Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens seemingly put a bow on their long-lasting rivalry with their matchup at Sunday’s Battleground special. If so, it was a fitting conclusion to what’s been one of the most heated WWE rivalries in recent memory. The match itself was a classic, one that should garner Match of the Year consideration in the present and will be looked back on fondly years down the road.
Based on Monday’s Raw, the WWE may be serious about putting Zayn and Owens’ rivalry in the rearview. Announcers spoke to how good the match was, but that was it. Zayn and Owens had no one-on-one interaction, competing in separate fatal four-way matches.
So, the question now becomes – what’s next for Zayn and Owens?
Since Zayn’s still relatively new to the WWE, there are some fresh singles feuds awaiting him. Feuds with Sheamus and Chris Jericho make sense and could be used to elevate the former El Generico. A United States Championship rivalry with Rusev would be both fresh and entertaining as well.
Owens, on the other hand, doesn’t have a ton of options in terms of new foes on Raw. His matches with Cesaro never disappoint, but the two must have had a dozen televised contests by now. Aside from he and Zayn, Finn Balor and Roman Reigns are the only two faces Owens could work with and not seem to be moving down the card.
That’s not to say he’s restricted from battling with heels like Jericho or Seth Rollins, but heel-on-heel rivalries aren’t something the WWE’s ever done much of.
Put simply, being on the same show during the brand split doesn’t put enough space between Zayn and Owens to call this rivalry done. Neither roster is deep enough to keep these two from crossing paths time and again. We heard heading into Battleground that Zayn and Owens were destined to fight forever and, so long as they are on the same roster, that may prove true.
Given that the two are in a similar place on the card, there’s no way they’ll avoid winding up in tag team, multi-man and No. 1 contender’s matches now and then on Raw. That’s fine in the sense that both are stellar in-ring workers and a joy to watch, especially against one another. But it could serve to overexpose a rivalry that could otherwise span many more years.
Which is why the WWE should find a way to get these two on separate shows.
That wouldn’t be a hard story to sell. Maybe Owens snaps and attacks Zayn so viciously that it forces a trade to SmackDown Live. Or maybe they find their way into a “Loser Leaves Raw” match at SummerSlam or some point further down the road. With the sterling memory of their last matchup fresh, fans would surely be open to one last showdown.
For now, that is. This rivalry has legs yet. In fact, it has as many as a centipede. But to best utilize it, both Zayn and Owens need time to breathe and prosper on their own.
Send Owens to SmackDown Live, maybe. There, alongside John Cena, Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles, he could help to recreate the SmackDown six. He could finally topple Cena, headline pay-per-views and become the WWE Champion fans have been expecting him to be since he debuted last summer.
Left to his own devices on Raw, Zayn could become the underdog-turned-success story that, when it happens organically, fans love to watch. Zayn’s already beloved by fans and has the sort of in-ring skill that will only endear him further to the WWE audience. Close your eyes and it’s not hard to picture him hoisting WWE gold overhead while confetti rains down from the ceiling.
Then, a few years later, when both have established their star, it’ll be time for Zayn and Owens to square off once again. Instead of being on the cusp of stardom, defined by and, in the eyes of some, even held back by a rivalry, they’ll be Superstars rekindling a rivalry at an even higher level.
It’s not hard to envision Zayn vs. Owens on the marquee of a WrestleMania, with championship gold on the line. But, to get there, they’ll need to do more than fight with one another.