Since day one, the careers of Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have followed essentially the same path. Zayn and Owens ascended the ranks of independent wrestling’s ladder in step, graduating from the rough-and-tumble, if dimly lit, circuits of their native Quebec to the relatively brighter lights of international competition, before rising all the way to NXT and, finally, WWE.
In times of peace, Zayn and Owens’ journeys, supported by their close, mutual friendship, ran parallel. However, when their journeys intersect — as they will at WWE Payback — the result is always the same: pure, unadulterated carnage.
Operating under the unofficial motto that they are “destined to do this forever,” Zayn and Owens have been at each other’s throats since Zayn returned to WWE during January’s Royal Rumble Match, in which he ejected The Prizefighter. Before that, the last time the two had met was in NXT the year before, where they warred over the NXT Championship.
The Underdog from the Underground then helped spoil KO-Mania, collapsing Owens with an insane suplex on a ladder which took the defending Intercontinental Champion out of the running and ultimately cost him the title. As retribution, Owens ambushed Zayn the following night, preventing the Superstar from competing in that evening’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship No. 1 Contender’s Fatal 4-Way Match.
The deeply personal ill will between these former best friends goes far beyond what the WWE Universe has observed in recent months. As has been well documented, the fact that Zayn was signed to NXT before Owens seemed to cause resentment; Owens, meanwhile, insists that Zayn simply rode his coattails all these many years.
Given the severity of their conflict, what type of punishment will Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens inflict on each other at WWE Payback, and which Superstar will take one step closer to proving himself the dominant combatant?