This one felt inevitable. It was announced last night during WWE Backstage that due to his inability to compete, Sami Zayn had been stripped of the Intercontinental Championship. A tournament will begin on Smackdown Live this week to determine a new champion.
Zayn had spent most of the last year or so playing a more managerial role on WWE Television, putting together a stable of sorts with Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro. Like Zayn, two talents that were held in very high regard by fans for their abilities and track records but seemingly going nowhere in WWE.
It was something of a surprise when Zayn grabbed the IC title as he and his charges faced then champion Braun Strowman in a 3-on-1 handicap match at March’s Elimination Chamber PPV.
As many will already have summised, Zayn’s ‘inability to compete is as a result of ‘The Great Liberator’ exercising his right to stay at home during the current COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting, to some degree, the vast majority of people on planet Earth.
While Zayn being stripped of this title is unbelievably trivial in the wider context, it is frustrating that his story as an obnoxious, undeserving champion was not allowed to play out to it’s conclusion.
When this tournament gets underway on Friday it will mean, possibly for the first time ever, that two tournaments for two separate championships are being held simultaneously.
On NXT, the tournament to crown the interim NXT Cruiserweight tournament is ongoing with the last of the first round matches to be held tonight. That tournament came around after current champion Jordan Devlin found himself unable to travel, again, due to the pandemic, and WWE elected to go with a UFC-style interim champion to allow the belt to be carried on while letting a story brew nicely for whenever Devlin can return to TV.