Poor Sami Zayn.
Having consistently been one of the best wrestlers in the world for over a decade, he seems to have found himself inadvertently treading water in what might be not just the worst WWE feud in recent memory but also perhaps the least entertaining series of interactions between two humans in all of recorded history.
Bless him, he’s trying SO hard to make this work and to appear enthusiastic about the garbage he’s been made to participate in. Shame Bobby Lashley isn’t giving him even an inch – but what do you expect from a guy who had the opportunity to show his personality to the world via a full sit-down interview on Raw and spent about 3 minutes of it talking about towels?
There is an interesting subtext to this angle though, and it’s to do with both wrestlers’ backgrounds outside of wrestling. You see, one of the things WWE have done to try and inject a modicum of heat into this feud (since the initial tactic of “let’s put three men in dresses and laugh at them” didn’t work – can’t imagine why) is have Sami bring Lashley’s erstwhile career in the army into question. In the US that’s basically akin to taking a shit on top of a small child in the front row, so naturally it managed to generate some boos and “USA” chants from the minority of spectators who were paying attention.
Now, Sami, for those who don’t know, as well as being Canadian by birth, is Syrian by heritage, and has been quite outspoken on social media about the ongoing situation in the Middle East. He’s an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian resistance and a staunch critic of US foreign policy, including the air strikes that have taken place this year with British and French support. He also posts photos on Instagram of him reading Noam Chomsky books, which is a whole other can of worms I’m not going to get into but is certainly a sign that he’s at least somewhat politically progressive, if a little misguided (Sami’s view of the White Helmets as a benign, positive and apolitical force in Syria being another thing I disagree with).
There is no terrorist organisation greater than the United States government and military when it comes to sheer destruction of settlements, loss of life, breaches of human rights and disdain for democratically-elected governments. My family felt that force in action when the US invaded their homeland in the 1990s and I’m sure Sami feels the same way about what the US is doing in Syria, Palestine, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. I don’t know where Lashley saw combat, if he did at all, but his mere service and subsequent pride in having served makes him as complicit as anyone else in the imposition of US hegemony around the world.
However, rather than condemn Lashley for his complicity in global terrorism, WWE make Sami condemn him for suspectedly not doing so. Is this a deliberate jab at Sami? They definitely know about his heritage, especially after what happened at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia, where Sami was kept off the show so as to “respect Saudi culture” due to the country’s poor diplomatic relations with Syria (more on Saudi Arabia’s relationship with WWE in a future post). Are WWE rubbing salt on Sami’s wounds by using him as a mouthpiece for their political line?
It’s particularly interesting because since Trump became president WWE have made a very clear effort to avoid any mention of him, so as to not strike any nerves with liberal-minded fans (which is one of the main reasons why Lashley’s return has been so lacklustre, since they can’t bring up his collaboration with Trump at WrestleMania 23 – probably the only thing of note that happened in Lashley’s initial WWE run, save for a piss-poor run with the ECW championship) yet they seem perfectly alright with hitting the people of Syria right where it hurts.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the fact that, at a time when the US military are actively involved in tearing apart Sami’s ancestral homeland, WWE are portraying Sami as disrespectful for doubting Lashley’s military credentials while simultaneously celebrating Lashley’s service can’t possibly be a coincidence. I hope that tonight Sami picks up the win against Lashley then calls him a murderer right to his face. It’s the least they both deserve.