Kevin Owens on feud with Roman Reigns, jumping off a pirate ship, and Stunners
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports Analyst
Kevin Owens has been working hard over the past few months to remind everyone that he’s one of the top Superstars in all of WWE.
This mission, however, hasn’t come without pain.
There was a TLC match in December which saw the 36-year-old former Universal Champion get brutalized with tables, ladders and chairs so badly you couldn’t help but wince while watching.
There was an intense cage match on SmackDown the week after.
Then, there was a Last Man Standing match in January that saw Owens get hit with a golf cart, thrown off a platform through tables, dive off a forklift pallet and at some point actually get burned by his opponent.
Through it all, though, Kevin has managed to endure the pain in an indestructible manner and it’s helped reinvigorate his character on TV to once again feel like the guy who was Universal Champion on Raw a few years ago, as well as the guy who ran roughshod over NXT.
This week KO joined me via Zoom to chat about all of this and more in a 20-minute conversation covering the TLC and Last Man Standing matches, how he’s felt about the feud with Roman overall, the difficulty of having to top himself and much more.
Watch the interview or scroll below for the full transcript.
RS: Over the past few months you’ve been thrown off a platform high in the air through tables, twice, you’ve been hit with a golf cart, you’ve been brutalized with ladders, you Swantoned Roman Reigns off a forklift pallet and you wrestled a steel cage match, just to name a few things.
So, I’ve gotta ask, how are you feeling physically right now? You’ve been through a lot.
OWENS: Yeah, I feel great. I don’t know. This stuff, I feel it for a few days and then guess my body – obviously, my body recovers – but, I think my body’s just so used to that kind of punishment throughout the years that, honestly, the worst thing from all of it was people noticed that I got burned.
I’m not trying to show the new tattoo, I’m just trying to show the burn. Trying to get in close.
OWENS: You can see it’s like my arm was on a grill. So, yeah, that sucked. That really sucked a lot. So, that wasn’t great. None of it was great. But, that’s the one thing I’m still feeling.
RS: Yeah, that’s intense. Being fully branded after a match isn’t really ideal.
OWENS: You know, I wonder if it’s just gonna stay there forever, like a slight – cause I got a burn from when I was fourteen and it’s still kind of there on my leg.
So, I wonder if this grill pattern is just going to stay there as a reminder of the Royal Rumble match for the rest of my life.
RS: I mean, it’s kind of badass to have that for the rest of your life to a certain degree.
OWENS: But, that’s the problem. It’s just so slight that it’s not really badass. It’s just, you know what I mean? It’s just there. It’s not like, "Oh, man, what happened?" "Dude, I had this match and I got burned." "Whoa!" That’s not enough.
They’ll be like, "What’s that?" "I got burnt." "Oh. Alright." You know what I mean? It’s not enough. But, we’ll live with it. What can I do?
RS: Which hurt more of the two times you went off the platforms, when you went through the tables?
OWENS: Well, they’re both terrible.
The second time was worse, though, because I had to get right back up. Otherwise, I would have lost the match. So, I had to get up.
You know, the first one I could just lay there and really feel every shard of wood in my body. But, the second one I had to get right back up and keep going. So, I think that one by proxy or by default. I’m not sure which term works better.
RS: Those looked so brutal. Both of them. So, I can imagine that it wasn’t fun in the slightest bit.
In your recent episode of Chronicle, which was filmed in December, you talked about the uphill battle you had faced over the past few years and how you felt like this program with Roman Reigns was your chance to show people where you belong once again.
Now that it’s been going for a few months, how have you felt about the feud as a whole and do you believe that you’ve ultimately shown that to people again?
OWENS: Well, in a way I don’t feel like I ever really had to show it to people because I think people know by now.
But, the nature of our industry and the way things work and the amount of very talented people we have on the roster, just makes for an environment where you constantly have to prove your worth day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, right?
