It finally happened.
After one of the best first year’s in company history, Kevin Owens finally became the WWE Universal Champion Monday. The former “King of the Indies” is now officially the face of Monday Night Raw – or rather the heel.
Owens, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Big Cass put on a Fatal 4-Way match in Monday’s main event that lived up to the hype of being for the new world championship.
After Owens eliminated Cass, Triple H made a run-in to help Rollins eliminate Reigns. He then turned his attention to Owens, but only to distract Rollins before attacking him instead. Owens picked up the pinfall and the rest is history.
Seriously, how perfect was that ending? And not just because of who won, rather how everyone was built up in the process.
First off, Big Cass looked like a million bucks even though he was the first elimination. The fact that he held his own in a main event title match should give WWE justification in his assumed super push.
Reigns’ elimination was due to outside interference. That keeps his character strong, while also making his loss look worthy of sympathy – although it won’t work at this point with the crowd already against him.
Many assume Monday’s result will lead to Rollins’ long-awaited babyface turn. Undoubtedly, he’ll seek revenge on Triple H and Owens, which should make him Raw’s top babyface. And let’s be honest, with Bálor on the shelf for six months and Reigns getting negative reactions, the show needs Rollins in that role.
So now that Rollins may have turned, Owens will assume the role as the company’s top bad guy. It’s something he’s arguably been for months, but now he has the title to prove it.
Owens has been on the cusp of being a full-time main eventer since beating John Cena in his main roster debut. However, there was a proverbial glass ceiling keeping him from staying at the top of the card or winning a world championship.
But after a totally villainous way of winning, Owens has solidified himself as a true A-plus player. Plus, Triple H’s involvement makes the storyline that much more interesting.
There’s the betrayal of Rollins, Stephanie’s confusion based on her assumed lack of involvement, Mick Foley’s babyface anger and the continuity of putting over Owens.
NXT has been called Triple H’s “baby” and Owens was one of its biggest stars. The former NXT champion has also received public admiration from “The Game” since signing with WWE.
It’s no secret that Owens – like Bálor – was one of Triple H’s favorites in NXT. In this case, reality has worked itself into kayfabe.
Perhaps if Bálor had stayed healthy we would have seen this storyline play out similarly, with him retaining the championship thanks to Triple H’s interference instead. But let’s not dwell in the “what ifs,” rather credit the company for giving fans what they’ve wanted for years.
WWE seems to be keen on building talent in the New Era and its done an excellent job so far. Think about it, who have been WWE Champions since WrestleMania? Reigns, Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Bálor and now Owens – all former NXT Superstars. Neither John Cena or Randy Orton have been in a pay-per-view title match since last year’s SummerSlam.
That’s not just catering to smarks, rather building toward the future. It’s not to say that Cena, Orton, Brock Lesnar or any other veteran won’t or shouldn’t ever win back the title. But now there’s at least several legitimate young champions, so the reliance on older talent doesn’t need to be as heavy.
WWE won’t have to have a WrestleMania card full of part-timers. It can now sell its events on legitimized former champions who are young enough to still go.
Owens has long been considered part of that nucleus that will carry the company for the next decade. Aside from Sami Zayn, those Superstars have already been world champions in 2016. That’s the best way to legitimize a young talent as a bonafide Superstar, rather than an “upstart.”
Owens’ first championship win not only accomplished that, but also made him that much more of a dastardly heel. Even though the crowd showered him with “you deserve it chants” – and he did – it was still an excellent way to gain more heat, especially with the equally smark-loved Rollins taking on a babyface role.