Zak Zodiac speaks candidly about Saraya’s in-ring return and his aspiration to work AEW’s U.K. show.
AEW’s 2022 Full Gear pay-per-view featured the in-ring return of Saraya. She scored a win over Britt Baker and the two are scheduled to share the ring again in January in a tag match.
Ringside for Saraya and Baker’s pay-per-view match was Zak Zodiac, fellow pro wrestler and Saraya’s brother. Zak dove into Saraya’s return and stories surrounding it while doing a Q&A on the Wrestling With Johners Podcast.
When Saraya found out she was cleared to compete, she contacted Zak and brought him to her location to train. Zak ended up visiting AEW and being backstage as a guest. He only planned on being in the U.S. for a short period of time because he had bookings in the United Kingdom. Those were cancelled after AEW representatives asked Zak if he would stay through the pay-per-view. He also addressed those who feel he’s riding the coattails of his sister.
I’m glad you asked this question [about Saraya’s in-ring return] because a lot of people, they’re assuming I’m trying to ride Saraya’s coattails when in actual fact, Saraya messaged me saying, ‘Bro, I’ve been cleared. I need to get in the ring, I need to train.’ So straight away, I’m like, ‘Hell yeah. Fly me out there. Let’s go.’ So my original reason for going out there was to help her get her ring fitness back, to get in there and spar a little bit, a little bit of movement, maybe come up with some different moves that are gonna protect her. She has to protect that neck now. Yes, she’s been given 100 percent clearance but at the same time, you’ve got to work smart and that’s what it was all about so you know, I flew out there. I was scheduled to go to Dynamite which I’d done. I got to meet everyone backstage including Tony [Khan]. We had a good chat and stuff and it was at that point they said to me, ‘Is there any chance that you could stay for Full Gear?’ To which I had B.W.R. [British Wrestling Revolution] the Friday and RevPro on Sunday in Sheffield where I was originally meant to wrestle Ricky [Knight] Jr. So I messaged B.W.R. and I said to them, ‘Look, they’ve asked me to stay. This is a huge opportunity.’ No, I’m not wrestling but at the same time, you know, any time on TV, whether it’s ten seconds, 30 seconds, a minute, your face is being seen and I’m trying to let people know that I’m still grinding, I’m still here. Zak Zodiac is still aiming for the stars and for the big leagues and stuff so, when I see that name bar come up the next day [lower-third at Full Gear], I was taken back. A lot of people were like, ‘Well it says Saraya’s brother.’ Well state the bloody obvious mate, I am Saraya’s brother but take that away, they’ve credited me as a 20-year veteran of the UK. That was humbling. I’m still a young man. I’m 31 years old and I still class myself as a young boy in this business that is still eager, still willing to learn, still taking these silly bumps to get noticed and who cares about a bump card at this stage? That’s me so, for AEW to credit me with that and put my wrestling name, I was so humbled. Really taken back and I couldn’t wait to share it to all my family and friends on my socials. I was made up.
As for the match between Saraya and Baker, Zak helped produce it along with Dean Malenko and B.J. Whitmer. Saraya asked him to help be a part of that process and said Malenko and Whitmer were open to his ideas. His focus was on was making sure Saraya came out of the match safe.
Well the thing is, from the get-go, the obvious thing is we need to protect Saraya. This is her first match back. We can do as much training as you want but when you’re live in front of 15,000 people, your adrenaline’s up, you’re sucking wind. Accidents can happen so, when I was out there, Saraya actually asked me to help produce her match which I was really honored about. Obviously, they got producers that are being paid out there but, I was welcomed in with open arms with a gentleman called B.J. [Whitmer] and Dean [Malenko]. They were very supportive of some of the ideas I’d come up with. I sort of helped structure it. Not loads but, enough for me to know I left my fingerprints on the match and I know people have got their opinions on it and this, that and the other but, you know, Toni Storm and Jamie Hayter were the girls to go out there and get into sixth gear and show people what Saraya had opened ten years ago which is time for the girls, for the girls to go out there and show that they’re just as good and for me, that was probably the best match of the pay-per-view was Toni and Jamie Hayter. I’m not gonna deny it. But for me, it was making sure that Saraya walked out the same way she walked in. It was a great match, a great story. It was about a comeback of a woman that, you know, helped build a revolution and then you’ve got a woman on the other side that has built AEW from the ground up and been the face of the division and it’s can Saraya still go with the top girl in the world? And that was the story, the fans appreciated it. Both walked out injury-free and yeah, she didn’t look like she missed a beat. I’m excited to see what the upcoming matches are and I know that she’s already back in the gym, training, getting her wind up and making sure that she keeps kicking ass. That’s what Saraya do. She’s an inspiration.
