We don’t talk enough about how great Sami Zayn is.
For the uninitiated, he’s the WWE’s charming, fair-skinned, fire-haired Canadian hipster of Syrian descent boasting ninja-like precision in the ring and razor-sharp insults on the mic. He loves his bougie coffee and previously rocked newsboy caps unironically before switching over to black beanies to usher in his new persona, much like getting bangs after a breakup. These traits would make any other person wholly unlikeable, but with Zayn, they’re just part of his charm. Oozing the same charisma and sarcastic wit that made Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) a fan favorite on Supernatural, Zayn is very much a guy you’re supposed to hate but can’t help but become enamored with.
Though his infectious personality and undeniable ring skills should have made him a top superstar in the WWE, he unfortunately hasn’t experienced the same level of success that his NXT cohorts Finn Bálor, Samoa Joe, and Kevin Owens have. Whereas the aforementioned names have held major titles like the Intercontinental, United States, and Universal Championships, Zayn has yet to see gold outside of his NXT Championship win back in 2014. (Not to be overly dramatic, but that is downright criminal.) Sure, Zayn has had his fair share of memorable moments — his ongoing feud with Owens is the stuff of legend — but any momentum gained is often derailed by repeat losses, a serious lack of airtime, and a creative team that just doesn’t know what to do with his character. But all of that can change with this year’s revival of the King of the Ring.
After a four-year hiatus, WWE is bringing back the classic tournament with 16 superstars vying for the coveted title. It’s the RuPaul’s Drag Race of wrestling, with participants eliminated each week until a winner is literally crowned, bedazzled scepter and all. The first round, set to take place Monday during Monday Night Raw starting at 8/7c on USA, will see Cesaro square off against Samoa Joe while Zayn takes on Cedric Alexander for a spot in the quarterfinals.
More than a chance to look like royalty, King of the Ring serves as a reset button for upcoming superstars in need of a boost or established performers, like Zayn, who are primed for a rebirth akin to Mariah Carey during her Emancipation of Mimi era. When Owen Hart won in 1994, the late superstar rebranded himself as the King of Harts–a moniker that remains his most notable to this day. In 2006, Booker T ascended to wrestling royalty when he declared himself King Booker. Most notably, Stone Cold Steve Austin’s 1996 win saw the birth of his beloved “Austin 3:16” persona thanks to a game-changing speech that marked a crucial turning point for the Hall of Famer. If anyone deserves to be emancipated from creative purgatory like these wrestling greats, it’s Sami Zayn.
Through his many setbacks over the course of his six-year career in the WWE so far, we’ve also seen spurts of greatness. When Zayn returned to Raw after this year’s WrestleMania following a 10-month absence due to injury, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand during a refreshing promo that was supposed to reintroduce him as a heel, or bad guy. Instead of a chorus of boos after calling WWE and its fans toxic, however, he was met with overwhelming support from a dedicated fanbase that refuses to hate him. (Part of that can be attributed to the usual WrestleMania afterglow, but it’s mostly due to Zayn’s extreme likability.) Like so many times before, though, WWE failed to capitalize on that moment, and Zayn was soon sucked back into that hamster wheel of meaningless losses and extended TV absences. Like Owen Hart famously said, enough is enough and it’s time for a change.
It’s time for the WWE to finally let Sami Zayn be truly great. If a title reign isn’t in the cards for him right now, at least adorn those broad, pasty shoulders with a fabulous robe and, hopefully, a push toward the top tier of this current lineup. Right those past wrongs, WWE, and let the king of our hearts become the next King of the Ring.
You’ve heard my case for Sami Zayn, now it’s your turn! Tell us who you think should win the King of the Ring tournament by voting in the poll below.
Don’t forget to catch Zayn in action on WWE’s Monday Night Raw which airs tonight at 8/7c on USA.