Performers, wrestlers included, have to draw inspiration for their characters from somewhere. In wrestling, that often means drawing from real-life events and, in the case of Sami Zayn, it meant channeling his inner "obnoxiousness" from a ping pong game that happened on the other side of the world.
Zayn, whose current run alongside Kevin Owens on WWE's Smackdown brand marks the first time he's played a true heel in his entire wrestling career, recalled the ping pong match against Ho Ho Lun during a recent appearance on Chris Jericho's Talk Is Jericho podcast.
It all happened during a marathon WWE tour that included a stop in China in the fall of 2016. Wrestlers got to the building to find a ping pong table set up in the middle of the locker room. Zayn took on Ho Ho Lun.
"If that ping pong game was a wrestling match? Wow. I was being obnoxious and he'd get a point on me, I'd make excuses. I'd make a point, I'd dance around, I'd take off my shirt, I was sweating, I was like Bill Murray in 'Kingpin'. I was just getting disheveled as the game was going on," Zayn recalled.
More and more people in the locker room got drawn into watching, partly because the table was set up in the center of the room, making it somewhat unavoidable.
"When he beat me, the pop in the locker room was huge! We really got these guys," Zayn said.
Owens brought up that, at one point, Zayn even channeled Brock Lesnar from a real-life altercation about a month earlier between Lesnar and Jericho at Summerslam after Lesnar busted open Randy Orton with a series of elbows to the head. Although Zayn he had no memory of it, Owens noted that Zayn picked up the ball after one point and said "Give me a little kiss", a reference to Lesnar taunting Jericho to kiss him during their incident at Summerslam.
"I get into a zone where I don't know what I'm doing or what I'm saying. I'm just obnoxious," Zayn said.
Click here to listen to the entire interview of Zayn and Owens on Talk Is Jericho.