The World’s Most Dangerous Dad: Kevin Owens on life as a father, husband and the most ruthless man in WWE
If you’re wondering about the exact moment Kevin Owens decided he was going to punch John Cena right in his chiseled jawline, it had nothing to do with pride, or titles, or even money. It had everything to do, however, with family — Owens’ family, to be exact.
“I took my son to a WWE show in Montreal,” Owens told WWE.com. “I wasn’t in contact with WWE or anything like that [at the time]. I was just an independent wrestler, and I took my family to the show because my son wanted to see John Cena.”
Front row tickets were purchased and a perch at the guardrail was secured, but this accommodation was about far more than a good vantage point of the Cenation leader in action: The 15-time World Champion typically takes a lap around the ring after his matches to high-five his fans, and Owens’ son wanted a chance to slap some skin with his hero.
More to the point, Kevin Owens wanted his son to slap some skin with his hero.
Fathering. pic.twitter.com/0RrWllNIsJ— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) August 20, 2015
“All I really care about is my son,” Owens said. Given that Owens’ résumé reads less like a win-loss record and more like a laundry list of obliterated enemies, betrayed friends and the broken bones of anyone else unlucky enough to cross him, this might seem more than a little surprising. But there you have it. “I wanted my son to have this moment that he’ll remember forever of John Cena coming out and shaking his hand.”
The moment did not occur. In a rare twist of fate, Cena headed straight for the curtain after his match, and the Owens men were left hanging. One of them took it harder than the other, and it’s not the one you might expect.
“I remember my son was a bit sad,” Owens said. “Two minutes later he was fine, but it stuck with me. And I told myself that one day I would get in the ring with John Cena and I would make him pay.”
Truth of the matter is, there isn’t much Owens wouldn’t do for his family. Cena happened to stumble into KO’s path, but even if he had given the boy that high five, there’s a solid chance KO would have gone after him at some point anyway. For a self-proclaimed “prizefighter,” knocking off Cena makes for a pretty good payday.
So, as it turns out, does nearly every other of Owens’ increasingly brazen WWE milestones. Nearly breaking Sami Zayn’s back to win the NXT Title landed him a champion’s paycheck that boosted the family funds. Stepping to Cena during the U.S. Open Challenge catapulted him from NXT to the main roster, with a main roster salary to go with it. Raking Ryback’s eyes to win the Intercontinental Championship … you get the idea.
“I enjoy every second I get in the ring,” Owens said. If you’ve seen the look on his face when he destroys someone, you’ll know that’s certainly true. “But there’s a bigger picture now and a much bigger purpose to everything and it’s to take care of my kids and my wife and make sure they have a good future.”
“Everything I do really is for my family. It’s not just a line,” Owens said. “I leave Friday morning to go on the road to wrestle for WWE to make money so I can come back Wednesday morning and have money to provide for my family. Everything I have to do in-between is what I have to do to make that happen.”
Even with social media in play, the life of a sports-entertainer tends to retain some shroud of secrecy, especially when it comes to spouses and children, so it’s probably forgivable if you imagined Kevin Owens holed up in some solo, godforsaken Canadian shack with only a punching bag and pictures of his enemies as his decorations. That’s actually somewhat less unnerving than the truth — that this brute has walked among us a suburban father for a while now, living among the white picket fences of Montreal with a wife and kids who think the world of him.
Yet for those who knew where to look, Owens has always had a reputation for being a bad man in the ring and a good dad out of it. Truthfully, he’s been walking that fine line ever since he was bashing heads in Ring of Honor, when he’d tweet out funny things his son, Owen (named after Owen Hart) would do.
WWE Network: "Owen: Hart of Gold" documentary preview
When Owens’ daughter was born, he didn’t hesitate to share that milestone, either. The first moments of her in his arms were recorded for a YouTube show he’d been producing about life on the independents, a “little thing” announcing her arrival to the world.
“I guess people really responded to that,” Owens said, though none latched more on to the concept than the late WWE Hall of Famer, Dusty Rhodes, who was “adamant” that Owens incorporate his love for his family into his in-ring work once KO made it down to NXT.
Cinderella dress and Legends Of Chima sword...Breaking hearts and slashing limbs off at the same time. pic.twitter.com/fOmqAXYvwa— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) October 9, 2015
“Dusty Rhodes told me, [this] is who you are. Don’t shy away from that,” Owens said.
