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WWE: Opening Doors with Kevin Owens by Marc Madison

If you heard the name Kevin Steen, you wouldn’t think much about it. It sounds nice and wholesome, and honestly we wouldn’t spend time thinking of the person who has that name. However, what if that was the actual name for a character that demonstrates so much charisma and evokes so much emotion from the crowd that it impossible to deny his significance? What if we said that Kevin Steen was in fact someone who has spent the better part of the last 16 years developing his craft inside and out of the ring. Many fans that follow the WWE know that Kevin Steen is well travelled, and has competed for promotions such as PWG and Ring of Honor, as well as other promotions on the independent circuit. Today, he is none other than Kevin Owens.

During his time in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Owens was known for his brutal fighting style, and his ability to captivate and charm an audience. He was part of the faction The Mount Rushmore of Wrestling, alongside Matt and Nick Jackson and Adam Cole , and they collectively were known as the elite of the elite during their time there. It was during his run in the promotion that he captured the PWG World championship and the PWG World Tag Team championship on three separate occasions. Adding on to that, he won the ROH World Championship and was one half of the ROH World Tag Championship. He was being noticed, and it was only a matter of time before he transitioned from the independents onto a much grander scale.

Growth and development in Steen’s career certainly saw its ups and downs. Much like anyone else’s career that undergoes a change, Steen’s transitions from promotion to promotion throughout his career led him to go in a number of different of directions. Whether it was as heel or a fan favorite, Steen really ran the gamut while trying to evolve. Wrestlers often take time to find themselves as performers, and Steen is no different. Early on, he was trained by Terry Taylor and Jacques Rougeau. Much like anyone looking to be seen and heard, he did whatever it took.

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As it stands right now, Owens is arguably the top heel in the company, though perhaps injuries and circumstance have contributed to that. A number of doors have been opened for potential feuds. He made an immediate impact when he debuted on NXT back in 2014 when he turned on his ‘friend’ SamiZayn, during Zayn’s coronation as NXT champion. He then makes an immediate impact upon his debut on the main roster when he defeated John Cena. Owens plays his role well. He doesn’t try to be anything else. He remains constant when he says that he will fight on his terms. He is a heel that, regardless how often he is cheered, doesn’t make a habit of playing up to them. Often times heels want to be clever or cool and generate a reaction from the fans that gets them cheered rather than jeered. In Owens’ case, if you insult him he will question your intelligence, if you cheer him then you should, why wouldn’t you? It’s what has made Owens as special as he is in the ring. In a blink of an eye he went from being universally celebrated to universally jeered when he turned on SamiZayn.

When we discuss the idea of opening doors for Kevin Owens, what exactly are we referring to? The doors that are being opened are opportunities. Opportunities to have wonderful programs with a number of today’s talents is exactly what lies ahead because of his abilities. During this year’s Royal Rumble there were a few incidents that gave fans a glimpse into potential future programs Owens could be a part of. It didn’t matter whose path he’s crossed, Owens and wrestler x created a reaction that the fan base applauded. Why is that exactly? What was it about Owens that makes the possibility of him facing these different wrestlers so meaningful? Character. Owens is the heel that you shouldn’t be cheering for, but want to because he does it so well.

As soon as Kevin Owens entered the Royal Rumble match, he walked in and right away started exchanging blows with AJ Styles. The reaction by the fans in attendance that night was incredibly excited, as they saw two men that earned their stripes outside WWE furiously exchange blows with one another. There was no story that needed to be created, it was just the sight of both men doing exactly what they do best, and creating emotion. The confrontation resembled that of a couple of hockey players getting into a fight, exchanging punch after punch with one another. That exchange had fans immediately thinking, what if? What if Owens and Styles have a feud with one another? Then, came the thought that it could turn into something more, with the lead up to Wrestlemania. Both men have competed for Ring of Honor, but it wasn’t until now that they have a platform where they could be facing one another. Whether WWE fans knew about AJ or not, they knew the moment he and Owens crossed paths was something special. The last moment we were left with that evening between the two was Owens saying to Styles ‘welcome to the WWE’ as he unceremoniously threw him over the top rope to the floor. After the exchange, Owens stood proudly in the ring because he got rid of the beloved ‘free agent.’ Styles and Owens have yet to have a confrontation since this incident, but wrestling fans have to be chomping at the bit.

This wasn’t the only major altercation that Owens had during the Rumble. It was also on this night that former NXT champion SamiZayn’s music hit and he entered the match. As soon as he was announced the camera immediately panned to Owens who looked on in disbelief. Upon Zayn’s entrance into the Rumble match, he and Owens quickly renewed their rivalry with one another, going head-to-head and causing the fans in attendance show their support for these two former friends. Chants of “NXT” could be heard as both men beat on one another. For fans that aren’t aware, Zayn lost his NXT championship to Owens, who turned on him in an effort to earn a title opportunity. After capturing the title, Owens and Zayn’s feud was put on hold because of the injury that Zayn suffered during his match against John Cena. There really wasn’t any closure to their feud , even though Zayn promised he would eventually get his hands on Owens. And even though Zayn eliminated Owens from the Rumble, it doesn’t mean there has been closure between the two. While it would be ideal if Owens held a title while Zayn pursued him for it, or vice versa, there is still incentive to continue a program between these two. Styles and Zaynare very different wrestlers, and yet they are linked by Owens, as he tends to be the common factor in creating feuds fans want to see happen.

Even though these are two primary examples of desirable feuds for Owens, fans shouldn’t dismiss the one taking place with him right now. Owens and DolphZiggler are working a great program with one another that has actually put Ziggler in a position where he isn’t just there to make the other guy look better. In fact, both Ziggler and Owens’ storytelling ability shows that both are able to create emotion without the need for a title, just pride. Each time Ziggler gets the better of Owens it infuriates him, leading to more and more aggression. During a recent match between them, we saw Ziggler get the win over Owens with the help of the ropes. It was an ironic win since Ziggler, the face, used a tactic that the heel Owens would have used. And it works in the context of their program. We also shouldn’t forget that it is the highly competitive matches between both men that had made this feud as exciting as it has been to watch. Fans expect a competitive match from Ziggler, but they have also come to expect them from Owens as well. Owens could have easily been the heel that quits and walks away, but he’s committed to telling a story in there and does so on a consistent basis.

Prior to the feud with Ziggler, Owens worked a program with Dean Ambrose. The program these two worked was interesting because fans once believed Ambrose was in the position where they feel Owens is now. Ambrose would lose countless times, regardless of the stipulation and regardless of whom the opponent was. Many argued that he was being buried, which wasn’t the case at all. He was the one wrestler that could lose and not be thought less of by the fans watching. Why? Fans knew they were going to get Ambrose going all out in his matches, and the results didn’t make him any less appealing.

As for Owens, fans are happy when he wins or loses, and he’s doesn’t seem any less appealing regardless of who he is in there with. Owens isn’t getting buried because he lost his Intercontinental Title, which he won back on Monday. While a belt would look great around his waist at all times, he can be used in another capacity too. With Kevin Owens, fans aren’t going to get a boring promo either. They will get someone that will insult the fans, the commentators, the opposition in the ring, and they will get a character that backs it up each and every time he is in there. He doesn’t need to move away from being the guy that came in and made a statement. He’s here for the long haul.

Check out Jon Curry and me on TheMemNetwork. Check out our regular Wednesday podcast @ 8pm ET. Last week’s guest we welcomed Global Force Wrestling’s Nick ‘Magnus’ Aldis. This week marks our 2nd Anniversary show with a special guest planned for the festivities so stay tuned. We also welcome TJRWrestling.net writer Kevin Pinto.

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