Hustle. Loyalty. Respect Kevin Owens: Wrasslin’ Thursday 6/4/15Posted: June 4, 2015
Derek: We’re coming to you live (three/four days later) from Corpus Christi/San Antonio! We were bumped to Thursday again this week in part because one of your esteemed wrestling bloggers ended last week’s Wrasslin’ Thursday with the following:
Don’t worry, Kevin Owens. After CENAWINSLOL, you’ll be just fine.
Will: Kevin Owens has arrived.
That is the big takeaway from last Sunday’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view event. On an evening where much of the undercard was less than thrilling, the Kevin Owens-John Cena bout overshadowed all, even the Dean Ambrose-Seth Rollins WWE title match. Owens’ proper introduction to the WWE Universe could not have gone better. Even if his match with Cena wasn’t a proper five-star affair, it felt like the best match that these two possibly could have had in their first meeting.
Owens is a natural heel, and that much was clear from the jump. He talked shit as Cena made his entrance. He bellowed at Cena when he had him down, letting John know that it was him, not Owens, who had to prove himself. He bitched at the ref about slow three-counts. He dared to use Cena’s own moves — most notably the AA and the Five-Knuckle Shuffle — against him, and mocked his opponent’s ubiquitous you can’t see me gesture.
His character has been calm and sarcastic on the microphone, but in the ring he transformed into a brutal monster. His moveset is refreshing in its diversity. He mostly operates as a burly brawler, but he showed surprising agility and wrestling acumen as well. He performed a fisherman’s suplex off the top rope. He hit a package powerbomb, the setup a nod to the package piledriver that he used when he went by Kevin Steen. He landed a moonsault and a senton splash off the ropes. He did a little bit of everything.
It looked like the match would go the way that so many have, vintage CENAWINSLOL, but it didn’t. Owens won, and he won clean. He pinned Cena in the middle of the ring with no interference or shenanigans. I accidentally stumbled across a spoiler online moments before the match was decided, but even that didn’t ruin it. This was a huge moment. I couldn’t, and still can’t, quite believe it. What did WWE do with their new toy on Raw Monday night?
Derek: Owens waltzed out with a delightful air of superiority that I’m starting to love. There were no facial expressions or gestures that resembled happiness. Just an “I can’t believe how good I am” strut as he glanced around at the peasants of San Antonio.
He went on to talk about how he always does what he says he’s going to do, and told a (possibly true) story about how he called his son after the match and his son would only ask if Cena was okay. Owens ripped a page out of CM Punk’s playbook, blasting Cena’s popularity and lamenting the fact that Cena is more of a hero to his son than Owens himself. “I’m going to make sure that my son watches every single second (of our rematch),” he said. “And if you’re a parent, and you’ve got a little kid out there begging you for a John Cena shirt, or a John Cena themed birthday party, take my advice: sit them down, and make sure they watch it too. Because I’m going to show that a real role model doesn’t rely on marketing, catchphrases, and bright colors. A real role model says their gonna do something, and then they deliver. Just like I do.”
Naturally, Cena’s music hit a few second later, and he delivered a textbook impassioned Cena promo. Cena claimed he was going to give Owens the US title until Owens started shooting his mouth off. Cena spent a few minutes ripping into Owens by saying that, despite being a good wrestler, he can’t be a real role model because he’s not even a real man. He brought up all of the kids in the audience, including a young cancer patient, saying they cheered for him not because of WWE Marketing, but because he helps them believe. I wonder if heel wrestlers consider it dirty pool when their opponents kind of imply that they’re not on the same side as children with cancer.
Anyway, Cena went on to claim that Kevin Owens would lose at Money in the Bank, because a real wrestler can’t beat a real man. Cena then removed his shirt to signal his desire for a scrap, but Owens retreated. I wish Owens had a chance to respond. The only thing that would have made it better was a back-and-forth to go along with their solo monologues.
I’ll say this for Owens, though: he’s good at listening to promos. That sounds like a weird skill, but I loved his facial expressions while he listened to Cena Cenaing all over the place. I don’t know if he does this on purpose, but he always does this little snort that he pairs with chewing on … something … when Cena is talking. Toss in the occasional incredulous head shake and he’s just oozing defiance.
I’m looking forward to the rematch. As Michael Cole said, the first match featured “THE MOST MONUMENTAL WIN IN WWE HISTORY!!!!!!!!!!!” As JBL said, it was like that time “Joe Namath claimed he was going to beat the Chiefs!” As Booker T said, “Wow! My goodness!”
Will: Rollins-Ambrose wasn’t quite on the Owens-Cena level in my eyes, but it was still a very good match. It opened with the two doing some old school wrasslin’ with arm drags and shit before the pace slowed down to set up the 20-minute plus affair. It didn’t have the novelty that Owens’ debut did since we’ve seen these two so many times before, but their familiarity allowed for some clever reversals and neat spots. The commentators would have been well-served to point out that they knew each other’s games well based on their shared history together, but alas.
Things looked like they would take a turn in the Authority’s favor after Rollins shoved the ref into the path of Ambrose’s flying elbow. Ambrose held serve, however, and covered Rollins after hitting his still poorly named finisher, Dirty Deeds. The ref was still knocked out, but wait! Another came flying in from backstage, power slid across the mat, and counted 1-2-3. Ambrose won.
Ah, but WWE creative was in a cheeky mood Sunday night. They dusted off the old Dusty Finish, with Rollins retaining the belt on technicality as Ambrose was DQ’d for…something. The Authority beat down Rollins before Roman Reigns came in to save the day. Ambrose and Reigns shared the ring in triumph, with Roman presenting his old pal with the belt that he rightfully won. Ambrose then stole a page from R-Truth’s playbook, literally taking the belt and bailing. I presume they addressed this on Raw?
