Posted in: Mr. Tito
MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - NXT's Kevin Owens Defeating John Cena... Big Risk for the WWE?
By Mr. Tito
Jun 2, 2015 - 11:45:38 PM

Follow Mr. Tito on @titowrestling

On June 27th, 2002, a significant match was held on WWE Smackdown. Former WWE Superstar, who was in his prime, Kurt Angle took on a debuting John Cena. Angle was fresh off of a King of the Ring 2002 victory where he made Hulk Hogan tap out to his Anklelock that followed a previous week Smackdown victory over the Undertaker. The guy was about to, along with Brock Lesnar, rule the Smackdown brand for the next 2 years. Yet, on this very night, Kurt Angle gave the opportunity of a lifetime to wrestle the debuting John Cena. If you've never seen that match before, you can do so by viewing it on WWE's official channel by CLICKING HERE.

Kurt Angle, on June 27th, 2002, did the same exact thing as John Cena has been doing in 2015. John Cena was fresh off of a 2001-2002 stay in the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) developmental territory stay... On that night, Kurt Angle had an open challenge and John Cena answered that challenge. And he did so in a major fashion. In a 5 minute match, Cena pushed Angle to the limits and Angle, in return, sold his moves like a champion. If you watch in the video, Angle is in a full sweat and acts visiably upset that Cena gave him a brief run for his money. After the match, Cena acts like he's ready for another fight while Kurt Angle appears afraid to get back into the ring.

Fast foward to 2015... John Cena offers open challenges to anyone to wrestle for the United States Title that he won at Wrestlemania 31. Before the Elimination Chamber 2015 event, NXT developmental wrestler and also NXT Champion Kevin Owens attacked John Cena on RAW and even stomped on Cena's US Title out of disrespect. This set-up a legitimate one-on-one singles match at Elimination Chamber 2015.

But unlike John Cena during June 2002 against Kurt Angle... Kevin Owens won his WWE debut.

So... John Cena lost his WWE debut against a top tier wrestler in a 5 minute Smackdown match. Kevin Owens beat a top tier wrestler on a special event (technically a Pay Per View, but WWE Network exclusive). And a clean victory too...

Should we argue which is the bigger star to the pro wrestling business? To the WWE? Kurt Angle during June 2002 or John Cena during May 2015? During 2002, the Rock and Steve Austin were still around, Hulk Hogan returned, and Triple H returned off of a major injury. Undertaker was about to enter his prime years and Brock Lesnar was set to debut... I don't think that Kurt Angle was the biggest star in his era, but WWE's viewership was stronger back then. Through 2015, it's not debateable on the biggest star. With maybe Brock Lesnar as the top challenger, John Cena is WWE's clear #1 star. Nobody moves merchandise or sells houseshow tickets like Cena. Not even close.

Through June 2002, Kurt Angle was a 3 Time World Champion (if and only if you count that WCW Title reign). Through May 2015, John Cena has been a massive 15 Time World Champion.

I can argue that Kevin Owens beat the bigger star and more accomplished World Champion. Remember, this is through June 2002 that we're talking about, just over 3 years into Kurt Angle's WWE career. He was onto bigger and better things during 2002-2005 that maybe John Cena couldn't touch wrestling-wise. But again, consider the context of the times... June 2002 Kurt Angle vs. May 2015 John Cena.

However, I would argue that Kevin Owens is the far more accomplished and experienced pro wrestler during May 2015 than John Cena was during June 2002. When Cena wrestled Kurt Angle on that June 2002 Smackdown episode, he less than 3 years of experience as a pro wrestling. Cena debuted as a wrestler on November 5th, 1999... Kevin Owens, on the other hand, has been a pro wrestler since May 2000 when he debuted at the age of 16. Think about that for a second... Mere 6 months after John Cena debuted, Kevin Owens debuted. Owens had a longer road to the WWE by wrestling for various independents, including Ring of Honor, before joining NXT through August 2014.

But is that enough to beat John Cena 100% clean in his debut match?

NXT is the WWE's developmental system promotion and that would be the equivalent of a minor league team in sports. Could a D-League team beat an actual NBA team? Could a minor league baseball defeat any team in Major League Baseball? Could an Arena or Canadian League team beat an NFL team? For that matter, technically speaking, College Sports acts like a minor league system for pro sports? Could any college team defeat an NBA or NFL team?


In fact, if a Minor League, Developmental, or College Sports team were to ever be competitive against a major Pro Sports franchise, the mocking would be huge. That's just being competitive... Imagine if they won? It would be like Michigan losing to a lesser divisional college team like Appalachian State. I still hear about that upset from Buckeye fans here in Ohio. For Michigan to schedule that game is questionable to begin with (no offense to that college, Michigan is one of the most established Division 1 schools of all time), but for them to actually lose it... Yikes. Following that 2007 season, Michigan has hired 3 head coaches since with former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh getting a huge paycheck to fix that program.

That's a BIG WIN for Kevin Owens... But will it matter in the long run?

