Sami Zayn was stripped of the WWE Intercontinental Championship earlier this week as a result of his recent absence. The superstar — who reportedly has backstage heat — is currently social distancing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but WWE is pressing ahead with business as usual. Now the company is getting set to crown a new champion, and the contenders have been revealed.
As documented by the company’s official Twitter account, tonight’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown saw eight participants named for the tournament that will take place to crown a champion for the vacant title. The superstars were AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Drew Gulak, Elias, Jeff Hardy, King Corbin, Sheamus, and Shinsuke Nakamura. Furthermore, some stars progressed to the next round on this week’s episode of the blue brand’s show.
Even though they’ve formed an alliance in recent months, Bryan was pitted against Gulak and emerged victorious. The pair are no strangers to facing each other, and their current team was borne out of the mutual respect they developed following a match at this year’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. After the match, both superstars hugged it out, showing that they’re still friends after their latest grueling battle.
In tonight’s other tournament match, Elias overcame Corbin after the latter superstar tried to cheat his way to victory. This led to Elias sneakily rolling him up for the pinfall. These superstars have been locked in an ongoing rivalry for months and even fought each other at WrestleMania. However, tonight’s win was a much-needed victory for Elias.
— WWE (@WWE) May 16, 2020
Hardy, meanwhile, will face Sheamus next week in what’s sure to be an intense match-up. Both superstars have been at odds in recent weeks as Sheamus has taken issue with the number of promo packages Hardy has received since returning to action. Regardless of the outcome of this match, the rivalry won’t be over.
The next show will also see Styles reignite his rivalry with Nakamura, a feud which dates back to WrestleMania 34. This match is interesting as Styles is a Monday Night Raw superstar, but the company recently introduced a “Brand-to-Brand” invitation that allows stars to appear on different shows.
Zayn losing his championship due to being unable to attend the shows is unfortunate. However, tournaments are always a surefire way to bring intrigue to a wrestling product. This batch of contenders is impressive, and whoever wins will be able to bring some prestige to the championship if WWE books them strongly afterward.