It’s almost like people in the industry or the company take things for granted. Like, I think after all the years I’ve put in – and I’m one of many, I’m not saying this just about myself – but, there are guys where when the shows go on the people in charge just know, "Oh, they’re going to have a good match."
They take it for granted because they know it’s going to be a good match or they’re going to be able to tell this story great, or they’re going to be able to deliver this promo great.
But, it becomes almost like it’s expected of us because it’s what we do. So, then it’s like, "Of course they had a good match." It’s like, not special, almost. You see what I mean?
So, once in a while, you have to have these special performances that are a bit above what you usually deliver even if what you usually deliver is good, – and like I said, we have a ton of men and women who do it on a weekly basis – but, once in a while, you just need this one performance to make people take notice again.
Like, "Oh, you know, he is really good," or, "Oh, we could do something with this." So, obviously, this story with Roman was a big opportunity for me to do that again.
Yeah, I think we accomplished it. Even Roman, I think. People are already aware, since he came back, that he’s on another level now.
And I think our story helped prove that even more, you know? I think it did a lot of good for both of us. Especially me, though.
RS: I agree, though, that it did something for both of you. He was already doing the dramatic stuff with Jey Uso, but I feel like the work between you and Roman has been much more physical.
I thought it was going to be difficult to top the TLC match, because it was so brutal. It was so intense. You guys had to much story going into it … but, I was impressed that you guys were able to raise the intensity level in your Last Man Standing match to make things even more intense than what that you guys had done prior to that.
Do you enjoy the challenge of having to top yourself?
OWENS: Yeah. You know, in this case too, what’s particular about it is when we did the TLC match, we didn’t set out knowing that we’d be doing a match at the Royal Rumble.
We didn’t even know about the cage match that was going to take match until the day of TLC, or the day before, and the cage match was, obviously, just a few days later.
So, at TLC we went all out. Because in our minds, we weren’t like, "Oh, we know where this is going. We gotta save ourselves." Like, no, man. We just threw it all out there. Then same for the cage match.
Then the Rumble situation presented itself and it’s not like we can go backward and just have a normal match after what we had done at TLC already. So, yeah. It is a challenge, but it is enjoyable as well.
RS: When you heard you had to do another gimmick match like a Last Man Standing match after you had just done two, I’m sure your reaction had to be something like, "Man, how are we going to top that?!? Well, I guess you can hit me with a golf cart in the match…?"
OWENS: Yeah, I don’t know how any of it came into play, to be honest. Again our minds were to just go all out and for me, the way I saw it, this was my WrestleMania this year. Because, I’ll probably be on WrestleMania, but it’s not going to be bigger than wrestling Roman Reigns for the title.
So, you know … I sure tried to get it to happen at WrestleMania. But, if it’s not going to happen at WrestleMania, I’m still going to perform like it is. And that’s what I did and that’s what he did.
We just want to bring good matches to people and good television and good stories and when you have that mindset and you’re working with somebody with that same mindset, things just kind of come together without having to think about it, you know what I mean?
So, all that stuff you saw at the Royal Rumble, it just happened out of two guys desperately wanting to put forth the best they could.
RS: Did you have to get any forklift training at all before the match in order to be able to use it?
OWENS: It took me fifteen years to get to WWE, right? So, throughout my career, before WWE, I was wrestling, but I also worked in a warehouse. So, I had plenty of fork lift training already.
I knew exactly how to make it all work.
The only thing is, one of our crew guys had to tell me, "You know, if you press the gas, it’ll make the thing go up faster." I was like, "Oh, really?" He’s like, "Yeah." I didn’t know that!
Probably could have used that information for the eight years I was at that warehouse. But, what are you going to do?
RS: Yeah, I was impressed when you got up there, too. How easily you hopped over that railing. Because you were high in the air.
OWENS: That was years of training from me not respecting the regulations put forth at the warehouse I worked at to go get stuff that was up high on the shelves and not wanting to go get the little ladder stairs you roll up to it.
I’m like, "No, we’ve got a fork lift right here."
