NXT champion Sami Zayn was in the Abu Dhabi this week to promote a couple of upcoming WWE shows in the United Arab Emirates next month. He sat down with Graham Caygill of The National for a chat that covered his role as the company's Arab ambassador (Zayn's parents are both Syrians who immigrated to Canada) and his past, present & future in pro wrestling.
One thing that jumps out from the interview is Sami's reaction to the recurring rumors of a NXT match on the WrestleMania 31 card in Santa Clara, California this March. While he definitely wouldn't turn down a huge honor like a 'Mania match, he shares a lot of fans' concerns that the Developmental roster players given the rub would get a real chance to see what makes their show so special:
Obviously it goes without saying that it would be a dream come true to perform at WrestleMania. I really don't know. I've heard rumours, but I put very little stock into them.
But a small part of me feels as great as it would be to be on WrestleMania, you know the likelihood if we were featured in that kind of light, would be probably a five-minute showcase and that is not how you envision your WrestleMania debut.
But listen, a WrestleMania debut is a WrestleMania debut, especially if you are defending a championship at WrestleMania. It would be awesome, it goes without saying. But I would hopefully envision a time when I can be at WrestleMania in a bigger role.
Zayn goes into detail about what he thinks is so special about his show, the opportunity he has there and why fans connect with it on a deep level:
NXT is basically the breeding ground for all WWE talent now. The business has changed so much since the days of, well obviously since the days of Hulk Hogan, but even since the days of Steve Austin or even when Brock Lesnar was first champion just 10 years ago or so.
It has changed just so much and now you don't get guys just coming in from whatever company or whatever background and coming to the main roster. Basically everyone now passes through NXT.
A lot of NXT alumni have made a huge splash in WWE very quickly from Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns to the Wyatt family, well Bray Wyatt as they are no longer a family. Luke Harper, Erik Rowan and you know Bo Dallas, Paige, Emma, Adam Rose, the list just goes on. Everyone is now coming through NXT now. It is a very exciting thing to watch.
It is a lot more interesting in my opinion to watch people kind of clawing and chomping at the bit to get ahead.
While I think once you have made the main roster, there is a certain level of comfort and security knowing that you are here.
It is not to say that you should take anything for granted, and I am not saying the people on the main roster do, but there is a certain level of hunger that exists amongst the NXT roster that you just have to be in NXT to understand, or you have to watch NXT to understand, and really fully appreciate that hunger.
A big part what makes NXT special is the audience - passionate fans at home but especially the live crowd at Full Sail. The champ talked about what they mean to him and his fellow Superstars in discussing what fan reaction means to wrestlers in general:
...for the me the crowd is the show and it can make or break the show, and any great memories in wrestling in my life, as a fan, that I remember, that I cling on to, that I think moved me or affected my life or decision to want to become a wrestler or anything like that, if I really stop and think about any one of them, it is all about the crowd at any given moment.
The easiest example is the Rock versus Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X8. They are not even moving for the first few minutes but the crowd is dancing. You watch something like that have such a profound affect on these people that it moves you.
So to me the crowd is extremely important and in the case of the night I won the NXT championship I think that is definitely a big factor in why it was so amazing.
Even after the match and all the celebrations, it probably went on for 10 minutes, and they were relentless and just loving it. I could probably watch it back over and over again because I don't think I will ever get tired of knowing not only was I a part of that reaction, but that I was the cause of it, and that is very powerful to me.
Another factor in why his NXT title win was so powerful is because it answered a lot of doubts about someone with his background making it in WWE:
...from a personal perspective, when I came here, there is a lot of doubts on how are you will do, because I came from an independent wrestling background, and you are not sure what kind of deal you are going to get.
So, for me this is a big symbol of having kind of thrived in this kind of environment in WWE on the NXT level and makes me very confident in that next step forward on to the main roster I think I can do just as well as I have down in NXT. It is very important to me and it means a lot.
In talking about his dream opponents, the Likeable One lists some favorites he's worked with in the past (Cesaro, Seth Rollins and Daniel Bryan) as well as the usual current top names in sports entertainment (John Cena, Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler) - but also throws out a couple of unusual choices that he may not ever be able to face due to their current health or contract status. And one of those names makes this Peep mark out:
I guess if there are guys I would like to wrestle before they call it a day Christian would be one, although I do not know what his status is. Rey Mysterio is another, though again I do not know what his status is. But those are a couple of guys I would love to get in the ring with before they call it a day.
What do you make of Sami's comments? Would a quickie match at WrestleMania for some NXT stars be a big opportunity, a disappointment, or a bit of both? Has he proven he can make it in Vince McMahon's world or does he have a lot of work ahead of him? Is part of what you love about NXT the fact that the guys are still scrambling to make it to the top?
Let us know below!