Sami Zayn Comment About Saudi Arabia Removed From WWE Podcast

Last weekend's WWE Night of Champions premium live event was notable for being the first time Sami Zayn had appeared on one of WWE's Saudi Arabia shows since the 10-year contract between the promotion and the royal family was signed in 2018. On Friday morning, WWE and Spotify released a new episode of the "After the Bell" podcast with Corey Graves and Kevin Patrick with Zayn as the guest. Zayn, who is Muslim and of Syrian descent, discussed his trip to Jeddah on the episode, and's Michael Schrute quickly published a story that transcribed his comments about, among other things, why he hadn't been on the previous Saudi shows. Later the same day, however, the original edit of the episode was replaced by a new one in which Zayn's comments about his absence from the previous shows had been removed.

"First of all, the fact that I haven't been there in a few years, and that there's been so much speculation as to why I'm not going and what's the political reasoning, this and that," Zayn said in the original version according to the transcript. "I won't get into all of it, but I'll tell you 99.9% of what you've read online about this subject — completely fabricated, people assuming things and then running with those assumptions and adding on to them. It's wild. I think anytime they can't get a concrete answer, that's kind of what tends to happen. I think that's like human nature, almost. It's been years since I've been back to the Middle East. I think the last time I was there was [2016] in Dubai, possibly, so it's been a little while."

Zayn in 2020: 'I wasn't really keen on going anyway'

At some point after the story went live, everything between "I haven't been there in a few years" and "so it's been a little while" was removed. (The edited comments start around the five-minute mark.) As of this writing, neither WWE nor Spotify has responded to requests for comment on the edit. 

As for the substance of Zayn's removed comments, it's not clear what "assumptions" he was referring to, or what would have led to those comments being deleted. After the first show of the Saudi deal in 2018, WWE, when asked about Zayn's absence, issued a statement saying "WWE is committed to embracing individuals from all backgrounds while respecting local customs and cultural differences around the world." Though admittedly vague, this was widely read as WWE conceding to the Saudi government's demand that Zayn not wrestle on the show. Later, in 2020, Zayn said in an interview that he was never invited on the shows and "wasn't really keen on going anyway."

Speculation around Zayn's absence from the Saudi shows generally centered on his "Sami for Syria" fundraising campaign for mobile medical units in Syria to aid civilians injured during battles as part of the civil war in that country, as Saudi Arabia has reportedly provided weapons support to Syrian rebels. Notably, Night of Champions 2023 was WWE's first event in Saudi Arabia since Syria was readmitted to the Arab League amidst improved relations with the Saudis.