By and large, Kevin Owens was viewed as the third favorite going into this past Monday’s fatal four way match to determine the new WWE Universal Champion on RAW. By that logic, a pessimist might have made him the second-biggest long shot in the match. All week leading into Monday’s main event, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns were considered the two most likely to walk away with the title. While Big Cass had the longest odds, but in the end, it was Kevin Owens who strolled out of Houston with the championship.
The decision was made to add the elimination stipulation, instead of having a classic fatal four way match, just days prior. That amendment coincided with pulling the trigger on Triple H’s return after more than four months away from television. Owens was the ultimate benefactor as a result of Hunter’s surprise as The Game planted a pedigree on both Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, allowing Kevin to pick up the win and the belt.
As far as WWE’s most memorable moments of 2016 go, Triple H returning to heavily influence a world title match ranks right up there. Shane McMahon’s return after the Royal Rumble will be difficult to top, and Seth Rollins certainly made an impact following the Extreme Rules main event, but HHH avenging his WrestleMania loss to Reigns, and then swerving everyone with the attack on his former protégé, certainly makes a case for a top 10 moment this year.
The only problem was that according to Daily Wrestling News, the win for Kevin Owens was somewhat tarnished in the eyes of many backstage. The feeling among several folks behind the scenes was that the finish did not do the match justice. In a predetermined sport, that may sound like nitpicking, but in a match that was hyped the entire night and included several compelling false finishes, some people thought one pedigree to Reigns and one to Rollins should not have been enough.
It’s unclear what changes these backstage sources would have made, but the final decision makers believed that the return was big enough to warrant the finish we all witnessed. The other issue that several folks have complained about in the fallout is that it may have overshadowed Kevin Owens’ championship victory. Owens comes across as somewhat of a puppet as Triple H pulls the strings, similar to the way Seth Rollins’ title reign was booked last year.
Before the Finn Balor injury, the first-ever Universal Champion was penciled-in to defend his title against Kevin Owens at Clash of Champions, and then in a triple threat against Owens and Chris Jericho at the next RAW pay-per-view, Hell In A Cell. Owens remains in the main event as planned, but his opponent now obviously changes. The expectations are that K-O will now defend against Rollins, at least at Clash of Champions, but it will be interesting to see if they work Jericho into the mix because the two have developed such good chemistry over the last few months.
There are also some conflicting reports about who knew what going into Monday’s main event. The DWN report suggests that very few people knew how the match would play out when it began. It was said that nobody even knew the finish going into the day. However, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter(via Cageside Seats) debunks the idea, saying that at least Mick Foley, Stephanie McMahon, Kevin Owens, and Seth Rollins all fooled many insiders with their acting ability at the conclusion of the match, and they all knew what was going on.
The decision was made to go with Owens because the feeling backstage was that the company could trust him the most out of the four guys in the match. Big Cass clearly isn’t ready for that position yet, so they are certainly grooming him and giving him a taste of the spotlight. Reigns is still being punished somewhat for his Wellness Policy violation and should resume his feud with Rusev if the Bulgarian Brute returns from his second wedding to Lana in time. And then there’s Rollins.
Seth will remain in the main event picture for the time being, but in order to keep the belt away from him, the plan might be to turn him babyface. This would eventually lead to a match with Triple H in a long-awaited and long-delayed confrontation between mentor and protege at next year’s WrestleMania.
[Image via WWE]