Earlier this week, Sami Zayn was stripped of the Intercontinental championship.
In story, this is simply because he’s “currently unable to defend the title”. Behind-the-scenes, word is Zayn took WWE up on their offer to allow performers to opt out of performing during the pandemic.
There’s speculation & rumor that company officials aren’t happy with him for that decision, and that others backstage aren’t happy the belt’s been taken from him when WWE’s public statements indicated there’d be no repercussions for talent who sat out under the “prevailing circumstances”.
Zayn’s first comment on the decision directly addressed the kayfabe explanation while subtly alluding to the rest.
After the tournament to crown his successor kicked off on SmackDown last night (May 15), Sami tweeted again. It’s another winner in the same vein...
I am the Intercontinental Champion.— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) May 16, 2020
With the exception of Shinsuke, these men have no self-respect, and it says a lot about them that they were willing to participate in this tournament to begin with.
Disappointed in all of them. https://t.co/PoLDrCINHe
The tell that he’s completely in character is absolving his Artist Collective teammate Shinsuke Nakamura from the judgement he casts on the other seven men in the tournament. But if his “disappointment” lightly fans the flames of anger about the talk of why he was stripped?
It’s all about getting a reaction. Zayn is doing everything he can from his position on the sidelines.