Sami Zayn has been a stalwart in the WWE for a decade now, having debuted in NXT in 2013. However, his alter ego El Generico has also wrestled in NXT, amid constant speculation that his masked persona could finally be making its debut in the WWE.
Zayn (real name Remi Sebei) signed for the WWE in January 2013, after nearly a decade of toiling on the independent wrestling scene. Under a mask as the luchador El Generico, he became most known for his matches against long-term rival and best friend Kevin Steen (now Kevin Owens in the WWE), wrestling mainly in Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
He followed in the footsteps of other independent stars who joined the WWE. With the success of Daniel Bryan and CM Punk in the promotion, there was a lot of expectation placed upon his shoulders, with indie fans excited to see El Generico plying his trade in the WWE.
However, it wouldn’t be so simple. When he finally debuted on television with NXT (the WWE’s developmental promotion), El Generico was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the man who donned the mask showed his face for the first time, as the ginger haired, Canadian-Syrian superstar called Sami Zayn. Dusty Rhodes forced him to wrestle without his mask, and it turned out to be the best thing he could have done.
After casting aside the El Generico gimmick, Sami Zayn has excelled as one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE. He won the NXT Championship from Neville in 2014, before making his main roster debut in a fantastic match against John Cena. He has wrestled Kevin Owens a number of times on the main roster, as well as winning the tag team championships alongside his friend in the main event of WrestleMania 39.
It seems that Sami Zayn has cast aside his mask and has laid El Generico to rest (claiming that El Generico is running an orphanage in Mexico), and does not regret not wrestling under the mask in the WWE. However, Sami Zayn did wrestle as El Generico in the WWE, in the very early days of him time with the promotion.
Just weeks after signing for the WWE, Remi Sebei made his debut for NXT as a live event in Orlando, Florida. At this time, he had not been given his new name and gimmick. The NXT trainers were still trying to figure out his strengths and his weakness, although they already knew he was one of the best in-ring performers in the world.
Because he had not yet transitioned from El Generico to Sami Zayn, he still wore his mask and cape combination. However, El Generico did not wrestle, instead joining Brodus Clay at ringside for his match against Conor O’Brien (who later became Konnor from The Ascension). Brodus Clay vs Cnnor O’Brien had been run on Smackdown house shows for the weeks running up to this show, with Vince McMahon considering calling up O’Brien to the main roster.
El Generico appeared at ringside for the February 13, 2013, show. He did step into the ring alongside Clay, but was not an official part of the match. Not much information is known about the match, other than that Brodus Clay won the bout, and that El Generico was present for the bout.
A Few weeks later, El Generico would shed his persona to become Sami Zayn, debuting in a dark match against Ryan Nemeth on the April 3rd, 2013 episode of NXT. Nemeth was defeated by Sami Zayn in this match, although very little information is known about the match.
On very rare occasions has Sami Zayn worn a mask in wrestling since then, but never as El Generico. He wrestled as “El Local” on an episode of NXT TV, defeating Bo Dallas at the end of his run in NXT. While Sami Zayn looks back on El Generico fondly, it is likely that we will never see El Generico in the WWE ever again.
Read more about Sami Zayn’s best matches in the WWE.