Montreal native Sami Zayn. (Courtesy World Wrestling Entertainment)
Money In the Bank: a match in which competitors vie to climb a ladder and unclasp a metal briefcase that hangs suspended above the middle of a World Wrestling Entertainment ring, with the hopes and dreams of those competitors literally hanging in the balance.
Its winner is all but guaranteed a date with destiny. Inside that briefcase is a WWE contract enabling the possessor of that briefcase a shot at the biggest prize in WWE, a WWE World Heavyweight championship match, anywhere, any place, any time.
So whether the current champion is ready or not, or even physically able to defend his title, the contract holder can strike, without notice.
On Sunday, six men, three of them Canadian, will climb inside a ring at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view on the WWE Network, each with a chance at grabbing the proverbial ball and running with it.
Quebec natives Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens join fellow Canadian Chris Jericho and WWE stars Cesaro, Alberto Del Rio and Dean Ambrose in a match that can drastically alter the career of the winner. To say there’s a lot at stake is a gross understatement.
Zayn, who spoke with international media ahead of the match, knows what’s on the line.
“I’ve definitely thought about it,” he said when asked if he’s given much thought to what it might feel like, some 12 years into his career, to pull down that briefcase and instantly be anointed “the next one.”
“I think more than anything, it’s the opportunity that it presents. It’s almost a lock that people who’ve won that briefcase (go on) to win a WWE World Heavyweight championship. And if I can win the world championship, that’s it. That’s the full circle. I think it would be very symbolic for me. It’s a huge match for me.”
In order for Zayn, certainly undersized physically in this match, to come full circle, he must go through five other men, all with their own aspirations of wrestling immortality, and two of whom have played large roles in the life and career of Zayn himself in Owens and Jericho.
Owens, who wrestled as Kevin Steen on the independent scene, and Zayn, who rose to fame as the masked El Generico, started their careers at almost the same time, in the same province, and built one of the greatest non-televised rivalries in all of wrestling.
Kevin Owens flips Sami Zayn onto a ladder as part of their match at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, Texas. (World Wrestling Entertainment photo)
In fact, Zayn’s battles with Owens were so rich and storied that fans are still clamouring for more. That surprises the WWE star.
“(I’m) astonished that people are still interested in seeing it after all these years,” Zayn said.
“I know it’s kind of reaching a new audience now, the WWE Universe, but again, we’ve had this rivalry going on since 2003 when we started. We took that rivalry all over Quebec and eventually we broke out in the (United) States in 2004, that rivalry came with us all over America and then all over the world.”
Yet, here they are, together again, standing on opposite corners inside a wrestling ring, now on the biggest stage in the world, and fans still want more.
“There’s something very strange about the dynamic between Kevin and I that people, no matter how many times they’ve seen it, it seems to always get fans’ attention,” Zayn said, attempting to explain the relationship. “It’s just shocking to me that (rivalry) worked right up until NXT and now continues to work on the main roster. There’s just something there, I can’t quite explain it, but I’m just happy that fans are standing by it.”
Zayn believes that his rivalry with Owens, while not documented in the WWE, is still evident to its fans.
“I think that’s one of the main advantages that this rivalry has over a lot of the rivalries in the WWE currently,” he said. “The roster is so new in a lot of ways. It’s just part of this new era, there’s been such a turnover of new faces that there’s not a lot of genuine history that goes back that deep between all of these people. Many people on the roster I’ve actually known for many years, like Cesaro, Seth Rollins, Luke Harper … A lot of the people on the roster I’ve actually known for over 10 years so there’s a built-in history there that you can always kind of go back to. But especially with Kevin more than anyone. It’s a very, I don’t want to call it a twisted relationship, but when you’ve been in a relationship with anybody for that long, there’s going to be some real ups and downs so there’s an actual, genuine reason to fight. I think that’s maybe what fans find captivating.”
He other compatriot in the match Sunday is Winnipeg native and WWE legend Chris Jericho, who is 45 years young and still in the main event picture. Y2J was someone Zayn admitted he modelled his own career after.
“Jericho inspired me a lot, even at a much younger age,” Zayn said. “He was one of the guys I think I modelled my career after, speaking of the journey he took to get to WWE. He started in Canada and made his way to the U.S. and worked through the territories and then Mexico and Japan and ECW and WCW and then finally ended up in WWE. That, to me, was always a very attractive career path.
“To see him now, all these years later, still be relevant and adaptable and to be able to be in the main event scene and it’s not awkward — sometimes some of these guys come back and it’s like they don’t fit anymore, through no fault of their own, just times change and then something just doesn’t fit, it just doesn’t feel right — Jericho is just so adaptable that he’s been able to change with the times.”
Zayn also marvelled at how Jericho’s ability to still work at a high level after 25-plus years in the business.
“From a physical standpoint, the fact that he’s still in these main event matches and everything else at 45 is completely, completely inspirational to me. A little unbelievable to me as well. I’d like to be in that kind of shape when I’m 45 and still be able to go.”
Canadians Sami Zayn, left, and Kevin Owens have a rich history in pro wrestling, dating back more than a decade. (World Wrestling Entertainment photo)
For now, Zayn said he’s focused on the task at hand, capturing the Money in the Bank contract and cementing his shot at greatness, something he admitted he’s enjoyed watching others before him do.
“The Money in the Bank match itself is always pretty exciting, there’s no way around it,” he said. “You’ve got all these top players going for the championship, but to me, it’s really the impact of the Money in the Bank contract and the briefcase and what that’s symbolic of, that ability to cash in at any time. Those moments are very, very kind of historic and memorable. Daniel Bryan winning at Money in the Bank was a big one for me just because I’ve been a fan of his for so long and a peer of his for so long, it was very good to see him win that match because you knew what it meant: that he was probably going to go on to cash it in at the right time and become World Heavyweight champion, which he did. Watching Seth Rollins cash in, watching all of these people cash in over the years at the right time and become champion is really the part of the match that sticks out to me the most, the after-effect.”
Zayn is certainly not lacking in confidence heading into the pay-per-view, coming off a big win on Monday Night Raw over one of his opponents for Sunday in Cesaro. In fact, he told media members, there’s not a person employed by WWE that he doesn’t think he can’t defeat.
“There’s really honestly nobody on the roster that I don’t think I can beat,” he said. “There are a lot of people on the roster I think can beat me, but I think I can beat every single one of them, too. I know, for example, Alberto Del Rio has already won that match (in his career), Jericho has done so much in his career, Kevin Owens has tons of momentum, Ambrose has been one of our top guys for years and Cesaro’s kind of in that same position as I am where he’s just hungry to break out.
“Everybody has a lot to offer in this match and again, I think any one of them could beat me on any given night, but I think I could beat any one of them, and all of them, on any given night and hopefully Sunday is that night.”
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