Gavin Logan looks at Kevin Owens’ win over John Cena…
For 15 years Kevin Owens (wrestling under his real name Kevin Steen) performed all over the world. Sometimes in front of hundreds, sometimes in front of thousands, but wherever he wrestled he was always considered one of the best. Before joining NXT last year he won championships in various other promotions including CZW, PWG and ROH. Independent wrestling fans marvelled when WWE announced Steen had signed a developmental contract while casual wrestling fans barely gave the news any thought at all. There was the obvious initial backlash. You know the usual ‘smark’ reaction that WWE wouldn’t allow him to be himself and would treat him as an inferior as they did with Daniel Bryan when he first arrived (a reaction that was completely justified at that present time). Probably very few genuinely thought that he would be so successful so early, or even if he would be given a real opportunity to succeed at all.
But there seems to be something happening with WWE right now: They’re turning a corner. It’s actually something that’s been steadily manifesting itself for some time. With the success of their developmental brand NXT reaching almost unimaginable heights in the last year – thanks mainly to the direction of Triple H and William Regal and the launch of the WWE Network – they’re starting to drift away from their traditional approach to overall booking. While not throwing their tried and tested rulebook out entirely there is a sense that WWE want to do things differently going forward. They want to shake things up. They want to build for the future. There can’t be any clearer statement to wanting to shake things up than having Kevin Owens – the current NXT Champion – cleanly defeat John Cena in the middle of the ring at the Elimination Chamber show.
I’m not overstating this, but Owens clean pinning Cena was as shocking as anything I’ve witnessed in WWE for years. Most would have expected Owens to give a great account of himself, go toe-to-toe with Cena but just fall short. Some stated that a defeat for Owens might knock his momentum but I don’t think it would considering he’s taking on Cena and it’s outside of NXT. I even thought Owens might intentionally get himself DQ’d so as to highlight his destructive characteristics and allow both guys to come out looking good.
And I don’t use the word shocking in a negative way – quite the opposite. It was a good thing.
It’s so refreshing to be a long time wrestling fan and still be completely wrong when calling finishes. Owens outshone Cena in a match that stole the show and is being courted by many as a Match of the Year contender. Not only did Owens get the win but it was in the manner in which he took it. He didn’t use foreign objects or heelish tactics. He didn’t “steal” the win either. He simply outwrestled Cena and most of the focus during the short build up was entirely on Owens. Even in the aftermath, it wasn’t about Cena losing it was about Owens winning.
For over 10 years John Cena has been the poster boy for the WWE, this generation’s Hulk Hogan. With his never give up attitude and the values and morals he tries to inspire in his fans, John Cena has not only been to the top but he has stayed on top if not for his wrestling ability then for his star power alone. At times during his career he has been almost unstoppable, always defying the odds and never shying away from his critics either. There hasn’t really been a top star like him since the Attitude Era. He’s had his defeats, but none of them – outside of Lesnar’s annihilation at Summerslam 2014 – has had much of a damning effect on his character. He may have recently stepped down from the top tier to upper mid-card but he’s still the main man in the company. Kevin Owens defeating John Cena isn’t just about creating a story for a feud, it’s about passing the torch. It’s about signifying a balance change in a company that has at times (rightly or wrongly) been subjected to vile campaigns for the direction that they have taken professional wrestling. Owens even highlighted the fact in his post match speech. It was a defining statement that NXT really is the future and that WWE really are changing. We can only hope that they continue the trend going forward.
Obviously Owens isn’t the first NXT star they’ve pushed (most of the main roster is full of NXT alumni now), but nobody that came before him has ever had that kind of impact so soon. It has been reported on numerous occasions that Owens is extremely well liked by Triple H and the two have a great connection with each other. No move before this has clarified that Triple H is ready to take over the mantle from Vince McMahon.
The only negative I have is that they announced a rematch almost immediately – which only insinuates that Cena will get his win back and set up a rubber match later on. Having this sort of blood feud, while entertaining and necessary, sort of detracts attention away from both the U.S. and NXT title belts. But it worked great as a one-off match. Owens has reportedly signed a new deal that will take him to the main roster now so it’s likely he’ll drop his NXT title at the next Takeover show and if the WWE are indeed intent on continuing the rivalry, then it’s probable that Cena might lose his title too.
What are your thoughts on Owens shocking win and what would you like to see happen in the future?