Derek: They did, and he still has it. They also pointed out his long history of stealing, like when he also stole Rollins’ Money in the Bank briefcase and Barrett’s IC belt. Reigns spoke for Ambrose most of the evening, since Ambrose claimed he wasn’t showing up unless he was guaranteed a rematch at Money in the Bank. So the two will face each other in a Ladder Match at MITB. A match that Rollins will no doubt win, as he heads toward his inevitable match with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.
Ambrose did make an appearance at the end. Because The Authority were mad at Reigns, they decided to make him earn his way into the MITB Ladder Match. First, he had to beat King Barrett, which he naturally did. Then he had to beat Mark Henry, which he did via count-out. Henry got mad and gave him a World’s Strongest Slam on the way out. The Authority decided to give him one more match against Bray Wyatt in the main event. Reigns won that one clean in the middle of the ring despite interference from J&J and Kane. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when the folks at WWE Creative are talking about Bray Wyatt. I’m absolutely baffled.
Anyway, The Authority were really mad at Reigns for winning, so they decided to hurt him. That’s when Ambrose finally made an appearance with the stolen belt. Though, technically, he did give it back.
I’ll enjoy this feud as long as it lasts. Ambrose-Rollins and Cena-Owens are almost can’t-miss.
Will: Don’t get it twisted: Elimination Chamber was not a great pay-per-view. It was marred by clumsy work, botched spots, and shoddy announcing. The matches in the eponymous chamber were filled with action, but none of it was particularly interesting.
The six-team tag match was fun, I suppose, but I found myself wishing it was just a New Day vs. Kidd/Cesaro match. The other teams acquitted themselves reasonably well — the Prime Time Players looked perhaps better than ever, and the Ascension even looked strong for a minute! — but they just haven’t been given enough time to be compelling.
The same goes for the six-man Intercontinental Title match. Mark Henry was added as an eleventh hour replacement after Rusev was declared out with an injury, and that set the tone. I have nothing against Mark, but when was the last time we saw him? They couldn’t find anyone better to throw into the action? The match was tarnished by some combination of chamber malfunction and commentator ignorance, as Sheamus’ pod either didn’t open by mistake or because he deliberately kept it shut; it wasn’t explained. One way or another, Ryback won the match and the IC belt. He’s as good a choice as any — if nothing else, he takes Daniel Bryan’s mantle of “guy who just loves the wrestling biz,” although he does so with roughly one-tenth of the allure.
Derek: Agreed on both counts. The tag team division is suddenly crowded, and that’s without factoring in the return of Harper/Rowan. The lesser tag teams are running out of opportunities.
The way people behave in Elimination Chamber matches is so weird. Sheamus was acting like he wanted in the match when his pod wouldn’t open. Why? What does he care? Let the other guys knock each other around and clean up what’s left. Same for breaking up pin attempts. Who cares? This isn’t a triple threat match. If someone gets pinned, that’s one less guy to worry about. Someone else getting pinned is a good thing.
Though I suppose it’s possible Sheamus was deliberately keeping himself in, as you said. “Announcer ignorance” would be a fitting reason for the lack of clarity.
Will: The Divas match was meh, with Nikki Bella retaining her belt … one way or another. Bo Dallas-Neville was fun, with Bo heeling it up better than most these days can. Neville hit a Red Arrow to win, and there was an enjoyable amount of flippy shit.
Still, it was a very uneven card. We’ll forget everything that wasn’t Cena-Owens and Rollins-Ambrose, and that’s fine. Getting two excellent matches out of a PPV that was announced just two weeks ago seems like a decent yield. For all the kvetching we did last week about WWE’s relentless pimping of the Network, the two headliners from Elimination Chamber showed what the company can do when it has to produce big moments.
Derek: The big moments continued after Raw, too. Stone Cold had Paul Heyman on his podcast, which I would highly recommend. There were a ton of great anecdotes, but the part everyone’s talking about is when Heyman asked Stone Cold if he’d face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. Austin didn’t laugh it off or give a non-answer. He cranked the dial up from Podcast Stone Cold to Wrestler Stone Cold and said “If I was gonna fight Brock Lesnar, I’d beat his ass.” He said he’d be willing to discuss it, in the event it was a Texas Death Match. He also said that Lesnar would have to spend even more time considering it, because all of his momentum would come to an end. Austin and Heyman had the following exchange:
SC: If you start messing with Stone Cold, you’re not gonna like what you get back. That’s as easy as I can put it, because I’m getting a little ramped up right now just looking at your sorry ass.
PH: I’m just an advocate.
SC: You’re about to advocate an ass whuppin’. And your man ain’t here to prevent that from happening.
And maybe the most delightful part of all was Austin not being able to turn off Stone Cold mode when he wrapped the podcast shortly thereafter. He had the same look on his face as he stuttered through thanking Heyman for helping him with his career. The whole segment fired me up. Now I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. We need a Lesnar-Austin Texas Death Match at WrestleMania.
The big news on NXT was the announcement of Kevin Owens facing Finn Balor for the NXT Championship in Tokyo on July 4. For those of you who don’t know, I live in South Korea. This announcement was … tempting. I’ll leave it at that for the moment.
And we haven’t even gotten to Sad Rusev! Look at the poor guy:
I take back every bad thing I ever said about Rusev. I’m never skipping one of his promos again. Not when he says stuff like “I have nothing. I have no championship. I have no career. I have no woman. I’m just a broken man. I have a broken ankle. Broken spirit. I am the one crushed, this time.” Hey, he’s already got a new entrance video. I propose some new music as well.
Wash away the rain, Rusev. Wash away the rain.