If you heard the name Rami Sebei, you probably wouldn’t think much about it. However, what if we said Rami Sebei was someone who has spent the last 14 years developing his craft in and out of the ring?
Many fans that follow WWE may not know that Rami Sebei is gone, and an underdog from the underground stands in his place today: none other than Sami Zayn.
During his time on the independent scene, Zayn was known for his wide repertoire of moves and high-flying style, an ability to captivate an audience due to an unrelenting will to achieve. He was being noticed, and it was only a matter of time before he transitioned from promotions such as PWG and ROH to a much grander scale. Once the opportunity presented itself, Sami Zayn was born.
Development in Sebei’s career certainly saw its ups and downs. Much like anyone else’s career that undergoes a change, transitions from promotion to promotion led him to go in a number of different of directions. Whether it was in North America or Japan, he always made an effort to stand out while trying to evolve. Gone is the wrestler who did spots alone, and in its place is one of the hardest working performers on the WWE roster. We give you 14 things you probably didn’t know about Sami Zayn:
14. He Feuded Against Kevin Owens Prior To Their Time In WWE
While Zayn and Kevin Owens teamed together and captured the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship, these two aren’t strangers to feuding with one another either. At the first ever ROH pay-per-view, Final Battle 2009, Owens (who competed under the name Kevin Steen) attacked his masked partner. The two had their final match-up against each other at Final Battle 2010, when the masked El Generico won a Fight Without Honor (ROH’s version of a No Holds Barred Match), forcing Steen out of ROH, albeit temporarily. Their rivalry lasted Final Battle 2012, when Generico challenged Steen for the ROH World Heavyweight Championship. He was unsuccessful in his last match for ROH, yet their history goes beyond simple friendship, and has been a long-standing rivalry.
13. He Wrestled Under A Mask As El Generico (But Publicly Denies It)
One of the best parts about wrestling is maintaining kayfabe, though many fans will discuss it as being dead. When it comes to the El Generico character, Zayn doesn’t admit to being the character and has funny stories about where the masked luchador may be. Perhaps he is hiding somewhere in Mexico, helping orphans in Tijuana, or competing in some underground wrestling promotion in Europe. We appreciate that he wants to still keep it under wraps, and respect that he is private about revealing the character’s true identity. It would be akin to breaking the news about Santa Claus, and Zayn probably wouldn’t want to do that either.
12. He Once Wrestled Under A Mask For NXT
Zayn also competed in WWE under a mask. On one occasion, he faced off against Bo Dallas, while wearing a mask and being introduced as El Local. After winning the match a few seconds in, he then revealed himself as Sami Zayn. The reaction from those in attendance was tremendous, because it showed that he was trying to share the inside joke about his identity with the crowd. While that gimmick never surfaced again, maybe we will see it appear on the main roster sometime in the near future.
11. He Was Once Trained By A Former WWE Superstar
One of the more interesting things to note about Sami Zayn is that he has been trained by a number of different people. One trainer is notable because his career also saw him compete for the WWE – former WWE superstar Savio Vega. Vega had a respectable career during his time under the WWE banner, feuding with Goldust and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and was a part of the Nation of Domination, later leading his own faction called Los Boricuas. Fans may not know that Vega also competed in the promotion under the character Kwang, a masked wrestler supposedly from Asia. Under his training and tutelage, Zayn learned a number of different things – whether it was the fundamentals of wrestling or how to generate a reaction. Vega proved to be a valuable asset for Zayn.
10. He Competed On The Main Roster Before Challenging Kevin Owens & John Cena
When Sami Zayn challenged John Cena for the United States Championship in Montreal, Canadian wrestling fans were proud of their local star appearing on Monday Night Raw. When Zayn appeared at the Royal Rumble to face-off against Kevin Owens and eliminated him from the match, wrestling fans were also very excited to see him appear on the main roster. The problem was the time between appearances. And while it is safe to say that he was hampered by injury that prevented an appearance on the main roster, he actually was competing fairly regularly. He made a handful of appearances on what may be considered as dark matches, but they were actually on Main Event, a one-hour show available in some markets. These matches are usually not televised and are pre-recorded. He also competed alongside Neville in matches against Tyler Breeze and Tyson Kidd during their rivalry in NXT, and one of those matches took place on the Sept. 8 edition of Raw in 2014.
9. He Competed In 14 Different Countries Before Joining WWE
Zayn is known for his time competing in promotions such as Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerilla in North America. However, he has legitimately competed all over the world, no less than 14 different countries. Among the countries mentioned on his list is not only his native Canada, and the promotions in the USA, but Puerto Rico, Japan, Spain, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, and France. His ability to move around the world and not only develop a name for himself shows how dedicated Zayn is to being the absolute best he can be.
