FanPost

1. The Sami Zayn Heel Turn I Always Wanted(?)

Let me start off by saying that I've been a fan of Sami Zayn since before he had WWE merchandise.

Before he was the perpetual ray of sunshine that won over NXT audiences, he was a performer who always had this sense of honor around him. Even from his first big feud with Cesaro, we saw that he was someone that wanted to fight on his own terms and would not play by anyone's rules but his own. He had a natural charisma and sincerity that allowed fans to connect with him. He wasn't huge by any standards, but he was authentic and that's why people loved him.

As his role on NXT began to grow and as he began to climb the ranks of the roster, we saw him become one of the most beloved babyfaces in NXT, with an underdog arc that won the hearts of even more of the Full Sail crowd as well as the growing number of people tuning in to NXT on the WWE Network. This arc culminated in arguably the biggest babyface payoff win that I've ever seen when he finally "won the big one" and defeated his friend turned nemesis, Adrian Neville, for the WWE NXT Championship in a serious match-of-the-year 2014 contender (NXT Takeover: R-Evolution). The match, which would see Sami Zayn leave NXT should he lose, displayed the all of the honor and heart that we had come to expect from our beloved Underdog of the Underground. With several opportunities to play dirty presented to him, he overcame ("fuck that!") the temptation and decided not only to fight on his own terms, but to WIN on his own terms. It was a hugely inspirational moment that really united the NXT crowd and locker room as everyone poured out to the ring to congratulate the most noble NXT champion in the brand's history.

Throughout this entire babyface run, I had a deep, dark secret: as much as I loved Sami Zayn as an unshakable, immovable face, I desperately wanted to see him become a heel. I would have loved to see him develop a more brutal fighting style, forcing other people to take him seriously as a performer, a contender, and a champion. So many times throughout his career, people refused to take him seriously, and even as champion, he didn't command the same respect, nor was he able to intimidate his opponents as effectively as others around him.

His reign as NXT champion lasted for roughly two months before his longtime rival and real-life best friend, Kevin Owens, unseated him as the NXT champion after a brutal match. He also failed to recapture the title in the rematch, which left him laid out after another brutal attack by Kevin Owens.

Not long after, Sami suffered an injury while making his main roster singles debut facing John Cena in a U.S. Open Challenge. Things seemed rough for him, as he was shelved for the remainder of 2015 as he recovered. During this time, Kevin Owens breezed through NXT and before he reached one year with the company, he was already performing on the main roster and had an upset victory over John Cena.

Throughout all of this time, I waited. I waited for his return, and when it finally happened, I waited for the heel turn of how in his absence, so many people had passed him by. I waited for him to bring up the fact that people like Kevin Owens spent less than a year in NXT while Sami had stayed there for years. Plural.

Of course, the face love of my life, Sami Zayn, remained positive in the face of people like me hoping for heel turns. Of course, I still loved him and thought that a heel turn was a pipe dream and that he would have a long running underdog story where he gets the payoff because he's been an absolute treasure and an immovable face. I told myself that I could live with that, because as long as he gets recognition for his talent in the end, that it would all be worth it. He got another match-of-the-year contender in his bout with Shinsuke Nakamura in the latter's debut for NXT.

Shortly afterwards, he would make the transition to the main roster, where he saw victories over some of the other lower-card talent. I distinctly remember his victory against Stardust and feeling so hopeful at his potential to become the next great babyface on the main roster. Soon after, they ran with a feud between Zayn and Kevin Owens, which Zayn would finally win at Battleground. Shortly after, Zayn would end up being drafted to Monday Night RAW ahead of Kevin Owens. With a win against someone like Kevin Owens, who was elevated very quickly to the upper-midcard, it seemed like there was a possibility for some elevation for Sami as well! I was so excited to see him perhaps be able to compete on this elevated level, especially after being drafted BEFORE Kevin Owens.

Jump ahead to late 2016, where he had a feud with Braun Strowman that portrayed him as a tough underdog who would be able to withstand a brutal assault and still be willing to fight. However, that went nowhere. As did his ensuing feuds with both Rusev and Samoa Joe as well as the war of words that he had several times with Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon. Many fans noticed that Sami Zayn was just not being used up to his potential and many people had hopes that he could somehow switch over to Smackdown, which has had a much better history as far as giving people more opportunities to shine.

