When rumors hit last Friday claiming Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens would defend the WWE Tag titles against Roman Reigns & Solo Sikoa at Night of Champions on May 27 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a lot of people were dubious. And some remained skeptical even after the match was booked on the May 12 SmackDown.
That’s because Zayn hasn’t performed on any of the shows WWE’s put on in Saudi Arabia since they announced a partnership with the Kingdom’s General Authority for Entertainment in 2018*. Relations between the KSA and Syria have long been strained, and the generally accepted belief was that Sami was kept off the WWE’s Saudi events due to his Syrian heritage and/or his philanthropic efforts in the country his parents immigrated to Canada from in the 1970s.
Owens hasn’t worked one since Greatest Royal Rumble, the first PPV/PLE under the deal WWE signed with the Saudis in 2018 (which was “expanded” in 2019). It was reported he was sitting out the shows in solidarity with his long-time friend Zayn.
So what changed?
Earlier this month Syria, was readmitted to The Arab League. Days after that, both the Syrian and Saudi governments announced their intention to reestablish diplomatic ties with one another. Those moves obviously have much larger geopolitical ramifications, with arguments for and against from various stakeholders. But the net result for WWE, Zayn and their fans seems to be the removal of any objections the Saudis had to Sami participating in events like next Saturday’s show in Jeddah.
Given that, Wrestling Observer Radio’s Dave Meltzer says that Zayn’s decided to work Night of Champions, and “Kevin’s decided that if Sami’s gonna go, he’ll go too.”
Is that it? We’d imagine a lot went into these decisions by all parties — Sami’s said in the past he “wasn’t keen” on working in the KSA even if he could — so it’s likely not as cut and dry as Meltzer’s report makes it sound. But it may be the only explanation we get after the rumored Tag title match was made official.
* Zayn did work WWE’s 2014 tour of Saudi Arabia, but those weren’t televised or nearly as high profile, and Sami was still in NXT & not as well known himself.