Alright, maybe it’s just one of the questions on every WWE fan’s lips today. But wondering about the motivations behind Sami Zayn not only saving Kevin Owens from serious injury when Shane McMahon tried to drop an elbow on him from the top of Hell in a Cell but helping him pin the commissioner is more fun to think about.
There seem to be two schools of thought:
1) He’s mad as hell, and he’s not gonna take it any more
The former NXT champion has not had a story book main roster career. Having worked for both brands, and two General Managers who said they wanted to see him reach the main event, Sami’s given the whole “playing it by the rules” thing his best shot. Maybe his frustration finally bubbled over when he was left completely off the card for a second straight pay-per-view (PPV).
It’s not like there weren’t signs. Take his response to Daniel Bryan expressing his disappointment in how things have gone for Zayn since coming to SmackDown...
The issue here, from a continuity stand point, is that Zayn just delivered an impassioned speech to KO a couple weeks back about wanting to succeed in WWE by doing things “the right way”. But even that included an acknowledgement that he wasn’t “doing too great”.
So it could Sami’s had a change of heart. Or it could be...
2) Friends Forever
Much of the shock that’s been experienced by my fellow Zayn-iacs stems from the fact Sami is one of the truest babyfaces in WWE’s shades of gray/cool heel world. If The Likeable One has indeed broken bad, what does that mean? For his character, or for the promotion as a whole? If you can’t sell the guy who works better from underneath than anyone else on the roster AND does fundraising for war victims in his spare time as a hero, can we even have heroes any more?
So, what if Zayn’s actions at the end of Hell in a Cell are actually showing even more of a good guy streak?
That promo from Sept. 26 episode of SmackDown is once again key to this theory. Sami essentially marches to the ring as a kind of intervention for his best friend turned archenemy. He’s trying to talk sense into Owens, or the part of Owens that was once his tag partner, before he goes too far and does something that ruins not only his career, but his life.
And Zayn saw what we all saw on Sunday night in Detroit. KO could have ended Shane by jumping off The Cell himself, but he was conflicted by... something. The conscience he once possessed? The thought of his wife and kids? Sami’s words?
Having seen that glimpse of the man he used to know, could Zayn have decided to take the next step to try and help his friend?
His actions certainly put Owens in an uncharacteristically reflective mood on social media this morning:
(Take that, El Generico truthers)
The beauty of these two theories is they could both be in play, and with varying degrees of “heel turn”. Sami could have chosen to help his friend regain his humanity, and rationalized away the fact he was hurting Shane in the process because, well, what has any McMahon ever done for him?
It’s got the makings of a really good, possibly great, story. And while there’s every reason to worry about WWE’s commitment or ability to pulling off nuanced character arcs, we’re also talking about the former Steenerico. KO and Sami have been invested in telling this story across years and multiple promotions and brands. They don’t have the pull on SmackDown they had in Ring of Honor (ROH), but they’re almost certainly giving input and advocating for their interpretation of the story.
At a time when viewership and attendance are in a rut, why wouldn’t Creative let them try things their way? The involvement of not one, but two McMahons in the build to last night’s swerve indicates Owens and Zayn have the blessing of more decision makers than just Kevin’s mentor, Triple H.
Let us know which of the two prevailing theories you subscribe to, or if it’s a combination of the two, or if you have another idea all together.
Then sit back and enjoy the ride. This should be good.
I mean, it’s terrible because Sami did break our hearts at least a little and I sure hope Shane is okay, but otherwise... let’s do this!?!?