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Sami Zayn's Road to WrestleMania

Pro Wrestling

Sami Zayn’s Road to WrestleMania

How Sami Zayn went from a masked luchador to defending the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania.

Rami Sebei was born in Laval, Quebec, Canada in 1984. His parents, both Syrian, immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. Sebei started training to become a wrestler in his late teens. It was during this time period that he met and became good friends with Kevin Owens. Not much else is public knowledge about Rami, as he is an extremely private person. However, before discussing his professional career, I would be remiss not to mention his work and fundraising with The Syrian American Medical Society. It’s great stuff, check it out.

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Rami started wrestling as a luchador named El Generico and made his debut in International Wrestling Syndicate in 2002. In 2003, El Generico has his first singles match against Kevin Owens (then going by his real name, Kevin Steen). This would be the beginning of a long, complicated history with Kevin. He would then go on to win the IWS Championship only to have Steen come back with a vengeance, taking the title from him. Years later, in 2008, he would defeat Steen once again to gain the IWS title one last time.

During this time, a good amount of Canadian wrestlers were starting to get noticed by American promotions and El Generico started competing in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla where he established himself as a champion. He held the tag title belt with multiple people throughout the years. In 2007 he and Kevin Owens would team together and win the belts from PAC and Roderick Strong. 

Sami Zayn's Road to WrestleMania
El Generico and Kevin Steen in the early years

El Generico was starting to get pushed as a singles competitor in Ring of Honor; however, after a devastating loss he began tagging with Steen, mirroring what had been happening in PWG. After over a year of their ROH run, the team of Generico and Steen would win the tag titles in the beginning of 2009 and would end up losing them in December of that year. 

Generico’s PWG escapades also included teaming up with Ricochet as tag partners, feuding heavily with The Young Bucks, and befriending the likes of Colt Cabana and current AEW commentator Excalibur, to list only a few. In 2011 he would go up against his former tag partner Kevin Steen once again, winning back the tag titles with his partner. Later that year in PWG Generico would go on to beat Steen in a ladder match. Funnily enough, roughly a year later, Generico would lose a ladder match to Steen in ROH.

As you can tell, some of Generico’s feuds and friendships jumped back and forth between ROH and PWG with people such as The Young Bucks and Colt Cabana. Other plotlines remained contained to individual promotions, for instance Generico’s interactions with Excalibur and Rick Knox. His work in other promotions during this time such as Chikara had him working along side Evil Uno, Chuck Taylor, Johnny Gargano and others. Generico very clearly established himself and grew as a wrestler right alongside many other very prominent people in the business.

Generico signed with WWE in 2013 and was put in NXT, where he was given the name Sami Zayn and started feuding with Cesaro. Despite beating Cesaro in their first match together, Zayn was unable to score another win, leaving him to flounder around in NXT. Zayn bounced around, scoring wins but always unable to achieve anything of substance until late 2014. Almost two years after his initial signing, Sami won the NXT Championship. However, once again, Kevin Steen (now Kevin Owens) was interfering in Zayn’s life and would end his title reign extremely quickly, beating him just two months in. The two would then trade beatdowns, wins, and losses as the two moved up to the main card of WWE. 

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Zayn once again bounced around in mid card plots. He won a place in the Money in the Bank ladder match but lost to Dean Ambrose, continued his feud with Owens, and established a bit of heat with The Miz. He would later go on to face The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship in 2017 and entered into a feud with Braun Strowman, which ended with Braun getting a decisive victory in December of 2017. It seemed as if Sami was just a step or two above a jobber at this point, winning matches but never any feuds.

Toward the end of 2017, Kevin Owens was feuding with Shane O’Mac (who was a face at the time). In the final culmination of their feud, Sami Zayn interfered, aligning once again with Kevin Owens as he had done during their initial tag team. The two teamed up once again as a tag team up through the first half of 2018 until Zayn got injured.

This takes us to 2019 when Zayn returned, still a heel. He quickly aligned himself with Nakamura, becoming his manager and establishing himself as a heel. He looked around, trying to recruit others. He attempted and failed to bring Daniel Bryan into his fold, but successfully was able to bring Cesaro into his ranks.

Sami Zayn's Road to WrestleMania
Samy Zane holds the title belt high

It seemed like Zayn was once again simply a mid-carder who was doomed to get close but never accomplish anything until Elimination Chamber. At the final pay-per-view before WrestleMania, Sami was able to win the Intercontinental Title from Braun Strowman in a 3 v 1 handicap match alongside Cesaro and Nakamura.

Now, alongside the newly minted “Artist Collective,” Zayn is defending his title against Daniel Bryan. A lot is riding on this with Zayn trying to establish himself as someone who can actually hold a title on the main card. If he is unable to do so, it could be very much the last nail in Sami Zayn’s coffin.

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