And if I wasn’t working with one of my partners who could just lift me to the promised land, I would just make my way up there like that.
RS: Well, I’m glad it paid off in the long run. It gave you some help in this match.
OWENS: Who would have thought that years later it would work out that way.
RS: I think you’re someone who has, like, a brilliant mind for the wrestling business. Even before WWE, I was a big fan of yours. You’re the guy that got me into indie wrestling.
When I first went to a PWG show and I saw the way you worked that small crowd, it blew my mind and opened up my world to a whole different new kind of wrestling.
So, with that being said, I wonder, have you had to adjust how you work in the ring at all with the absence of fans? Because I feel like you’re someone who’s really good at judging where you are and how you have to work in that situation.
OWENS: I really haven’t had to change.
If anything, I think the experience I acquired working those smaller rooms in front of smaller crowds before WWE helps me a lot in this environment because there are guys and girls that are gonna go on Smackdown or RAW every week – now we have the Thunderdome with all the faces on the screen that kinda helps remind us there’s an audience out there – but when it was at the Performance Center, and it was just us and six or seven camera people and crew guys and then the commentators, I wasn’t shaken by it at all because I’ve wrestled in front of twenty people who make no noise.
The experience is there.
But, for those guys and gals who might have gotten signed right out of whatever wrestling program, football program, or right out of college and then right into the Performance Center and then right onto TV, working in front of no fans, even if the Performance Center is there to prepare you for that, because they do shows in front of nobody at the Performance Center just to get rounds in, just to get some experience, it could be really jarring.
But, it really didn’t bother me and I really didn’t change how I worked at all. The only thing I changed is who I worked for.
Because, even though I know there’s millions of people at home watching, I started having this mindset – and I’ve had it before, but not as much as now that the crowds were gone – the people we work with, from the camera guys to the crew to the stage managers, the producers, everybody, but especially our camera people, they’ve all been there for a really long time and they’ve seen a lot of wrestling.
So, if I can do something that they’re entertained by, I know I’ve done something that everybody watching at home is entertained by.
Because they’ve seen it all, like I said. So, that’s really rewarding. So, I’ve just kinda started working for them, because I know if they’re into it, people watching at home will be into it.
And, yeah, I think that’s been a good way to go about it.
RS: You were also someone who was already vocal in the ring, I feel like, too. Some wrestlers are less vocal in the ring, but I think you’re great at it from your time on the indies.
I used to see you call out people in the front row or I once saw you take a hat off of a guy, piledrive it, then throw it to the other side of the room. So, I definitely think you have that ability to take what setting you’re in and use it to the best of your advantage.
OWENS: Yeah, you know that hat bit you just said, it was at the beginning of a match with Chuck Taylor.
I started the match by dropping an elbow on the hat, then he tried to one up me by doing a standing moonsault on the hat, but he kind of missed it, by the way. But, I never busted his chops about it.
So, then, the logical response was to hit a piledriver on the hat. And we got a "This is Awesome" chant from that.
Then I tried to leave, because I’m like, "There’s no point in having a match." But, it was a tournament. So, we had to have the match.
Otherwise, that would have been it for me. If it had just been a regular match on a regular card, once we got that chant from wrestling the hat, I would have been done. That would have been it. What’s the point?
RS: That was one of my first PWG shows and after that moment I remember thinking to myself, "I’m going to go to all of these shows from now on. This is one of the most entertaining things I’ve seen in so long." Great, great memory.
OWENS: I think we were opening the show, too. I think we were first match. Imagine that’s how that started, and I would have just left and that would have been it. That’s how the show would have opened. Two guys hitting a hat.
RS: After waiting five hours in the sun to get in, too.
So, you’ve talked about how you planned to jump off the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium during WrestleMania 36. But, when that was no longer possible, you shifted to doing it off the WrestleMania sign inside of the Performance Center.
Do you hope to jump off of the ship this year, now that you guys are gonna be at Raymond James Stadium, or do you have a different plan now that everyone knows you want to do that?
