2002 – the night after WrestleMania featured a debut that sent shockwaves through the WWE audience. In a match between Maven and Al Snow, Brock Lesnar made the first impact of his unbelievable career, decimating both superstars with ease.
His manager Paul Heyman would adorn him with the moniker of the Next Big Thing, and Lesnar would more than live up to that hefty proclamation. Within six months he had won the King of the Ring and captured the WWE Championship in a dominant performance against the Rock.
Lesnar would go on to have a career in the WWE and beyond that any athlete would be envious of. His list of accomplishments stretch longer than impressive arm span. A four-time WWE Champion, including being the current holder of the belt. A Royal Rumble winner, PWI award winner and the man to break the legendary undefeated Streak of the Undertaker at WrestleMania. Outside of WWE, Lesnar also won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and conquered the UFC as it’s Heavyweight Champion also. The Beast has one of the most dominant backgrounds of any superstar to grace the squared circle, and is a legend by any use of the term.
This outstanding career began with his early dominance of all that stood in his wake. Move forward to 2015, and now there is another superstar that can hold claim to the title of the Next Big Thing. Not that this man is a carbon copy of Lesnar by any stretch of the imagination, besides an uncanny strength and vicious nature. And for a new face in WWE, his reputation from across the globe has already made him something of an icon for wrestling fans.
Kevin Owens. Known by his real name Kevin Steen across the independent circuit, most notably in ROH and PWG, Owens launched himself in NXT with a presence like few others have attained. Sami Zayn had the same history of wrestling around the world. Adrian Neville is a world class athlete. Finn Balor has an incredible entrance and technique. Tyler Breeze is oozing with charisma.
Owens just has it – that special factor that makes a superstar stand out from the crowd. With Lesnar it was quite obvious where that unique facet came from. He is a genetic freak of nature, in the best way possible. The strength, look and speed he has should not be possible in human nature. Lesnar simply looks like the human equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction; a human Terminator.
Owens is not in that class of athlete. Although extremely strong and aggressive, his look cannot compare the physical specimen that is Brock Lesnar. Few can. But that doesn’t stop Owens having a presence and vigor that makes me feel he could stand toe-to-toe with the Beast and give him the battle of a lifetime. And it seems I’m not alone in getting this sense of the Canadian, if his first couple of months in the company are anything to go by.
He has had only three matches in NXT. The third of these took place on Wednesday, when Owens battled his former friend Zayn for the NXT Championship. Owens won the coveted title, two months to the day of his debut. That is an unprecedented accomplishment, and that is even before one discusses the manner in which he won. It is the first time I have witnessed a title change hands due to a referee’s stoppage.
Owens capitalized on an injury to Zayn, preying on a potential concussion with one powerbomb after another. The ferocity and unrelenting desire to finally put his rival down was transfixing as well as slightly uncomfortable. This attitude towards victory by any means and the sole purpose of being the best is a drive that he exudes in abundance.
Steen is strong, quick, aggressive, and both an excellent brawler and capable high-flier. He has a complete package, including great charisma and an uncanny ability to get his character over with the crowd, as a babyface or heel. I wouldn’t like to compare Owens to any of the past major stars of the professional wrestling industry, although he does share a great deal of characteristics with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and of course Lesnar.
But he is his own persona, and that is probably what’s most exciting about him. We shouldn’t look towards new versions of these megastars, as they are all inimitable characters. The biggest compliment one could possibly afford Owens is that you could see him easily fit into that category and caliber of superstar.
Obviously, he has only been in the company for a few months so there is still room for improvement. I’m not entirely convinced by the pop-up powerbomb as a finisher. Although I will admit it looks pretty good when hit on a concussed foe five times in quick succession. Whilst the Package Piledriver will remain off limits likely in the climate of protection against genuine concussions, maybe another one of the moves from his arsenal will be able to be added for a more individualistic signature maneuver.
But I have absolutely zero doubt in my mind after seeing the manner in which Owens has crashed NXT wide open that he will be one to watch for the next decade in the main event. The fact he has been granted the NXT Championship after such a short time demonstrates the confidence in him behind the scenes, and the instant connection he has made with the passionate fan base due to his time in the indies.
Whilst it might take time to click with the casual fan, if he is given the same backing as he clearly has in NXT, I am assured that Kevin Owens will be the real deal when he arrives on the main roster. Main-eventer, world champion, top drawing talent, the works. He truly is the Next Big Thing in every sense of the phrase.