Who is Kevin Owens, and why should John Cena be very afraid?
Meet Kevin Owens. He’s 6 feet tall, 266 pounds, and he loves to fight.
Owens is also the reigning NXT Champion, which is why it was such a shock to the WWE Universe when he answered John Cena’s U.S. Open Challenge on Raw not with a match, but with a brawl, pounding The Champ into the mat with his Pop-up Powerbomb and scuffing the Stars and Bars with his boot to end the brawl. To those unfamiliar with NXT, this might seem like an act of pure insurgency, but for anyone who knows Kevin Owens, it’s sort of his thing.
The big French-Canadian has been fighting people for, as he said, the better part of 15 years, long before Cena himself ever laced up his first pair of boots in WWE. Before landing in NXT in 2014, Owens was known, like several other NXT standouts, for his time on the independent scene. Bouncing across various promotions, most notably Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla and Combat Zone Wrestling, Owens captured four independent World Championships as well as CZW’s hard-boiled “Iron Man Championship,” which Owens held for the longest-recorded reign at 364 days.
Known in some circles as “Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare,” Owens had a knack for unhinged brutality; he did not wrestle people so much as fight them. Unlike Daniel Bryan’s Gordian submission holds and Neville’s high-flying acrobatics, Owens dealt in the same shattered bones and torn cartilage as a back-alley brawler. He does not employ a single maneuver in his arsenal that isn’t designed for maximum pain. What he lacks in flair he makes up for in efficiency, and the list of broken bodies in his wake is extensive and impressive. Among his victims were younger versions of Cesaro, Seth Rollins and, most notoriously, Sami Zayn. Considered to be the best of friends and the greatest of rivals, the duo traded blows across Ring of Honor in a rivalry that went on for three years, until Owens finally piledrove Zayn through a ladder.
Despite all that street cred, it was never a guarantee that Owens would eventually make it to WWE. That he did was a result of how hard he fought — literally and figuratively — to do so, cashing in on his opponents’ broken bones to put food on the table for his family. Eventually, all those prizefights landed him in a prized position. Owens signed with NXT in 2014 and, not long after putting ink to paper, left some blood on the mat to boot.
He debuted against CJ Parker at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution in December 2014, in a match he won handily despite suffering a palm to the face that left him with a nose in only the loosest sense of the word. (To this day, Parker is the only Superstar to cause Owens any lasting damage.) Almost immediately afterward, Owens resumed his rivalry with Zayn, attacking moments after The Underdog From the Underground ‘s emotional NXT Championship victory by powerbombing him spine-first into the ring apron. Sami was never the same after that and Owens feasted upon his friend’s remains (one can only imagine what he’ll do to Cena, a guy he doesn’t like, when he nearly ended the career of the guy he respects), winning the title off of Zayn in a rare TKO decision at NXT TakeOver: Rival in 2015.
Owens’ work in NXT — he has fielded challenges from Neville, high-flying hellraiser Finn Bálor and a raged-up Alex Riley — combined with his imposing presence and skills on the microphone has made him a force to be reckoned with in Full Sail and holding a surefire ticket to main-roster success in his back pocket. Nobody thought it would be this soon, of course, and nobody thought John Cena would be the guy he’d pick a fight with, least of all Cena himself. But it happened, he’s here, and he got his bout with The Champ to boot — a fight Cena may wish he never got, should he become acquainted spine-first with the apron in the same way the sainted Sami Zayn did at NXT TakeOver: REvolution.
So now you know who Kevin Owens is. The logical follow-up is to ask what’s next. The same thing that’s always next: Fight, Owens, fight.