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From ‘The Underdog from The Underground’, ‘NXT’s Heart and Soul’, to one of WWE’s most prolific players in the game, Sami Zayn has pathed his way through success, if not with a ton of belts around his waist, but by being the man every wrestling fan wants to love. His matches with his best friend/best foe Kevin Owens are legendary because of the unique chemistry they have cemented since they were young wrestlers in their Native Quebec.
SteelChair Magazine recently spoke to Sami Zayn as part of a WWE media call, and during this call, he explained what his partnership with Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura means to him, the people he would like to see join them in their new crusade, his in-ring career, his future with WWE, his dream matches and opponents, his recent stints at comedy and improvisation, not being on the same brand than Kevin Owens, and much more in this exclusive interview.
About your recent partnership with Nakamura, how much do you enjoy it, and was it your idea to team up and be the mouthpiece of Shinsuke?
I enjoy not wrestling at the moment. I don’t know whether it was my idea or not. I do remember thinking it would be cool if I could have a couple of guys with me, and not just Nakamura, even if Nakamura was the first guy on the list. Partnering up with him, I think it’s beneficial for both of us because he’s been able to sort of be engaged a little more in the rivalry because, obviously, he speaks English pretty well, but there’s still a limitation on that with the language barrier, for as far as carrying a rivalry in the wrestling business, which is a lot of talks with smash obviously. I’m able to kind of pick up the slack in that regard. In my end, I really enjoy being ringside and trying to contribute to the masses and things like that. I’m still wrestling on the live event periodically, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds. At the same time, it’s kind of keeping my body a little bit of a break, kind of a free sheet. All in all, I think it’s good fun. I don’t think it’s going to be a permanent thing, but at least for the time being, I’m enjoying it for what it is.
Looking back, now that you are a student at the game, do you look at managers and mouthpieces as powerful people in the history of WWE? Do you see it as your future in the business?
I don’t think that’s the long-term vision. It’s certainly not my long-term vision. That’s something I may want to do when I’m done with in-ring competition, obviously, as I still have a lot to give in that regard. However, I do think, just in my limited time doing this, that I’ve been able to add a lot to the matches that he’s performing in, and so I do think there is something to be said about that, as an art form for that role. That managerial role is definitely a missing space in wrestling today, in WWE today. It kind of remind me just how fun it could be when it’s done right and, again, I don’t know if it’s going to end, it’s probably not a long-term thing, but for now, it’s kind of opened the door enough for me to really make me realise like, “oh this is something that I could really enjoy down the road when my in-ring days are over,” but I still think I do have a lot to contribute even when my body one day says no more.
Can you confirm to us this mouthpiece time is not a way to hide any kind of injury?
I don’t think this is a permanent thing by any mean. I’m still a wrestler, and I think I’m pretty good at it (laughs). I don’t think it’s something I want to stop doing anytime soon. Our time in WWE is very long, and to me, this is just another chapter in this story because the story could go on for years and years. It’s a little break, and it’s a thing that I think people will hopefully remember when it’s all set and done, but it’s by no means permanent. I still can wrestle, I have been wrestling sometimes on live events, sometimes I don’t. Even when I don’t wrestle, I like to make sure that people are well aware that I was there, so I’ll run my mouth, and it will be a big part of the show, whether I get in the ring or whether I don’t get into the ring. By no means is my ring career over or anything like that, it’s just kind of something I’m doing right now. I’m really enjoying it right now, and hopefully, the fans are enjoying it too.
While you were injured and even recently, you did some comedy festivals and improvisation shows, does it make you change something about the way you present yourself on the mic?
I don’t know if it made me change the way I do things, but it’s definitely valuable skills. If you do comedy or improvisation or anything like that, I think it adds to your skillset, another tool in your toolbox you can use as a performer in WWE. So just the ability to adapt to whatever is going on in your environment at the time as you’re performing and to be able to think quickly on your feet, those are two very important skills to have as a WWE Superstar. If you can sharpen that up by getting out of your comfort zone, by getting out of WWE, and applying those skills or honing those skills in a different medium, I think it just makes you a better all-around performer. I did enjoy it, that’s for sure.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a small taste of something I’d like to do in later years once I’m not wrestling as much, who knows? I know that I enjoyed it very much, especially given the fact that I’d done it a few times when we were actually raising some money for charity through “Sami for Syria,” a sort of charity initiative I started to help raise money for mobile clinics in Syria. I felt I should do it because not only was I there having fun, but I was having fun doing something for a worthy cause, and it helps with my skills in WWE. It’s something I have very, very positive memories about all around.
SmackDown now has a brand- new roster with new talents that you’ve probably had never wrestled. Who could you be targeting in the future?
It remains to be seen how things will shake up on SmackDown. This past week, Shinsuke Nakamura and I were involved with Daniel Bryan, and certainly, he’s one of the people that I would look forward to wrestling if and when I would get back in the ring full-time on SmackDown. I’d say, Daniel Bryan, and of course, Roman Reigns, are the two that I would have my sights set on personally, but there’s a lot of really good guys who are getting a chance now to make their name. Guys like Shorty Gable and Ali. You’re going to see them in a bit more prominent roles, and I think, and I hope that they’re up for the task, but I think the roster can do really good things because it gives a lot of new guys opportunities. I’ll say Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns are the two guys that I’m ready to mix it up with the most. There are a lot of guys that I think will step up to the plate, and I think it’s exciting to see these guys develop.
