Sami Zayn is speeding toward greatness, and his mesmerizing act at NXT sure to lead him to wowing crowds at the WWE level.
Zayn's thrilling ring work combined with his suave, understated personality make him a prospect overflowing with potential. Unless WWE is too stubborn to give him a shot because he's no bulking brute, the company has a future megastar ready to make the leap from Full Sail University to center stage.
As El Generico in Ring of Honor and other promotions, he became popular as a red-haired luchador who spoke broken Spanish.
After signing with WWE, Zayn removed his mask and showed the world that he is more than an athletic comedy act. In coming close to winning the NXT title and obsessing about beating Cesaro, he has shown an array of skills that make him the top male prospect in the developmental system.
His call-up is coming. Once it does, Zayn will inject Raw and SmackDown with fun.
Rooting for the Montreal native is easy. Pulling one's eyes away from the screen when he is at work is anything but.
Once the bell rings, Zayn is frenetic and dizzying, a shaken can of soda exploding.
In NXT, only Adrian Neville can match him in terms of speed, but even that electric dynamo doesn't have as much energy as Zayn. He pumps excitement into his matches, something the NXT fanbase has noticed early on.
His move set is an entertaining blend of indy favorites like the Michinoku Driver II and impressive flying moves like the plancha. Good luck keeping your jaw from dropping open when you see him leap past the ring post and hit a tornado DDT.
Cynical fans might point out that the indy circuit is filled with an overstock of amazing athletes who can string together great moves, but Zayn is more than that.
He is an in-ring storyteller and a complete wrestler. That's what has allowed him to put together such a long list of great matches in his short run with NXT.
Against Bo Dallas in an NXT Championship bout, he showed off the selling and emotion that elevates his matches.
Watch him raise his fist in joy after hitting the spinning doctor bomb and wear dejection on his face after only getting a two-count. Late in the match, he is woozy from Dallas' blows, stumbling around the ring in dramatic fashion like Shawn Michaels once did.
Being a well-rounded in-ring performer with searing passion is a winning formula.
Those traits, along with his extensive indy experience, athletic prowess and a flair for the perfect facial expressions, have led to him being the kind of wrestler who can compose a classic with just about any opponent. Compile the 10 best NXT matches, and Zayn's name has to appear several times.
In regard to his 2-out-of-3 Falls match with Cesaro last year, Darren Gutteridge of ProWrestling.net said, "The match has been hyped since the tapings by a lot of well respected people, and it more than lived up to its billing." Zayn and Cesaro put together another Match of the Year candidate at NXT: Arrival.
As much as character, look and marketability are vital to a Superstar's success, the ability to have matches like this one on a consistent basis separates the good from the great. This will certainly elevate his stock.
Outside of the ring, Zayn has other weapons at his disposal. His mic work is powered by how genuine and likable he is.
In a leaked promo rehearsal, Zayn spoke about his background, reeling the audience in.
This is a strong performance that shows off how comfortable he is on stage. He doesn't seem to be reading memorized lines here, instead giving an impassioned outpouring. Should he deliver more of these, the WWE audience will certainly take notice.
As a bonus, he speaks Arabic, which makes him easier to promote in the more than 20 countries where it is an official language.
Expect Sami Zayn's WWE story to be a lot like Daniel Bryan's—one filled with questions about his size.
At 6'0'' and 193 pounds, per WWE.com, Zayn is far from intimidating physically. He's lanky and not as toned as the comic-book, superhero-like physiques that populate the roster.
Despite his in-ring talent making him worthy of a world title slot, WWE officials are likely to have doubts about whether Zayn is believable as champion.
If the company has to choose between Zayn and more muscular men like Roman Reigns, Big E or Mojo Rawley for a spot on the marquee, he's going to be at a disadvantage. WWE's history of pushing men like Batista and John Cena is evidence of that.
His promo style may hold him back some as well.
As charming as he is, his character will have a tough time standing out in the loud, exaggerated cast of characters that is WWE. His unassuming demeanor will have some women daydreaming about going to coffee with him, but it may not be sufficiently larger than life enough to catch on once he reaches the main roster.
In an interview with Renee Young after his NXT: Arrival match, Zayn gave a powerful but subtle performance.
A patient WWE booking team will allow Zayn to keep this level of intensity and volume and wait for his personality to grow on the audience. He offers an interesting contrast to the larger personalities of men like Dolph Ziggler and Cena.
WWE, though, may not see things that way and hesitate to push Zayn forward, thinking him too quiet and too small.
NXT is filled with excellent athletes, but few are, as Jim Ross puts it, special.
Zayn has the in-ring ability and magnetism to be a top star, a world champion and headliner. His wealth of assets gives him a shot at achieving a level of popularity that will rival what Bryan has achieved.
Cesaro and Zayn's matches are the types of dramas that would fit right in on a WWE pay-per-view. The company would be wise to revisit that rivalry at the main-roster level and to put aside its preference for bigger wrestlers.
As CM Punk and Bryan have shown, indy wrestlers perceived as undersized can generate vocal, passionate fanbases.
Zayn is fully capable of being the next Superstar in that vein. He can headline a major event, wear gold and battle the company's top stars. Zayn going up against Cena, Randy Orton, Alberto Del Rio and Sheamus would assure that WWE adds to its collection of great matches.
His biggest fight, though, will be against WWE's decision-makers. He simply doesn't look like the warrior that he is, and that will be the chain around his ankle that will keep him from reaching full speed.
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