Kevin Owens shows why he 'deserves it' at WWE Manila
MANILA, Philippines – Anyone who says wrestling isn't as good as it was is either out of touch or in denial. Wrestling, and in particular World Wrestling Entertainment, is stuffed with talent from the top of the card to the opening match on 3 different brands, with Triple H bringing in some of the best workers from around the world to flesh out the roster.
Manila fans got a firsthand view of how bright the present is during WWE's first live event in the Philippines since 2009, which took place on Friday, September 9 at the Mall of Asia Arena. In the main event, newly-crowned WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens faced off against Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins.
All 3 have chemistry with each other dating back to their battles on the independent scene, and any list of the top 10 active wrestlers would include them. Once the bell rang, Owens took over, utilizing time-tested heel (bad guy) tactics which he has perfected and molded to his personality. With Zayn and Rollins (who is presumably now a babyface after Triple H turned on him) working as good guys, Owens jumped out of the ring to elicit heat by acting cowardly.
The fans then began chanting "Fight Owens Fight!," using the champion's catchphrase as a challenge to start acting as a champion should. Owens walked to the ring announcer's spot and grabbed the microphone to taunt the fans. "You can't tell me what to do," Owens, in his sarcastic intonation which inflects his Quebecois Canadian accent, told the fans.
The crowd was his.
The 15-minute match was an otherwise standard Triple Threat affair, with Rollins and Zayn providing high spots with their out-of-the-ring dives and taking turns working on Owens. Then, as the fans chanted "CrossFit Jesus!" at Rollins, a reference to his adherence to the smug fitness lifestyle and how he looks like Jim Caviezel in Passion of the Christ, Owens performed a comedic spot which has now been retweeted about 1,500 times and has made it nearly impossible for me to track Twitter interactions from my regular beat as a boxing reporter.
"I'm CrossFit Jesus!" Owens tells the crowd before busting out 3 jumping jacks. Given that Owens looks more like a professional bowler than a professional wrestler, and has admitted to celebrating his Universal Championship win last month by eating junk food and watching episodes of The Office on his iPad, anything less than a "We're not worthy" chant is frankly insufficient.
Then, after hitting a running senton onto Zayn and getting 3 straight two counts, Owens yells at the ref: "That was 6!"
More than just a series of applause-inducing moments, the 3 told a story which lines up with WWE canon. Owens and his arch-rival (and real-life best friend) Zayn are "destined to fight forever," while Rollins, a two-time WWE champion, seems to be slowly transitioning into the long-overdue role of good guy, has a score to settle after being screwed out of the vacant Raw brand title a few weeks back.
It's a story that will likely play out for the next few months following the unforeseen setback of Finn Balor suffering a severe shoulder injury during his title-winning match against Rollins at SummerSlam. Owens discussed how the turn of events led to Balor relinquishing the title a night after winning the belt on an episode of the Talk is Jericho podcast.
Chris Jericho, a fellow Canadian and another performer who upholds the true values of being a heel, reminded Owens of how he was fortunate to win the first Undisputed Championship after beating Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night at Vengeance in 2001 while Triple H was unavailable due to injury.
"That's part of the business," Jericho stated succinctly.
The finish was an appropriate bow on the package – Zayn lines Rollins and Owens up for a Helluva Kick, Owens ducks out, Rollins goes down, then Owens hits his Pop-Up Powerbomb finisher on Zayn for the 1-2-3.
After thwarting Owens following a post-match attack, Rollins reluctantly shakes Zayn's hand using storytelling that reminds fans that he's still struggling with his move to the light side.
Meanwhile Owens, who as a heel ended up with egg on his face despite the victory, is playing the role whic tradition has bestowed on heels. Owens isn't only the champion we want; he's also the champion we need. And regardless of whether or not we deserve him, he'll likely do his job as a professional, just as he always has.
Whether you favor Zayn or Rollins, or Balor when he returns, or even a dark horse like Cesaro, Owens is occupying the spot he deserves. And if Jericho's catch phrase is to "Drink it in, man," then Owens fans should "eat it up" while it lasts.
- WWE hadn't had an event in the Philippines since 2009. Let's hope they saw how this live event became the top trending event in the Philippines (a country known for its social media activity) and the enthusiastic audience and make Manila a regular stop on its loop.
- Chris Jericho is, at age 45, wrestling some of his best matches and doing some of the best heel work of his career. If Reigns will remain a babyface (he shouldn't), then working with guys like Jericho is exactly what he needs.
- You can watch Neville perform high-risk maneuvers on television, but you can't truly appreciate how he disregards gravity until you see him live.
- TMZ's video of Big Show breaking the second rope during his match against John Cena at WWE Manila was not an "exclusive" as they claim, as they simply repurposed this author's amateur cellphone video without credit. The video was published by Rappler at this link: WATCH: Big Show breaks ring rope during WWE Manila show. For shame, TMZ. – Rappler.com