If you’re wondering why Sami Zayn wasn’t included in a 50-Man Royal Rumble Match that featured a sumo wrestler you’ll likely never see again, he probably is, too.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the status of Zayn was kept really quiet leading up to the event. However, Zayn himself was informed about a week ahead of the show that he’d be participating in an injury angle to explain his absence from the Greatest Royal Rumble. The Observer also states that Zayn says he wasn’t given a reason he wasn’t included in the event.
Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported last week Zayn was not booked to compete on the show to respect the local culture in Saudi Arabia.
Zayn is of Syrian descent and his native country has strained ties with Saudi Arabia. Diplomatic ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia have been strained since 2012, especially after Saudi Arabia cut off relations with them after Syria decided to close down its embassy in Damascus. The Syrian ambassador was expelled in 2012.
WWE announcers were also reportedly instructed to not bring up the issue until after the show in an effort to avoid controversy if possible. The company was already facing substantial heat for the fact that their female competitors couldn’t appear on the show, despite being an integral part of their weekly program.
When pressed on the issue of exclusion, WWE issued the following statement last week ahead of the Greatest Royal Rumble:
“WWE is committed to embracing individuals from all backgrounds while respecting local customs and cultural differences around the world.”
It’s worth noting that Zayn has wrestled in Saudi Arabia for WWE before. From April 17 to April 19, 2014, Zayn wrestled in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for three straight nights. At the time, he wasn’t even a main roster member, but WWE wanted to use him as a Middle Eastern star.