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411 Wrestling Fact or Fiction: Should Sami Zayn be WWE Universal Champion?

December 14, 2021 | Posted by Jake Chambers
Brock Lesnar Sami Zayn WWE Smackdown Image Credit: WWE

Welcome back to the 411mania Wrestling Fact or Fiction. I’m your host Jake Chambers.

This week we are having the first round of the Annual Larry Csonka Memorial Fact or Fiction Tournament.

Let’s never forget Larry! Especially as readers, writers, and friends of 411mania, we owe much to a man who made it his career to shape the voice of this site. Legendary for the amount of reviews he crafted on a weekly basis, Larry’s tenure with 411 went even further to include many opinion columns as well as curating of the wrestling news feed on a daily basis. Having all of those elements focused through the Larry lens gave us all a reliably aesthetic, inclusive and accountable wrestling world view. May we never take for granted the research and reflection of a pundit and academic like Larry when we discuss this art form and industry.

So today I’ve asked two friends of Larry to join me. These are people who have also experienced life behind the scenes as editors and tastemakers at two of the world’s best wrestling sites: our very own 411 site editor Jeremy Thomas and the lead wrestling writer at Fightful.com Jeremy Lambert.

Participants were told to expect wrestling-related content, as well as possible statements on quantum physics, homemade pharmaceuticals, the Turtle Total Trip Theorem, pizza and hydroponics.

Statement #1: You would have liked it if one of Larry’s favorite wrestlers, Sami Zayn, somehow come out of his Smackdown title match as WWE Universal Champion.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – This is technically a Fact.  I would have liked it, but I also didn’t have any illusions that it was going to happen, nor do I think WWE was wrong in not giving it to him.  Sure, you could have absolutely given Zayn the Eddie Guerrero-style title win where Lesnar costs Reigns the title, and Lesnar goes on to feud with Reigns while Sami somehow manages to slip by them and have his own reign.  But right now, Reigns vs. Lesnar is their marquee feud and while I don’t think it needs the title, it doesn’t hurt to have it in there.  It wouldn’t have made sense for Brock to just forget about the title, and if he doesn’t than what?  He squashes Sami — making the title reign meaningless – or Reigns costs Lesnar his title match somehow and Zayn and the title come out looking afterthought of a larger feud.

Do I think Sami should eventually get a run with the Universal or WWE Championship?  Absolutely.  He’s one of WWE’s most underappreciated (by management) talents and has been delivering great work since pretty much the day he stepped in the door.  I just don’t think it should be here.  Give him a Money in the Bank shot that he cashes in at some point for a reign, I’m all for that.  But for this, while I would have liked it, I don’t think it was the wrong call.

Jeremy Lambert: FICTION – As much as I love Sami Zayn, he can’t be the guy to dethrone Roman Reigns. It is someone who needs that break and who can be seen as the future of WWE. Zayn is at where he’s at and they have no plans to push him beyond comedy heel. 

Statement #2: Pro-Wrestling business executives care what the wrestling media says about their companies in articles, Twitter, and on podcasts.

Jeremy Thomas: FICTION – Not in any appreciable way, at least not the ones with good heads on their shoulders.  I know Tony Khan is viewed as a bit thin-skinned, and I think that is absolutely true in terms of comments from WWE toward AEW.  But he doesn’t care what we write on 411, or what Dave Meltzer writes in the WON, or what Sean Ross Sapp says on a podcast.  And Vince McMahon especially doesn’t care, and with 100% certainly I can say he isn’t aware of it (although he has PR people to pay attention to it).  

This idea has been laughable to me for a long time.  Listen, there’s a lot regarding what the wrestling industry does regarding its relationship with “the media” (such as we are) that is shady as fuck.  Wrestling as an industry has been consistently hostile to journalism because of its inability to completely shake the concept of kayfabe, and I get that.  But they also don’t care what we write.  They don’t even give the slightest shit if I give an episode of NXT a 4.0 out of 10.0, or whether Mike Johnson gives effusive praise to an episode of AEW Dynamite.  They really don’t.  The talent may care, but the executives do not.

Now, executives do care what the prevailing conversation amongst fans is, and there can be an argument made that wrestling media guides that conversation, but that argument is specious at best.  And regardless, wrestling executives will just follow the scope of conversation through their mountains of market research and following Twitter trends and the like.  They don’t need to read Tony’s AEW Dynamite review or Steve’s Fave Five to get the temperature of the wrestling conversation.

Jeremy Lambert: FACT – Some do. I know personally that Tony Khan does because I called out him wanting to do intermissions for pay-per-views, others didn’t think it was a good idea either, and he dropped the idea. Does this mean they listen to all the heat or criticisms? Of course not. But Tony is very much online and sees a lot of things. I believe other executives are online as well and paying attention to what the majority of fans are looking for since, outside of WWE, most fans for other companies are very much online. WWE is the major company where I don’t believe most of their fans are online and are indeed the vocal minority. 

