Sami Zayn's real rival on WWE Raw is the writing team.
The former NXT champ has been saddled with a terrible feud, awful scripts and WWE's misguided interpretation of his character. He's doing the best he can, but he's in an impossible situation. Zayn is forced to bring a plastic toothpick sword to a fencing duel each week.
Zayn vs. Bobby Lashley only started a few weeks back but has already reached all-time bad territory.
The Superstars' issues revolve around Zayn's attempts to aggravate the powerhouse by making their rivalry personal. Zayn promised to expose the truth about Lashley by giving his sisters a stage on which to spill family secrets.
The audience grumbled as Zayn trotted out men posing as Lashley's sisters and proceeded to mock him and lie.
It was one of the worst segments in the Raw's history. That's saying a lot considering this is the same show on which John Cena once poured BBQ sauce over a half-naked Michael Cole in the main event.
Zayn's apology segment the next week wasn't much better. He came off as feeble. He was boring. The scene didn't connect in any sense.
This is Sami Zayn we're talking about, a guy who made reading an email on live TV entertaining. He deftly went from underdog babyface to dancing-in-your-face irritant heel last year.
As former indy wrestler Gran Akuma pointed out in April, Zayn has thrived in spots many didn't expect him to:
But even Zayn can't do anything with this sewage spill of a story. The angle doesn't play to either his or Lashley's strengths. The writing has been embarrassing.
If WWE is interested in showcasing Zayn properly, the first step would be to end this narrative ASAP. Sometimes things don't work, and there's no sense in forcing them to go on. This is one of those times.
There's no need to give outlets like Daily DDT so much ammunition:
There should be little attention paid to the rivalry ahead of the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. When the event arrives, Lashley should steamroll Zayn, and they should be done with each other for good.
That's when WWE can begin to better spotlight Zayn's character.
He can be far more than the ridiculous jerk in reading glasses he is now. He's missing a dangerous side, for one. He should continue to irk his enemies with over-the-top dancing and mind games, but we need to see him on the attack as well.
The next rivalry he begins should see him attack and hurt someone. For now, he's a fly buzzing in one's ear. He needs a stinger to be taken more seriously.
Perhaps he can try to goad Seth Rollins into giving him an Intercontinental Championship match. Zayn could skip the line of contenders by getting the champ focused on him. A backstage ambush wherein he tries to tear apart Rollins' surgically repaired knee would be a hell of a start to that end.
Finn Balor would be another smart target for the heel. Should the Irishman begin to close in on becoming the No. 1 contender for the Universal Championship, Zayn can be there to trip him up. After bashing Balor's elbow with a barrage of chair shots, Zayn could explain that no one is getting a universal title shot until his best friend, Kevin Owens, does.
A fresh rivalry and added character dimension is all Zayn needs to get going once more.
The Lashley feud is a cinder block tied to his ankle. Zayn won't be at full speed again until WWE yanks it off.