On this week’s episode of SmackDown Live, Kevin Owens shocked WWE fans by viciously turning heel on Kofi Kingston, attacking the WWE Champion with a superkick and proceeding to beat down on Kingston and his New Day teammate Xavier Woods. A new report, however, suggests that there was a reason behind this angle — the mystery injury that has kept Daniel Bryan out of action since he lost his WWE Championship to Kingston at WrestleMania 35.
As cited by Wrestling Inc., Dave Meltzer recently explained on Wrestling Observer Radio that WWE’s original plan was for Kingston to face Bryan at next month’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view, in a rematch of their WrestleMania 35 encounter. Meltzer stressed that Bryan’s injury was specifically why WWE booked Owens to attack Kingston and Woods on Tuesday’s edition of SmackDown Live, just one week after he aligned himself with the faction as an “honorary member” and a stand-in for the injured Big E.
While Wrestling Inc. pointed out that fans were surprised because of how quickly Owens turned on Kingston, the outlet further cited Meltzer, who said that WWE had planned this angle a few days after WrestleMania, after it became clear that Bryan was injured and would have to miss some time.
Additionally, Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted this week, per Wrestling Inc., that WWE considered several other possibilities for Kingston’s next onscreen rival before settling on Owens. These included current SmackDown Live superstars Randy Orton and Rowan — the latter being Daniel Bryan’s lackey — as well as Monday Night Raw‘s Drew McIntyre and Baron Corbin, whom WWE reportedly considered moving to the blue brand so they could feud with Kingston.
Reigning United States Champion Samoa Joe was also mentioned as one of the possible options, though he was eventually moved to Raw on Monday after missing last week’s Superstar Shake-Up.
Had it not been for Bryan’s injury, the original idea was reportedly for Kevin Owens to work as a full-blown babyface and not turn heel soon after. This week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter also offered some information on these creative moves, noting that WWE had aired vignettes for Owens in February that featured his son, but adding that there were some long-term plans that effectively got scrapped after his heel turn.
According to Wrestling Inc., the subscriber-only outlet added that WWE had planned to book the former Universal Champion as a “guy next door” who could “beat people up” despite his ostensible image as a regular person who “[eats] junk food,” spends time with his children, and has “problems [just like] everyone else.” Topping it all off, the Wrestling Observer was cited as saying that Owens was supposed to use Steve Austin’s Stone Cold Stunner as a finisher, so as to further establish him as a heroic everyman character.