Sami Zayn experienced quite the journey in 2020, capturing the Intercontinental Championship and then returning to claim what he never lost on SmackDown. Since then he's taken up a campaign against WWE, believing the company continues to stack the deck against him and going so far as to chain himself to a barricade, hold up his Justice For Sami signs, and bringing along a documentary crew to film it all. If that all sounds incredibly entertaining, well, it very much is, and Zayn seems to be having a blast not only with his character but also in the ring. Zayn will be a part of the Elimination Chamber match for a shot at Roman Reigns' Universal Championship this Sunday, and ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to Zayn all about the big match as well as continually evolving character, the documentary, possibly taking on Reigns and even some comics talk, and you can watch the full interview in the video above.
Zayn seems to be having a lot of fun since he returned to SmackDown and feels lucky that he's really been able to what he's wanted to do week in and week out.
"Well, so first of all, the fact that you're kind of picking up on that is a good sign, because I am having a ton of fun out there," Zayn said. "I really am, and I've gotten to do a lot of the things that I want to do, which is pretty rare for WWE. I mean, you don't always get your vision, especially from a performer side. You don't always get to kind of enact your vision. I've been extremely lucky, first of all, to just be on the show every week, because there's a lot of really talented guys that don't get that luxury, even. They're kind of floating sometimes, and even really talented people aren't plugged into storylines very often."
"So I've been very fortunate to ... Ever since I've come back, I've been plugged into a very good storyline with the Intercontinental title. Now I'm still kind of in that story with the Intercontinental title, and I'm also going into this match with Elimination Chamber," Zayn said. "So I certainly have no complaints with how I've been featured on the show, and I'm having just a ton of fun with the character itself, as you picked up on."
Zayn's character has morphed and evolved since he first returned to the blue brand, and many of those changes and tweaks really happened on the fly as opportunities presented themselves.
"As far as where the character has sort of ended up now, I wouldn't say that was entirely ... I didn't really plan all of that out," Zayn said. "There was obviously a little bit of that element to that of delusion, let's call it, when you come back and you're like, 'I'm still the champion. I never lost,' and you have this sort of victim persecution complex a little bit. But then after I did that stuff with AJ and Jeff and I actually won the title back and all of a sudden it's time to gloat, then you lose it and you get to start whining and complaining about how everyone's against you. So little by little, I started going further and further down this sort of conspiracy theorist victimhood thing, which I didn't set out to do originally. But I feel like it's a good fit for the character, and I'm having a ton of fun. I'm having a ton of fun doing it."
Zayn's documentary team is obtaining a lot of footage, so I asked if we're going to get an Office-style documentary presentation once it's all edited, and that is the plan.
"Yeah. That's the plan. Yeah. I mean, I don't know if it'll be a two-hour feature film or anything like that, but there's definitely something in the works. I'm not accumulating this footage for nothing. I think my goal is, hopefully, it'll one open people's eyes to the very obvious conspiracy against me, but, two, hopefully, it's very entertaining because I think we've got a lot of really good footage."
Zayn will be competing for a shot at the Universal Championship at Elimination Chamber, and he has a good history at the event, as that pay-per-view was where he first won the Intercontinental Championship. "That's true. You know what? I didn't even think of that," Zayn said. "I remember that it was in Philadelphia, and I remember that it was the last show with a live audience. So that's kind of what stuck out to me. But now that you mention it, you're right. I forgot that it was at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. So I guess I didn't even think about that. That's a little momentum I have carried over from last year."
That said, this is the first time he's actually been involved in the Elimination Chamber match, which brings its own share of challenges, but Zayn is ready.
"But I've never been in the Elimination Chamber match itself. So this is going to be interesting for me," Zayn said. "One of the things that I think is really cool is when you look at the lineup of the Men's SmackDown Elimination Chamber match, the guys that are in that match, it's exciting, because even though the match, when you think about it, at least as a performer, it could make you pretty nervous, because a lot can go wrong. You can get hurt in that structure and all this thing. When you look at the guys that are in that match, it's guaranteed to be a great match. So I'm excited about that."
If Zayn wins the match, he will be facing Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship in the same night. A Zayn Reigns matchup is one that fans would definitely love to see, and while this might be a one-off match, Zayn would love to take on Reigns in a longer storyline at some point.
