Wrestling

Zayn vs. Orton from SD Live Last Night Was v good! Here’s Why

New dude with an attitude Sami Zayn fought Randal Orton on the October 24th edition of SmackDown Live earlier this week. The winner qualified for the SmackDown team at Survivor Series. This match was very good, for a number of reasons.

The first and most obvious is that Sami and Randal are two world-class elite level wrestlers who can be great whenever they feel like it. Top shelf stuff. That shows in this match, Randal’s offence is perfect for the way Sami sells. The chemistry and the way these guys move throughout this match is absolutely fluid, everything looks so smooth. Just athletically and performance wise a very well executed match.

The thing that really separates this match in my mind, so much so that I thought I had to write about it, was the direction of Sami’s character work and how they are going forward with Zayn as a heel. The difference between Face-Sami and Heel-Sami is smugness. Think of the kids who act differently when their shitty older brother is around. For Sami, his shitty older brother is Kevin Owens, and when those two are together he is a completely different person. But, when it comes down to it Sami is still the same guy, for the most part he wrestles the same, the same incredulous daring with his arsenal of impactful moves that made us love Sami as a performer. His inability to ever truly stay down, and his unwillingness to quit is all still there. Randal mainly dominated for the most part, Sami spent most of the match from underneath as Orton went for the majority of the covers. Orton hit all of his signature maneuvers, the Hangmans DDT, the superplex, the T-Bone suplex, the stomps, Sami endured all of it long enough to hit Randal with his signature daredevil dive through the ring posts for the DDT. It was only when Sami began to show his brand new attitude that he started to falter. When Kevin Owens ran down to the ring to interfere things went south. His new eagerness to cheat and take the short cut ended up costing him when it mattered most. He was hit with a low-blow (which he did to Randal the week prior) into an RKO and that was the end of that.

The story Sami told tonight was that his new alignment is going to be the death of him. Sami is so clouded by anger and disappointment in himself that, in a misguided attempt at revenge on the WWE universe and the powers that be, he’s hurting himself more than anybody. Sami showed us that he actually isn’t a bad guy, he’s just doing bad things. It isn’t who he naturally is, it’s a faint angry caricature of who he thinks he has to be in order to succeed. Sami is your classic superhero, he’s your Peter Parker, your Steve Rogers, he is at his best when he is fighting for good. Any other goal will cause him to falter, and our first example of that is this match.

In my mind it is a brilliant example of super-layered character work. I know a lot of people think that heels should wrestle differently than faces, for the most part I do agree with that sentiment, that being said, Sami Zayn isn’t your average wrestling character. He is much more unique than your white-meat babyfaces, he is only Sami Zayn, no matter how much of an asshole he tries to be he is always gonna be the good guy. Right now he’s trying to be something he’s not, and because of that he’s missing out on the Survivor Series main event.

Look, I just thought it was really cool, it’s so crazy smart the way last nights match played out. If one match was enough for me to write about it, it was some wild stuff. I am sincerely looking forward to more Sami Zayn matches in the future, if this is the story they continue to run with, I am extremely confident that there is going to be some entertaining television moving forward.

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