Sami Zayn won't appear on WWE Super Showdown in Saudi Arabia this Friday, and that's reportedly because the government is bothered by his ethnicity. First gaining fame on the indie circuit as the masked luchador character El Generico, Zayn joined WWE's NXT developmental brand in 2013. After a celebrated run on NXT, Zayn moved to WWE's main roster full-time in 2016 and has been an upper card player ever since, barring some lengthy layoffs due to injury.
In summer 2018, Zayn was forced to take time off to have surgery after tearing both rotator cuffs. He ended up on the shelf for the better part of a year, finally returning on the post-WrestleMania episode of Raw back in April. Zayn received a hero's welcome, that is until he lost his return match to Finn Balor, and proceeded to cut a heel promo on the WWE fans. Since then, Zayn has earned raves for his new heel character, a wrestler so fed up with the often critical nature of WWE's audience that he takes it upon himself to personally hold them accountable.
Unfortunately, it seems one audience who won't be held accountable is the government of Saudi Arabia. Beginning with April 2018's Greatest Royal Rumble event, WWE entered into a 10-year, multi-million dollar deal with the Saudi government to hold big events in the country. Of course, in a totalitarian monarchy like Saudi Arabia, one can't produce entertainment events without the express consent and approval of the ruling class. Sami Zayn has yet to appear on the Saudi Arabia shows, and according to The Wrestling Observer (via Cultaholic), his absence is at the specific request of the Saudi government, who don't want Zayn to appear due to his ethnicity.
For those unaware of Zayn's ethnic and cultural background, he was born and raised in Canada, but is a practicing Muslim of Syrian descent. While both Saudi Arabia and Syria are Muslim-majority nations, they are, to put it mildly, not on very friendly terms politically. The government of Saudi Arabia also openly supports the ousting of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and have provided weapons to the side fighting against him in Syria's still raging civil war. While Zayn hasn't expressed support for al-Assad, he's quite active politically, and has set up relief funds to try and pay for the medical treatment of Syrian civilians hurt by the conflict. With all that in mind, it's not incredibly surprising that he's not thought of highly by the Saudi royals. Interestingly, Zayn's best friend Kevin Owens is also not expected to appear at Super ShowDown, but it's unclear if the two things are connected.
Oddly enough, the Saudi Arabian government is apparently perfectly fine with Bill Goldberg wrestling The Undertaker on the Super ShowDown card, despite Goldberg being Jewish. The Saudi government's track record regarding antisemitism is far from stellar, again, to put it mildly. The reasoning for Zayn being kept away from WWE's Saudi Arabia shows is sure to earn the company even more ire, following many protesting WWE's decision to go ahead with the Crown Jewel event back in November, despite the Saudi government's brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. WWE also continues to receive derision for performing in a country that won't allow its female wrestlers to participate. Yet, none of that bad press measures up to millions of dollars, or so it would seem.
Source: The Wrestling Observer (via Cultaholic)