WWE's Kevin Owens on Returning to the Ring & Why He's Not a Villain
Kevin Owens has this innate ability to gain the adulation of WWE fans only to yank it all away with one dastardly action against a superstar. The latest victim is WWE champion Kofi Kingston who, along with Xavier Woods, welcomed the SmackDown Live performer into the New Day as Big E heals from injury.
The onscreen heel is a position where the Canadian thrives. It’s a place that led to the most success, including victories over the likes of John Cena and multiple championship runs. Returning from a double knee surgery earlier this year, Owens now finds himself back in the main event, heading into Money in the Bank to challenge Kingston.
Hours before the latest episode of SmackDown Live, the proud dad and husband took time to reflect on his journey back to the ring.
Vince McMahon dropped news on Raw of a “Wild Card Rule” that will give viewers the potential opportunity to see superstars from Raw and SmackDown on any given week. What kind of impact do you think this will have?
Kevin Owens: I kind of wish we kept things more separate, personally, but now I have the opportunity to go to Raw if I’m asked to or want to. And I love Raw, so why not? It’s an interesting opportunity to get a bit more exposure to get on any given week. That’s cool. You never know who is going to show up where. There is a cool surprise element. At the same time, I do enjoy Raw and SmackDown having two separate, distinctive rosters. I can go either way on it. I’ll see how it works out over the next few weeks here.
You recently remarked how great you feel coming back from injury. You’d gone through injuries before, but what was the process was like with your recovery this time around?
A lot of rehab. You work hard to come back as soon as you can, but at the same time, WWE and the doctors tell you that you’re safe and do everything you can to be properly rehabilitated. It’s a bit of a mind game there. Sometimes you have to pull yourself back because there is a such a thing as too much rehab and just doing too much when you are trying to recuperate from a surgery like that.
I would say at the point I went to get these surgeries my mind needed as much of a break as my body did. I’d been going full tilt for four years from the time I showed up on the main roster to then — May 2015 to October 2018. It was really nonstop. I remember when I signed with WWE my daughter was three months old. When I came home in October, she was four-and-a-half. I had to take a step back for my own sanity. The time off — as good as it was for my knees and physically — it was so beneficial mentally. I’m the type of person who, when I’m not with my wife and my kids and thinking about them, I only think about this. To a point I’d say some people would say it could be a detriment, and it plays against me. That’s just how I am.
As your kids are getting older, does it make it harder to go back on the road and do as many dates as you do?
Yes. I don’t know anybody who would say no. I’d say it’s even harder now since I’ve had those five months off because I’ve never been home for five months, going to bed at my house and waking up every morning in my house. That’s never happened, even before WWE, and when I was on the independent scene. It was just so great. Before it, I think my family saw it as a sacrifice we had to make so I could live my dream and secure a great future for my family. But then we had these five months, we got used to a certain way of living.
It has been a bit hard, but again, getting to perform on this level is what I’ve always wanted to. I’m very lucky to have a wife who is extremely supportive and kids who are great. They don’t want me to leave. At the same time, they understand this is what I’ve worked for my whole life. I want them to have the same drive and passion and apply it to what they love with the same principles I did to get where they want to get to. It’s great I have their support, as I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.
You say these things, but play such a villain on TV. We saw a few weeks with you and New Day, but now you’re working with Kofi on the opposite side again. What has that transition been like?
I don’t really think that I’m that much of a villain on TV. I’m just a guy who is trying to do what is best for his family just like Kofi is trying to do the best with his family. That moment he got at WrestleMania was awesome with his wife and kids. I want that, too. I don’t know, I don’t think I’m a bad guy for trying to get there. It’s all about perspective I’d say. People can judge. Even in NXT, yeah, you stabbed your best friend in the back, but I did it to make my life better. Guess what? He is a wrestler, so he should know stuff like that is going to happen. I enjoy the shades of grey with what we do more than anything else.
Fans have remarked about your use of the "Stone Cold" Stunner. Are you still going to be breaking that out every now and again?
I was using that move because I love it. It’s easy to do and hit. Nobody has done it justice in many years in WWE, and I felt like I could be the guy. I asked Steve [Austin] if I could many years ago, and he said he was more than happy to tell me "yeah" and do whatever I want. No wrestling move belongs to anyone really, but if the “Stone Cold” Stunner belongs to anybody, it’s definitely Steve Austin. Whether if I’ll do it now or not, I just do what feels right. If it feels right to do it, I’ll do it.
During the five months you’ve been gone, there have been a lot of call-ups and things happening behind the scenes. Do you feel the atmosphere of the locker room has changed?
There is a big difference between the Raw locker room and the SmackDown locker room. At least, there used to be. When we first did the brand extension, I was on Raw and then went to SmackDown. I could feel the difference between those two rosters. It was dramatic. I came back to Raw, then the differences were evident. I felt more at home on Raw. Now I’m back on SmackDown and still kind of feel like I belong on Raw, but less than before. I guess what I’m trying to say is, since my injury, I don’t think the locker room has changed that much… the SmackDown locker room feels the same as it did before I left to go back to Raw.
With SmackDown going to Fox and a bigger platform later this year, there has been a lot of speculation what that means. Creative has been a hot topic of discussion on social media. Being a lifelong fan and in the business, you have that unique perspective — what’s one thing you would want to change or see more of on WWE TV when it comes to the product?
I think a good idea would be to implement these incredible pieces on everyone that have ended up on YouTube. The digital team is so great, they are unsung heroes. These guys create these incredible pieces on people and characters, they put them on YouTube, and they are so good. The same thing with the Network, like with WWE 24 and 365 or Chronicle. I feel like we should implement these concepts and put them on TV because they would make for great television and complement our TV shows well. I’d like to see that happen moving forward.
SmackDown Live airs Tuesdays, 8/7c, USA Network
Money in the Bank airs May 19, 7/6c, WWE Network and Pay-Per-View