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Merch Watch #1: Sami Zayn, Ali, Undisputed Era and more

Who’s buying these shirts?

As you might remember from my bit on Bray Wyatt’s terrible new merch for his excellent new gimmick, I care a lot about wrestling shirts. Maybe too much. It’s not clear.

Anyways, during this absolutely bad time in WWE (see Geno and Cain’s latest stories for examples), when I’m running out of shows that I feel engaged with and there’s plenty of people here to talk about what’s wrong with the product, I thought I’d turn my gaze toward merchandise, which I can never feel anything close to silent on.

Sami Zayn’s Attitudinal Shirts

While “Firefly Funhouse” seemed a lot easier to design looks for (more on that later - there’s another new Bray shirt), Sami Zayn’s new gimmick is proving increasingly hard for WWE’s crack team of shirt-smiths. So what we’re getting are these awfully-designed text-heavy shirts with messages such as “It’s not me. It’s you. It’s definitely you.” and “Take Back The Power” which both look hideous.


And while the first is the kind of god-awful edge-lord nonsense that fits with his character, the latter feels completely incongruous to everything involved. Neither of these shirts feels like something anyone would wear unless they were an angry 12-year-old who’s trying to get sent to the guidance counselor. Or as many (including the great @cowboygems on Twitter) have pointed out online, it’s the kind of shirts that get marketed to “Wine Moms” on Facebook.

While I hemmed and hawed over buying the fantastic Lauren Moran-designed shirt with Becky Lynch’s busted face on it, I can still wear that tee in public (even if it will confuse strangers). If I ever wore one of Sami’s new shirts to the gym, I’d be worried about a stranger calling security on me.

Rating: 1/5 Tees (barely passable, what are you doing?)

Ali doesn’t have a bow on his head

This new Ali ... yes, remember, he’s no longer Mustafa Ali ... shirt really is a ... thinker? Or is it a stinker?


Banal enough to wear in public without worry, it’s not terrible. It’s just so meaningless in its aesthetic and design and motto that even people who watch his promos will be confused. Like, is he chasing the light of success? The lights that glow from his entrance gear? Or is Ali chasing Pitbull down for a sequel to “Green Light” for WWE to use as a new WrestleMania theme song?

I’m so not sure, but what I do know is that all the shirt really screams “Pac-Man, but red.”

Rating: 2/5 Tees (feel free to show your support)

Undisputedly good, shockingly decent

There are too many damn black wrestling t-shirts. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve never plunked down cash for the pretty-OK shirts that WWE’s made for Undisputed ERA, Kyle O’Reilly’s crew of lovable NXT scamps. Enter the new “Shocked” shirt, which features the branding for the Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and O’Reilly (and Roddy Strong too still, for now, I think?) group on a yellow tee, breaking the annoying tradition.


The other great part of this shirt is that the type treatments seem ... somewhat thought out, and not just that standard large generic text you see on the Becky 2 Belts shirts and those shirts The Rock put out during that run where he came back to feud with Cena and take the title off Punk.

Rating: 3/5 Tees (Okay, I’m considering it)

What if it’s a vertical rectangle?

You know what the difference is between the new Bray Wyatt Firefly Funhouse shirt and the first one? They turned that sumbitch sideways, that’s what.


Yes, instead of a landscape oriented rectangle, the new “Firefly Funhouse Friends” shirt is in a portrait orientation. It’s ... better, and it’s alarming how much this little tweak is reponsible. Now, you’re not distracted by the ton of unused space the original shirt had, and everything fits a bit better.

Instead, you can focus on how unsettling and creepy everything is, which, ya know, is the whole point of all this Firefly Funhouse chicanery.

Rating: 2/5 Tees (it could be worse)

OKAY, now we’re talking.

So, let’s end this on a positive note, a bit of coverage outside of the WWE: on Chris Brookes (Progress, RevPro, Fight Club Pro, Attack, CCK, Schadenfreude)’s latest announcements.

If you’re not familiar with independent British wrestler Chris Brookes, who hails from Tipton in the West Midlands, you will be. A beloved member of the scene right now, Brookes reportedly turned down a WWE contract last year, and when he’s not wrestling, he’s terrorizing the wallets of his fans with his fashionable Death by Roll-Up shirts and caps. Yes, I used the word fashionable while talking about wrestling merchandise - and I wasn’t referring to the retro chic of a nWo Wolfpac shirt.

Preamble out of the way, let’s talk about my favorite pick of Brookes’ Spring/Summer 2019 collection for the DxRU. Yes, you read that right, too: Brookes is releasing a seasonal lineup, which is the latest clever move by a guy who releases merchandise in small batches and watches items sell out and become coveted pieces that fans beg to be reprinted (the D E A T H SnapBack cap is something of a holy grail in my wrestling friend circle).

This latest lineup started out with a white shirt with another gorgeous gothic design, a bag (!) and then one of those dad caps. You know, the ones that can barely fit if you’ve got a big noggin (like some of us do). This long sleeve shirt is what I’m here for, though.

Credit: Chris Brookes/@ObeyBrookes on twitter

First of all, by using splashes of pink and purple, it manages to convince me that I can relax my ban on black wrestling shirts — as it doesn’t read as a wrestling shirt. Next, by putting the small pattern on the front and the big pattern on the other side, it bucks the WWE-driven trend of putting tiny logos on the back, which always felt weird. Also, the sleeve decor just ties it together as a bit of streetwear that I’m convinced I need to own. Annoyingly, it’s not even for sale yet. None of these S/S ‘19 items are, which is why I’ve got Twitter set to send push notifications for every tweet that comes from Brookes’ account.

Since I’m praising the indies, let’s take a moment to discuss what could have been. In some alternate realities, Brookes signed with WWE and either stopped having good merch, or somehow started to create great designs for WWE.

In both, though, he leaves the indies and the quality of merchandise, which wrestlers rely upon down in the independents, could suffer. Meanwhile, WWE wrestlers get pennies on the dollars for their merch sales, so it’s easy to see who actually needs great shirts.

So, that all said, support independent wrestlers at the merch table, folks. They dine on your purchases, and I hope to highlight more of their stuff here in the future.

Rating: 5/5 Tees (where’s my wallet?)

What do you think of these selections? Any great or especially horrible designs you’ve seen of late you want to discuss with the class? Comment away below, Cagesiders!

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