Looking at Kevin Owens’ path in the WWE, he couldn’t have asked for a better start. On his first night in the company, he entered the NXT title picture in a polarizing rivalry against Sami Zayn. On his first Takeover he became the undisputed NXT champion. On his first RAW, he kicked off a feud against John Cena and on his first PPV, he defeated John Cena. As far as early accomplishments go, Kevin Owens is, mildly said, an overachiever.
Normally, the fans would be on the edge, leaning towards frustration, when it comes to such a sudden push. Many would perceive that as “jumping over people who’ve been in the company for a long time”. However, no one was complaining about Owens, quite the opposite actually. I don’t think it’s only because of his reputation on the independent scene; a large portion of the audience still mainly watches exclusively the WWE. With Kevin Owens it was a perfect combination of skills, booking and character with character being possibly his most influential trait. Wrestling alone isn’t enough to captivate the attention of the crowd. Neville, for example, is extraordinary in the ring but his blunt gimmick is holding him back. Kevin Owens is first a personality and then an astonishing wrestler. His presence is felt the moment he walks up that ramp. Before he even opens his mouth, it’s already clear that he’s a force to be reckoned with. Once he gets the mic, Owens can masterfully craft a promo on anybody out of thin air. He connects the dots meticulously, not allowing the formation of plot holes. Then the bell rings and the world turns upside down for his opponents because Owens is nothing short of an expert between the ropes. But by the time Owens starts wrestling he already has the audience in the palm of his hand.
What instantly made Kevin Owens arguably the best heel the company has was his composure. He stated that his family was his number 1 priority and after that nothing else mattered. It was all just business. After all, Owens started off his WWE career by mercilessly destroying his best friend’s hopes and dreams. Sami Zyan was angry. The audience was angry but Kevin Owens felt no need to explain himself. That’s what made him so terrifying. How many movie villains fail because they suffer the need to lay out their evil plan in front of their nemesis? Why not kill the protagonist straight away and win the game? It happens because villains want recognition. They believe they are right and they feel misunderstood. They don’t crave agreement or support. They simply want understanding. Kevin Owens didn’t share that weakness. He couldn’t care less whether he was understood or not. He actually consciously used his opponents’ emotions and frustration over the fact that he’s not even trying in his own favour. Kevin Owens walked in and took whatever he wanted. The crowd loved it because, for once, there was a man, whose authority could not be questioned.
However, Kevin Owens’ image of being untouchable happened to be strongly reliant on success. He could afford to slide out of the ring as soon as the bell rings and wouldn’t be taken as a weakness or a sign of fear. If Miz does that, if Seth Rollins does that, they will be booed for being cowards. When Kevin Owesn did that, it would get the adrenaline rushing because the audience knew it was a trap that Owens’ opponents were aware of but would still get caught into. Even in retreat Owens would feel like a cold, calculating predator, stalking his unknowing victims. All of that worked because, in the end of the day, Owens got the victory. He’d have the fight on his own terms but he’d actually fight. And then the losses came. Between a pin fall and a tap out loss to John Cena in two consecutive PPVs, Kevin Owens lost his NXT title to Finn Balor and all of that was surrounded by numerous losses on the main roster.
Then Kevin Owens lost his cool and became visibly frustrated. He is bitter and that’s understandable but walking out of a match when the going gets tough is turning into a habit of his. The reality hit home hard because in one go Kevin Owens experienced Rusev’s fall from grace to the hands of John Cena and Seth Rollins’ character decay from a calculating heel to a coward. However, it took these two about a year to go through this character development arch. Kevin Owens rushed through it in a couple of months’ time on two separate platforms simultaneously. He rose to the top too fast and is now falling down just as quickly. Obviously, Kevin Owens is a heel and a heel must lose if he’s getting too likeable. In the stereotypical order of things a villain needs to be booed to be considered a success. I have my reserves in regards to this belief but I’m not going to argue against the mechanisms of the wrestling world in this particular article. The fact is heels can’t look too good for too long in the WWE Universe. That’s where the real skilful storytelling comes into play. There is a fine balance between taking a heel down a notch to keep the crowd against him and destroying his credibility altogether. Booking the Owens vs. Cesaro feud will be flirting dangerously with that line.
The last match Kevin Owens wrestled this week was a bizarre heel vs. heel match against Rusev. The crowd seemed to be slightly confused as to when they were supposed to cheer. I enjoyed it because it was a rare exception to the standard booking. What made it odd, however, was the fact that because of Kevin Owens’ behaviour Rusev looked like a face. Generally the audience would be more inclined to side with Owens but the way he opted out for a count out put the Bulgarian Brute in the position of the brave, dominant character, worthy of support and that’s a first. I thought this decision was strange. It was definitely unexpected but once Owens jumped into a verbal altercation with Cesaro, it all fell into place immediately. Having to run away so often had built up frustration in Kevin Owens, so he needed to vent out on somebody, and that somebody happened to be the Swiss Superman. At the same time, Owens’ actions presented Cesaro with the opportunity to unleash his swift sarcasm and it was game on. Just from that one segment, in which Cesaro was always one ahead in terms of responses, I know it will be an epic feud.
Cesaro and Owens need no title in-between to draw in the audience. Their mic skills and their wrestling speak for themselves. Their matches will be of undeniable quality. The only issue is that it will be very difficult to book the winner of the rivalry. Cesaro’s on the rise and Owens is in need of regaining momentum. The danger remains that booking Owens too weak will damage his credibility in the long run but giving him a clean victory will put a stop to Cesaro’s much-awaited push. Yet, Kevin Owens has much more to lose because he was given much more to begin with. It’s a marvellous feud coming. However, the WWE Creative will be having Kevin Owens walk on thin ice every step of the way.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.