I have been sitting on this topic for a while because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell the story. But since fans only see wrestler’s from the perspective of said fan, I felt it was important to share this story of what I witnessed back in April of this year.
Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Kevin Owens. And when I mean huge fan, I mean literally from the first time I saw him wrestle in 2009.
I was fortunate enough to witness my first Ring of Honor show ever in December 2009 when the podcast I was doing at the time, “The Wheelhouse,” was invited guests by then owner Cary Silkin. I had not kept up with ROH since Samoa Joe & CM Punk left in 2005/2006 and this was the first time I was being introduced to the product live. This was about 3 months after Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) said farewell in September of that year and while I was familiar with the Austin Aries & Roderick Strong’s of the world, I (sadly) did not know who Kevin Steen was at the time.
Prior to attending ROH Final Battle 2009 at the Manhattan Center in NYC, I had watched a lot of the “ROH Video wire” (remember those!?) and got caught up on such matches like the main event of the evening (Austin Aries vs. Tyler Black/Seth Rollins for the ROH World Title), The Briscoe Brothers vs. The American Wolves (who I quickly became fans of) and Kevin Steen/El Generico vs. The Young Bucks.
That evening Kevin Steen was set to make a major announcement about his ROH future and all signs pointed that he was going to need knee surgery following the match. Fans were prepared for that to happen as Steen was unable to put much weight on his knee during most of the match and looked legitimately injured. The Young Bucks went onto win the match and shortly thereafter, my wrestling fandom got turned upside down.
Steen grabbed the microphone telling a heartfelt story about how his knee was starting to give out, how he needed surgery, how he loved his wife, his son and the wrestling business. He then turned to El Generico looked his tag partner in the eyes, hugged him, kicked him between the legs and delivered the chair shot heard round the world.
As Colt Cabana charged the ring wondering what happened and Steen tilted his head back as if he had this huge weight off of his shoulders, I instantly became a huge Kevin Steen fan watching in the crowd that crowd that night.
The Kevin Steen/El Generico (with cameos from Steve Corino & Colt Cabana) feud from 2010 is one of, if not my most favorite feud ever in professional wrestling. Don’t believe me? I profiled the entire feud here: http://camelclutchblog.com/roh-final-battle-steen-generico/ and actually got props from Kevin Steen on Twitter when he re-tweeted a link to the blog post and said “This guy gets it.”
When I received the most prestigious acknowledgment from a professional wrestler any fan could received, I decided I would personally e-mail Kevin Steen to reveal I was the fan who wrote this blog and tell him how much he/the feud meant to me as the fan. I realize at this point I may have crossed the “fan threshold” with professional wrestlers, but I felt like it was a chance worth taking because I appreciated what he and Generico did for me as a fan so much.
Once again, I didn’t expect any type of response from Kevin Steen but just hoped he read it and realized that there are actual wrestling fans out there that respect his craft rather than just bash it or think they are some “experts.” But to my surprise a couple days later I received an e-mail back from Kevin Steen with a tremendous response back. I would rather not share that response here in this blog but it meant the world to me and showed me how much this “evil/sadistic” character on ROH TV was, he was a genuine human being through and through.
Fast forward to Final Battle 2010 that year and I was once again in attendance for the epic Kevin Steen/El Generico match that evening. I have been to a WrestleMania, a Survivor Series, countless RAW & SmackDown’s and was never more excited to see any match live like I was that night at Final Battle 2010. There was just a special feeling in the air and that held true as Steen & Generico had an amazing match and told an amazing story in the ring.
I love the match and highly recommend any wrestling fan to check it out. Every once in a while wrestling fans are blessed with seeing incredible chemistry in the ring (Hart/Michaels & Austin/Rock to name a few) and Kevin Steen (Owens) & El Generico (maybe Sami Zayn?) have that chemistry in the ring.
The stipulation that night was that the loser left ROH forever, never to be seen again. Anyone who is a wrestling fan knows those don’t last long and I expected Kevin Steen (who lost that night) to return by the next NYC show in February 2011.
But he didn’t.
And then I expected him back during WrestleMania weekend.
But he still didn’t.
