially now, Sami Zayn has taken the place of Seth Rollins again. This is good, since Sami would not have appeared on the pay-per-view without this match.
Sami Zayn does not seem to have a WrestleMania match lined up. He doesn’t seem to have a storyline unless he continues to go up against Samoa Joe. Given what’s happened so far, does that seem likely? Sami Zayn has come up against big names, but most of them have been Kevin Owens. Once Owens wasn’t involved, it all fell apart. Sami’s star hasn’t risen because he doesn’t have a character and nobody seems keen to give him one.
He should have gone to Smackdown. He might have finally won that Intercontinental Title.
Thoughts? Please send me a tweet or share a comment below on where you think Zayn could go from here. The way he’s going, it’ll be straight into a tag team with Sheamus. Sad day.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE: FRIDAY FEATURE: With Bray Wyatt on his way to defend WWE’s top title at WrestleMania, can you describe what he is?