I remember my first Kevin Steen experience quite vividly.
I was at some ROH show at Sports Plus on Long Island. Pelle Primeau comes out to the ring, prepared to die. His opponent, a young man by the name of Kevin Steen, who marched to the ring to the tune of “Tear Away” by Drowning Pool.
For the few minutes that followed, Steen proceeds to absolutely murder Pelle, while the crowd chanted “Mr. Wrestling.” I turned to my friend Alex, asked who the hell this guy was, and where he came from. A brutal throw into the corner and a package piledriver later, I had my answers.
From that day on, Kevin Steen has been an unstoppable wrecking ball, commanding attention everywhere he goes.
But what makes this guy so captivating? There are a thousand guys on the indies who show up, kick ass, and leave. Most of them will never make a mark on the business, let alone rise to the level of Kevin Owens.
WWE may have stolen Eddie Kingston’s “last of a dying breed” nickname for Bull Dempsey, but it should have been adopted for Owens. He’s one of a small handful of guys who, when they get on the microphone, you believe what he’s saying. That’s a lost art in the age of generic, scripted promos.
When Owens gets in the ring, you pay attention. There is no wasted motion. Everything he does throughout the course of a match counts.
He may also be the last true heel in wrestling. He walks away from fights that he WANTS TO FIGHT, because he only fights on his terms. He doesn’t show respect for anyone, for any reason. He could give a damn about what the fans want, or whether they boo or cheer him. In the era of the cool heel, where all heels are secretly babyfaces anyway, Kevin Owens is a heel, through-and-through.
But at the end of the day, he’s still “one of us.” If you listened to his interview with Steve Austin, you know that Owens learned to speak English (he’s French-Canadian) by watching WWE and, specifically, listening to Jim Ross’ commentary. You know that he once asked Steve Austin for advice, and was told to never stop running his mouth–advice by which he clearly still abides.
He’s a god on social media, too. Hilarious on Twitter.
But part of what makes Kevin Owens so easy to get behind is the fact that, like so many others, he simply wasn’t supposed to make it. He doesn’t look like, talk like, or wrestle like the prototypical WWE Superstar. Mark Madden once wrote that Kevin Steen looked more like a fan who won a contest than a star. He had a point… but Steen also looks like a guy who would come after you for looking at him the wrong way on the subway. He looks like a modern incarnation of an 80s wrestler.
Maybe that’s what I like best about him. Considering his Cena-esque array of “FIGHT OWENS FIGHT” shirts are often on the top sellers list, I’m not alone.
You can forget any preconceived notions you had about Kevin Owens. If you want to better know the former Mr. Wrestling, just watch. It’s going to be good… and in the end, you’ll see what I meant with that “last of a dying breed’ business.