Remember the date – May 31, 2015. The night Kevin Owens changed the course of the WWE and professional wrestling. The win over John Cena was as significant as any match involving the 15-time world champion. And Owens, a brawler who has played the disrespect card better than most veterans of ring wars.
Cena did the honors for Owens, who along with his NXT contemporaries like Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Neville and Sami Zayn, will change the course of the WWE as we know it.
The win last night, which may have been one of the best matches Cena has been part of (along with the Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Rollins Triple Threat Match) in some time.
The great thing about the match, which I’m still a bit breathless after seeing Owens shock the world, is an upstart brought out the best in Cena – something not many wrestlers have done. How this smaller version of Brock Lesnar came onto the scene and systematically matched Cena in talent, ability and respect from the fans shows NXT truly is one of the best talent pools professional wrestling has had.
The reality of such a monumental moment is this – the WWE needed a shot of adrenaline like this. The Undertaker is no longer undefeated at WrestleMania and Cena is now not the immortal figure the company has built him up to be.
Hallelujah. Finally after a decade and a half, Cena is mortal and all it took was a rookie to prove it.
I have been waiting for something like this. A wrestler who could push Cena and beat him on an even playing field. Punch, counterpunch. Hold, counter hold. Pin, counter pin. Everything worked to perfection on Sunday night, with Owens proving he belongs on the WWE stage with Zayn, Neville, Rollins and Reigns. While it wasn’t a match for the United States Championship, Owens proved he can hold a belt within the company and challenge the top stars over and over again.
Now comes the difficult part – he just beat John Cena. What happens next?
At some point, the WWE will have to decide if they are going to give other NXT alumni the chance to wear a strap. Does it mean Cena, Randy Orton, Kane and others are wrestlers running out of time? If the company hitches its wagon to Owens, then the answer might be a huge, “Yes.”
And once Lesnar comes back to the WWE, what are the company’s plans for him once he gets his WWE World Title back?
For years, wrestling fans have complained about Vince McMahon’s monopoly on the business. Once WCW was bought and there wasn’t a true competitor, the business became soft and unwatchable. We hoped, sometimes even prayed that Ring of Honor or TNA would become the “Little Engine That Could” and force the WWE’s hand. It never happened. Now, by way of its own creation, the company has brand competition with younger talent who can steal the show at a moment’s notice.
Owens is just the latest to show he belongs on a main event level. Now that he has shocked the world, it remains to be seen who his next victim is, and whether his debut can be matched – not just by himself, but by others who will follow in his path.