If you look at wrestling fans who actively participate in wrestling discussions online (the "Internet Wrestling Community" (IWC)) compared wrestling fans who don't, you'll see a major difference in opinion regarding NXT. If I log into any message board, you'd think that NXT was the #1 promotion in the world. In fact, by writing on the topic of "NXT", I'm risking lots of flaming. NXT has become the holy grail for internet wrestling fans. Why? It's simple... When dissatisfied with the main WWE product, wrestling fans cling onto the alternative. Since ECW/WCW closed its doors, there have been hardcore fans of TNA and Ring of Honor, but when NXT became its own wrestling show that was taken seriously, this became the latest escape from the WWE. Thus, many hardcore wrestling fans have become attached NXT and become defensive even when you present them with actual facts.

Such as...

- WWE Network, according to WWE's 1st Quarter 10-Q Report, has 1,327,000 total subscribers with 1,131,000 being within the United States.

- Monday Night RAW averages roughly 4 million viewers (plus DVR, maybe some Hulu).

Hmmmm.... I'm seeing a shortage here of actual WWE Network subscribers versus the majority of the wrestling fan population. In fact, aside from the "special" events, NXT shows were struggling to break the Top 5 WWE Network shows. Thus, NXT isn't a primary driving force on WWE Network subscriptions. The WWE Pay Per Views are...

By pushing Kevin Owens over its top star John Cena, the WWE runs a real risk at upsetting their mainstream audience who watches WWE and WWE only. Kids who love John Cena and older guys who watch RAW and are worn out after 3 hours of WWE programming (that's me). As the numbers gap shows, not everybody watches NXT. After all, the WWE still sells it as the "developmental league of the WWE". I have several minor league franchises within several sports in a decent driving distance from my house. Do I want to see minor league sports? Eh... Give me NBA, NFL, NHL, or MLB tickets, and I'll really consider going.

Add to that, Kevin Owens comes out on Monday Night RAW and cuts an anti-John Cena promo that we've heard 30 other wrestlers cut before. "He's a fraud", blah blah blah blah blah! The promo was weak, in my opinion, and John Cena came out and cut a much better promo. That's why John Cena made it to the WWE so fast. He's a natural talent that took under 3 years to make the WWE. I'm sure that many WWE fans tuning in saw that segment and questioned WHY Kevin Owens was able to defeat John Cena CLEANLY in his WWE debut? I know that I did...

It's easy to have a GREAT match with John Cena. After Elimination Chamber, John Cena was bashed heavily by the pro-NXT Internet Wrestling Community. It was sad... Lots of "Cena was outworked" or "Owens carried Cena". Excuse me? Who do you think was selling for Owens? Who was clearly the bigger star heading into that show? John Cena could have pulled a Randy Orton and sleepwalk through any match that he'd lose. Instead, Cena gave any wrestling fan watching Elimination Chamber the impression that Kevin Owens, a debuting WWE wrestler, was his equal. People were actually SHOCKED by that defeat and how Cena put over Owens cleanly.

Yet people have the NERVE to bash John Cena...

- I guess you missed Money in the Bank 2011 where John Cena mostly lost clean to CM Punk (Cena chose to be distracted by John Laurinaitis), but the match won "Match of the Year" by many based on how Cena helped legitimize CM Punk.

- I guess you missed SummerSlam 2013 where John Cena put over Daniel Bryan 100% clean. I know, John Cena had that injured elbow...

John Cena has let big stars like Rock, Brock Lesnar, and Randy Orton defeat him and he never questioned those decisions with WWE Management. He's tried to put over other wrestlers like Wade Barrett, Bray Wyatt, and Rusev. How many other wrestlers are willing to lose to the Miz on a Wrestlemania show? I know, there was Rock interference...

And in every match, whether it was against CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, or Brock Lesnar, Cena is quietly the bump man. Punk was on the offensive for much that Money in the Bank match, wrestlers have to sell well to absorb Bryan's high flying offense, while he let Brock Lesnar destroy him at SummerSlam. Cena is highly underrated as a bump guy and that says a lot because he's the company's top star. He is the modern day Bret Hart or the Rock... He makes others look great in the ring and is NOT selfish. He's more than used his star to make others look good or to elevate them. What WWE Creative does with those wrestlers after Cena's gift, that is out of Cena's control. See Daniel Bryan during late 2013, what a joke.

Internet fans will bash John Cena now, but they'll miss him when he's gone. Nobody with that star power be as unselfish as John Cena. The guy is amazing and has carried the WWE on his back for the past decade. What he did for Kevin Owens is something that I can imagine that Owens will never forget. Cena transferred part of his star to Kevin Owens and upon that guy's debut, too. Like I said, you'd never see minor league team defeat a top tier sports league team, ever. Not happening... I guess in the WWE, it can happen.

