The additions of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn to the WWE main roster have helped add intrigue with these two new prospering stars being introduced over the past year. A large percentage of the fan base already knew both men and their story before they even debuted on RAW. WWE did a great job recapping the history of Owens and Zayn leading up to their superb match at the Payback PPV. The duo started together wrestling on the Montreal independent wrestling circuit before getting their big breaks in PWG, CZW and ROH. Owens and Zayn would become synonymous with each other despite being very different wrestlers.
Owens wrestled under his real name of Kevin Steen and developed into one of the best talkers on the independent scene. Zayn wrestled as El Generico under a mask portraying a luchador from Mexico that knew very little English. The two did their most memorable work in tag team matches together or as hated rivals in brutal battles against each other. Zayn signed with WWE first without the mask and portrayed himself for the first time without a mask as a professional wrestler. Owens would come aboard a year and a half later as the NXT boom started to take place.
Both men were instantly successful with the live audience and the fan base watching at home purchasing merchandise. The current storyline using real life elements to pit them against each other on television every week has been a resounding success. WWE needs new stars with their part time performers and other established main event talent getting up there in age. The freshness of Owens and Zayn adds interest for the casual fan looking for something new. The history of the former tag team through various promotions is making diehard fans eat up every segment between them on national television. Both men have fascinating personalities and quite a bit of great stories. We’ll examine them and look at the top twenty things you never knew about Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
18 Kevin Owens Learned English From Jim Ross’ Commentary
Growing up in Quebec meant Kevin Owens would have the first language of French due to his French-Canadian heritage. Owens would fall in love with pro wrestling and start watching WWE despite the English commentary. Jim Ross, the legendary broadcaster, is considered the greatest of all time but one of his lesser known accolades is teaching Owens the English language through his commentary. Owens picked up on the new language by watching Raw every week and learning the words and phrases through JR. The only unfortunate, yet charming part of the story is Owens believing terms like “slobberknocker” were real things Americans would say on a daily basis.
17 Sami Zayn has Wrestled as El Generico in WWE
The signing of El Generico had fans pondering if he would wrestler under the mask or have to start from scratch. Obviously, he unmasked and it has worked out for the absolute best under the name of Sami Zayn, but he did work one show as El Generico. His first appearance in WWE was at an NXT house show with the El Generico gimmick as he accompanied Brodust Clay to the ring for Clay’s singles match. That was the first and last time we would see the El Generico mask in the WWE. Perhaps it was a trial run for him to show WWE the potential of the gimmick, but the company made the right call by having him unmask given the success that came from it.
16 They Won Tag Titles Together in ROH and PWG
The two most popular independent wrestling promotions of the last decade have definitely been ROH and PWG. All of the top indie stars have worked for at least one of the companies with the elite performers working for both. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn got their first big break in PWG and became independent stars during their tag team push in Ring of Honor. They accomplished the top feat of holding the tag team titles in both promotions and many would argue they were the best tag team on the independent wrestling scene. The chemistry shown on WWE television right now in their work against each other was just as perfect when they were teaming.
15 “The Kevin Owens Show” was a Real Talk Show
Kevin Owens constantly uses the term “The Kevin Owens Show” when referring to RAW or SmackDown. This stems from a project he worked on during his independent wrestling days when hosting The Kevin Steen Show. The show featured Owens interviewing the likes of Matt Hardy, Paul London, The Young Bucks and other friends of his on the independent wrestling circuit. Owens excelled at hosting the show and delivered highly entertaining content with each production. WWE likely will never have him host a true talk show but a kayfabe segment on RAW and SmackDown similar to The Highlight Reel or Piper’s Pit would be outstanding.
14 Sami Zayn is Syrian
The ethnic background of Sami Zayn is nearly impossible to figure out on first glance. Zayn is a pale wrestler from Canada that used to portray a Mexican, so naturally he would be of Syrian descent. The Canadian is proud of his heritage and loves being one of the first wrestlers from a Middle Eastern background that doesn’t have to play a stereotypical character. Zayn speaks Arabic and that’s a great perk for WWE when traveling to countries that would enjoy at least one wrestler being able to speak the native language. The writing on the back of Zayn’s tights doesn’t just look like a smiley face, but it’s his name in Arabic writing.