You mentioned earlier about how you’d like to continue giving to the wrestling business once you can’t wrestle anymore. Is there anything specific you want to do. Maybe commentary or maybe being a manager? Is there anything specific that you have your eye on?
This little stint, speaking on behalf of Nakamura, and being ringside for the matches, especially on the live events, has been so much fun, and I realise it’s something I’m pretty good at. I think it’s something that I help add to the matches. You can see the art form of the manager has gone by the wayside in WWE now for some years, but it is something that I’d be very interested in once my wrestling days are done. Although to be honest with you, I’m so animated and active when I’m ringside that I don’t know if my body can still do that in ten years or whatever, because I’m moving around like a psycho out there (laughs). It is something that I have a lot of interest in.
Commentary is interesting too, but it’s an extremely hard job, and even though I could call myself a pretty good talker, doing commentary is still its own art form, and it takes more than just being a good talker to be good at commentary. It is something I’m interested in learning a little more. Corey Graves is a great example. He was never a commentator. He was an in-ring performer, and then sadly, his in-ring career had to come to an end, and his transition to commentary was remarkable. I don’t think anybody can do it, but it’s something that maybe I will be interested in trying my hand at.
So, if I can be contributing in any way on the WWE television product, once my wrestling days are over, I think being a manager would probably be my first guess at it. Then maybe doing commentary would also be interesting. If it was neither of those two, and I was still a part of the wrestling business, I think maybe I do have some interest in teaching and coaching at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando or something like that because I just feel like, even though one day your wrestling days are over, that there’s still a wealth of knowledge that you have accumulated over the years that you can give back to the business. I see all of these being options for when my in-ring career comes to an end.
Your career is kind of intertwined with Kevin Owens. For the moment, you two are being kept apart for a while. Do you enjoy these moments apart from Kevin Owens?
It’s always fun performing with Kevin, especially because we know each other so well, and I think we have very good chemistry, but there’s so much content in WWE that if you’re around too much, it becomes redundant. Personally, I like a little bit of space at that time. I think when we do eventually mix it back up after being apart for a little while, I think the fans will be more intrigued and ready to see it again. I think you’ve got to give it a little bit of space now and again, and it’s interesting because I think at the moment, both of us are really exploring new sides of our career that we haven’t fully dabbled in too much.
For example, for the first eleven years of my career, I pretty much didn’t talk at all. So now my new thing is pretty much just talking and talking a lot. So I’m exploring this new aspect of my character and this new sort of role. So is Kevin because he’s finding himself as a good guy on RAW and all of that and he hasn’t done anything like that in WWE for almost five years. He’s finding himself in a new role too, so I think it’s good for both of us to kind of go on separate paths and diversify our body of work and, then hopefully, it’ll be a lot more intriguing when our paths will cross again.
How do WWE support Sami for Syria?
When I first launched the campaign three years ago, they didn’t do anything to get in my way, and it’s just a tricky balance because it’s a state corporate company and so they can’t necessarily take on the interests of every single member of the company, and I totally understand that. But they did give me a lot of soft support in that they helped me connect with certain media outlets and things like just, also retweeting it and things like that. I didn’t expect them, and I didn’t ask them to get involved or to offer an extensive amount of support, because I understand how it is. But they were supportive and helped me connect with certain media outlets and with retweeting it and that sort of thing.
You said the letters ‘AEW’ in an Electric Chair segment live on RAW. How did WWE officials react? Were you blamed for that?
No, no. It was not a big story other than what was on the internet. At the end of the day, the segment was a new segment that we were trying for people, an unscripted thing. I knew that if we said ‘AEW’, people would talk about it. That’s exactly what happened. As you see, nothing happened after I said that. We did it once, and nothing happened. Much more controversy on the internet on the subject, but it’s important to have the people talking about it. It was a small segment for one time only, to have the people talking about it, that was the idea.
What is next for Shinsuke Nakamura, and you? You are currently trying to add Daniel Bryan to your group.
We just offered our help to Daniel Bryan. I hope he will join us, as he hasn’t given his answer yet. I don’t see Nakamura and I working together in a ring. It’s about us starting something with intelligent wrestlers or the ones who don’t always have the opportunities. My role is to talk for the other and help them. We may add Daniel Bryan, but we may also add other wrestlers, like Cesaro, who’s an excellent wrestler but has fewer opportunities than the others.
Daniel Bryan is like us. He’s not like the other Superstars in WWE. He’s more than being a star. He’s profound and intelligent. Our trio will be very interesting because we are three excellent wrestlers, and at the same time, three people who have interests outside of wrestling. I think interviews with the three of us could be interesting because you could see a side of wrestling that people don’t see very often.
What would be your “WrestleMania 36” dream match?
For the moment, I have two. Probably against Daniel Bryan, if we start to do things with him, and if he remains a good guy. I think Daniel and I could have a very good match, and I feel like I have good chemistry with him. The other option would be The Undertaker. I was in the ring with him at Madison Square Garden recently. I don’t know how long, and how many more matches he has left. Having the opportunity to be in the ring with him would be an excellent opportunity for me. I think I would be a good opponent for him at this point in his career. I think his next matches should be against young talents instead of people like Goldberg. I love to see veterans wrestle and help young talents.
With European tour coming, are we going to see you wrestling?
I truly don’t know the card. For sure, I can promise you that even if I’m not actively in the match, I guarantee that you will get a fair amount of Sami Zayn, maybe even more than you want, because I definitely make my presence felt whether I’m in the ring or outside the ring.