The frontman for the Zayniacs, the reigning and defending NXT Champion, Sami Zayn joined the Chad Dukes Wrestling Show to promote his match against Kevin Owens on Wednesday Night February 11th at NXT Takeover: Rival, Live on WWE Network.
During their chat, Dukes and Zayn talked about Zayn’s championship victory at NXT Takeover: R Evoution and the vindication felt from that victory, his good friend El Generico, his transition to NXT, the idea of the NXT Title being defended at WrestleMania, NXT as a touring brand, rekindling independent rivalries on a bigger stage, the WWE Network, and of course Kevin Owens.
Thank you to Sami for coming on the show and a fantastic interview! Follow him @ILikeSamiZayn on Twitter.
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Check back later Wednesday Night for the full episode of the Chad Dukes Wrestling Show but in the meantime check out some quotes after the jump.
At NXT Takeover: R Evolution, Sami Zayn finally won the big one in NXT by defeating the longest reigning NXT Champion Adrian Neville. For Zayn the match, the show, and the atmosphere was special both personally and professionally.
“Professionally, if anybody had followed my story going into the match, it was the culmination of like a year of chasing for this championship so the payoff was huge for the fans. It’s funny because we’re essentially two good guys, two fan favorites, we’re popular with that audience, but then I think they had just been pining to see me win after coming up short so many times, coming so close and not quite making it, that the atmosphere in the building was just electric.”
“I can’t even really compare it to anything honestly, it was one of the most unique atmospheres that I’ve been a part of and certainly they were very vocal and gave me their full support which meant the world, so when that 1-2-3 hit the mat the place just exploded. It’s amazing because I almost feel like it transcends what we think about wrestling, it was like a party. When your team wins the cup or your team wins the championship. You’re high-fiving strangers, you know what I mean? It had that kind of atmosphere, which is huge and to be the reason for that is so powerful to me and is why I do what I do. ”
“From a 100% real perspective, when I joined the WWE after 11 years on the independents there were a lot of questions whether I would survive in this environment. Because the independents are the independents you know, anything goes. Okay, you got over out there, this place is gonna chew you up and spit you out. So it was very symbolic on a very real level of conquering a system I was told would chew me up and spit me out. So there was a lot of vindication in winning.”
With the growing popularity of the NXT brand, there has been chatter online calling for a WrestleMania NXT Title match. While Zayn would welcome the honor, he’s taking a much more patient and level-headed approach.
“Part of NXT’s appeal to me especially amongst people like yourself, like you’re saying lifelong wrestling fans who are sort of like discovering NXT and being like ‘Wait, this is the kind of wrestling I used to like’ or ‘I like this.’ It’s succinct. It’s an hour-long, you’ve got some great wrestlers, and you’ve got great storytelling, and it’s simple and it’s gritty.
While at the same time, it’s so funny people forget it’s PG, it’s a PG product, but it’s so real and gritty and people almost lose sight of that. The whole point I’m trying to get at is, it’s sort of carved out its own little niche within this giant wrestling company that is the WWE. We’ve almost carved out our own underground following, it almost has a cult following, which is so strange to say because it’s part of the world’s biggest wrestling company.
So, I think if you were to have an NXT World Championship Match at WrestleMania while obviously for me personally I would be a huge thrill, I don’t think you can necessarily capture the magic of what NXT is and really harness it and put it on full display for the world to understand it, on such a grand scale like that.”
“When you take the product out of its environment and throw it on a grand stage I think it would lose something there.”
With the announcement of NXT’s two Ohio live events in Columbus on March 5th and Cleveland on March 6th, hardcore NXT fans are buzzing and excited about the possibility of a touring NXT live event schedule. Coupled with news Tuesday from Triple H that they would be exploring more road dates as a way to expose the NXT stars to different types of crowds, touring looks like a distinct possibility. A possibility that Zayn also sees coming in the near future.
“These shows in Cleveland, these shows in Ohio, Columbus, this is the start of something definitely in the works I think, and in the plans, to get NXT out on the road a little more and I think people are pining for it obviously. Just working all these WWE live events in towns I’ve never been, I’ve been on Raw once in September, and even at that my music will hit and I’ll get a really good response because NXT’s just building, there’s this undercurrent. So, fans want to see this product and I think they are excited about it. There’s no question in my mind that throughout the course of this year we’ll definitely see NXT going out on the road more often. Obviously that begins with fan support. If the support is there the demand is there we’ll be there.”
After talking about his desire to renew his rivalries with Cesaro, Seth Rollins, & Daniel Bryan from the independents, Zayn talked about his match at Takeover: Rival against long time friend and foe, the man most tied to Zayn’s independent career: Kevin Owens.
“The amount of history we have, Kevin Owens and myself, over the years, never mind guys like Cesaro or Seth Rollins or Daniel Bryan who I met on the independents, Kevin and I broke out of Montreal, the little Montreal independent bubble, in front of 50 people in basements, bars, and pool halls. We broke out of that together. Our names have been synonymous with each other for our entire careers from 2002 on or 2003 on. The connection is very, very deep. It was a very special night [Takeover: R Evolution] for me because obviously, I had sort of arrived in my own sort of way by winning this NXT Championship. I felt like it was a coming out party of sorts. Here I am and a the same time Kevin Owens had debuted earlier that night. So it was like this is our night. Like, holy crap here we are, both of us in WWE. You’re here now, I’m here now, I’ve got the title, we are doing this, and then BAM! So to say that this match is personal or means a lot to me is the understatement of the century here.”