Kevin Owens is wrestling's next great anti-hero 3 years ago

Kevin Owens is wrestling's next great anti-hero

Kevin Owens is the best thing going in wrestling today.

A six-foot, 266 pound (121 kg) colossus, the French Canadian is the wrestler's wrestler in the WWE.

Normally when a wrestler arrives in the WWE, they make a nice speech about how they want to shake things up. Kevin Owens just went out and did it.

Appearing in 2014, he broke his nose in his opening match, and then ruined the then NXT Champion (and former best friend)  Sami Zayn's back in a shocking storyline twist.

Six months later, he made his main roster debut... and ran right through John Cena.

A hulking, give-no-shits performer, Kevin Owens is so much more than a big lad who likes a hossfight. Equally adept at jumping through the air with a moonsault as he is talking on the mic, mature WWE fans have fallen in love with him over the past 18 months.


"The only thing that matters to me is what I do and how I do it.

You're asking me who will emerge from the New Era. As humbly as I can put it, within a few months or a few years, people will see that I am the best thing on RAW, the best thing in WWE."

In an interview with JOE and other wrestling journalists in the lead up to SummerSlam on 21st August KO made it clear that he is very much a bad man who beats up your faves.

He's just so entertaining, so mesmerising to watch, so able to take the expected and turn it into something magical, that you can't help but want to wear his merchandise and get pumped to his gym ready entrance music (although he personally prefers Bayley's theme - "It's so happy and bouncy").

WWE is at a crossroads at the moment; after years of cartoony, predictable storylines the company is entering a self branded "New Era". Younger, more athletic wrestlers (either picked up from the independent circuit, or trained in-house at WWE's NXT development centre) are taking over from older stars such as John Cena, Triple H and the Undertaker.

WWE Draft - Dean and Seth

The New Era was signalled by a brand extension and draft earlier in July. From now on,  WWE will have three very distinct shows - RAW, Smackdown and NXT - each with their own unique storylines and feuds.

Last month, Kevin Owens saw himself drafted to RAW, in the surprising position of 18th. When asked about it, the star is typically bullish about the disappointing result.

I was picked way later than I should have been. I mean, I understand not being picked before Roman Reigns or John Cena or Ambrose or Seth Rollins, those guys have been the figureheads of WWE for several years now.

I even understand being picked above Charlotte, who was the Women's Champion at the time, and who was the face of the Women's division. Even Finn Balor, who was coming up from NXT - he's a big deal.

But being picked as late as I was was kind of a slap in the face, to be honest. But I'll use it as motivation as to why I should be the face of RAW.


Kevin Owens Sami Zayn

Worse still is Kevin Owens being drafted lower than his former best friend and now biggest rival, Sami Zayn. For the best part of a decade, the pair travelled together. Now both in the WWE, their friendly rivalry has developed into one of the best blood feuds in recent WWE history.

We met in 2002 at a random independent wrestling show back home. He annoyed me from the very beginning, I remember that. He was very bouncy and loud. We ended up getting booked on a load of shows back home together and that snowballed to getting booked on a lot of shows in the US together and we ended up paired together by default because we were the two best wrestlers in Quebec. If you were gonna book some Quebec wrestlers, you got us.

It was a friendship by default. That's why I call him like brother, because you can't really pick your relatives, you're born and that's your brother. Sami ended up my brother - I never asked to travel with him, I never asked to tag with him, I never asked to wrestle him. For all those years it kind of happened.

I don't know if we clicked from the beginning but we had no choice.

Kevin and Sami fight each other *on sight*, throwing caution to the wind, throwing down at a moment's notice. Some of the best WWE matches in the last year have involved the pair of them, including a barnstorming one-on-one match at recent pay-per-view Battleground (as ever, you can watch all WWE PPVs via the WWE Network).

Fans chant "fight forever" whenever the pair meet, and with Sami on RAW with Kevin, they just might. But if you ask Kevin about what's next, he typically defies expectation.

I don't know what the future holds. I'm sure we'll find our way back to each other at some point, I'm sure Battleground wasn't our last match in the grand scheme of things.

 

Stone Cold vs. Shawn Michaels

Something Kevin does know, however, is the raft of wrestling talent that helped him get him to where he is today. Much like every fan who grew up during the WWE's Attitude Era heyday, KO fell in love with Shawn Michaels (his "first favourite wrestler"), but also a has a deep reverence and respect for Stone Cold Steve Austin.


I met Steve Austin in an airport in 2005 and he gave me the best advice I could have ever received. That advice helped me get to where I am today. Sami and I were on a flight to Los Angeles for PWI and saw Steve, took a picture and he told me to just 'keep running my mouth and never stop talking'. I took that to heart. If you watch my matches on RAW, I clearly I never stop talking even in the middle of a match.

That reverence of the greatest never trips over into sycophancy though, as Kevin reminds us he's just as ready to fight if his opponent is a legend. Not even hardcore legend Mick Foley is exempt.

I get to share RAW with him and I guess that will make for interesting television. I'm looking forward to our verbal jousts... unfortunately we'll never be able to get in the ring together... cause I don't think he'll be able to walk out.

Unless... we'll here's the challenge: Mick if you hear this then I'm all for it. Prove me wrong.

kevin Owens cowboy

And as for commentator Michael Cole? Just because the commentary stand has been moved for the New Era, that doesn't mean KO won't call him an idiot: "I'm just going to have to yell louder I guess."

But that's the thing about Kevin Owens - he's the bad guy you love to hate. The chunky badass you'd imagine yourself to be if you started wrestling tomorrow.

He's Diabolical Dr. Dadbod. A wonderful mix of all of your Attitude Era faves like Stone Cold, Shawn Michaels and Mankind, made good for the next generation of WWE. Kevin Owens is wrestling's next great anti-hero. And we can't wait to see what he does next.

 

Feature image illustration by Dan Evans. All other images via WWE.

WWE Summerslam is live on the WWE Network on 21 August.