TORONTO — I’m to going to start at the end with my take on the Sami Zayn and Friends Do Toronto comedy show from Thursday night.

After a little more than two hours of a mixed bag of skits and conversation, Zayn got, hmm, bagged, by Johnny Knoxville, and was left lying on the Danforth Music Hall stage in Toronto’s east end. Now alone, prone and selling the nut-shot, with a singular spotlight shining on him, Zayn asked, “Was it good?” as the house lights came on.

Well, yes and no.

We’ve all sat through Saturday Night Live sketches that have a good premise and just go on far too long. The middle part of the Zayn show was exactly that, but it was also perhaps the “realist” part as well.

Zayn was monologuing a little when a “fan” wandered onto the stage and proceeded to rave about what a big fan of Sami’s he was. It was a pretty stereotypical wrestling fan — overzealous, poorly dressed, ignorant of social cues and, well, kinda weird and creepy. Zayn had to play the villain, trying to get this dude off the stage, at which point Trish Stratus came out (to a big pop) and they proceeded to not only do the same schtick again, with the fan now fawning over Trish, but then get into a friendly competition over who the fan loved the most.

Through social media, we have learned time and again about how so many over-eager fans can truly bother the wrestlers to the point of frustration and exhaustion. Sign this. Selfie please. Can you do a video for my friend? 

So this skit was both on the money portraying some of the best and worst parts of fandom, and painfully long. I can’t say it was unfunny, but I can’t say they were rolling in the aisles either. Maybe because some saw too much of themselves in the fan? Or maybe they missed the self-referencing altogether.

By far the best part of the night was the non-wrestlers, with improv Andrew Phung (Kim’s Convenience, Run the Burns) and Gavin Williams. Compared to Zayn, who was manic, constantly in motion and unable to truly settle in, Phung and Williams brought a comfort level that the host couldn’t reach. Phung, dressed in a vintage Austin 3:16 black leather vest from his closet — where else would you wear that? — is a huge wrestling geek and showed it. He and Williams did improv based around famed catchphrases and it was clever and funny.

Phung, in the heat of the improvisation, mentioned being a “young buck” which drew boos, at which point he dropped the bit, turned to the audience and admitted that he didn’t mean to reference the Young Bucks and AEW but it was a happy accident.

For a WWE show, AEW actually came up more than a few times, mainly from WWE Undisputed champion Cody Rhodes, who was a pretty great get, and by far the most over of anyone. Rhodes mentioned “at my previous job” while sitting on the couch shooting the bull with Zayn and mentioned about how he liked to do impromptu barking backstage in AEW — actually saying Dynamite and Dark — and that he brought it to WWE.

The chemistry that Zayn had with Rhodes as they talked about Dusty Rhodes and the whole idea of the “Cody Lie” where a story just gets wilder and wilder was great and enjoyable; it’s a “tendency to add a little to the pot,” cracked Cody.

Letting himself be a little less PG, Rhodes mentioned how he had once labelled Matt Cardona as a “pecker checker” in the locker room as a joke and that he was the most “persnickety” of the Rhodes family.

Rhodes teased that Zayn often appeared to be “the most unprepared man on the planet,” taping his wrists as his music was starting, but that he was a great talent.

That chemistry wasn’t quite as good with Raw Women’s champion Bayley but it was still refreshing just to see two friends chilling and telling stories, way looser and cooler than anything that usually makes it to air. (It should be noted that all phones and recording devices were locked up by the venue.) They traded tales about working in NXT, dancing, and Zayn got Bayley to juggle, which proved to be a lot tougher than whatever Instagram or X post she chose to share where she was successful.

Bayley poked fun at Zayn: “You ran your own [show] to put yourself over.” Which was sorta true.

Then there’s Johnny Knoxville, a running theme during the show. Zayn had hired a security “team” to deal with him, as the Jackass star who faced Zayn at WrestleMania last year, had posted earlier in the day that he was on the way to Toronto, and then some shots around the city. At one point, Knoxville “called” into the show and asked Zayn, “Why does all your hair look like pubic hairs?”

After a couple of false finishes where Knoxville didn’t show, including a large box being delivered, he did finally arrive, interacted with Zayn with some hilarious lines:

  • “You look like you’ve done every drug but steroids.”
  • “I hate you as much as you hate going to the gym.”
  • That Zayn looks like “Animal from The Muppets if he worked in a dispensary.”

Rhodes acted as a bit of a peacemaker, though some more supposed bugged audio from earlier in the day that Knoxville played almost put a dent in the Zayn-Rhodes friendship.

Knoxville was taken away by security.

To end the evening, Zayn invited four random fans on the stage to play “So You Think You Can Promo” with Raw backstage host Cathy Kelley, and judged by Stratus, Bayley and Rhodes. It was a weak ending, contradicting Zayn’s claim that the “show has gone exceedingly well.”

And really, from just about every perspective it did. The venue, which seats a little over 1,000, was packed, and the crowd was enthusiastic and would chant briefly, but never took over like some Bizarroland crowds in Toronto do.

The fans who went enjoyed themselves, laughed, and got to see some WWE stars up close and personal (plus those who paid extra for pre- and post-show meet and greets).

But my final take on it is Zayn should focus more on defending his Intercontinental title than taking the comedy show on the road.

TOP PHOTO: Sami Zayn and Friends promo and an Instagram image of Johnny Knoxville warning of his trip to Toronto.