Following Wrestlemania 33 in 2017, Sami was part of the superstar shakeup and went to "the land of opportunity" to much fanfare. Many of us thought that this would signal a change in his career where he would finally get the treatment he deserved as a top talent. Many of us realized rather quickly that we were very very wrong, as he would lose chances to compete for the brand's titles very early on. He had a feud with Baron Corbin which, though brutalized often, he ended up winning. It seemed that things were looking up for our favorite underdog from the underground. Then...nothing. For weeks on end, there wasn't much for Sami as far as storyline content outside of some backstage segments and tag team victories. There was a slight feud that built up between Sami and Aiden English which did nothing for either of them.

Notably, a few other people were involved in the superstar shakeup from RAW to Smackdown, one of which was Kevin Owens. As Sami toiled away in the upper, then mid, then lower-midcard, Kevin Owens had an excellent feud with AJ Styles over the United State Championship. Kevin Owens then began a feud with the commissioner of Smackdown Live, Shane McMahon. Sami tried to reach out to both men to try to discourage them from continuing the feud any further, telling KO that he's got to think about his career and how foolish it is for him to attack a McMahon. Sami would also tell Shane that he needs to be careful because Sami was very familiar with how far Kevin Owens is willing to go to prove his point and to win a match. Both of these men, however, shunned his advice. Sami was again cast off and not taken seriously, even though he attempted to be a voice of reason for both of these men.

And then, it happened.

Sami Zayn interfered in the finish of a match to help his former best friend and perpetual nemesis, Kevin Owens. Could this be? Could this be the heel turn that I've been waiting for since 2014? I jumped out of my seat when it happened and screamed when he made the referee count the pinfall.

On the next Smackdown, he gave a pretty neutral promo about how Kevin Owens, for better or worse is his brother, and he wanted to make sure that Shane did not end his career, or worse.

Sami also ran down his time on the main roster, and discussed at first being very grateful for moving to Smackdown, where he thought that he would be exposed to more opportunities, which seemed true at first. Unfortunately, these opportunities quickly dried up, and he was found to be in the same position as he was before. He realized that he spent so much time trying to play to the fans, and trying to do things the right way, that he was being passed over and marginalized. He also realized, and was able to point out something that has been evident for a while; Shane McMahon is about glory. However, during the Hell in a Cell match, he showed that he was about his own personal glory, even if it comes at the expense of one of his talents. It's a legitimate complaint that I'm sure some talents have and many fans were quick to agree that Sami Zayn has just not gotten the same shots as other guys.

In the week following, Sami Zayn confronted Daniel Bryan, and did what would get him the most heat when talking to Daniel Bryan; after talking about how much Zayn once respected and aspired to be like Bryan, he said that Daniel Bryan today is a sellout. Okay. Cheap heat is still heat and for someone who was once a huge babyface, you need to get whatever heat you can to sell the turn. I get it. I liked it. It was a good step. The tag team matchup main event of the night saw Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens score the upset victory against Shinsuke Nakamura & Randy Orton after our beloved former babyface hit a low blow to pin Randy Orton. Again, a nice show of a newfound brutality for Sami. Things began to look up to build him for a nice run as a heel.

Now, we're a little over a month removed from the beginning of this new turn, and Sami Zayn has had a total of...one victory. Now it may still be a little early to tell, but with the current controversy of both Zayn & Owens being sent home early from the European tour, could he already be getting derailed? Work or not, the attention could be a positive or negative thing, depending upon how it's played on. Hopefully, the WWE, Sami AND Kevin can figure out ways to play on this to their advantage in order to push this team.

The newly rediscovered friendship between Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn has had gold standard written all over it since the extremely short buildup in NXT and the promo work of Kevin Owens has been excellent to add to this, but where does that leave Sami Zayn? Often times lately, he's been looking like the tag-along to the much more dominant presence of Kevin Owens. It's impossible to deny that Kevin Owens was the bigger star when starting this, but as time has passed by, there has been little done to reward this new attitude of Sami's or to even push him as a heel in his own right (especially because the last time he had his own entrance, he still had the same music). I love Sami Zayn; I love Kevin Owens, and I love the friendship between them, but unless both of them look equal as far as talent goes, they run the risk of Sami Zayn falling behind yet again. It wouldn't be the first time that the WWE poorly booked a talent into a relentless cycle of disappointment, and I hope that they are able to use the circumstances and talents to the ultimate advantage to everyone involved. When these two men tagged together in the independent circuit, it stole the show, and they could easily allow it to once more.

I have a lot of hope still for the Sami Zayn heel turn. I ordered a Women's Large size of his newest "Never Be the Same" shirt immediately following Hell in a Cell, to complete my collection of Sami Zayn shirts. I wanted to support this new chapter in my favorite's career.



It came in a few weeks ago. The WWE Shop sent me a Youth XL instead.
Please don't let this be indicative of what's to come.

The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Cageside Seats readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cageside Seats editors or staff.