WWE's Sami Zayn takes on comedy in Toronto

Sami Zayn is a Canadian wrestling superstar by day who is trying his hand at comedy by night.

The current WWE Intercontinental champion will step outside the ring Thursday to flex his stand-up comedy muscles on stage at The Danforth Music Hall.

The 39-year-old from Laval, Que., said the chance to combine his love of wrestling and comedy is a childhood dream come true.

"It's something I love and always wanted to do," he told CBC Toronto. "I really like comedy, drama, athletics, acting and wrestling kind of rolls it all into one."

Wrestling and comedy

Zayn said he sees a lot of similarities between comedy and professional wrestling, which has made crossing over to a different stage a bit easier.

"A lot of that is just like an intuitiveness, a sense of timing and rhythm, and there's almost like a musicality to it," he said.

Zayn has promised fans his show will be unlike anything they've ever seen from him.

He said the event will be more like a variety show, with a little bit of stand-up, some entertainment, special guests and surprises.

One potential guest is Jackass actor and stuntman Johnny Knoxville, who was seen posting a picture of himself at the Los Angeles airport headed for Toronto.

Knoxville beat Zayn in a match at WrestleMania in 2022 and may bring his infamous pranks to the show.

Despite the shenanigans, Zayn joked that while he isn't a true comedian like his favourite comics, Jimmy Carr and Mitch Hedberg, he respects the craft and will continue to work on it.

"These comics work for years and they workshop their stuff for a year before they have to do a special," he said. "I've done it literally once … but you've got to start somewhere."

Canadian WWE Superstar Sami Zayn stands on top of the wrestling ring ropes at a Smack Down show in Montreal, Que. on Feb. 17, 2023.
Canadian WWE Superstar Sami Zayn stands on top of the wrestling ring ropes at a Smack Down show in Montreal, Que. on Feb. 17, 2023. (WWE)

While he started wrestling in 2002 and signed with the WWE in 2014, Zayn did his first comedy show in May for the Netflix is a Joke entertainment festival at the Avalon Hollywood club in Los Angeles ahead of WrestleMania.

His latest show, Sami Zayn & Friends Do Toronto, will take place ahead of one of WWE's biggest events of the year: Money in the Bank. It's the company's first major pay-per-view show in Toronto in almost five years.

Though Zayn may be new to the world of comedy, he said he's been getting advice on how to navigate these gigs from legends who have ventured outside of wrestling like WWE Hall of Famers Mick Foley and The Undertaker.

It's hardly a surprise to wrestling fans like Kris Chambers that Zayn is making moves in comedy, because he says Zayn's in-ring skills and storylines can be just as hard-hitting as they are humorous.

Growth of wrestling in Canada

Chambers is also the owner of Superkick'd, a professional wrestling rock show and training facility based in Toronto's Liberty Village.

The company features a roster of independent wrestlers, as well as former major WWE and AEW talents, but it also allows everyday people the time and space to learn about wrestling.

Kris Chambers, owner and wrestler of Superkick'd in a match at Long Boat Hall in Toronto.
Kris Chambers, owner and wrestler of Superkick'd, in a match at Long Boat Hall in Toronto. (Kris Chambers)

As wrestling's popularity grows on TV and streaming platforms, so too has the influx of people coming into to see Superkick'd.

On the business side, Chambers said things have remained the same with a steady group of supporters but he has seen an uptick in new fans and the types of people interested in wrestling.

"We're seeing a different variety of wrestlers compared to what we used to see in the past … acrobats, former athletes and personalities. The people who want to be wrestlers or love wrestling are always going to find their way," he said.

For local wrestlers, Chambers says seeing someone like Zayn or another independent talent get called up to the WWE from local shows gives up-and-coming wrestlers hope that they can make it too.

Canada has a rich history of wrestling, Zayn said, and he's just thankful that his name can be a part of it.

"Wrestling historically has had its peaks and valleys," he said. "It's really wonderful to see that right now wrestling really seems to be on an upswing."

Zayn's platform

Ahead of his Toronto comedy debut, and the new platforms his comedic efforts are opening up, Zayn said he's grateful for how his platform is allowing him to help others in need.

His parents grew up in Syria and the Syrian community is one Zayn holds close.

In 2017, Zayn launched Sami For Syria, in collaboration with the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation, to provide medical care to displaced residents and refugees in northwest Syria.

"In some cases, it's had life-saving results so it is something I'm proud of. Wrestling has afforded me that privilege," Zayn said.

He told CBC Toronto that he struggles every day with ongoing conflicts in Syria and the Middle East, but that it doesn't deter him from wanting to help people in need.

"It doesn't feel like something I'm doing out of the kindness of my heart," he said. "It really feels like a moral imperative to me more than anything to do whatever I can."