It’s been nearly a decade since Sami Zayn made his debut in the WWE, becoming a surprise opponent for John Cena during his US Open Challenge.
While Zayn put on a fantastic performance and took The Champ to the limit, he fell just short of his goal of winning the United States Championship.
However, that was not the worst of it. Sami Zayn also suffered a horrific injury during the match, which ruined all his momentum and cost him nearly a year of his blossoming WWE career.
Here’s what happened to Sami Zayn on his WWE debut.
Sami Zayn WWE Debut
Sami Zayn made his WWE debut during John Cena‘s United States Championship Open challenge during the summer of 2015. Cena had won the title from Rusev at Wrestlemania 31 and held open challenges to help build up the prestige of the title belt.
These challengers included Dolph Ziggler, Zack Ryder and Kevin Owens, but one of the most surprising was NXT star Sami Zayn. He made a shock debut on Raw in his hometown of Montreal in May 2015.
On the May 4 episode of Raw, Zayn was introduced by Bret Hart as John Cena’s opponent for his weekly “U.S. Open Challenge” for his United States Championship. The crowd exploded when Bret Hart announced Sami Zayn as the opponent, cheering on their hometown hero.
The match was a brilliant one that showcased Sami Zayn’s skills to the new fans on the main roster. He may have lost his first match to John Cena, but Sami Zayn showed he was more than good enough to compete on Raw or Smackdown some time in the near future.
He Suffered Injury Before His Match With John Cena
While Sami Zayn’s debut match against John Cena was fantastic, it came with a hefty price.
Before the match, Zayn stood on top the steel stairs and flung his arms in the air, inciting the crowd to cheer for him. He did this every match and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
However, it turned out that he had dislocated his shoulder. He could not use it for a portion of the match until Cena hit him with a back suplex which popped it back into place.
The pair wrestled a twenty minute match after that, with John Cena winning. Zayn would be out for 7 months after shoulder surgery which put his WWE career in jeopardy.
Sami Zayn’s First WWE Match After Injury Was In The Royal Rumble
After the match with John Cena, Sami Zayn competed in one more before going on a long hiatus. He wrestled Kevin Owens at NXT Takeover: Unstoppable for the NXT Championship, trying to regain the belt he lost to his friend one pay per view earlier.
The Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens match ended in a no-contest, as Sami Zayn was too injured to continue. Owens kept attacking him and nailing him with powerbombs until Samoa Joe debuted in NXT to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Sami Zayn spent 7 months on the shelf before returning to the company. He wrestled Shawn Spears at NXT Takeover: London to warm up for his WWE return, as a surprise guest in one of the biggest matches of the year.
He entered the 2016 Royal Rumble as a surprise entrant, brawling with Kevin Owens during the middle portion of the match. He entered at number 20 and eliminated Kevin Owens from the match before being thrown out by Braun Strowman after five minutes.
Sami Zayn then went on to wrestle in the Intercontinental Championship ladder match at Wrestlemania 32, which was won by Zack Ryder.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.