After dominating the independent circuit of professional wrestling for the first 15 years of his career, Kevin Owens signed with WWE in early 2014, eventually making his debut with NXT later that year.
Within the proceeding six months, the “Prizefighter” won the NXT World championship from Sami Zayn and made his main roster debut by assaulting John Cena. In Owens’ mind, the quick ascension wasn’t a mere lucky break but a culmination of a successful near two-decade long career.
“I felt very confident in my abilities and I felt like when I stepped foot in that ring with John Cena on my first night on RAW, that’s exactly where I belonged,” Owens said to Jonathan Coachman on ESPN’s weekly Off the Top Rope segment. “To me, I belong at the top regardless of how long I spent in NXT before.”
In comparison to several other former NXT superstars, Owens’ stint in the WWE’s developmental brand was brief. Zayn spent three years in NXT, and guys like Neville (two years), Baron Corbin (four years), and others had a longer journey to the main roster.
However, Owens is appreciative of his time at NXT. While “KO” was a top performer in several promotions during his run on the independents, a lot of times he did not have the luxury of wrestling in the most glamorous venues.
“NXT was actually a pretty amazing experience on its own just because I went from wrestling in these, I don’t know, church basements and bars to NXT, the Performance Center which is this incredible facility.
“NXT is set up in a way that when you come out on RAW, on that stage, and make your debut on RAW…SmackDown…everything in NXT is to prepare you for that moment.”
Owens noted that he began training in a barn as a 14-year-old teenager and had his first match on his 16th birthday.
During his run on the main roster, Owens has captured the WWE Intercontinental championship on two occasions. He lost the title at WrestleMania 32 in a seven-man ladder match to open the show. Being the champion was a nice accolade but making his WrestleMania debut — something Owens says he thought about thousands of times — was surreal.
“Even what I imagined, I wasn’t prepared for that feeling, it’s something I will always remember,” Owens said about his WrestleMania debut last April in Dallas, Texas.
“That WrestleMania was only the beginning, I’m looking forward to bigger and better things over the next few years at WrestleMania.”
Owens said he was 150 pounds when he started training and emulated WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, a fellow former Intercontinental champion.
After seeing “The Heartbreak Kid” utilize his smaller stature and unique offense in the way he did, Owens was motivated to be the best performer he could be despite being bigger than average.
“Obviously, throughout the years, I’ve packed on some weight and got a little bigger. I never stopped performing all those moves, I never stopped going off the top rope and I always did those things and always kept up with that stuff. I think it’s worked out because now I’m 266 pounds and I’m still able to do that stuff, which most guys my weight can’t do.”
Finally, Owens spoke about his antics on Twitter, calling out disrespectful fans and having fun with the hateful tweets he receives on a daily basis. Owens said that this has been going on since he first joined the social media platform in 2011.
Moving forward, Owens plans on continuing those antics if fans keep giving him a reason to do so.
“A lot of people think that their Twitter account gives them some sort of power and gives them the right to be disrespectful or offensive and I just don’t believe in that. Yes, I’m a public figure but I’m not just gonna sit there and take peoples’ crap…for lack of a better term.”
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