"Oh, for sure. For sure. I think right now is probably not the best time period as far as how our characters would mesh, because there was a while where he was a good guy and I was a good guy, and then I was a bad guy. He was a good guy. Now we're both bad guys," Zayn said. "So right now, characters wouldn't mesh in the best way for, let's say, a long-term story, although it could still be very interesting. But no doubt about it, I think at a certain point, the right story, the right time, and the right character arc, I think he would be an awesome, awesome opponent."
"I mean, that goes without saying. He's the head of the table for a reason," Reigns said. "He's really, really, really good. Even though he's been on top for so long, he's still somehow reaching an even higher level now with this new kind of character that he's been doing recently and the way he's carrying himself and composing himself on SmackDown. So for sure, he's a guy that I'd love to mix it up with, but more than just have a single match at Elimination Chamber. He's someone I'd love to tell a long-term story with because I think it could be really compelling."
When Zayn isn't throwing down in the ring or collecting documentary footage for his conspiracy campaign, he's working to raise money for his Sami for Syria campaign, which helps the Syrian-American Medical Society provide a mobile clinic in Syria that provides healthcare to those in need.
"Well, thank you for bringing that up, first of all. I appreciate anytime I get a chance to kind of talk about that and bring a few more eyeballs to it. So for those of your viewers who don't know what Sami for Syria is, it's a fundraising campaign that I launched several years ago when I partnered with an organization called SAMS, which is the Syrian-American Medical Society," Zayn said. "Basically what we do is we've raised all this money to launch a mobile clinic on the ground in Syria that delivers healthcare to people who are living in refugee camps or whose homes have been destroyed or whatever. So it's currently in operation, and it's all through donations from fans, which you can donate, if you are interested, at samiforsyria.com, and you'll see all kinds of updates of some of the services that are being provided."
"It is something I'm proud of, and I was just saying this in an interview not long ago, but it's weird, because I work on it and I don't feel super proud of it all the time, because it's just this thing I'm trying to do," Zayn said. I don't sit around like, 'Oh, aren't I great how I did this thing?' But then every once in a blue moon, they'll send me pictures or they'll send me video footage of the clinic in operation, and you'll see the faces and hear the voices of the people that are actually being treated. They'll show me the actual medical services that are being given out, and that's when it kind of hits me a little bit. That's when it becomes more real. Otherwise, it's like, 'Hey, guys, we're trying to raise money. Everyone chip in if you can.' Then it's just kind of fundraising, but then you don't really make the connection of what the real-world consequences and the real-world effects are until you kind of see it."
"So, I mean, head over to samiforsyria.com if for nothing else to actually see what's being done, because it's pretty crazy. It's pretty crazy when you think about it, and I'm glad that we're able to, when we come together collectively, to have this kind of effect in the world. It was a good lesson for me to learn, because nothing's going to make you feel more powerless than a war overseas. You're going to say, 'My God, that's a horrible thing. I wish there was something I could do,' but ultimately, we feel powerless. This was the first time in my life where it kind of opened my eyes, like, 'Oh, wait a minute. There is stuff you can do.' Especially when we all get together, we have more power than we realize, and I think that was one of the big takeaways for me," Zayn said.
Social media has actually been a huge source of support for Sami for Syria, showing how much of a positive impact it is capable of when people unite for a great cause. "Yeah. For as much negative things as you can say about social media and how toxic it can be, all the money we've raised, which right now we just crossed the line ... Since 2017, we've now raised over $250,000. All of that, all of that is through social media. So for whatever toxicity might exist on social media, it can also be a very valuable tool and a resource to do some good in the world. So it all comes down to how you're using it," Zayn said.
Now, you know we had to talk a little comics, especially since Zayn was actually featured in one. Zayn and longtime friend and sometimes opponent Kevin Owens were the central focus of the Fight Forever storyline, which looked to fill in some of the blanks in their feud. We asked Zayn if there was another aspect of their feud that would make for a compelling comic storyline, and while he didn't have one offhand, he did say "certainly we've had no shortage of storylines that could easily be adapted into the comic book world."
While we were talking about it he did realize he had never actually been sent the comic. "Now that you mention it, they never even sent me that comic. That's messed up. I really want it." He added "Yeah. As soon as we get off this, I'm going to actually sniff around a little bit. How come I don't have this thing?"0comments
He should definitely read it, and hopefully BOOM! Studios will send one over so he can read in between documentary filming.
You can see Zayn in action at WWE's Elimination Chamber, which airs on the WWE Network at 8 PM EST. You can catch live coverage of the event right here on ComicBook.com and you can talk all things WWE with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!