WWE has released behind-the-scenes footage from Sami Zayn's recent return, as seen above.
As noted, last week's WWE SmackDown on FOX saw Zayn make his first appearance since retaining the Intercontinental Title over Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 36. Zayn returned with his Intercontinental Title belt, despite being stripped of the title in mid-May due to being unable to defend the title. Sami's real reason for being away this summer was concern over working during the COVID-19 pandemic. WWE is now doing a storyline where Zayn says he's the real champion, feuding with current WWE Intercontinental Champion Jeff Hardy and former champion AJ Styles.
In the video seen above, Zayn talked about what the time off felt like, and why the return didn't really feel like a return in a sense.
"Before I was gone, for the last few months, you can ask some of the guys... on these tours and on the bus rides and whatever, on these group flights, I'd always ramble and ramble about, 'Oh man, these days are so precious, they're so fleeting, one day it'll all be over and we won't all hang out like this, and the locker room will be different, and before you know it, our careers will be done.'
"And I feel like this little time off that I've had really gave me a dose of that in a way. So, it was just so nice to see these guys. Not that i took it for granted, but it certainly heightened my appreciation for just... for all of this. It doesn't feel like a return in a sense, I don't even know if they've noticed that I've been gone. It's like riding a roller coaster - you get this rush of adrenaline, and then you're kind of tuckered out after."
Sami also talked about how online fan feedback is more important in the COVID-19 era.
"It feels a little different," Sami said of the current environment. "Really everything is online now, because I mean... now it's literally the only barometer to measure what's resonating with people and what's not. It used to be like, 'OK, the internet fans say one thing...' But, you can't argue with the fans in the crowd, that made those noises, they have that emotion. You saw it, you felt it, but now it's literally online. So, yeah... that'll be how we know. Hopefully they like it."
Before Sami went out for the angle with Hardy, he commented on being a little nervous for the return.
"There's a bit of nerves in regards to not doing this for a minute, but it's like riding a bike. So it should be fun," he said.
Zayn went back into character and added after the angle, "I would say it was a particularly great night. I came back, I showed the world who the true Intercontinental Champion was, I looked Jeff Hardy right in his fraudulent face, and I told him, 'You're a fraud!' And I kicked him in the face, and I proved my point."
Sami appeared on Talking Smack after SmackDown and later commented on how the whole night went.
"All in all, it was a pretty good night I'd say. It really didn't feel like I was gone for 5 months," Sami said. "It kinda just didn't feel like I'd ever been gone. You forget you ever knew how to do it to begin with, you just can't even... you watch it on TV when you're not doing it, and you're kind of thinking to yourself, 'How do they do that?'
"Even though you have been doing it for 15 years, whatever it is, you watch someone else do it and you go, 'Oh my God, that seems really difficult.' But today after not being around for 5 months, I just snapped right back to it. I just feel like I'm on top of the world and you know what, it's in here... [points to title belt] and it's gonna be staying by my side for a very, very long time to come."