13 Kevin Owens’ Son is Actually Named Owen
The story of Kevin Owens doing everything he can to thrive in WWE for his family is true in real life. Owens is a family man and his sole purpose of making money in wrestling is to give his wife and children a good life. KO's real name is Kevin Steen, but the name Owens is meant to be a reference to his son, who's also named Owen. Young Owen Steen was recently featured on Xavier Woods’ UpUpDwnDwn YouTube channel under the moniker of Mr. Sonic. Before making it to the WWE, Kevin named his son Owen in tribute to the late Owen Hart because of how loved he was in the industry.
12 Sami Zayn got Soccer Banned at NXT
Chris Jericho’s "Talk is Jericho" podcast once featured Sami Zayn and Neville discussing their careers together. They were the two top stars in NXT for a long time before other world traveling stars were brought on to add to the brand. Zayn and Neville revealed that they would play soccer games backstage before the shows and a couple of incidents caused management to ban it from the venues. Neither man would share the exact story but apparently things would get heated or hectic enough to have it stand out negatively in a professional environment. Wrestlers of the past would get in trouble for drugs and alcohol, but competitive soccer did it for Zayn.
11 Kevin Owens Achieved A Big Goal That Sami Zayn Didn’t
The ROH careers of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were huge parts of their journey to WWE. Following the signing of Daniel Bryan to WWE, Ring of Honor was missing a big main event star and desperately needed other stars to step up. Owens and Zayn were the two standout performers to take their game to another level, entering a yearlong storyline against each other. Both men were main event talents but Owens was the only one of the two to capture the ROH World Championship. Owens defeated Davey Richards to win the title and held it for a little short of a year. Zayn’s El Generico moniker was wildly popular but he never got to the top of the mountain in ROH.
12. Brian Kendrick Didn’t Want to Work With Them in PWG
Brian Kendrick’s WWE run and independent wrestling career made him one of the most underrated names in the business. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had odd situations play out with Kendrick each in different scenarios. Kendrick told a story on his shoot interview about not wanting to work with Zayn due to Zayn trying to dominate the planning of the match and shutting down Kendrick’s ideas. Kendrick felt disrespected and threatened to walk out before regaining his composure and pulling off the match together. Another story saw Kendrick flat out turn down a booking against Kevin Owens in PWG because he didn’t want to take some of Owens’ moves fearing they were too dangerous. The two would eventually meet and no one was hurt in the making of the match.
10 Kevin Owens Moved to Florida and Back to Montreal Within First Year in WWE
The tough personal aspect of the WWE is trying to figure your family into your plans due to the hectic schedule. Kevin Owens moved his wife and children from Montreal to Florida during his time in NXT. It made perfect sense considering the NXT wrestlers spent the majority of their time in Florida and he would be able to have family time. Owens revealed in an interview that he moved his family back to Canada because that’s where all their family and friends are. The main goal of KO is to ensure his family is happy and one of his first acts following the call-up to the main roster was getting them back to the place they truly considered home.
9 Sami Zayn was Supposed to go Back Down to NXT Following the John Cena Match
Sami Zayn’s big introduction to the WWE main roster was accepting John Cena’s United States Open Challenge in Canada. Bret Hart made an appearance to announce Zayn and the home crowd ate it up. Unfortunately, Zayn would suffer an injury that would later require surgery, so we didn’t see him on Raw until months later. Zayn states no one ever told him the official plans for the aftermath of the loss to Cena, but the term used was a “one off” meaning he likely wasn’t going to stick around on the main roster. Things ultimately worked out for Zayn, but it would have sucked back then knowing it wasn’t his official welcoming to the WWE world.
9. They Attended TLC 2012 in the Nosebleeds
TLC 2012 took place in Brooklyn, New York, hours after Ring of Honor ran their Final Battle event earlier in the afternoon in Manhattan. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn main evented the ROH show in a gruelling Ladder Match but made the trip together to Brooklyn to witness the WWE show live. The two were huge stars at the independent wrestling level but sat in the humble upper levels of the venue to watch the show. Former Ring of Honor co-worker Seth Rollins made his PPV debut and the Canadian duo attended the show to witness him perform in a WWE ring. Owens referenced the story when walking to the ring for the main event at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in the same sold out Barclays Center.
8 Kevin Owens is a Zoo Enthusiast
There are three things in life that Kevin Owens loves – family, wrestling and animals. Owens has developed the reputation for being a zoo enthusiast due to visiting the zoos of cities he would visit for the first time while traveling for wrestling. The Twitter account of Owens has revealed he has pet cats, dogs and used to own a cane toad. No one in WWE has adoration towards animals like Owens. The popularity of becoming a WWE superstar has given him the opportunity to get tours at zoos and the ability to interact with the animals along with his family. Owens used to sell “zoo enthusiast” t-shirts on the independent circuit and they would make big bucks.