Being backstage for that week of AEW events, Zodiac initially took a more observant approach but he became comfortable after feeling welcomed.
He stated that his mindset went from he wishes he could be there as a talent to AEW is where he should be.
When you walk into AEW, it’s sort of eyes and ears open, mouth shut. You wanna be seen but you don’t wanna be heard. That’s the way I was brought up in this business. I try to keep my head down but as the days went on, I just got more comfortable. They really are so welcoming. There’s no one there that feels like they’re above anyone else. They’ll all go ringside, they’ll all chat, they’ll all help each other. They’ve all got that same vision which is to help AEW move forward collectively as one. They know that one person can’t do it, it’s a team effort to move a juggernaut forward and there’s a real family feel there. You could see that they’re all wanting to do it to benefit themselves and the company and the brand so, you know, it was a real honor to be a part of that week; Dynamite, Rampage, Dark, Dark: Elevation, Full Gear. I was a part of every single one of them shows and it was a real eye-opener but as time went on — I don’t know whether I’m gonna get heat for saying this — but it went from, man, I wish I was here to this is where I should be, and I’m a firm believer of you have to believe in yourself. If you ask Tyson Fury who the best boxer in the world is, his answer would be Tyson Fury and that’s how I am with me. I believe that I am the best all-around professional wrestler the U.K. has to offer and I say ‘all-around’ because I’ve really worked on every style of this industry. There’s none that are more flamboyant than the other. Collectively, I’ve amalgamated a style from learning everything there is to learn and I’m not saying I know everything because in wrestling, one of the magic parts in wrestling is you never stop learning. So this is what excites me to keep pushing forward, keep learning, keep perfecting my craft and maybe one day, I will stand with the elites and say, you know what? I worked hard to get here and I deserve to be here.
In 2023, AEW is making their debut in the United Kingdom; date(s) and location have yet to be announced. Zak expressed that he is going to do everything he can to be a part of it. He then brought up the eventful 2023 he has lined up for himself.
Listen, they’re [AEW] coming to London. I’m gonna do everything I possibly can to get on that show, to give myself an opportunity, the big stage in front of my home fans. I honestly think that if there’s a show that my name was meant to be on, it’s this one. But the problem is there’s no dates. We don’t even know where it’s going, what’s happening or anything yet. So the last thing they’re gonna do is contact talent and tell ‘em, listen, you’re gonna be on the show. I haven’t got the date or the venue or the time or anything, but you’re on it. They know better than that. My life can’t be put on hold in the hope that I’m gonna get that. Right now, 2023 is looking hectic. Germany, France, Italy, Australia, America, hopefully Japan is another one. These countries and companies, they’re all coming forward and they want me there so, I just gotta keep grinding and moving forward. But you know, I’m hoping, my fingers are crossed. If people keep supporting me the way they are on socials and there’s a little hashtag going around at the moment, #SignZakZodiac. It doesn’t matter if two people do it, I’m so humbled by it. There’s two people that believe in me as much as I believe in myself, you know? So, fingers crossed I think it is the answer.
Several months ago, Zodiac made his debut for NJPW on night one of their Royal Quest II event(s). He was a part of a tag match and on the opposite end of the ring were Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada.
If the quotes in this article are used, please credit the Wrestling With Johners Podcast with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.