Wrestling fans have long known how talented Sami Zayn is, but in WWE, those skills haven’t always translated into a sustained push. That started to change once the former NXT Champion aligned himself with The Bloodline.
What started as a diversionary side story gradually evolved into one of WWE’s all-time greatest storylines. Zayn’s on-screen chemistry with each member of The Bloodline added some life to an act that started to grow stale, and his combination of great comedic timing and relatability made him one of the most over babyfaces in the company.
The current Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns, has also taken notice of Zayn’s ascent.
Roman Reigns praises Sami Zayn’s work as the “Honorary Uce”
Speaking with ESPN’s Mike Coppinger, Reigns explained why Zayn worked so well as the “Honorary Uce” and why no one else could’ve filled that spot as effectively (h/t to Fightful’s Jeremy Lambert for the transcription):
"“I was entertained by him when he did the Jackass stuff and really respected the way he navigated that creative [process]. I believe I can do work of this level with… other guys, they’d just be different,” Reigns told ESPN. “It wouldn’t be the same. It would be a different character, a different angle, a different layer. Nobody would be able to be the ‘Honorary Uce’ other than Sami Zayn. He’s endearing in that way where you want something good for him. Even if he doesn’t deserve it, you still want it for him.”"
Zayn has since left the Bloodline, being excommunicated from the group after objecting to Reigns’ post-match attack on Kevin Owens at the Royal Rumble. This led to a title match between Reigns and Zayn at Elimination Chamber in Zayn’s home province of Quebec, with Reigns pinning Zayn to retain his title. Zayn will now team with Owens to challenge The Usos for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania 39.
Reigns is also busy at that event; he will defend his Universal Title against Cody Rhodes.
Was Roman Reigns right to say that no one could’ve been the “Honorary Uce” other than Zayn?
While WWE could’ve found any midcarder with good mic skills to fill the role Zayn occupied, it likely wouldn’t have gotten one-liners such as “My Dawg” or “Ucey”. Sure, this substitute person could’ve come up with something else, but that’s the point. Those catchphrases, much like Zayn’s relationship with each Bloodline member, materialized because of Zayn’s unique charisma and quirky personality, so it’s silly to think anyone else could’ve replicated that.
That’s a good thing, though. In the past, WWE has made the mistake of creating stories and plugging wrestlers into whatever character roles are required without considering whether those characters fit in the spots the company tries to cram them in. In this Bloodline story, the narrative is built around the characters and their interactions with each other, and their actions are based on those relationships and motivations.
From there, you can establish tangible stakes to matches (aside from the inherent stakes of a professional athletic contest) and consequences for the results, thus keeping the audience invested in what’s happening.
So, yes, someone of equal talent (or even slightly lesser talent) could’ve come in and produced an entertaining facsimile of Zayn’s work, but we all know there’s only one “Honorary Uce”.