Can Kevin Owens survive and live up to the hype? If and only if WWE Creative is up to it. By all accounts, Kevin Owens is a Triple H signing and from all that I've seen, HHH has been pivotal in the development and push of Owens. Triple H has to continue this momentum within the WWE. However, in the land of the WWE, it's Vince McMahon's call. So far, Vince has been on-board. I could imagine that consistently being under 4 million viewers for RAW is convincing Vince to try something new. Vince can change his mind in a heartbeat, however... All it takes is one bad looking match and Vince will quickly move on to another wrestler. His attention span is very short in his older age. However, he reportedly attended an NXT event recently and was reportedly impressed. You never know...

In addition to WWE Creative, Kevin Owens has to make the most out of the opportunity. He has to go out there and prove himself in that ring. Owens has to win over non-NXT fans. Again, the majority of WWE viewers of RAW do not have WWE Network. It's a fact... And Owens beat the company's top star. That's a major target on his back. Better yet, Owens has to prove that he was worthy of the big Cena win to the rest of the WWE roster. I'm sure Rusev saw Cena's match with Owens and wondered "why couldn't that have been me?". Ditto Bray Wyatt, Wade Barrett, and any other wrestlers who had their opportunities with John Cena cut short.

It's easy to impress on a smaller stage... But to impress under the large WWE stage with Vince McMahon watching closely, much different.

Kevin Owens getting this Elimination Chamber win over John Cena is a big win for Triple H, in my opinion. He's starting to morph into a legitimate Executive at the WWE. Before, he foolishly tried the philosophy of home brewing stars. Then, when you bring in people based on looks without any wrestling experience, you end up cutting most of those from NXT 1 or 2 years later. HHH is starting the raid the independents of its top stars. The indies are actually loaded with great talent and it took a while, but HHH is making great signings. Many like how NXT is creatively run. HHH has it easy there... He has a bunch of ex-wrestlers as his creative team whereas in the WWE, it's a bunch of former Hollywood writers that his wife brought in and Vince McMahon has final say.

But HHH isn't just "EVP of Developmental". Nope... He also wears the "EVP of Creative" hat as well. He has to start changing how the main WWE product is booked. The main WWE roster's creative direction is broken and it's an absolute chore to get through 3 hours of RAW. HHH has to fix the Creative Team in the WWE and also consider what WWE veterans are performing well and which ones aren't. There's a real stale feeling in the air when John Cena has 15 title reigns, Randy Orton has 12, Kane and Big Show are still hossing it up, and any censorship (like banning the "Curb Stomp" from Seth Rollins) is blamed on WWE Corporate. This "PG Era" thing is an excuse... The 1980's era WWE was very "PG" back then but the booking was great. Nobody complained about how those shows were booked. They do now, which thus creates the desire to cling to a competitive option.

I don't know... I'm happy to see stars getting elevated, but the bar might have been set too high for Owens. Beating "the man" John Cena is a major accomplishment for a current WWE roster wrestler let alone a debuting one.



More of your frequently asked questions...

Why is Kofi Kingston getting a shot at winning the Money in the Bank briefcase?

I have no idea. Just so random as he's part of the New Day team and not exactly standing out from them. Then again, why is Neville in that match?

If I were to guess, Kofi probably has someone backstage pulling for him. For example, many people wonder why the Miz is constantly getting some sort of pushed but then suddenly appears to get undercut at the last second. I've heard that Executive Producer Kevin Dunn is a huge fan of the Miz. He loves his look, personality, speaking ability, etc. Just look at how absurdly produced Miz's entrance is if you don't believe me. Miz always seems to get repackaged after many of his pushes end up getting squashed in the end by Vince.

Anytime you see a certain wrestler getting pushed, there's probably someone backstage who is really high on the guy and won't let up.

Do you think that TNA and Ring of Honor can succeed on Destination America?

No... They are at a complete competitive disadvantage for being on a Cable/Satellite Channel that requires additional billing to acquire. Destination America is on the expanded channel list for me at Comcast and thus many can't get the channel if they have the basic package.

That simple. I wish both companies the best, but you need to get access to a larger part of the 100 Million Cable/Satellite household pie.

Rapid Fire: Who are your favorite wrestlers, what are your favorite matches, etc.?

Favorite Wrestler: "Macho Man" Randy Savage

Favorite Tag Team: Midnight Express, the Eaton and Lane version.

Favorite Pay Per View: Royal Rumble 2000

Favorite Match: Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk "I Quit" match from Clash of the Champions during 1989

Favorite Wrestling Video Game: WWE Wrestlemania 2000 for the Nintendo 64

Favorite Wrestling Angle/Storyline: New World Order with the Mega Powers exploding being a close second.

Most famous wrestler you've met: Either Shawn Michaels or Ric Flair

Favorite Year for Wrestling: 1989, with NWA/WCW hitting on all cylinders with Ric Flair and Mega Powers exploding in WWE.

Favorite announcing team: I loved Heyman and Ross from 2001, but I'll go with Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. For anytime they announced, it felt like a big deal.

Favorite wrestling website:


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