On episode 145 of Sam Roberts' Wrestling Podcast, professional broadcaster and sports entertainment enthusiast Sam Roberts shared an interview he conducted with WWE SmackDown Live's Sami Zayn. Although Zayn was talking to Roberts to promote the WWE Superstar's #SamiForSyria campaign, Zayn also talked about his character generally and its evolution.
According to Zayn, as a character, he has not had to be a Syrian stereotype because the pro wrestling business has evolved passed that now.
"Yeah, well, I'd like to think that we've kind of evolved passed that in the [pro] wrestling business. [It is] probably not entirely true. See what our WWE Champion Jinder Mahal is currently [doing]… even he's not like a stereotypical Indian in a way, the new school. There [are intricacies]. I mean, the 80s was just a different time."
Zayn continued, "that change has really only happened recently. I'd say, I don't know, in the last generation, if you want to call it that. I don't think you have to be the thing that you are and I don't think you have to be that simple. Japanese guy? Come out and bow. Or Irish guy? Do a little jig. There's no Arab guy, 'yeah, put on a turban.' We're passed that. And I'm proud of that. I'm proud to see that the company that I dreamed of working for my entire life that I'm not fortunate enough to work for, which is the WWE, I don't have to fit into these boxes anymore. None of us do."
On the subject of the ska influence on his character, Zayn admitted that he never tried to pitch a ska-related gimmick, but rather it was put on him when Triple H found out about 'The Underdog From The Underground''s fandom of bands like Operation Ivy and Rancid.
"Yeah, [ska music was foreign to WWE brass] and It's not something that I actively pitched or something. God, I don't know if I want to get into the whole story. The nuts and bolts is they kind of picked up on the fact that I liked that kind of music, that I'm into punk or ska or whatever it is, and they were like, 'oh, you like this kind of music?' The music I had at the time was pretty generic stock [music], like 'dun-nun-nun-nun-nun, juh-juh-juh-juh-juh-juh [emulating a heavy guitar riff]' and it really wasn't me. And then, Hunter, Triple H, thought… Paul to me, Triple H to you, but he got wind of it and he was like, 'oh, that's who you are and that's the kind of music you like. We can do something that's more in tune with who you are as a person in real life.' So again, it goes back to that thinking of like, not fitting into these boxes and bringing out who you really are and playing that up and amplifying that."
When Roberts suggested that Zayn's current TV persona is "annoying," the former El Generico suggested that his character right now only as annoying as the other characters make him out to be.
"I hate the word 'annoying'! I don't know, 'enthusiastic' perhaps. Well, not to get into the whole thing, but it's all about the interaction with these other characters, so if you're going to roll your eyes at me, I'm annoying, but if you find it, like, charming, which it could be, and because it's aspects of my real life personality, and there have been times, I'm sure, that I've annoyed people. And there have been some times, I'm sure, that I've charmed some people." Zayn added, "if you're going to sell it, so to speak, as endearing, it's endearing. But if you're going to have guys rolling their eyes, then, 'urgh, this guy.' Then, it's whatever you make it to be."
Moreover, in Zayn's view, his character is in a state of "flux" insofar as he was fighting the good fight against Braun Strowman one week and the next week he is George Costanza, Jerry Seinfeld's neurotic friend on the sitcom Seinfeld. With that said, the seemingly disparate characterizations are ultimately part of the character's development.
"The character is in flux, I would say definitely because there [are] aspects of the character, and I don't want to drone on and on about this too much, but there [are] aspects of the character that's about always standing your ground, and fighting the good fight, and always trying to do things the right way, like an upstanding guy. And again, aspects of that were more in display, let's say, when I was doing a program with Braun Strowman, this insurmountable oppressor, so I was, like, standing up to an oppressor and standing up to tyranny. Right. And then, like a week later, I'm George Costanza, so the character is in this strange sort of position at the moment. Yeah, and exactly, I think there is a balance and I think the balance, the middle ground, is me, the real me, because I am both of those."
Get in Not Sam Mode here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit Sam Roberts' Wrestling Podcast with an H/T to WrestlingINC for the transcription.
Source: Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast