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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kevin Owens Survives Day One in Hostile Territory

I'm filled with a little bit of hope when I see the story about Finn Balor, about how Vince McMahon prefers he get called to the main roster ASAP, while Triple H insists that the Irish show-stealer remain in NXT for a considerable time longer. Being that Balor comes with a hefty downside guarantee, he may not be missing out on too much money, and his stay in Orlando becomes justified. It is, however, another case where Triple H seems to be protecting his NXT investments.

After the veritable disasters of The Ascension, Adam Rose, and Emma, the running joke of NXT being Nirvana to WWE's Babylon persisted. For once, fans wanted notoriously-political Paul Levesque to flex that chemically-enhanced (allegedly) political bicep and muscle into submission anyone that dares try to cut off his projects at their able knees.

Things have changed. Neville may not win every match, but he dazzles with head-shaking precision in the upper midcard, and needed interference from Rusev, another largely-protected Performance Center success story, to ruin his chance to beat John Cena cleanly. Paige handles her business well in a Divas division where the main narrative is, "They're all unbalanced whores; just let them all fight each other without a story undercurrent." Under those parameters, the gunk slides off of her sheen easier than others.

Rolling up to last night on Raw, Kevin Owens couldn't have been more heavily protected. What I dug most about his surprise appearance was that he bent the fabric of WWE reality, not a case of WWE twisting him like a bearded, husky pipe-cleaner to their galling specifications. Owens enters after another ceaseless 'land of the free' pap speech from Cena, Logic dictates that he enters the US Open Challenge, and either loses clean after a hard fought battle (to a Cena selling nothing from his beating in the I Quit match) or gets DQed for being an ill-tempered poor sport at some point.

To my delight, neither of these came to pass. Instead, Owens scoffed at the entire championship challenge, appearing to travel to Richmond, VA solely so he could scoff at the challenge in person. From a character perspective, Owens, 48 hours out from his biggest title defense to date, merely made the trip far yonder to buttress his own confidence, to psyche himself up for Wednesday night's match with Sami Zayn by playing chicken on the tracks of an increasingly-hostile Cena. It's one of the rare times that Cena demonstrated reddened anger without Russia being involved.

In other words, Cena took Owens seriously. Owens refused to play along with the game that Cena had set up, understandable given that such insolence is in line with his stoic-brat make-up. That irked Cena, who after a number of wins in his weekly contest has come to expect victory after a prolonged TV epic (at least, the fans do).

By the time Owens cheap-shotted Cena and spiked him with his pop-up powerbomb, you knew the commitment to Owens as a major player coming will be spiking at an even higher zenith. After all, he stomped on the United States title, man. That's spitting in the face of a cemented Raw trope. Anyone who breaks WWE's rigid structure these days is treated with attentive eyes and ears. Judging by Owens' non-traditional physique (by WWE standards), getting hired in the first place was a major victory for a man of his talents.

Owens vs. Cena at Elimination Chamber could theoretically go either way, but I'm finding it hard to imagine Cena winning at this point. Wikipedia doesn't list it as a title match, so Cena could still lose and have his weekly showcase while extolling the virtues of America. It's probably best that the belt isn't involved, because you just know with Cena, it's a slippery slope into a US vs. Quebec feud, and unless they unearth the old Provincial Rules for a match, it's just not worth it.

But yes, given how Owens was presented as a near dead-eyed monster that beat up Cena with no motivation except because I can bodes well for his immediate future. It also bodes well for Triple H's pull, and tells me that his eye for talent and stories will supersede that of his doddering elder sooner rather than later.

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