So, he did. No matter what he did or who he hurt, Owens listened to The American Dream and didn’t make an effort to hide his status as a father or husband. In one of his earliest main roster appearances, The Prizefighter revealed his son was a Cena fan as an aside and turned prickly when the crowd showered the boy in boos. Owens’ Twitter, meanwhile, contains a treasure trove of family moments nestled between the trash-talking and rather impressive sprees of blocking his trolls.
“It’s not a conscious choice I made to put them out there,” Owens said of bringing his family into the equation. “They’re just such a huge part of my life that I can’t help but put them out there.”
With free reign to basically be himself, Owens thrived immediately, but any NXT veteran can tell you, getting called up from Orlando is only half the battle. Owens had it rougher than most, given that he was still NXT Champion when he got the nod and had to defend that title in addition to integrating himself onto the main stage.
“I had one day a week at home, if that, for those first two, three months,” Owens said — one of the few times he truly sounded agitated during the interview. “One day at home a week. Maybe. So I wasn’t getting to see my son and it was really starting to affect me, obviously.”
#WWEToronto was pretty damn great. Also, I just blocked a bunch of people and now I get to see my wife and kids so yeah, pretty good night!— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) September 26, 2015
Apart from his ready-made stress relief between the ropes, Owens found a solution, which, apart from a persistent use of technology (“Thank God for FaceTime … I can’t imagine wrestlers from the ’80s being on the road all the time without cell phones and stuff like that.”), mainly involved renting a car and bringing the whole family with him on the road — Griswold-style — logging an ungodly amount of hours behind the wheel in the process.
When that wasn’t an option, KO used WWE’s travel department to arrange flights for both him and his boy so he could take Owen on the road for some father-son bonding time.
I have my best buddy on the road with me all week! pic.twitter.com/39xHapmq2Q— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) November 28, 2015
“I took him out for a whole week before school started,” Owens said. “He was with me at every show. He was there all day backstage and everybody got to know him. It was really cool to see him develop relationships with people I work with and people I look up to.”
And yes, he even got to meet Cena. The two are now friends — the various beatings Owens put on Cena, notwithstanding.
“It was crazy and hectic,” Owens said of the exhausting regimen, which once included a marathon round trip from a Raw in Buffalo to Montreal — Owen had to be home in time for school — and back to Albany for a SmackDown taping. “But that extra time with my family is invaluable.”
Family is not the only thing that motivates him, of course. After Owens lost the NXT Title in a heartbreaker to Finn Bálor only a couple of months after his main roster debut, The Prizefighter needed a new piece of hardware. Luckily, he had a ready-made piece of inspiration.
“For some reason, after I lost the NXT Title, [my son] said, ‘You have to get another title and you should go after the Intercontinental Title.’ I said, ‘Why that one?’ He said, ‘Because it’s the coolest.’ So, to be honest, my son’s kind of the reason I went after Ryback in the first place.”
Owen...this one's for you, buddy! You can play with it when I get home. pic.twitter.com/HB9vpPQQQZ— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) September 21, 2015
The fact that Owens himself was always partial to that title was just a bonus. Having been given his marching orders from his offspring, Owens dragged his fingernails across The Big Guy’s eyes to win the championship and he’ll keep it until someone knocks him off. Ryback couldn’t do it, and Owens has made it his business since then to humble every beloved superman who comes stumbling his way. That includes Cesaro, who he pummeled ribs-first into the commentary table; Neville, who Owens flattened in the recent WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament, and Chris Jericho, who he humiliated during at Y2J’s 25th anniversary match in Madison Square Garden. (Owens’ family was there for that as well, and it’s his favorite memory of the night.)
Point is, as the old adage goes, you get into sports-entertainment to make friends or make money, and KO isn’t exactly filling up his contact list so much as his pockets. And he’s fine with that. Friends don’t add zeroes to your bank account or feed the individuals he treasures.
“When I leave wrestling, I want to make sure what I’ve done and the sacrifices I’ve made can lead to a really good life for the four of us,” he said without a trace of remorse. “And I want to take care of my parents, and I want to take care of my wife’s family, because they’re all sacrificing and helping and they’re all willing to do it and they’re all happy to do it. I just want to take care of my family.”
In the face of ugliness, I leave you all tonight with the most beautiful thing I can possibly think of. Good night. pic.twitter.com/XyExRgwihs— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) November 14, 2015