OWENS: No, I want to do it. I can’t promise people that I’m going to do it because, you know, circumstances and whatever. But, I can promise everybody that I’m gonna try as much as possible to do it.
I’ll do my best. I’ll annoy anybody I can. I will get into anyone’s ear I possibly can. I will literally do everything in my power to get to the point where I can jump off that ship.
But, even climbing up the ship, like, it’s already ready in my head. How I’m going to get up there, everything. I studied it. I did my research before I made that claim last year. So, I’m ready for it this year.
RS: When are you going to bring Ever Rise to Smackdown? I’m a FOX guy, so I want to see them there and I feel like you could use some backup on the show as of late.
Is that something you’d like to see happen?
OWENS: Yeah, of course. I mean, whether it’s my backup or not, I think they’d be great on the show. Or even on RAW, you know?
They’re very entertaining guys. They’re really solid in the ring and I think they could bring a breath of fresh air to the tag team division. So, I really don’t see why they wouldn’t do really good if they were to come to Smackdown or RAW.
I’ve tried to do my little part to get them a little bit of some buzz. I wore their little shirt on Smackdown the other day. Even Roman chirped back at them on Twitter and stuff like that.
They’re good guys and it would be selfishly for me. I’d love to have them around, just because they’re some of my closest friends in wrestling. I’d always be happy to have them around. So, you know, fingers crossed down the line that happens.
RS: Alright, last question here. It’s a three part question regarding your finishing move. I’ve been doing this with everyone as my closer now. So, for you, that would be the stunner.
I want you to single out three specific Stunners.
- Who takes the best Stunner
- The best Stunner you ever delivered
- And last, one Stunner you wish you could have back for whatever reason.
Let’s start with the first one.
OWENS: I think it would have to be a toss up between three people, actually. And I really – cause I’ve wondered about that before, so you asking me that question, I’ve already given thought to it – I really can’t choose one who takes it better between Drew McIntyre, Roman Reigns and Randy Orton.
And Randy, I’ve only given it to him once. But, he took it wonderful. Roman and Drew have taken it a few times, both of them take it really great as well.
RS: What’s the best stunner you ever delivered?
OWENS: I think the best one wasn’t even on one of those guys. It was actually on Shane McMahon on Smackdown the night that I started my crusade against him.
You know, where I came out at the top of the show and cut that promo about how nobody’s asked for Shane McMahon on TV and stuff like that. Later that night I snuck back into the building and the show ended on me hitting a stunner on Shane and the crowd went crazy.
Then I hopped the rail, went right into the crowd and it led right into Roman’s victory – which is ironic. But, anyway. Roman, was in a match when it happened. All the ingredients were there for that moment to be pretty special. So, I think that’s the one I’d pick out of all of them.
RS: That definitely makes sense considering Shane is one of the best of all time at taking the stunner from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. So, it’s only appropriate.
OWENS: Yeah. Well, ironically enough, if I could take one back, it would be on Shane the very following week.
RS: Why is that?
OWENS: It was, again, a great moment.
He was addressing the entire locker room on stage, dressing them down. Saying, "He’s Shane McMahon,’ and I popped up behind him, crowd went nuts, camera shot was great, you just see me pop up behind him. Then I turn him around and try to hit him with a stunner, but when I kicked him in the stomach, he went down ‘cause I guess I kicked him too hard or what.
So, I have to pick him back up to hit the stunner and it just lacked a little something, you know? For the moment to just be perfect.
RS: Took a little sizzle off the stunner there.
OWENS: Yeah, yeah… Yeah. Just… yeah.
RS: Yeah, that makes. Alright, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate you. Like I said, you’re one of the people who got me into indie wrestling. You’re one of my favorite wrestlers, so just getting the chance to chat with you like this is awesome for me. So, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
OWENS: Thank you for having me, dude. Take it easy.
Watch Kevin Owens weekly on Friday Night SmackDown LIVE at 8pm Eastern on FOX.