On a recent episode of the After The Bell podcast, reigning tag team champion Sami Zayn opened up about some unusual ideologies that were propagated within the ranks of NXT, WWE's developmental brand. He revealed a stark competitive mentality imposed on him and his contemporaries, likening the atmosphere to a battlefield where everyone was considered an adversary.
"When I first arrived at WWE, particularly in NXT, there was this relentless push for ambition," he said. "The prevailing sentiment was that you should be discontented with being in NXT. There was a constant reminder that your ultimate goal should be to climb the ranks and hit the road with the main roster.
The environment was so competitive that it bred a mentality where everyone around you was considered your enemy."
Zayn Unpacks NXT's Competitive Atmosphere
Zayn recalled the unyielding philosophy WWE management propagated, making every wrestler feel like they were in a constant battle for the limelight.
"Everyone is vying for your spot," he continued. "It's a competition, and you must be the best to make it out of here. If you don't have that burning desire to be the best, this isn't the place for you." He then shared a particularly jarring anecdote about a message disseminated to the NXT roster.
The benchmark was set to an almost unattainable height, where everyone was expected to aim for the stars – namely, to become the next John Cena. "I distinctly remember this line, 'If you don't aspire to be the next John Cena, you don't belong here.'
That statement left me utterly stunned," Zayn remarked. "Consider a room with a hundred people; let's hypothetically say the next Cena is among them. So what about the other 99? Are they expected to live in constant discontentment, striving to fill shoes that may not fit? It felt ludicrous to me." In the same conversation, Zayn also touched upon his part in the Bloodline storyline within WWE.
He shared his occasional frustration at the trajectory of the narrative and the general direction of his character, adding another layer of complexity to his WWE experience. The conversation provided a captivating glimpse into the aggressive competition and high-pressure environment within WWE's developmental program.