The hiatus that Kevin Owens is being forced to take due to surgery makes sense of a lot of the recent booking decisions around the former Kevin Steen. It also might be the best way to save his WWE career, and also those of Sami Zayn and Bobby Lashley at the same time.
Like a lot of wrestling commentators, I’ve been annoyed by WWE’s constant burial of Owens. The man has had it rough ever since he and partner Sami Zayn went rogue and escaped a New Day beat down nearly a year ago at a European tour live event.
The incident saw the pair sent home and was the first in a set of dominoes that led to both men being buried over the course of the year.
The Burial of Kevin Owens
Sami Zayn’s last feud before going out with an injury was arguably one of the worst in recent memory for WWE. Remember Bobby Lashley’s three sisters? That was how Zayn departed with shoulder injuries, likely scheduled to return at the beginning of the new year.
Owens went on to have a mindbogglingly one-sided feud with Braun Strowman that saw him complete a dramatic turn to the cowardly heel side of the force. The feud was designed to rocket the world’s largest Tolkien Dwarf into position as a top babyface. This was accomplished by having Owens, now a simpering coward, stripped of all dignity.
It started when Strowman tossed KO from the top of the tallest of ladders at Money in the Bank. Then, the madness really began.
Over the course of the feud, Owens was:
- Covered in blue chemicals and poop
- Tossed like a ragdoll from the top of a steel cage onto a table
- Forced to have a difficult conversation with a car rental company
- Robbed of whatever money he spent on custom oddly compelling Money in the Bank gear
- Flipped over during a conspicuously located Kevin Owens Show.
On the last episode of Raw in August 2018, Owens lost a match to Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Title, and “quit” WWE in the next segment.
WWE creative likely intended for Owens to go on his hiatus from there. He was hurt and had nagging injuries that needed medical attention and healing. Quitting gave a quick and dirty reason for a prolonged absence.
So why did he show up the next week to beat down Bobby Lashley? WWE had already done the customary pre-hiatus burial to perfection. There had to be a reason.
The Bobby Lashley Heel Turn
Then the Bobby Lashley heel turn happened. On October 8, Lashley mercilessly attacked Owens and beat him silly. All to the soothing tones of Vince’s one-liners coming out of Lio Rush’s mouth.
The catch is, that I think this heel turn is actually a subtle double-turn that is going to help everyone involved.
If all goes well medically for Kevin Owens, he could return anywhere between four and eight months, with Zayn set to return in roughly three.
This gives WWE the opportunity to bring both men back together by delaying Zayn’s return and sending them against the man who put both of them on the shelf. This sets the duo up as either straight out babyfaces, or as “tweeners” in their first feud back.
Fans have been wanting to cheer for Owens for a long time now and his recent burial has only reminded fans of how much they like him. His beat down at the hands of Lashley makes him even more sympathetic in his return.
Zayn is a natural face and was starting to stagnate in his heel role before his injury hiatus. Restoring his status quo beside his best friend is probably the right move to set him back on course.
To say that Lashley was also stagnating with the fans as a face – let alone a top-level face – is an understatement. The Rob Conway style pops he was getting just weren’t screaming “top of the card.”
When fans first heard that Bobby Lashley was coming to WWE, they wanted to see the badass MMA monster from Impact. What they got was a disappointing, generic, always-smiling face who hadn’t entertained anyone prior to the October 8 beat down.
How WWE, KO, Sami Zayn, and Lashley Can All Win
WWE will succeed here if they play Lashley like the monster heel he should be. Then, if creative follows their own story breadcrumbs, Kevin Owens’ injury could propel him to the top of the card as a kickass babyface.
Coming back with his friend for revenge on Lashley could be a turning point for everyone involved. A single video package leading up to their return, and maybe having Sami Zayn appear on NXT until Owens is ready to go, would lead to a massive reaction from any audience. WWE would probably have it go down in or near Montreal, but that’s extra conjecture on my part.
With that said, as logical as it is, I’m dubious of WWE‘s ability to follow its own breadcrumbs. We shall see.