Years later (thanks to a Kevin Steen ROH shoot interview) we would come to find out that Jim Cornette (who was in control of ROH’s creative direction at the time) did not like Kevin Steen and didn’t feel like Steen/Generico/Corino/Cabana were worth the price of my admission. When truth be told, they were the driving factor to me attending nearly every ROH NYC show for three years.
The fact that Jim Cornette didn’t think Kevin Steen could draw any money to this day baffles me and shows how detached he is from what fans want today. There is a reason why most ROH fans left when Cornette had the book and that’s because creatively, what fans wanted to see in the early 2010’s, was not what Cornette thought fans would want. He thought that fans still wanted to see what he did in SMW/OVW/TNA and that could not be any further from the truth.
But that’s not what this blog is about. But if you are reading this Cornette…Steen/Owens = Money.
I was there in June 2011 when Kevin Steen finally returned to ROH trying to receive a “2nd chance” and his returned received nearly the loudest pop that night. I was honored later that night when security took Kevin Steen out holding him above their heads and me, chanting like a damn fool for Steen, received the middle finger from Steen and was told to “fuck off” by him. Made my evening.
It was also during this time that a “@SteenIsRight” and “@SteenForChamp/@SteenIsChamp” campaign began on Twitter. Which, I may or may not have had something to do with. Shane Hagadorn ran the “@SteenIsRight” campaign (and sent me a t-shirt which I still have) and the “@SteenForChamp/@SteenIsChamp” campaign was never revealed…until now (get what I am saying?).
Fast forward years later and Kevin Steen finally got his big break in the WWE. While it was obviously a huge life-changing moment for he and his family, it was an amazing moment for me as a massive fan for Kevin Steen.
For years I told other wrestling fans to “check out Kevin Steen” and that “Kevin Steen is the best wrestler on the independent circuit today.” To get that belief vilified from the WWE was awesome to see. I would listen to podcasts from Austin & Jim Ross talk about Kevin Steen and they would talk about “his weight this” & “his weight that” and that would seriously bug me as a fan.
Why should it matter what Kevin Steen looks like if he can take me as a wrestling fan into another place when watching his matches?
Thankfully WWE agreed with me (and millions of other fans) when they signed him. His NXT debut in December 2014 gave me chills and I may or may not have had some “dust” in my eyes when I saw him debut. He may not have realized it, but he was not alone as I like many fans were beyond thrilled to see him attain his goals…because he deserved/earned it.
When he won the NXT Championship; I was beyond happy. When he defeated John Cena in May 2015; I nearly had a heart attack of the joy I had. When he finally met The Rock after a long time social media bromance; I could have died and gone to heaven.
Kevin Steen, now known as a Kevin Owens, was making it and doing exactly what we all expected him to…succeed.
The most latest “I can’t believe this is happening (in a good way)” moment as a fan of Kevin Owens happened at WrestleMania this year when I watched him walk out in front of nearly 100 million fans. For me, I went back to December 2009 in the Manhattan Center when the then-Kevin Steen was wrestling in front of maybe 1,000 fans and was now wrestling in front of 100 million fans at WrestleMania.
Now onto the point of this entire blog…(I had to set the ground work on why Kevin Owens means a lot to me as a fan).
Days later after WrestleMania I found myself in a “huge diehard fan moment” when I actually spotted Kevin Owens with his entire family at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida. I was walking through Frontierland by The Haunted Mansion (follow me all you people who have never been to Disney World) when I saw Kevin Owens coming out from under the open building connecting Fantasyland and Frontierland. The first words out of my mouth to my girlfriend:
“Holy fuckin’ shit it’s Kevin Owens!”
This was out loud by the way. In Disney World. In front of children and families.
She was immediately caught off guard (as she should be) and said “what?” I repeat myself, pointed over to what I believe to be was Kevin Owens and she got a little bit closer to him (he was now talking to his wife under the area where they serve fruit in Frontierland – keep following me people who have never been to Disney), then confirmed what I saw by saying it is in fact Kevin Owens.
My girlfriend obviously knows how much of a Kevin Owens fan I am (he was the reason why we went to an MSG Live Event in October 2015 – Sorry, it wasn’t you Lesnar) and immediately suggested that I go up to Kevin Owens to get a photo/autograph, whatever. I thought about what she said for literally 1 second and immediately blurted out: “I can’t, he is with his family.”
