When Sami Zayn was coming up through the indie wrestling scene, there was one goal and one goal only at the top of his list: WWE or bust.

Sure, there were other promotions around the wrestling landscape like TNA, Ring of Honor, and New Japan Pro Wrestling where a performer could earn a decent enough living, but in the days after WCW/ECW but before AEW, WWE was the end-all, be-all of professional wrestling and if you wanted to become a Superstar, you had to get into Titan Towers and build up a repertoire with Vince McMahon and company.

And yet, as he noted in an interview with Fightful, it's that driving push to get noticed by WWE that made promotions like ROH and PWG as competitive and ultimately impressive as they ended up being a decade and a half ago and why even great indie feds now simply don't have the same aura they did before.

“It's hard to remember how things were back then. Look at the independent names that were left on the independents for five to ten years. Bryan Danielson, Seth Rollins, myself, Kevin, Nigel McGuinness, all these guys were just doing the indies because guys didn't get signed back then. We were off an island doing our own thing and creating our own thing. In hindsight, what a special time it was, especially for the independents that you could go see these world-class performers and everyone is better now than they were then, but at the time, we were really good back then,” Sami Zayn told Fightful.

“If you look at a PWG poster from 2009 or a Ring of Honor poster from 2008, the amount of talent that has gone on to be in WWE, AEW, TNA, or Japan, it's a world-class roster. All this to say, it was really hard to tie up with someone and go, ‘This guy is good enough to be in WWE.' We were all good enough. It wasn't about talent. The mentality was, the real talent was there, and what you were getting in WWE was something else. Not to say they weren't talented, but they were looking for something else. It wasn't based exclusively on talent. I didn't lock up with Bryan Danielson and go, ‘This guy is not quite good enough for WWE.' It wasn't like that. It had nothing to do with talent. There were a lot of other variables back in the day.

“It's hard to remember because the world of wrestling has changed so much and the landscape has changed so much, in a way that may be regrettable in some respects because you're not going to get guys developing on the independents and going through the wave and circle of life process that gets you to where you want to be by the time you come in, not as a finished product, but as a polished product. You kind of don't get to get polished totally out in the wild. If you even start making a name for yourself remotely, you're gone, someone will sign you up. I also might be speaking out of school because I've been removed from the independents for so long that I don't have my finger on the pulse completely, but I certainly know it's not like it was.”

While Zayn may not be 100 percent on the money when it comes to the logistics of his take, as promotions like MLW, PWG, GCW, and Warrior Wrestling still help to serve as incubators for top talents around the world, these stars usually are signed to a bigger promotion, be that NXT or AEW, years before they would have been when El Generico was a top draw on the indies. On paper, this is probably a good thing, as it allows stars to get paid good money earlier in their careers, but it can also stunt a performer's growth, as they may get stuck at the bottom of the card with no chance to get better in a loaded promotion.

Sami Zayn will probably never join Johnny Knoxville in Jacka**.

Elsewhere in his interview with Fightful, Sami Zayn commented on his relationship with Johnny Knoxville, who tried to ruin his comedy show at Netflix is a Joke fest last month in LA.

While Zayn is happy to work with Knoxville in WWE, even if they aren't what you would call friends on-screen, he will probably never venture to the Jacka** world the Bad Grampa star created, as it simply isn't his speed.

“We don't really have that kind of relationship. It would probably have to go through some intermediaries. He doesn't like me. I don't really like him. I also think he's kind of obsessed with me. He showed up to my show. I haven't interacted with guy in years. He still stalks my Instagram page. He's always commenting and insulting me. it's been years. He's a bit of a lunatic. A year removed, talking about the bridge from WrestleMania to WrestleMania, you go from one with the stuff with Johnny Knoxville, the next year the Bloodline story caps off in the remarkable way, and Johnny Knoxville showed up to WrestleMania 39, but I guess he wasn't privy to the fact that things had changed. He was in the stands, and I was seeing some amazing videos of him; he had to be drunk; he was belligerent, for sure; he's like, ‘You suck, Sami.' He was getting booed by the entire section,” Sami Zayn revealed to Fightful.

“It was wild. To go from something like Johnny Knoxville to the Bloodline, which was an emotional story, and then to the Gunther match, which was very special and very unique. That's the thing I'm really proud of, the diversity and the variety of three special matches but totally different flavors. That's sort of my calling card, although I don't think fans have really picked up on that through most of my career. Now, after a couple of good performances and three different situations, fans are picking up on that versatility, which is something I pride myself on.”

Fortunately for Zayn, he really doesn't have to be the next big wrestler-to-extreme sports crossover star, as there's already Darby Allin, and he does enough crazy stuff for the entire industry. No, if Zayn continues to be an unflappable babyface that seemingly the entire IWC loves eternally, well, he can still serve as an important foil for Knoxville should he return for seconds at some point in the future.