WWE Star Kevin Owens on Crossing Brands to Face the Fiend on 'SmackDown' Draft Night
The multi-faceted superstar is also pulling double duty working concurrent stories involving Aleister Black on Raw and Bray Wyatt on SmackDown. And after weeks of mind games involving the latter's alter ego, KO will finally step in the ring with The Fiend. The showdown takes place October 9 on the blue brand as the WWE Draft gets underway.
Below, Owens previews the big match and tells us what night he hopes to land on in the end.
You’re known as a dedicated family man. How have the last few months been for you, juggling your unique line of work with being a parent and husband?
Kevin Owens: In a way, it has been easier than ever as far as just getting to be home with my wife and kids. That has been pretty incredible, but it’s in this unprecedented setting where nobody knows what the hell is happening or when things are going to get back to normal.
It’s weird raising kids right now. We don’t want them to be afraid of everything and to live in fear. At the same time, we want them to be aware of what is happening and the precautions that need to be taken for it to hopefully go away or be less dangerous. To school from home and not being able to go out and enjoy things like we used to, it has been a day-to-day process. You just have to roll with the punches. Some days are better than others. Now we’ve gotten used to this way of living, so it has gotten easier if anything. The silver lining through all this has been being home. I wake up in the morning and go to sleep every night next to my family. There is really no price on that. To get to be with your family every day and be a WWE superstar — you can’t beat that.
Has the fact you are able to go to work and maintain some routine helped deal with the challenges mentally?
I never really switch off as it relates to my career with WWE. I’m trying to think of ideas or how to make things better or better myself to be an asset to the show. That has never changed, pandemic or not. The main difference is I don’t go [into] work as often. My wife and kids, as far as I know, like having me around more. I’m very happy to be there.
How would you describe the atmosphere backstage in this sort of environment?
Part of what I really enjoyed about doing the Performance Center shows was the promos because it really felt like we were doing these monologues, or having dialogue talking to the camera. It felt like every word we said meant something. When there is an audience, it’s different. Not everybody is going to [be paying] attention. It’s harder to engage 18 thousand people. I do love doing promos in front of crowds [too]. I’m always happy to get a microphone to talk in front of people. I like that different feel with me, the camera, the microphone. I know there are millions of people watching, and the only thing they have to focus on is what I’m saying. That part was really cool. It was great to have shows at the Performance Center, but it did eventually get an almost cabin fever vibe. Just because it’s not a big space.
Has it felt more natural doing promos or wrestling in the ThunderDome?
It was great to get into the Amway and have more space. One of the things I personally like to do is find my own space on TV once I find out what my job is and what I’m supposed to do. I like to retreat and focus on it and give my energy to it alone. It was hard to find those opportunities at the Performance Center. In the Amway, there was plenty of room. It has been nice being back in an arena setting. The actual ThunderDome with everybody’s face on that screen is cool because it’s a reminder that there are millions of people watching. There have been challenges, but it’s great to be in an arena setting again for sure.
You’re getting a chance to not only dig into one story right now, but two. What is it like to manage what is going on with Raw and then visit SmackDown with Aleister Black and The Fiend?
They are both interesting opportunities, for sure. The hardest part is not knowing where any of it is going because it depends on how the draft shapes up. I can end up staying on Raw or going to SmackDown. I don’t know where those guys are going either. So, that’s a challenge too. It’s hard to know where the stories are going or what to bring to the table when we don’t know how things will shape up. They are [both] interesting characters I’ve never really interacted with before. I wrestled Bray Wyatt during live events a couple of times years ago. Aleister Black and I had never wrestled before, until once in 2006 in Germany. We had one match. So, getting to work and wrestle new people and having to adapt to new people, that’s what makes our job interesting.
This week you’re facing The Fiend on SmackDown. What can fans expect from this match?
I don’t know what to expect! I’ve seen how it works out for people who wrestle The Fiend. It’s never great for them. Beyond that, I really have no idea what to expect out of this match.
If WWE management asked you what show you’d want to be on, what would you say to them?
I guess currently the answer would be SmackDown, just because I feel like I need a fresh start. I’ve switched every single draft. I’ve switched from Raw to SmackDown and SmackDown to Raw every time since 2016. Every time it happens, I feel relief because it’s time for me to go somewhere else and get a fresh start. I’m not sure why things shake-up that way with me. As far as I’m concerned, it always feels like moving is a good thing. Last year I was on SmackDown and the draft happened. I hoped to go to Raw, and I did. It’s a year later and I’m thinking I want to go to SmackDown. Hopefully, it happens.
Speaking of SmackDown, your buddy Sami Zayn is getting his time to shine. Is that fun for you to watch?
It’s awesome to see Sami break out and get the platform he has deserved for so long. Anybody who didn’t think this guy wasn’t one of the top performers in the world is sorely wrong. Now, he gets to show the kind of charisma and abilities he has. I don’t think anybody thought he wasn’t a great wrestler. That’s always been the case, but he is able to show these different abilities off.
What do you make of your former stomping grounds NXT today?
It’s always nice to see new guys get opportunities. I always watch TakeOver and saw Kushida, who is often in the shadows, really come out of his shell. It was great to see him beat the hell out of Velveteen Dream. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I doubt I was the only one. To know how great Kushida is and see him takeover, as corny as that might sound — it’s pretty great. Ridge Holland, who I haven’t seen a lot of, seemed to be poised for a big role. But unfortunately, it seems he got seriously injured on NXT this week. I was excited to see him step into the main role like that at the end of the show.
Kyle O’Reilly has been incredible for years, and people know. But he has always been part of a tag team, a faction. To see him get the opportunity to show everyone the kind of singles competitor he is against Finn with the match they had, that was really awesome too. I really love NXT and [seeing] all these different people get opportunities.
You’ve done so much in WWE. What keeps you motivated? What are some goals you’ve set for yourself to make sure you don’t fall into that complacency trap?
I’ve always had goals. Being goal-oriented is what [keeps] me passionate and hungry. A few years ago I would tell you it became almost unhealthy. I was Universal champion at one point and featured in stories all the time. I was never happy. I talked to so many people about that. I talked to Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, and eventually, I talked to Vince [McMahon]. I talked to my wife and parents and a close friend in Jimmy Jacobs, who used to work for WWE behind the scenes. He has always said my passion was both a curse and a blessing because it was always what drives me, but it was also what kept me unhappy. It was unhealthy and around the same time, I was set to have knee surgery in 2018, where I’d say I was at my worst. I couldn’t enjoy anything I was doing because I was always blinded by this need to do more and to be at the top of the card or fighting for the title.
It took me being gone for five months after the surgery to learn to go with the flow because I’ve had a pretty great career. There are, of course, many things I want to accomplish. There are things I wished I could do differently and wish could happen that aren’t happening. That doesn’t mean they won’t. I’ve worked really hard to take things as they come. If anything with this pandemic, you have to take things one day at a time. I’ve had this approach in my career as well, and have it in life outside the ring. I keep my goals in mind, but I try not to obsess over them. One of the main things I’ve always said is, I want to create moments people remember. That’s how I go into work now. I’m not trying to worry so much about me trying to fight for the title or win a title or main event at the next pay-per-view. I just want to create a moment in the setting I’m in and the story I’m in where people can walk away saying, “Man, that was pretty awesome.”
The WWE Draft kicks off October 9 on SmackDown (Friday, 8/7c, Fox) and continues October 12 on Raw (Monday, 8/7c, USA Network).