Sami Zayn: From Underdog to Artist

Sami Zayn: From Underdog to Artist

Quick Stats

“Real” Name: Rami Sebei
Hometown: Laval, Quebec, Canada
Friends: Daniel Bryan (past) Kevin Owens (past), Neville (past), Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro
Foes: The Establishment
Accolades: NXT Champion, Intercontinental Champion
Most Renowned Matches: vs Antonio Cesaro (Feb. 2014), vs Adrian Neville (Nov. 2014), vs Shinsuke Nakamura (2016)


Sami Zayn made his NXT debut in 2013, after taking a brief break from wrestling after an injury. His most influential feud during the first portion of his career was with Antonio Cesaro, after scoring an upset victory on his debut episode against the Swiss Superman. The two put on phenomenal matches with each other, with Sami Zayn playing the role of the underdog babyface each time. One of Sami’s greatest matches in WWE was a 2 out of 3 falls match against Cesaro – a match that had an extraordinary amount of hype around it, considering it was the fourth meeting between the two. Cesaro walked away from this match victorious, and thus the “Final Chapter” between these two was finished. 

Soon after, Sami found himself in a slump. He lost match after match, and eventually declared he would start his “Road to Redemption.” This culminated in a title match against the Geordie Juggernaut, Adrian Neville. This match was particularly meaningful to Sami, as he considered the two of them to be friends. It was these feelings of friendship that cost Sami the match, however, as Neville was able to fake an injury in order to bait Sami into a roll up for the victory. 

Fortunately, Sami would get another title shot against Neville at NXT Takeover: R Evolution. This time, he’d find himself successful. It was a classic storybook ending; NXT superstars came out to congratulate the new champion as the crowd gave their adorations. The last superstar to come out was Kevin Owens, a best friend and tag partner of Sami from a past life. They had a brief, sweet reunion before Owens powerbombed the champion, spoiling all feelings of nostalgia and naming himself as Sami’s next challenger. 

Owen’s brutality carried into the ring; after getting his title shot, Owens powerbombed Sami several times to the point where the champ was barely conscious. The ref was forced to end the match, declaring a technical knockout. 

Credit – WWE

Main Roster Debut

Like many former NXT superstars, Sami Zayn struggled to make a huge impact after his main roster debut. He hung relatively low as a babyface on Raw. It’s a little ironic, actually, that a wrestler who was such a beloved babyface in NXT found his first major pop on the main roster by turning heel. Granted, he turned heel in a spectacular fashion; during Kevin Owens’ match against Shane McMahon at Hell in a Cell (2017), Owens was laying across the commentary desk, while McMahon was at the top of the cage, about to jump. While he was in midair, Sami pulled Owens to safety, leading McMahon to crash through the bare commentary table. 

Owens and Sami, the tag partners in another life, were reunited as partners once again. 

2018 Injury 

Sami, though, went on to have another instance of tough luck after being severely injured at Money in the Bank (2018). He underwent double shoulder surgery and returned a long ten months later. After his return he addressed the crowd in a scathing promo:

“It genuinely seemed like you missed me. I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart, I did not miss any of this or any one of you. Yeah, so it turns out that WWE is a super toxic environment. And it’s not because of the McMahons, and it ain’t because of the other WWE superstars. It’s because of this audience and your ugliness.”

This promo was quite a shock to the audience, who were expecting the typical babyfaced return of an injured superstar. Instead, though, Sami subverted their expectations in a very sinister way. He ended his address to the audience with “see you in hell,” and left the ring. 

The Artist’s Collective

Soon after, Sami became Shinsuke Nakamura’s manager. He was very enthusiastic about this job, to say the least. He proclaimed Nakamura as an artist, and would deliver praises of the King of Strong Style to anyone who offered him a microphone. An old friend of Sami’s, Cesaro, found his way to the duo and made it a stable: the Artist’s Collective. 

Sami began to be much more political. He proclaimed himself to be a liberator for other wrestlers, who he saw as victims of WWE’s oppression. At Elimination Chamber (2020), the Artist’s Collective won a 3-on-1 match against Brain Strowman. Zayn won the Intercontinental Title, his first title win since the NXT championship 5 years ago. When asked about his accomplishment, Sami said the following: 

“Let me tell you what this is about right here, ok? In this world, it’s very hard to be a good person. This is a very difficult world. Despair, famine, disease, it’s just very hard to be a good person. But every once in a while, every once in a great while, justice is served. This isn’t about me, this isn’t even about us. This is about justice in an unjust world.”

From that moment, Sami held himself in incredibly high regard. He sees himself as justice personified, and has made it his duty to be the voice of the voiceless (whatever that means to a heel wrestler). 

Credit – WWE

As of the Moment

Currently, Sami Zayn believes that there is a conspiracy against him among the higher ups in the WWE. Part of his reasoning for this is the way he has been booked as Intercontinental champion, along with the way he’s been excluded from WWE marketing. 

He’is also become even more explicitly political, as seen through his tweets that criticize the United States, such as this one: 

Outside the Ring

When he’s not in a WWE ring, Sami does a lot of social justice and charity work. Most of this work is done through his partnership with SAMS, the Syrian American Medical Society. Their partnership officially started in 2017, when SAMS announced the Sami for Syria fund. 

(click here to learn more about SAMS!)


Despite being one of the greatest heels in contemporary WWE, Sami Zayn is very kindhearted and devoted to doing good in the world. He has a very mature concept of empathy, both in terms of wanting to help others, and keenly understanding how they feel. This answer of his, to the question “How do you actually get noticed in an organization this big?” about WWE, seems like a good summarization of Sami’s humility and positive spirit:

“Just do your best, I don’t know. I think you just do your best and be yourself. I think it’s very very important because, it’s cheesy as it is, there’s only one of you, you know? …  I think you gotta get out of the box if I think if you do things exactly the way it’s supposed to be then there’s nothing notice nothing nothing remarkable about you you know but which again if you’re true to yourself you know everybody’s very remarkable you know because whatever it is that led to your life for you to stand here and ask me these questions and for me to hear and answer these questions is very unique to me and to you.”

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