Kevin Owens is one of the more unlikely WWE superstars, though the sports entertainment has seen a shift in perception in recent years. Getting to the main roster of the WWE is one thing, but becoming Universal Champion on the company’s flagship show is an entirely different one. That’s exactly what Kevin Owens became a little more than 15 months after he was promoted.
It wasn’t easy getting to the point, as is the case with many wrestlers and sports entertainers. Kevin Owens had his first sanctioned match in 2000 when he was just 16 years old, and he’d spent the next 14 working his way up the independent scene. Owens made his biggest impressions, wrestling as Kevin Steen, with Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, before finally catching his break in 2014 when he signed with WWE and reported to the NXT brand.
Two months to the day after Kevin Owens debuted in NXT, he became the brand’s top champion, defeating Sami Zayn. The two’s relationship is well-documented, spanning nearly the entire time frame detailed above through this very day with WWE. On the surface, it seemed obvious that NXT and WWE officials had big plans for the Kevin Owens character. However, as Owens revealed on The Steve Austin Show podcast, he didn’t get that impression when he signed (Thanks to Wrestling Inc for the transcription).
“When I got to NXT, I had no idea what or who I would be really. I got signed, but I was never given an indication of what the plans were, if there were plans. As a matter of fact, when I got signed, Canyon Ceman, who is Triple H’s kind of right-hand man with recruiting talent, called me and said, ‘well, we’re going to hire you, but I was told to let you know not to get your hopes up as far as RAW and SmackDown goes because, as you’re aware, you’re maybe not somebody who Vince McMahon would gravitate towards. But you’re going to get your chance in NXT like everyone else.’ And my exact words back to him were, ‘well, I look forward to the challenge’ and he said, ‘well, I thought that’s what you’d say.'”
It seems laughable now considering the significant storylines Kevin Owens has been a part of since being called up to the main roster. Not only did he have successful title defenses against the likes of Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, but his debut program came against John Cena as you recall, which included a victory over the face of the company on his first night in the promotion.
Many speculated that had Kevin Owens gone over John Cena in that first feud, he would have gone on into a program with Brock Lesnar. That didn’t happen, of course, as Cena ultimately went over which ended up dropping Owens down a few pegs and wouldn’t be another year until he was elevated back into the main event.
From the interview, you got the impression that Kevin Owens always saw himself on WWE’s grand stage, despite being told by a top official otherwise when he first came in. Even Owens’ wife had some reservations about her husband’s confidence that he’d be traveling the world with the biggest sports entertainment company in the world.
“I wasn’t okay with living in Florida for an extended period and I don’t know what made me say this, but I told her ‘once I’m on NXT television, I’ll be on the main roster in six months and we can move back home.’ And as much as she loves me, as much as she believes in me, she was the one to say, when a lot of people would tell me you’ll never get to WWE’ or ‘if you do make it, you won’t be successful’, she would always tell me that they weren’t right and that I would. As much as she loved me and believed in me, she still said, ‘well, guys stay in NXT for years. Like, it’s a nice thought, but come on!’ But then, if you do the math, I started in NXT on December 11th and May 18, I showed up on RAW and was called up and that was six months, so it came true.”
As noted, the WWE is a different product than ever before, a seemingly more inclusive company in regards to the types of performers they’ve been hiring. Kevin Owens is a key example of Vince relaxing his stance on ‘body’ guys. Owens credits that to one man who’s opened the door for himself and others like him.
“Now it’s a very different environment and a very different territory, if I may borrow the expression. We really do have guys of all sizes, all shapes, and there [are] the cruiserweights. Everything [has] really changed in the last two years, but at that time, it still wasn’t this way. There’d already been guys that, much like myself, were successful even though they weren’t the kind of guys you’d expect Vince to be onboard with, like Daniel Bryan. He probably deserves a lot of credit for people like myself and Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe being here because he really broke down the barriers, almost like the fake barriers that people were putting up. Yeah, the perception. He really changed the perception.”
As seen on RAW on Monday night, the WWE made the match between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho official for WrestleMania. Owens had to drop the Universal title to Goldberg at Fastlane, but will now challenge Jericho for the United States Championship on April 2 in Orlando.
[Featured Image by WWE]