Ric Flair and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Shawn Michaels and Bret “The Hitman” Hart. The Undertaker and Kane… Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens?
Though the current Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions maybe feel a tad out of place in the same conversation as those six Hall of Famers, Corey Graves put the long-time frenemies in that same conversation during Zayn's most recent appearance on After the Bell, specifically comparing his on-again, off-again relationship with “The Prizefighter” to that of The Brothers of Destruction. Zayn, to his credit, understood the comparison but felt it wasn't the right one to make, instead feeling they produce a story more akin to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin fighting against the WWE authority that is Mr. Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
“The thing that made this different from Kane and Undertaker is, imagine a Kane and Undertaker level depth of relationship with the longevity, coupled with a story as compelling on a weekly basis as perhaps Austin and McMahon,” Zayn noted versus Fightful. “In some ways, they are kind of apples and oranges, but we did it in a very different way. I don't want to say cinematic, but we did have that mindset. Everybody involved had a cinematic approach to it versus a ‘rasslin' approach to it. We tried to get out of the box and were thinking more in terms of Breaking Bad and The Wire, and these complex characters interacting versus trying to mirror what the NWO did or what Austin and McMahon did. There is so much to it.”
Is Zayn on the money with his comparison? Considering there aren't many wrestlers who have been working against and with each other for 20-plus years over a dozen different promotions, it's hard to really find too many analogies in professional wrestling history. Still, considering the entertainment value of Mr. McMahon versus “The Rattlesnake,” his assertion is a compelling one indeed.
Sami Zayn didn't think his program with Kevin Owens would last a year.
As crazy as it may sound now, considering KO and Sami Zayn are one of the most compelling acts in wrestling right now, there was a time when “The Underdog from the Underground” thought fans would get sick of their program after just a year, despite going from promotion to promotion without much fanbase overlap from one show to another.
“Year one of me and Kevin, after we started taking our match all over the country, all over the independent circuit, we were like, ‘People are going to get fed up with this. When are they going to get fed up with this?' We've had to work so hard to where, not only do they never get fed up with it, they always wanted to see what is next. I used to think it was nothing, I think it was just this weird, magical chemistry that we had that kept people engaged, but it took a lot of hard work when I stopped and thought about it, which almost borders on neurosis from people watching from the sidelines,” Zayn said.
“You'd see us at work, and you'd see us bicker over trying to make these things as good as possible, ‘it's a match, a storyline,' and I can't tell you how many times, dating back 15 years, people would go, ‘Don't you guys have this figured out by now?' It took me 10 or 15 years for me to realize, ‘No, that's why it keeps working, because we don't have it figured out,' we never assume it's figured out, we always have to reinvent and top it to make it fresh, and how do we do that? Putting that level of energy into it is what kept it that way. If we just said, ‘You want to do what we did in Pittsburgh? Cool.' They already saw it in Pittsburgh, and you're tired of it by the time you see it three times. It was constantly about keeping it innovative and fresh. We got 20 years out of that and counting.”
Alright, so little Sami Zayn, who was wrestling as either Stevie McFly or El Generico at the time, was clearly very short-sighted about just how much fans would invest in a long-running storyline between two friends with incredible in-ring chemistry, but then again, who wasn't insecure when they first started out? What's more incredible is that almost 20 years after El Generico first defeated Kevin Steen at IWS' Payback's A B**ch at Le Skratch in Laval, Quebec, Canada, fans are still paying good money to see what KO and Zayn come up with next, which is a real testament to the strength of their connection.