Roll back to the start of 2016 and many fans would have been thrilled to see Kevin Owens as the top guy in WWE. He was putting on great matches and had the kind of heel swagger that made him a hugely fun part of the weekly show. But ever since capturing the WWE Universal Championship just after Summerslam, something’s gone a bit wrong. No longer is he the most entertaining thing on the show, in fact I’d go as far as to say he’s one of the reasons Raw has been such a drag in recent times.
It didn’t help that his first major feud was against Seth Rollins, who hasn’t shone since becoming a fan favorite. The two never really created that magic spark and their constant back and forth only served to frustrate fans more than entertain. It didn’t help that WWE went back to their classic heel booking tactic of making sure the heel champion can’t win without assistance. Given that Owens had never needed outside interference, this sudden shift was all the more jarring for fans.
That said, it didn’t really get off to the best of starts. Triple H’s decision to throw Seth Rollins under the bus and hand the WWE Universal Championship to Owens should have been the start of something special – a new faction and age of dominance with a Champion that kicked ass. But no – Triple H disappeared into the ether and in his absence, Owens story line has made little sense. Why did Triple H hand him the Championship then do naff all in the preceding months when Rollins was still very much a threat? It’s this kind of terrible story logic that’s come to define Raw’s creative direction – and sadly it’s poisoning Owens Championship run.
Now with Roman Reigns circling, it looks increasingly likely that Kevin Owens won’t be heading into Wrestlemania with the WWE Universal Championship. If this is the end-game to all that story then I’ll more than a little disappointed – if only because WWE will have wasted one of their best talents and relegated what should have been a fun and exciting Championship run into pantomime and general tedium.
It shouldn’t have been like this. Back on NXT Owens was a monster force to be reckoned with. His arrival and brutality marked him out from the guys he was facing. He was a dirty player but one that fans could respect – he was doing it for the money and his family. His motive was clear – he wanted the best and wanted to ensure that he was getting that top pay cheque. It’s why he attacked John Cena so openly and it’s why he made such an impact out the gate?
Where is that Kevin Owens right now? He’s certainly not the guy we’re watching on a weekly basis – as him and Jericho scheme and play shenanigans with Reigns. It wouldn’t be so bad if the pay off at pay-per-views was Owens kicking Reigns/Rollins ass and retaining in a strong fashion – but it’s never that way. It always leads to Jericho interfering and it’s always played off as “Oh those guys”. He’s a scared heel – and fans don’t want that.
It makes me wonder if WWE ever wanted him as Champion. Finn Balor’s injury was a blow to WWE and it was clear that they were building to a Balor/Reigns feud at some stage. Owens wasn’t a main event player at that point – and given the people who Raw had at its disposal, everyone was more than a little surprised when he was the man chosen as Champion. As said earlier, even the way this was done had the design of right man in the right place – it wasn’t Owens ability that got him where he ended up being.
This has been made clear throughout his reign. Given how well they’ve been protecting the likes of Rollins and Reigns from such flip-flop booking and given how Owens hasn’t been able to bear either of those men clean on a regular basis, it wouldn’t make sense if the ultimate plan was to slap the Universal Championship on Reigns all along. He was still very much in the dog house for his extra curricula activities around Summerslam time – but that’s not the case now.
When Owens loses his WWE Universal Championship, it’ll be interesting to see how fans reflect upon his initial reign. Of course it wasn’t all bad, but there’s a feeling that WWE hasn’t given the back to their supposed main man a fair crack of the whip. Will he be able to turn it round and what comes next for one of WWE’s best in-ring performers?