Statement #3: Jeremy Borash belongs in the Hall of Fame for a company that Larry covered from day one: TNA/IMPACT Wrestling.

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – I don’t think it’ll happen any time incredibly soon (though Impact may surprise me), but this would absolutely be warranted.  Borash was such an important part of TNA and Impact that he 100% deserves to be honored, and his being the voice of TNA for years makes him known well enough to fans that it’s plausible it happens.  But beyond just his commentator work, Borash did so much behind the scenes that he should be honored, whether it’s his contributions as a writer, a producer/editor, or his on-screen work and occasional storyline involvement.  I don’t know how much his current employment for WWE would complicate that, but if they could work it out, I would love to see Borash get honored by Impact for the years of great work he put in there.

Jeremy Lambert: FACT – He’s done more for the company than Earl Hebner so yes. Borash was a big part of IMPACT’s presentation and production. He should be honored for his work, but that’s obviously not going to happen while he’s still in WWE. And there are other names who should be honored before Borash. But most of them are in WWE as well. 

¡SWITCH!

Statement #4: Taylor Swift is too good to sing “America the Beautiful” at WrestleMania.

Jeremy Lambert: FACT – No explanation needed. 

Jeremy Thomas: FICTION – I have a lot of questions about what we mean by “too good.”  To we mean too talented, or she thinks too much of herself?  In either case, I don’t think the answer is “Fact.”  And don’t get it twisted, Swifties – I am one of you.  I love Swift’s music (folklore and evermore were two of the best albums of 2020; fight me).

But let’s look at this rationally, shall we?  Is she too talented to do what the likes of Aretha Franklin (twice), Little Richard, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles, and John Legend have done?  Those are iconic names, and you can make an argument she fits in with them, but there is not an argument that she’s too good to do what they’ve done.

And so that brings us to if she thinks too much of herself, and again I have to say no.  She’s shown herself to be very self-deprecating at times and she absolutely is familiar with wrestling; she is a close friend to the Jarrett family and all three of Jeff’s daughters appeared in the music video for “Mine.”  I think WWE would have to shell out a bit if they wanted to get her – because of that whole “one of the biggest music stars in the world” thing — and I don’t think they would.  But while she’s VERY good, she is not too good, and I don’t imagine she’d consider it beneath her by any stretch.  C’mon, Vince – WrestleMania 38, T-Swift.  Book it!

Statement #5: Larry would have loved working Nov/Dec 2021, with all the various WWE, NXT, AEW, IMPACT, ROH, MLW, Beyond TV shows and PPVs, along with the entire NJPW Best of the Super Juniors / World Tag League tournaments.

Jeremy Lambert: FACT – Larry always loved working. His work ethic was second to none and he enjoyed all times in wrestling. The busier the better for him because there was no one better at covering literally every single show that was out there. And there’s more wrestling than ever right now. 

Jeremy Thomas: FACT – Oh gods, are you kidding me?  While he would probably be losing his shit about some of the stuff that’s gone on as of late (WWE’s releases, ROH’s hiatus), the current era would have been kid in a candy store time for him.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is the biggest wrestling boom we’ve had since the Attitude Era and being able to write about Roman Reigns’ run atop Smackdown, Big E.’s WWE title reign, CM Punk and Bryan Danielson in AEW, everything going on in New Japan, Moose as Impact World Champion, and so on would have been an absolute delight for him.  I’m sure he’s in the middle of some rant right now in the afterlife about Cody’s AEW work or the Vince McMahon/Austin Theory storyline.  I just wish I could hear it.

So, who do you think won the unofficial “Battle of the Jeremys” in honor of the late, great Larry Csonka? One of these men will move on to the tournament finals and you will determine the winner below!

Big thanks to Jeremy Lambert for taking the time to participate. Be sure to check out his podcast at Fightful, The Distraction, every Thursday at 3pm EST or on demand anytime afterwards. And if you don’t already, follow the Point God himself on Twitter do so right now: https://twitter.com/jeremylambert88

And you can find Jeremy Thomas right here every day, but definitely never miss his killer weekly Box Office reports, and be sure to correct yourself ASAP if you’re not following him on Twitter already as well: https://twitter.com/jthomas411mania

Don’t forget, the Go Fund Me for Larry’s family is still open for donations. Let’s help them reach that goal and show we’ve never forgotten what Larry meant to us!

And we’ll be back soon with the next match up in the Larry Csonka Memorial FoF Tournament – don’t miss it!