Well, it seemed fairly locked a couple of weeks ago. With Chris Jericho on his way out to tour with Fozzy after WrestleMania 33, it seemed like the JeriKO breakup was imminent, and that, perhaps, Jericho would drop the United States Championship to Sami Zayn, a particularly exciting move, given the current political climate.
The JeriKO break up did happen, and in spectacular fashion. The short lived Jericho-Zayn feud ended with Owens kicking his on-screen former friend Zayn in the face for his other soon-to-be-ex-best friend, despite advertising in Milwaukee for Fastlane saying that Zayn and Jericho would be facing for the title. Card is always subject to change, but why the sudden drop?
This week on Raw, we may have discovered the reason. Samoa Joe, in a sit-down interview with Michael Cole, dissed Sami Zayn, only to have Zayn fire back with the kind of promo that made him a favorite at NXT. Being that this is pro wrestling, it led to an ambush from Joe, of the coquina clutch variety. This is where it became plain as day: Zayn was no longer feuding with Jericho because he’s taking Seth Rollins’ spot at Fastlane.
Admittedly, seeing Zayn no longer in the U.S. title picture was kind of distressing at first. The belt has been suffering for a few months now, being treated more as a prop for Roman Reigns and Jericho rather than a title worth contending for. It needs a solid midcarder to hold it and defend it in the way The Miz did for the Intercontinental Championship for most of 2016, and Zayn is in the perfect position to do that. Plus, Zayn is one of the three previous NXT champions on Raw that hasn’t held a main roster title yet.
But pairing Joe with Zayn for the former’s first main roster feud in the wake of Rollins’ injury is also a supreme vote of confidence. Zayn has had huge momentum coming out of his feud with Braun Strowman, with several on-screen segments focusing on his character, having a main event spot on Raw with Rollins and Reigns, and even arguably the true Iron Man of the Royal Rumble this year since he spent his entire 47 minutes in the match within the ring, unlike Jericho, who spent 31 of his 61 minutes outside of it. Let’s face it: Zayn’s been on a roll since December, and to put him directly in a feud with the red right hand of Triple H after the original plans for Joe had to be scrapped is just the next step in his forward momentum. Plus, they did have some great matches in NXT before Zayn’s departure, so it’s a proven formula that could work again.
The United States Championship is in desperate need of a revamped title scene, and it’s depressing to see it tossed to the wayside yet again instead of being put on a wrestler who could make it worth something. But Seeing WWE trust Zayn Zayn enough to help introduce the terror that is Samoa Joe to a new audience? That’s still pretty damn good.
Ashley Leckwold is a freelance writer based out of Atlanta who specializes in comic books, professional wrestling, and pop-punk music. Besides being regularly found at Graphic Policy and The Outhousers, you can find her at her blog and on Twitter @misskittyf.