WWE dropped major news on this week's WWE Backstage — after week's of missing Friday Night SmackDown, Sami Zayn has officially been stripped of the Intercontinental Championship. Zayn first won the title from Braun Strowman at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, pinning Braun Strowman as part of a handicap match involving Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro. His most recent match came against Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 36, but since then he's opted to stay home due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
Zayn, clearly not happy by WWE's decision, took to Twitter on Wednesday stating that he still considered himself the champion.
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
WWE's announcement also included the news that a new champion would be crowned via a tournament, one that would start on this week's Friday Night SmackDown. The news makes the IC title the fourth championship to be affected in some way by the pandemic, joining the WWE Universal Championship, the NXT Tag Team Championships and the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. Zayn joins Jordan Devlin as the second champ to be stripped as a result.
Even though he's a heel, Zayn's championship win was incredibly well-received by his loyal fans. Back in late 2014 he won the NXT Championship at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, but once he made the jump to the Raw roster he struggled to find his footing in the midcard and hadn't won another championship up until February. Meanwhile Kevin Owens, his best friend and rival, has been Universal, United States and Intercontinental Champion a combined six times.
At long last, I am the WWE Intercontinental Champion.
The outpouring of support has been really touching. To all those who've stuck around on this crazy ride, thank you.— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) March 10, 2020
This week's SmackDown will also feature an appearance from NXT Women's Champion Charlotte Flair and a MizTV segment involving the newly-crowned Mr. Money in the Bank Otis.
Elsewhere in championship news this week, Becky Lynch officially relinquished the Raw Women's Championship on Monday while announcing that she was pregnant with her first child. Asuka, who won the Women's Money in the Bank briefcase on Sunday, was crowned the new Raw Women's Champion.
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