Kevin Owens is your second ever WWE Universal Champion. He replaced the injured Finn Bálor on Monday Night Raw as the main man on Raw.
Who in their right mind would have ever thought that any of this would have been the case?
Seriously. We don’t even need a time machine. Simply re-imagine the WWE two or three years ago, then think about the odds of Finn Bálor being a world champion, then him being followed up by Owens. It would make no sense to any wrestling fan in 2013. Especially not during a period of wrestling when the company was still jamming home its ideas on TV over the ones we tend to like.
But that’s where we currently are. The Internet Wrestling Community got everything they ever claimed they wanted in a seven-day span.
That’s mostly the point here. The WWE’s New Era of wrestling is just that: Everything is new, and everything is awesome.
It isn’t only limited to two non-traditional world champions holding those belts, but this New Era and new risk is littered throughout the WWE Universe.
Who knows the actual reason for it, yet these new “risks” the WWE is taking are the sort it would never have attempted previously. At least not since the Attitude Era, though it is arguable guys like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock more forced that era into existence than the WWE having a huge active hand in turning that period of time into a thing.
We have broadcast announcers – though not constantly – referring to the talent in the ring as “wrestlers.” We also have the majority of the guys near the top of the two main event scenes being the type of wrestlers who would never even had a place in the WWE’s past.
AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Finn Bálor, even Seth Rollins – all guys who would otherwise at best be mid-card title dudes, are now holding world titles, fighting for world titles and are tasked with carrying the company much in the same way John Cena had before them.
There are even more risks being taken during this New Era.
The new SmackDown camera angles, the push of the women’s division (as women, not as objectified humans), the debuting of many younger talent and moving away from having Cena be the very top dog in the company.
That last aspect is the most obvious proof in that the WWE is willing to take on these new risks.
It has been long believed that whenever things turn sour ratings wise for the company, Vince McMahon will quickly change direction no matter the current happenings, and rely upon the face that runs the place to save the WWE from whatever impending hell the chairman of the board fears is awaiting.
But what has Cena been doing lately? Not only has he been spending less time on WWE programming, but when he is he’s putting over guys like Styles – a dude the WWE would have laughed out of the room a couple of years ago.
Plus, no more Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry inundating WWE programming.
Here we are. It is the year 2016, people are still consuming pro wrestling, and the WWE is attempting to freshen its brand by (mostly) going the route many diehard fans have sworn they have wanted for the better part of a decade and a half.
All aspects of the industry that have changed, but if we asked ourselves two years ago if it were possible, we’d say hell no.
Will it work? I like to think so, as all the major players involved these days – Bálor, Rollins, Owens, Styles, etc. – are guys many of us enjoy watching, and the current WWE roster might be my favorite of all-time, as it as deep as it is plentiful of top-level talent.
All of that being said, wrestling fans are fickle beasts. Without even realizing it, the WWE is giving them nearly everything they ever wanted. How they react over the next several weeks will be telling on several fronts.