8. He Feuded Against Cesaro Prior To Joining WWE
When Zayn first debuted for NXT, he stunned everyone with a surprising win over the Swiss Superman, Cesaro. Cesaro was already a main roster competitor whose talents were also being used to help the other talent in NXT. Their rivalry was based on Zayn earning Cesaro’s respect, which he ultimately did. In fact, Zayn always had Cesaro’s respect even before their rivalry in NXT. For those unaware, Cesaro (real name Claudio Castagnoli) and El Generico feuded against one another in tag teams during their time on the independent circuit. Generico and his tag team partner Kevin Steen feuded against Castagnoli and his tag team partner Chris Hero – who were known as the Kings of Wrestling. They have known each other for years, so when they had to face each other in NXT, there was a level of awareness there.
7. He Once Upset One Direction Fans On Twitter
Over the past few years, one of the most successful bands in pop music has unquestionably been One Direction. This English quartet (formerly a quintet) has managed to earn fame all over the world. As many know, Twitter’s reach is extensive, and one way people share and communicate on Twitter is through hashtags. At one point, One Direction member Zayn Malik announced that he was leaving the band, which led to a flurry of activity on the social media platform. However, some fans were confused, as searching the hashtag led to several posts about Sami Zayn. Regardless of the confusion, Sami’s presence in the ongoing Twitter trend only heightened his own awareness.
6. The Ole Chants
Wherever Sami Zayn has competed, one particular chant has followed him. “Ole” is chanted in every arena Zayn competes at, and few know why that is. When asked about it, Zayn has stated that the chant is popular in his home of Montreal, predominantly at hockey games featuring the Montreal Canadiens. However, the chant was never used during wrestling events, usually dominated by boos or cheers, along with a handful of longstanding chants. Another theory is that it is tied to his previous persona of El Generico. His character was supposedly Mexican, and “Ole” is associated with Mexican bullfighters. Regardless, the chant has followed the underdog from the underground.
5. He Doesn’t Like To Waste Food
One thing Zayn is known for is being a nice and considerate guy. During an interview with Chris Jericho, he spoke of a time where he went to In-N-Out Burger and showcased his admiration for food! While on tour in California, he was travelling with Enzo Amore and Big Cass, and went to a drive-thru. They placed a rather big order, and Cass had requested no cheese on his burger. When they received it, there was cheese on it. Sami told the person at the counter about the error, and they said they’d replace it. She attempted to take the offending burger, but Sami didn’t hand it over easily because he was concerned the burger would be thrown away – which she said it wouldn’t be. Her response was “we’re going to do…something with it.” Zayn couldn’t stop thinking about it, so he went inside to find out what happened to the older food. It turns out they did throw out the food, distressing Sami.
4. He Previously Ignored Stone Cold’s Advice
Zayn and Owens once had a chance meeting in LAX airport with WWE Hall of Famer Steve Austin. The story was shared during one of Stone Cold’s podcasts, where Owens spoke of a time where he and Zayn met Austin as they were on their way to a Pro Wrestling Guerilla show in 2005. Both were excited to see Austin, and asked him for advice. Austin told Owens to continue spouting off on the mic to get himself over. During the same conversation, Austin told Zayn “that plancha s**t will kill you.” Austin’s argument makes sense, as Zayn had to deal with multiple injuries in his career, but it didn’t discourage him from maintaining his style.
3. He & Neville Got Soccer Banned From NXT’s Locker Room
During an interview with Sami Zayn and another NXT alumnus, Neville, they shared a story about backstage antics. They referred to themselves as troublemakers because of an instance where they got soccer banned from being played backstage during their time in NXT. Both were told that the issue was one of “health and safety.” Zayn claimed that they did “nothing wrong,” but was also clever enough to suggest that what they did could have “looked bad.” They never go into details as to what may have specifically led to the ban, but it does sound somewhat suspicious. Soccer is hardly a game where the health of others is at stake, so whatever it was that took place, it may have been a case of Zayn and Neville simply trying to have fun than anything else.
2. The Guns N’ Roses Concert Incident
Sami Zayn is a huge punk rock fan, but once he had an encounter with rock legend Axl Rose at a show in Chicago. Zayn had backstage passes to a Guns N’ Roses show, and made himself at home rather quickly, helping himself to a Dr. Pepper from a fridge and snacking on some of the items in catering. The band’s guitarist Bumblefoot approached him and asked if he plays, which Zayn replied that he did. Bumblefoot handed him a guitar and said “go at it.” Later during the show, Zayn somehow ended up on the edge of the stage dancing. Between songs, Axl came off for a wardrobe change; immediately afterwards, a security guard told Zayn to “cool it with the dancing.” Zayn also met Rose backstage, but made an ass out of himself, acting like a complete geek while blowing the chance for a photo opportunity.
1. His Syrian Decent Was Never Going To Be Used As A Stereotypical Gimmick
Many wrestling fans know that Sami Zayn is of Syrian descent. In his case, it was never going to be used as a gimmick. He wants to proudly represent the Arab people, as there is little positive representation of them on television. He wants to do things differently, portraying and representing his cultural background in a way that others could be proud of. So, he is simply himself – not trying to be defined as Arabic, but rather as Sami Zayn, a person that happens to be Arabic. It’s a realistic take, rather than what he’s described as “pantomime villians.”