WWE announced this week that Sami Zayn was being stripped of the Intercontinental Championship, setting the stage for an eight-man tournament that began last night on SmackDown. Zayn had last appeared for the company at WrestleManai 36, where he defended the title against Daniel Bryan. Bryan now finds himself in the tournament, and he moved on Friday night by defeating Drew Gulak on SmackDown. However, the word on Zayn's return continues to be unclear, which is the reason WWE made the decision to take the championship off of him.
Zayn had made it clear that he was not comfortable traveling during the pandemic and would not be doing so anytime soon. According to Tom Colohue of Sportskeeda, WWE asked Zayn several times whether he was ready to return to work. Zayn responded by saying he was unsure about the future. After this conversation allegedly happened multiple times, WWE made the decision to move forward without him with the idea being that Zayn would be out for the foreseeable future.
Speaking on the Dropkick DiSKussions podcast, Colohue said:
Well, they asked Sami a few times if he was ready to come back. It's been a gradual process, he has not been able to say very certainly that, 'look, I will not be back', until recently. He came to a decision after he went to work at WrestleMania. Obviously had the match there, retained the belt. I don't know what made the decision for him, I'm sure he has his own personal reasons, so I'm going to leave the speculation there. Either way, the WWE knowing that he was not returning, at least for the foreseeable future, decided that they had to rewrite a lot of storylines. So they came up with the idea to strip him of the belt and put on a tournament.
WWE's decision to strip the title from Zayn was announced on May 12th. Zayn commented on that decision via his Twitter page.
I disagree with this decision and no matter what anyone says, I am still undefeated and therefore still the Intercontinental Champion. -SZ https://t.co/SUFsBFeRDB— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) May 13, 2020
Zayn also commented on the tournament Friday night.
I am the Intercontinental Champion.
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— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) May 16, 2020
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