Report by Secret Dave @wrestler_review
Kevin Owens (also known as Kevin Steen) is a big name right now churning out regular high quality content across his promos and matches. The thing is, his WWE work is just the tip of the iceberg and the ‘Face of America’ was once the ‘Face of the Indies’. He is arguably one of the best talkers on the roster right now and when given creative control he takes an idea and makes it work time and time again.
Owens started his career at age 16 but it would take a full 14 years of hard graft in the Indy’s before WWE turned their attentions on him. During that time he had lengthy and successful stints with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) & Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) to name just a couple.
At only age 20, Kevin Owens debuted for CZW in a fatal four-way which was voted the unofficial match of the year. It was during this match that Owens met someone that would have a huge impact on his career and that of course, was El Generico (Sami Zayn). The duo began teaming up (and occasionally facing each other) in what would be the next few years of highly rated matches with some established stars of the time.
In 2005 Kevin Owens joined PWG and quickly won the PWG title beating none other than the Phenomenal AJ Styles in what easily the match of the night and continued to hold it for four months. Once the belt was dropped, Kevin teamed again with friend/rival El Generico in what were 3 brilliant tag title reigns including trips to England (with this writer actually in attendance).
By the time 2007 rolled around Owens’ status had been elevated to a point where a decision had to be made. Stick with PWG, or join Ring of Honor (ROH), with its chances of increased exposure & money at the potential loss of some creative control.
For the next two years Owens & El Generico would have a really entertaining feud with the Briscoes. You always knew that no matter what else was going on in ROH (in what was arguably its most exciting time), the tag team matches would always be entertaining.
In 2009, Owens did something that would change his career, and the career of his partner, drastically and rocket them on a trajectory course to the very top.
Owens is one of those wrestlers who flourishes most when he is given creative freedom over his own work but also when he’s given an opponent who works just as hard and is just as clever as he is. As has been mentioned before, the cost of joining ROH is losing some of that creative control and in that case it came in the form of head booker Jim Cornette, who for whatever reason wasn’t particularly invested in Owens & Generico as a tag team.
Instead of floundering, Owens wrote out every aspect of the subsequent heel turn & feud that followed and it was sublime, actually winning Wrestling Observers feud of the year against El Generico.
By 2010 at the culmination of their feud the relationship between Owens & Cornette hit its lowest point and while being promised the main event of Final Battle, Cornette instead made El Generico and Owens bout happen after the event.
There was a legal battle which ensued following Owens temporary ‘freeze’ out of ROH shows at the hands of Cornette and upon his reinstatement in 2012 he went on a lengthy and high quality title run, also making him the first Canadian winner of said belt. Steen had a good ally backstage in Steve Corino which undoubtedly had a positive effect on him and his stature at ROH and in fact his final match there was with Corino.
During his career Owens had fought and made friends with many wrestlers and influential people. This is probably a big part of the reason he was eventually hired by NXT, let alone his track record of high quality product. In true Kevin Owens fashion he turned up and made an immediate impact. He broke CJ Perkins nose on his first match and then confronted long-time rival Sami Zayn directly after he’d just won the NXT belt. This was a fantastic move by NXT and this could be argued is the very reason these two ended up in WWE so quickly.
Speaking of which, and I am at risk of repeating myself here, Kevin Owens debuted to WWE and made an immediate impact. In a risky move by WWE they didn’t announce his debut was coming and he instead just beat up John Cena and stomped on the championship belt. If there was ever a way to win over the interest of wrestling fans it’s to target the man at the top, in this case John Cena. It was a brilliant programme and some of the best work of John Cena’s career.
One thing that has been evident throughout the near 20 year career of Kevin Owens is that he can have an entertaining match with just about anybody and when given the right opponent or partner it can really hit the ‘best of the year’ sort of range. Most recently his programme with Jericho has been nothing short of outstanding and has been the best of Jericho’s work in years.
On my personal ranking of the best 100 wrestlers of the modern era I ranked Owens at number 86. I have no doubt that by the time his career has ended he’ll be much further up that list but for the moment, without sounding too cliché, YOU’RE ON THE LIST!
Backlash ’17 vs AJ Styles Battleground ’16 vs Sami Zayn
Anything involving El Generico vs Kevin Steen ROH Glory by honour XI ’12 vs Michael Elgin (amazing)