Wether you know him as Sami Zayn, El Generico or his given name, Rami Sebei, theres a fair chance you know who Sami Zayn is. As arguably the most popular NXT talent right now his charisma and incredible in-ring ability help him to stand out even among such stars as Samoa Joe, Finn Balor and Kevin Owens. But where did this indy wrestling legend and future WWE superstar come from and how did he become the wrestler we all know and love?
Born in Hill Valley, Quebec in Canada, on July 12, 1984 Rami Sebai was your average kid and pro wrestling fan who grew up with dreams of being a wrestler. A dream he was determined to chase. After seeking some basic training from, among others, former WWE wrestler, Savio Vega he made his pro debut under his most famous moniker, El Generico, for Canada’s International Wrestling Syndicate (IWS), where he was quickly recognised as a budding talent. By 2004 he was becoming one of IWS’ top names. IWS started loaning talent to some North American promotions including Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW). Generico was noticed as a good worker on the independent circuit and was soon snapped up by the Califonia based indy promotion, Pro Wrestling Gorilla (PWG).
Before I continue, a little background on the El genrico character. El Generico is supposedly a luchador from Tiajuana, Mexico. Recognisable by his distinctive mask, from which his red beard protrudes and his signature shouts of “Ole!” The character is used with great comedic effect. We all know this ginger bearded, pasty white high flyer is about as mexican as maple syrup, but that only helps to elevate the level of comedy the gimmick delivers. But make no mistake, he is not simply a clown in the ring but one of the best all around wrestlers in recent memory. Winning his PWG debut against Kevin Steen (now WWE’s Kevin Owens) in 2004 Generico began on a path that would soon make him a name associated with great wrestling and an indy circuit favorite.
Generico’s time in PWG saw him earn two PWG world championships and five PWG world tag team championships. Other accolades included being the only person to win both the Dynamite Duumvirate tournament in 2010 and the Battle for Los Angeles or BOLA tournament in 2011. During this time the generic luchador had some five star matches with the likes of Steen, Jushin Liger, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and many others.
Notorious for his international travelling scedule, Generico traveled the globe for promotions such as Ring of Honor, winning both the tag and world television titles while there, CZW, JAPW, Progress and numerous others leaving a trail of great matches and newly converted Generico fans in his wake. As he cemented his place as a top grade indy talent, Generico was embroiled in several high profile feuds. None more notorious than his long time friend and championship winning tag partner, Kevin Steen.
Well known in independent wrestling circles as being one of the greatest feuds ever played out in the ring. The back and forth battle between El Local and Mr Wrestling is the stuff of indy wrestling legends. Giving us one of the greatest underdog stories ever seen inside the squared circle and spawning a couple of match of the year candidates. The feud reached fever pitch with the ROH title on the line in a ladder War match. One of the most brutally hard hitting matches ever seen in ROH and a showcase of the incredible sacrifice both Generico and Steen were willing to make for their art. I’ve included the highlight package below for your enjoyment.
Leaving an already incredible legacy behind him in independent wrestling, it was time for The Terror from Tiajuana to head for the bright lights and big stage of the WWE.
El generico made his non-wrestling debut in WWE’s developmental system, NXT on February 12th 2013. On march 7th he made his in ring debut, now without the famous lucha mask and under his birth name, in a non-televised live event. After finally settling on Sami Zayn as his ring name he went on to make his television debut on NXT’s May 22nd episode. Defeating 2 former champions in WWE. First beating Kurt Hawkins before going on to challenge and beat Antonio Cesaro later on the same show which set a feud between the two grapplers in motion culminating in a 2 out of 3 falls match which Zayn lost but not before showing his impressive in ring ability. From there He was embroiled in several high profile feuds. A highlight of which was his title challenge against Bo Dallas in which he donned the mask once more as El Local after Sami Zayn was banned from competing for the title.
Zayn went on to have many excellent matches with Tyler breeze, Adrian Neville, Cesaro and many other members of the NXT roster, often challenging for the NXT title but just falling short. Earning him the nickname “the underdog from the underground”.
By this time Zayn was a fan favorite. His underdog persona, hard work ethic and in-ring style earned him the respect of fans and peers alike. On september 24th Zayn made his Raw debut in a match against Neville. The match was used to hype an NXT title fatal 4 way match which also included Tyler Breeze and Tyson Kidd.
At NXT Takeover: Fatal Fourway Zayn almost took the title from Neville but controversially missed out. This set Sami on the “road to redemption” a series of matches against top talent which ended in Zayn again becoming the number 1 contender. He was again cheated out of a win by Neville, who took advantage of his good nature by playing possum and catching Zayn off guard with a sneaky pin. Zayn requested a rematch stating if he didn’t win the title he would leave NXT for good.
On December 11 2014 at NXT Takeover R Evolution, Zayn and Neville put on a clinic. An incredible match where both wrestlers were at their very best. Zayn beat Neville and celebrated with several members of the NXT locker room including his best friend, Kevin Owens. As they left the ring Owens turned on Sami, slamming him onto the entrance ramp before power bombing him onto the ring apron. Owens explained his reason for the attack on the next weeks episode claiming he was a prize fighter and he wanted the NXT title and nothing less.
After a succesful title defense against Neville and several attacks from Owens, Zayn demanded a match against his former PWG tag partner, even if it meant putting his title on the line. At Takeover: Rival, in one of the most dominant displays ever seen on NXT, Owens destroyed Zayn, taking his title, with the match ending with a referee stoppage.
On the May 4th edition of Raw, Zayn made his proper main roster debut in his home town of Quebec. WWE United States Champion John Cena issued an open challenge for his title. After an introduction from Bret “The Hitman” Hart and a raucous ovation from the crowd Sami Zayn entered the arena. Making his way to the ring he was his usual excitable self, however fate seemed to want to keep the underdog down once more. On his entrance to the ring Zayn threw his arms in the air and tore his shoulder. He went on to wrestle a 15 minute show stopper against Cena, even getting the crowd on his side despite Cena’s popularity. Although he lost the match, Cena held Sami’s hand aloft in the ring and gave Zayn his respect.
Sami went on to have a rematch against Owens which he lost due to being unable to continue and was forced to take over 7 months away from the ring. For a man who before now had never taken more than 4 weeks away from the action this was a difficult time. But ever the scrappy underdog Zayn made his comeback on the December 23rd edition of NXT Takeover: London. Facing the “Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger in an excellent match that featured great spots from both competitors. It was obvious that Zayn had lost none of his ability or love for the buisness of professional wrestling. With bags of talent, an infectiously positive in ring persona, a main roster call up expected soon and an already huge and ever growing fanbase behind him, Sami Zayn’s future looks very bright indeed and I for one can’t wait to see whats next for The Underdog from the Underground.
Sami Zayn is one of my all time favorites. Let me know who makes your list via my twitter @taccbrown and to keep up with the website and see what else we’ve got coming up follow @wewritewrestlin