In just over a month, the brand extension has already provided a lot of WWE stars with opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have been handed. Dolph Ziggler competed for the WWE World Championship at SummerSlam, Kevin Owens is the WWE Universal Champion and almost everybody in the female and tag-team divisions has been featured on multiple occasions.
WWE has been doing a fantastic job thus far of utilizing every aspect of the roster, allowing most of the wrestlers on the payroll to benefit and get some prime television exposure.
That being said, there are some distinct exceptions. A lot of the talent on each roster are where they belong, but some have remained overlooked and gone without any development, or much of a chance to shine since finding themselves in their new place of work.
Sami Zayn has easily had the worst of it since being drafted to Monday Night Raw.
Heading into the brand split, Sami Zayn had a tremendous amount of momentum. He was drafted well above many of the people in the main event and upper mid-card right now, such as Kevin Owens, Sheamus, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Chris Jericho and both brands’ mid-card champions, and had just come out of his extraordinary rivalry against Kevin Owens with his hand held in victory.
He was also one of the eight men in the hunt for the WWE Universal Championship when the split kicked off, coming up short in a Fatal 4-Way despite not being pinned himself.
With all of these factors, you would think that Sami Zayn’s foreseeable future on the Raw roster was going to be pretty bright. After all, if they were going to have him win at Battleground and be in the title picture so early, surely they had some sort of plan for him ahead of being exclusive to Raw.
But then his progression just stopped. He competed in the occasional match ahead of SummerSlam, but he had zero story heading into the event, and was even left off a broadcast or two in the pivotal period of time before WWE’s second biggest event of the year. His pre-show tag-team match alongside Neville against The Dudley Boyz at SummerSlam had little to no build-up, and despite winning, Zayn didn’t come out of the match better on the card then he did going in.
Since then, Zayn has competed in a couple of high stakes matches against Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, in which an apparent ankle injury prevented him from capturing a win on both occasions.
It seems like WWE is trying its very best to make Sami Zayn appear as if a main event-level talent, because on paper it would certainly seem that he’s had several opportunities to break into the championship picture. But when you whittle down those “opportunities”, you can clearly see that the only people who benefited from those encounters were his opponents.
There’s been no direction for Zayn, no ongoing feud like we’re seeing with Sheamus and Cesaro in the best-of-seven series. The only thing he has to his name is the ankle injury to justify his losses.
Kayfabe or not, you can only rely on an injury as an excuse for so long before people start to lose interest. It really doesn’t matter how you lose, because when your shoulders are counted down for the three-count, it still counts as a loss, regardless of how you got there.
If you start racking them up like they’re going out of fashion like Sami Zayn is starting to do, there comes a point where the only thing you can really describe him as is glorified enhancement talent for WWE’s main event stars. In the last few weeks alone, Zayn has lost in singles matches to both stars involved in Clash of Champions’ main event, and if this role continues, it will be very difficult for him to get back into relevancy if he ever gets such an opportunity.
It is of course possible that WWE is trying to go down a Daniel Bryan-esque route with Sami Zayn so that he can become the next ultimate underdog in the company. If that’s the case, so be it, but there’s a fine line between making a star an underdog and making him an unredeemable enhancement talent, and WWE run the risk of crossing that line every time they have Zayn suffer a loss.
As a wrestler, Sami Zayn is well capable of being one of the very best. His ability in the ring is extraordinary, his mic skills aren’t exactly ground-breaking, but they’re just right for somebody of his character, and he already has the fans in the palm of his hand as the underdog babyface.
His journey to the NXT Championship two years ago is still one of the very most riveting in the brand’s history, and proved that Zayn is undoubtedly capable of climbing the ladder to success.
The matches he puts on each week are consistently exciting, but even though you’ll find people who say that losses don’t matter unless you put on a good match every single night, that’s not the case if you’re not gaining any development or direction from the losses.
Sami Zayn is too good to be overlooked, so if WWE is going somewhere with this losing streak, let’s just hope they deliver on it before we look back at him as just another example of failed potential.