Sami Zayn's reign as Intercontinental Champion has come to an unceremonious end. During this week's WWE Backstage, the company announced that Zayn had been officially stripped of his championship due to inactivity, and that a new champion would be crowned via a tournament (of which no details were given) beginning on this week's Friday Night SmackDown. Zayn's last defense came against Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 36, and he has not appeared on WWE television since.
Zayn's absence is reportedly due to his concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, which has greatly affected WWE's production since mid-March and has resulted in the quarantine of numerous Superstars. The pandemic has also played a major role in how championships have been booked, starting with Roman Reigns backing out of a WWE Universal Championship match with Goldberg (that he was supposed to win) at WrestleMania 36, causing Braun Strowman to fill in for him and take the title. Meanwhile in NXT Timothy Thatcher has been subbing in for an absent Pete Dunne alongside Matt Riddle as the NXT Tag Team Champions.
BREAKING NEWS:@SamiZayn is unable to compete and defend the Intercontinental Championship, therefore @WWE has declared the title vacant. A tournament to crown a new Champion will begin on Friday Night Smackdown on FOX. pic.twitter.com/5qZgUyL9rC— WWE on FOX (@WWEonFOX) May 13, 2020
And then there's the mess surrounding the NXT Cruiserweight Championship. Since current champ Jordan Devlin is stuck in Ireland and is unable to travel to the United States, William Regal opted to crown a new champion via an eight-man round robin tournament similar to New Japan's G1 Climax, Best of Super Juniors and World Tag League tournaments. As of now Kushida and Akira Tozawa lead their respective groups with two wins apiece.
Zayn was not given the opportunity to comment when the news broke. Below is his latest tweet.
Hope everyone is doing okay.— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) May 12, 2020
This decision stings for loyal Zayn fans. The former Ring of Honor star initially struggled when he first made the jump from NXT to the Monday Night Raw roster, and his Intercontinental Championship reign marked his first title victory in all of WWE since winning the NXT Championship back in late 2014.
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