Sami Zayn won his first-ever title on the main roster a few months ago, when he took the Intercontinental Championship from the Monster Among Men, Braun Strowman. He had just one defense, at WrestleMania 36 against Daniel Bryan, before he was stripped of the title last week.
WWE said that Zayn was unable to compete, and announced a new tournament to crown the IC Champion, which continues this week on SmackDown. Zayn has been quite vocal on social media about this decision by WWE, which is him building some heat for himself for his eventual return.
Zayn has been out of action since the WrestleMania matchup, as he is apparently exercising his right to stay away due to the COVID-19 pandemic. WWE gave the freedom for superstars to stay at home if they wished, and Zayn joined Roman Reigns and Kyle O Reilly as major names missing in action.
WWE is now stating that Zayn is injured and hence this tournament is held. Unlike WWE’s handling of Reigns’ situation, they are actually addressing Zayn’s absence by providing some reason for this whole situation. Reigns has been completely kept off WWE TV with a few reports stating that he has heat backstage.
Zayn is also reported to have heat backstage due to his annoying personality, and his decision to voluntarily stay at home hasn’t helped the matters.
As for Zayn’s return, the timeline for which is quite unclear, he will be taking on the winner of this IC tournament. Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that Zayn is most likely joining a program with the eventual winner of this tourney once he returns.
Daniel Bryan and Elias have advanced to the next round of the tournament last week, while Shinsuke Nakamura takes on AJ Styles, and Sheamus goes head-to-head with Jeff Hardy this week. Nakamura was part of The Artist Collective along with Zayn and Cesaro and helped Zayn win the title in the first place.