On Aug. 12, 2014, a popular independent wrestler named Kevin Steen signed with WWE. Barely two years later, Kevin Owens has risen to the top of the company and became WWE universal champion.
Yes, Owens came out on top of the Fatal Fourway match to decide the vacated universal title. If that wasn't wild enough, the match itself featured a swerve that nobody saw coming. The night kicked off with an announcement that the Fatal Fourway match would be an elimination match. The match started off hot, with Big Cass, of all people, getting in a large chunk of the offense. Eventually, Cass would be eliminated as all three of the other competitors teamed up to eliminate him. Despite being eliminated first, Cass looked like an absolute star in the match. The remaining three went back and forth for a bit, with several near-falls, and that's when things got weird.
As Roman Reigns took advantage of the match, and started to attack both Seth Rollins and Owens on the outside, Triple H, who hadn't been seen on WWE television since WrestleMania, showed up out of nowhere. He hit Reigns with a Pedigree on the outside, rolled him in the ring, rolled Rollins into the ring and Rollins covered Reigns for 3. Then, Triple H went over to Owens, rolled him into the ring, and then followed. Then, Triple H shocked everyone by turning and Pedigreeing Rollins. Owens crawled over, got the pin, and reached the top of the business. The show went off the air first with Owens, overcome with emotion with the belt, as the crowd chanted, “You deserve it.” Meanwhile, Triple H left the ring, glared at Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon, who were at ringside looking shocked, and then left through the crowd.
Let's take this in two parts. First, Owens winning the title is a great decision, and a remarkable one when you think back on it. Owens, or Kevin Steen, was always one of those independent guys who was ultra-talented, but even the most rabid fan would have said that he might not work in the WWE. He wasn't in the best shape, he didn't look like a typical WWE wrestler. He also reportedly didn't get along with management well, and Jim Cornette even called him a “pain in the ass.” So for him to legitimately be on top of the company barely two years after signing, it shows a lot. It shows that WWE, or at least Triple H, knows what a talent he is, and how important he can be in the company. It was a really cool moment, one that definitely eases the disappointment of what happened to Finn Balor.
As for Triple H's involvement, I know there are some people who didn't like it. They wanted Owens to win on his own, and they still feel weird about Triple H inserting himself into big moments. However, in my opinion, it was the most brilliant part of the match.
First, nobody saw it coming. There was plenty of speculation before the match of what could happen, but nobody guessed Triple H's involvement. They might have telegraphed Triple H turning on Rollins once he stepped into the ring, but there's nothing you can do about that. Secondly, this is exactly what RAW needed to get back on track. RAW had been set up for Finn Balor to be a top face, and take on all the top heel challengers. Once he went down, there was a major void at the top of the card for faces, and led to an awkward situation where a heel winning the title would create awkward matchups against lesser faces at best, or heels at worst. Triple H's involvement makes sure that Owens is a super-heel. The way it was done also immediately allows Rollins to turn face, and likely become the biggest face on the brand. It sets up matches with Rollins and Reigns, and even Big Cass after tonight. Since he's aligned with Triple H, it could also lead to a logical division between Jericho and Owens Throw in the already-existing feud with Sami Zayn, and if WWE wanted, Owens could hold the belt until WrestleMania without any problems going from opponent to opponent. That would not be the case if Owens had just won cleanly on RAW.
RAW came out of the draft promising a “new era.” With this move, they have ensured that the fans do indeed get a new era, and set up RAW for a nice run through the fall.
The Rest of RAW:
* We finally got the pairing that everyone needed in their life: The New Day and Bayley. Bayley was perfect, almost going back to her early NXT role of marking out over meeting new people. The New Day was glorious. And their entrance ... it was too much. Bayley is already incredibly over with the crowd. She pinned Dana again, and is on a collision course with Charlotte. I wouldn't have her win the belt yet, but so far, so good.
* Paul Heyman came out to deliver an apology to Stephanie McMahon over Brock Lesnar's actions, while still being very cocky about it. It was an interesting route to go, with Heyman needling Stephanie more than some might have thought. Stephanie said she accepted his apology though, so we'll see where they go from here.
* Sheamus beat Cesaro go to up 2-0 in their best-of-seven series. This isn't a surprise, especially for someone like Cesaro. They'll want him to have a comeback. It wouldn't surprise me to have Sheamus win one more time, and then start the comeback at Clash of Champions.
* Sami Zayn beat Jinder Mahal, while selling his ankle injury from last week.
* Jericho beat Neville with a legitimate Lion Tamer. It's fun to see Jericho face smaller guys every now and then.
* Nia Jax and Braun Strowman each destroyed their respective jobbers.
* Darren Young beat Titus O'Neil. Titus beat up both Darren and Bob Backlund after the match.
Questions? Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section here, email me, or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also hear my podcast, Jobbing Out, at https://soundcloud.com/jobbingout