It’s hard to imagine WWE without Kevin Owens. Sure, the “Prizefighter” hasn’t held championship gold in quite some time, since July of 2017 to be exact, but from his feud with Ezekiel to his on-again, off-again war with Sami Zayn, it’s clear the well-traveled veteran is a flexible talent capable of working up and down the card with ease.
But for a time, Owens himself wasn’t sure if he’d be back in WWE when his contract came to an end in January of 2022, with the possibility of leaving for AEW or even leaving major professional wrestling entirely very much a possibility, as he detailed in an interview with Wrestle Rant.
“Uh yeah by Christmas time last year I knew I was sticking around,” Owens said via Fightful. “But before that, I really had no idea. I didn’t even know, honestly I didn’t even know at that time if I still wanted to be in the ring. You know, not because I didn’t enjoy being in the ring anymore but everything was kind of up in the air. Then I made the decision to stay in WWE and I’m certainly glad I made it because like I said, just the year I’ve experienced things that I couldn’t have imagined.”
While Owens was featured fairly prominently on WWE television over the back half of 2022, with the highlight of his calendar year likely coming in his final televised match with Zayn, John Cena, and Roman Reigns, for “The Prizefighter,” the real highlight of his time in WWE did not come from a match but instead a change in attitude towards what wrestling means for him.
“I’ve been really lucky to get to be a part of all that but also as far as my mindset goes, it’s definitely changed,” Owens said. “I used to always want more and I used to always want bigger and worry about what’s next and stuff and I really don’t do that anymore. Not that I don’t want more, everybody would like more, it’s great. I’m really more worried about just doing good stuff and stuff that people enjoy and I’m also worried or thinking about just enjoying everything I can enjoy. I’ve said in interviews in the past, I’ve missed out on enjoying moments I really should have enjoyed because I was always worried about what’s next. I’m not gonna do that anymore, I’ve had an incredible career that I’m so lucky to have. So many matches, so many moments that people would give anything they could to have [them]. So I just wanna enjoy everything I can from here on out for as long as I can. My mindset’s definitely shifted, but I think this one’s a lot healthier. It’s probably gonna help me be a better performer as well.”
Call it a consequence of being almost 40, a father, and having 22 years of experience in the business, but it’s interesting to learn that relentlessly chasing championships is no longer KO’s top goal in professional wrestling, with having a good time and putting in good work that can last a lifetime now serving as his top goals.
.@JohnCena returns to #SmackDown to join forces with @FightOwensFight against @WWERomanReigns & @SamiZayn!#SmackDown pic.twitter.com/VoWz59POh0
— WWE (@WWE) January 1, 2023
KO complements the new WWE regime for “logical booking.”
Elsewhere in his interview with Wrestle Rant, Owens discussed how he’s made it his mission to maintain a consistent logic across his work in WWE and how, for a time, that didn’t always fit with the rest of the booking philosophy.
“I’m a big fan of being logical, Owens said via Fightful. “I’ve always tried to be logical in my time in WWE, maybe more logical than most people choose to be or try to be or wanna be. I do have quite the memory for things that happen in wrestling, I always have had that kind of memory and it’s not just for me either. Whenever I get the chance to use that logic, it’s always nice and I’m happy to do it. I can see from the feedback that I get that people enjoy that because WWE television sometimes, how can I put this, it’s not always the most logical people on there you know. So when someone uses common sense and logic, it’s jarring.”
“Yeah, I can’t say that it’s always been like that,” Owens said. “I think the changes in direction also came with a change in mentality and everybody’s got different ways of thinking about what we do. It used to be like ‘Oh, this is in the past, people won’t remember.’ But man, I’ve been a wrestling fan my whole life and when I’d watch it, I’d remember. I’ll give you an example that I’ll never get [over]. Like the GD or GTV but we never found out who was behind it, probably Gold Dust, never got confirmation. It drove me crazy as a fan. It drove me nuts. It came and went like it never happened, you know what I mean. I don’t think that’s how things would go today but at the time, you know, people think differently about what we do. I think wrestling fans have tremendous memories for what they watch and what they see and I think it’s great to acknowledge that and give people the credit they deserve when they’re watching something.”
Say what you will about Paul “Triple H” Levesque’s booking since he took over for his Father in Law, for re-hiring (almost) every performer who had a cup of coffee in NXT, and for then not using said performers to the best of their abilities, but one thing few have accused him of is illogical, gimmicky activities that make the fans feel dumb for paying attention. For a guy like Owens, who came up on the indies working and cultivating stories of his own, that certainly means a lot.