Sami Zayn recently discussed his character change since his return last year, his recent Intercontinental Title run and more in a recent interview with FOX Sports. You can check out some highlights below:
On his character work since his return: “Well, firstly, thanks for the kind words. I appreciate that. That time in NXT I think holds a very special place in my heart. Again, for some of the storytelling and character stuff that I got to do. I just have very fond memories of the stuff I got to do in that time. And now, I kind of agree. I think I am doing some of the best stuff I’ve ever done. Definitely in terms of mic work and stuff like that. I feel like this is definitely me at my best right now.
“In that time, where I was off because of the beginning of the pandemic and not really having any certainty of what was coming next, I was off for a couple of months and to be honest with you – and I’ve said this in other interviews – when I’m away from wrestling, I’m pretty away from wrestling, you know? I tend to compartmentalize it. When I’m in it, I’m in it 100% and when I’m out, I don’t want to say I’m out 100%, but pretty close, you know? Of course, the bug bites me a little bit, every now and again, and I get flowing with some creative ideas and, ‘Oh, man. I can’t wait to do this and do that.’ But, for the most part, I didn’t necessarily think of what I would do differently when I came back.
“I kind of had an idea because of the way things left off, how I would return and what kind of story I’d be plugged into, but, from there, things have just kind of spiraled organically into this, I’d say, evolution … but it’s almost like a de-evolution. I’m just coming undone. I’m looking shaggy and frantic and narcissistic, a conspiracy theorist who is deranged that thinks everyone is out to get him. It kind of happened organically over this time, ever since I’ve been back, but I’ve really been enjoying it.”
On letting his hair and beard grow out: “It’s funny that you say it’s getting under people’s skin. I actually get that comment a lot. ‘Cut your hair. Shave your beard.’ What’s your problem? What do you care? It’s the strangest thing. It offends people to be this unkempt. It offends people. But, no, it’s actually more just cause I think I’m going bald and I’ve never had long hair. And I said, ‘Well, if you’re ever going to do it, now’s the time. I’m getting older. I’m starting to see it thin out a little bit.’ I said, ‘I’ve never had it, I’m starting to see it thin out a little bit. I’ve never had it, let’s go for it.’ Then, because of the nature of my character, it just looked better to keep it looking crazy versus putting product in it. If I was a good guy, I don’t think it would work as well.
“But, I had an inspiration early on from, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie, Kingpin. Bill Murray’s character in Kingpin and the big game when his hair starts going little by little. That was a bit of an inspiration for me. I wanted to have that look. Or Bret Hart from a more practical point of view, where he’d come out looking one way, but then as the match progressed he looked a different way. And it kind of gave off the effect that this person’s going through hell and they’re in a war. They come out and their hair’s looking one way, but by the end, it’s just everywhere, you know? So, I kind of like that aspect of it.”
On if he is happy with his most recent Intercontinental Title run: “Oh, yeah, thrilled. I think that’s—I really think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done. Certainly from a character perspective, and definitely as a bad guy, a heel. Cause I was a good guy forever and then all of a sudden to be doing this. I was really, really proud of the work I did from, really, maybe August of 2019 when I first started aligning with Shinsuke and I first started calling myself ‘The Great Liberator’ and all that stuff. Even though I wasn’t in the ring a bunch, a lot of the stuff we were doing on live events, I felt like I was getting crazy reactions. People just wanted to rip my head off. And the best thing is, we were doing something you don’t do a lot, in WWE especially, because usually, it’s, ‘Okay, this person gets you angry. Just wait a few minutes and he’ll get his.’ I just never got mine. I would skate away on every show and it was incredible.
“People just expected me to get beat up at the end of the match, and I wouldn’t, and Shinsuke would win and we would leave victorious. It was so amazing. The heat we got was just so awesome. Sadly, some of my favorite work from that time period is all on live events, I don’t think it’ll ever see the light of day. But, I was so proud of so much of that stuff we were doing there. Then it was good enough where even though I wasn’t in a wrestling role, the Intercontinental Championship lands in my lap, which is a little bit of a dream come true because it’s well documented that’s sort of the workhorse championship and it’s kinda the one that a lot of guys like me want to win. So, that was very nice to win and then to have that match with Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania, all that stuff was great. Then doing the stuff on the other side, it was great. Even the stuff with Big E now, with the conspiracy, it all feels really good to me. Maybe I really am just egomaniacal, but I really feel like I’m doing good stuff and I’m enjoying it.”