Before coming to WWE and its developmental program NXT, Sami Zayn had earned a name for himself around the world working under a mask.
Fans were skeptical when the former El Generico was stripped of his past identity.
Those fears quickly dissipated as Zayn quickly climbed the NXT ladder. Now the superstar finds himself appearing on live events and being included in the upcoming “WWE 2K15” video game. Needless to say the well-traveled performer is living the dream.
“It is super cool,” he said. “It’s a trip. The real trip is seeing myself in video game form. I played as ‘The Game,’ interestingly enough, and the attention to detail is crazy. It’s on another level. You literally see beads of sweat and water pouring down his chest during the entrance. They have taken it to a whole new level.”
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Zayn joined Tyson Kidd, Adrian Neville and Tyler Breeze in an NXT showcase during a September edition of “Monday Night Raw.” The Canadian was told the night before he might be on the show. However, nothing was concrete until event day.
“Essentially, I had a mixed reaction to it because it was not quite a debut,” Zayn said. “In a way, there was a weight off your shoulders in that respect thinking, ‘This is my only chance! This is my only chance!’ It was sort of, ‘Yeah, I’m going to be on Raw. Then maybe I will stay on Raw. Maybe I won’t.’ I haven’t been on Raw since, but I was on Raw so that seed has been planted.”
The exciting athlete is further motivated to succeed with every opportunity he is given. Zayn is optimistic about his future.
“I have a lot of faith in Triple H as far as in that I know he wants the best for us, for this business and company,” he said. “It’s not just NXT and his guys, but WWE. So I think he obviously wants us to be featured in the best possible way when it does happen. I think it may be a good starting point, but I have a lot of faith that everything will be alright.”
WWE typically recruits from the football field and amateur wrestling ranks, as well as looking for individuals with a diverse sports background. However, Zayn and a handful of others were discovered on the independent scene. With the company being the lone top dog, times have changed when it comes to getting that big break.
“I know back in the day when the Radicalz came over with [Dean] Malenko and [Eddie] Guerrero,” Zayn said. “They didn’t need to go through developmental. They just signed these guys up who were world famous, and they showed up on TV. There was big competition at the time so it was a different ball game. That’s just not the way it is anymore. This is the way it is now, and I accept the reality of the situation. It’s so different than developmental territories in WWE history prior to this because it’s so integrated.
“I mean we were on Raw for crying out loud. It’s a brand. It’s a third brand. It’s 100 percent a third brand. It’s Raw, SmackDown and NXT. It’s so unique because it’s developmental. It’s an interesting concept. It’s never been like this in the history of WWE, developmental and the business.
“It’s an interesting point for the business, which is ever changing and always evolving. In a way it is really cool because 10 years from now or 20 years, ‘Well, in my day we had developmental.’ This is the cards I have been dealt. They are mine, so it’s cool.”
Even though he isn’t regularly appearing on WWE’s flagship show just yet, he is ready for when the official call comes.
“I’m really open to pretty much anything because I feel like one thing I did learn from being here [at NXT] is the hardest part of getting to WWE is getting to WWE,” Zayn said. “Once you’re in, that’s the hardest part. The hardest part is really getting in, and that’s done. Now I’m in the company. Once you’re in the company your mentality changes because you work so hard for so long to try to get in. Once you get in you can almost breathe, unless you’re really terrible or have a terrible attitude.
“Now I feel the approach is it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Even if I start at the bottom, bottom, bottom. That just means I have all these years to work my way back up and stay interesting and fresh. It would be awesome to start a program with John Cena at the top. That would be cool, but I’m up for everything. It’s a challenge as a performer to make anything presented to me work.”
The NXT roster got a big shot in the arm with the signings of Kevin Steen, Fergal Devitt (Finn Bálor) and Kenta (Hideo Itami). Zayn is especially happy for Steen, as the two have a storied history together in promotions like Ring of Honor.
“We’ve just been through a lot together,” he said. “I’ve known him for such a long time. I haven’t known him since day one, but I’ve definitely known him since day two. It’s been about 11 years, almost 12 years. I’ve known him for a really long time. He is just extremely talented, so it’s not just, ‘Oh good, my buddy is here.’ It is, but he is so good. I’m happy for him on a business level from a performer’s perspective because I have someone great to work with. He really is.
“In a weird way, it would be us coming full circle if we met in a WWE ring. I’m like almost nostalgic thinking back, ‘Remember when we did this.’ I just remember working him in literally a bar in farm towns in Quebec. I just remember doing these drives in Quebec and just talking about getting out of Quebec. That was the hard part. Now we are here, which is so cool.
“Bálor and Itami, I feel the exact same way. Not only are these kick-ass guys and performers, but those are guys who had the same path as I did. So immediately there is a kinship, so I gravitate towards that. It is cool to have these guys to work against. It’s an exciting time.”
Interview with NXT superstar Sami Zayn
YouTube jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)
- Follow Sami Zayn on Twitter @iLikeSamiZayn.
- “WWE 2K15” will be available Oct. 28 in North America and Oct. 31 internationally for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Those with next-generation systems will have to wait until Nov. 18 in North America and Nov. 21internationally.
- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.
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