7 Sami Zayn Put NXT on the Map
The rise of NXT has been nothing short of staggering and the once developmental project is now selling out huge venues similar to RAW or PPVs. The additions of names like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura caused a stir that added massive momentum to add to the growth. Sami Zayn deserves the most credit for adding buzz to the letters NXT at a time when no one cared about it. The show was available internationally and on Hulu, but it was rather irrelevant until Zayn started having great matches on a regular basis. Zayn’s classics against Cesaro and Jack Swagger created a buzz due to word of mouth, leading to fans checking out the show and starting to fall in love with NXT.
6 Vince Russo HATES Them Both
Vince Russo is trying to create a “brand” featuring his opinions being shared through podcasts, videos and blogs. The always controversial pundit has very unflattering things to say about the work of both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Russo believes Owens looks out of shape and doesn’t belong on television despite the majority of fans disagreeing with him. The recent return of Zayn has led to Russo making him the new target of insults by saying Zayn looks like a taxi driver rather than a wrestler. Russo blames Owens and Zayn for representing the things that have ruined wrestling. Perhaps it would help if they had matches with objects on a pole or with David Arquette defeating them.
5 Jim Cornette HATES Them Both
The only thing that Jim Cornette and Vince Russo can agree on is that they both dislike Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Cornette inherited a position of power in ROH and butted heads with Owens and Zayn at every show. Owens and Zayn were in the process of keeping the promotion relevant with their bitter rivalry but Cornette loathed it. The old school loudmouth felt the use of hardcore matches and the physiques of each man represented what was wrong with the state of the business and treated them poorly. Cornette actually sent Owens home for months until fans expressed an interest that demanded a return to ROH. The success of Owens and Zayn in WWE is the ultimate “I told you so” moment to Jim Cornette.
4 Sami Zayn Made a Fool of Himself in Front of Axl Rose
Sami Zayn is a huge rock 'n' roll fan with a love for attending concerts. Zayn lucked into attending a Guns N Roses concert with CM Punk, Cliff Compton and a few others. Compton scored the group backstage passes and Zayn had a rough night. The very humble performer in the ring is quite confident. Outside of it, he has a knack for getting get too comfortable around others. Zayn recanted the story of dancing backstage and getting into the zone until he was on the actual stage. Later in the night, Zayn boldly tried to get face time with Axl Rose backstage and requested a photograph before the lead singer shut him down.
3 Kevin Owens Almost Quit Wrestling
Kevin Owens' ROH career is storied with a great library of work, amazing accomplishments and special memories. It would appear that everything was perfect but there was a time period that almost caused Owens to retire. Jim Cornette sent Owens home with the plan to bring him back soon but the time started to grow. Owens went months without the ROH pay he was used to and it negatively impacted his life. With a wife and child, Owens almost quit the industry in hopes of finding a better paying job to take care of his loved ones, just a few months before things took off with his ROH return. Owens used the opportunity coming back to hit home run after home run and now is one of the biggest stars in WWE.
2 Both Took Pay Cuts to Come to NXT
There’s an assumption that it is impossible to make a living wrestling on the independent wrestling scene but that’s not true for the top names. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn both became valuable enough to command a better pay. The addition of outside projects and merchandise led to each man making a decent overall living in ROH and the independents. Owens, Zayn and just about any main event level independent wrestling attraction coming to WWE took a pay cut when signing with NXT. The deal is more of a calculated risk with the hopes of getting to the main roster and making the big money. Owens and Zayn bet on themselves and are enjoying the payoff right now after making their WrestleMania debuts.
1 Bret Hart Believes They are the Next Big WWE Stars
Many old school wrestling minds have a dislike for the unique styles and personalities of both men as seen with Jim Cornette and Vince Russo. One legend to have kind words for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn has been Bret Hart. The Hitman praises both of his fellow Canadians frequently on his podcast and believe they are the best talents in WWE today. Hart views Owens as the most compelling wrestler in the world and Zayn is right behind him. With mostly negative views on the current product, Bret does speak up about what he likes and he believes the company has their next big main event superstars with Owens and Zayn. If Bret Hart has his way, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will main event a WrestleMania one day.