Being the big wrestling fan that I am, I knew that all the WWE stars were off the road following the SmackDown taping after WrestleMania 32 weekend and that this was the one of the weekends they have throughout the year to spend with their loved ones. After explaining that to my girlfriend, she quickly understood why I couldn’t go up to Kevin Owens.
To me it wasn’t worth going up to Kevin Owens, interrupting time with his family (he was holding his son’s hand as his wife pushed a stroller with his daughter) and potentially throwing off whatever amazing day he was having with his family.
I immediately put myself in his children’s shoes to wonder what I would think if someone random came up to my Dad while on family vacation in Disney World to thank him and be told that they were a huge fan of his. I would probably remember that moment from the trip if it was me, even though his son realizes how popular his Dad is and has been with him while his father was approached by a fan.
So I felt like the best thing I can do as a fan was to leave Kevin Owens alone and give him the feeling that no one around him knew he was, respectfully. I saw him stopped a couple times as he walked through Fantasyland and very respectfully told fans he wouldn’t take a photo/autograph. He wasn’t a jerk at all (he had every right to be) and kept moving along with his family, his wife pushing a stroller, his daughter wearing a Minnie Mouse outfit and holding the hand of his son who was wearing a WrestleMania 32 t-shirt.
It was during this moment I realize why I enjoyed watching Kevin Owens and was a huge die-hard fan since December 2009.
Despite being a heel for most of those years, he was a genuine human being who worked hard and never gave up, no matter what anyone (Jim Cornette comes to mind) ever said to him or thought of him. He reached the lowest of lows (off ROH TV for 6 months despite being one of the top stars during that time) and the highest of highs (winning the NXT Championship, defeating John Cena, performing at WrestleMania 32, etc.). To see someone who works so hard, despite the odds against him and overcome huge odds, is awe-inspiring.
While I didn’t approach Kevin Owens that day, I may have been in line at The Little Mermaid ride by him because I just couldn’t believe who I was seeing. But what I saw wasn’t a man known as “The Prizefighter” but someone who is “The PrizeFather.”
He was showing love to every member of his family and could tell that he was cherishing the moments he had with them in a ride at Walt Disney World. If I needed any reassurance that I did the right thing by not going up to him, that’s all I needed to see.
The Steen Family went onto the ride and then I never saw them again the entire trip. I didn’t get a chance to tell Kevin Owens what he meant to me, how much he entertained me throughout all these years and how much his life story inspired me, but I felt like I was able to do something that most fans should do and that was to not interrupt his family time/personal life. It’s tough being a world famous wrestler with a huge following (despite being a heel) and there have been so many times I have watched him wrestle that it suspends my reality, that I don’t want to suspend his reality of being a dad & husband during those moments.
I didn’t go up to Kevin Owens, but I did do the next best thing that most fans do and that was Twitter. I had to let out some of my appreciation for the guy out, especially if I couldn’t tell him, somewhere and I tweeted the following after I went back to my hotel room:
Was absolutely star struck. Just seeing @FightOwensFight made my day. So much respect and admiration for everything he has accomplished.
— Jeff Peck (@TheJeffPeck) April 7, 2016
To my surprise, I received a response three hours later from Kevin Owens:
@TheJeffPeck I appreciate the respect. If you see me again, please come say hi. It’s no problem.
— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) April 7, 2016
That right there ladies and gentlemen, sums up Kevin Owens. He sees my tweet, knows I am a huge fan and welcomed the opportunity for me to go up & simply say hello. He didn’t have to respond back to me and he didn’t have to open the door to that chance opportunity should it happen again (it didn’t). He is a genuine hard-working individual who deserves everything he is getting/earning.
It’s the dream that every single person hopes to achieve one day, and Kevin Owens is doing it. He can be the most dastardly heel in wrestling, but will never forget his fans along the way. Whether to be the time he tweeted then e-mailed me back in 2010 and tweeted back at me in 2016.
I may never get the opportunity to tell Kevin Owens personally how much he means to me as a fan and how his story has inspired me, but I can only hope that at some point this blog comes across his path to know how much he is appreciated.
Kevin, if you ever read this blog thank you so much for everything that you do. I hope someday I can personally meet you just to shake your hand and say thanks. You’re a great wrestler, but an even better person. Thank you for inspiring myself and others.