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MR. TITO STRIKES BACK - WWE's Issues with Kevin Owens as Universal Champion, RAW/Smackdown Thoughts, and More
By Mr. Tito
Feb 23, 2017 - 1:00:04 AM
In my LAST COLUMN exclusively here at LordsofPain.net / WrestlingHeadlines.com, I spoke fondly about the "Friendship" segment on last week's RAW with Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. I really enjoyed that segment and it's up there among my favorite RAW moments. The comedy worked but then when Jericho got personal, it made the segment worthwhile. Jericho and Owens have truly made something out of a situation that WWE Creative probably didn't expect to take off.
But what followed my column were questions about Kevin Owens as WWE Universal Champion. Provided that he broke up with Chris Jericho, the likelihood of Jericho interfering and costing Owens the WWE Universal Title at WWE Fast Lane against Bill Goldberg have increased. However, what was discussed is if Kevin Owens actually DREW as World Champion or not?
First and foremost, consider the context of HOW Kevin Owens became WWE Universal Champion. The plans were to have Finn Balor be the first WWE Universal Champion but he was injured in the championship finals against Seth Rollins. Thus, plans were quickly rewritten on the fly to quickly crown a new champion on the August 29th, 2016 edition of RAW. WWE wanted someone new to be the champion and it seemed that Owens could work. Plus, there were preliminary plans to have Seth Rollins vs. Triple H down the road. The plan was to then have Triple H help Owens become WWE Universal Champion and that would ignite the Triple H vs. Rollins feud (they'd wait 4 months to care about this, by the way). There was no build-up for Owens to be World Champion as he became champion by emergency.
That's unlike Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns whom the WWE has dumped promotional resources behind to groom as champions (although Reigns barely had a singles career when his pushes began). After beating John Cena for his first match, which was amazing in itself, WWE has been hit or miss on Rollins. Reportedly, Triple H is high on Owens as a wrestler but Vince McMahon and Executive Producer Kevin Dunn HATE his look. His booking has been inconsistent since that Cena victory and because Vince/Dunn aren't fully confident in Owens as the top guy, the booking as WWE Universal Champion has been inconsistent as well... Aside from his friendship with Jericho. On a Win/Loss basis, Owens doesn't feel like the "top dog" of the promotion as that appears to remain with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. Who knows what would have truly happened in 2016 if Rollins wasn't recovering from the knee injury or if Reigns didn't get busted by WWE's Wellness Policy.
In my opinion, Kevin Owens has been a GOOD WWE Universal Champion despite Vince/Dunn's shortcomings acting as hurdles for him to really succeed. Owens is a strong in-ring performer and great on the microphone. Instead of the WWE questioning their babyfaces and why they aren't getting over, they somehow blame an exceptional heel champion. To Owens's credit, he can have good matches with Roman Reigns which, in my opinion, is a big compliment to Kevin. I don't believe that Seth Rollins is the same wrestler who we saw during 2014-2015 due to that knee injury but again, Owens brings it for their matches as well. But again, RAW's Creative Team seems to focus on Rollins & Reigns more than anyone on the roster (besides Charlotte) and we've already proven in another column using statistical regressions that they are not draws as Main Eventers. In fact, RAW was already pushing below 3 million viewer RAWs with Rollins & Reigns as WWE Champions. It's just a fact... It's like a President inheriting an economy that's already in a recession and he/she get blamed for the recession!
Looking at the RAW ratings between August 2016 to February 2017, the entire Owens title reign... There's little change in the ratings. My statistical models are actually quite favorable of Bill Goldberg's appearances as there are several RAWs where the viewership just abnormally jumps when he appears. Go ahead and place your bets on WWE Fast Lane based on that... If anything, Owens has provided stability and consistency in this newer WWE era that holds steady at 3 million viewers per show. Now, does he draw as a heel? Do people want to be at arenas to see him lose? That's hit or miss as well... Houseshow numbers are "meh", but Pay Per View numbers are improving... RAW televised attendance is holding steady.
I think it's safe to say that Kevin Owens didn't LOSE any more viewers from the downward trend seen since 2015... Didn't gain, but at least the bleeding appears to have stopped.
But what I truly want to talk about to day is HOW Kevin Owens has been used as WWE Universal Champion. I want to specifically look at his WIN/LOSS record because it's quite telling in how WWE Creative/Vince McMahon/Kevin Dunn think about him as WWE Champion. Furthermore, it will help see how the WWE perceives his opponents... And I'm going to be including not just televised matches but Houseshows as well. Houseshows are how the WWE projects itself to regions and to test a view match results with fans. Once you see this analysis of Wins/Losses since late August 2016, you'll begin to immediately see the critical breakdown in the WWE Creative Team and Vince McMahon as the final say of all creative decisions.
First and foremost, I want to THANK Internet Wrestling Database for tabulating the data and match results. It's quite helpful instead of just digging through RAW/Smackdown/Houseshow results.
Overall, Kevin Owens has a total Win/Loss record of 102-192 with 8 draws for his 2 year WWE main roster career (includes ALL matches). That's right, folks... When you see a Kevin Owens match in the WWE since 2015, he has a 1 out of 3 chance of being on the winning side. Compare that to say, Roman Reigns... Since late 2012, Roman has been on the winning side for 2/3 of his matches. Seth Rollins, on the other hand, shares the same 1/3 property as Kevin Owens. Let's be honest about Seth Rollins's 2015 WWE Title reign... Very similar to Kevin Owens now. Played the heel who just wasn't allowed to look tough as champion and endured many non-title losses. Reigns, however, has been booked strongly all along since his WWE tenure began during late 2012.
Some of you will say "well, a heel is supposed to lose". Yeah, BUT THEY ARE CHAMPION. Can y'all tell me how many times Ric Flair or Triple H lost NON-TITLE matches? How about the Rock? Oh, you can't? Because they didn't LOSE? Or if they had to lose, it was via Disqualification. Remember, if you get a DQ result, you retain the World Title... If you lose via Countout, you retain the World Title. However, Ric Flair, Triple H, and the Rock as HEELS would repeatedly CHEAT TO WIN... Hell, Eddie Guerrero proudly cheated to win and that part of his catchphrase. Remember Eddie's theme music? "We lie, we cheat, we steal"... WWE has done away with how the conventional heel works. Don't forget how Honky Tonk Man actually drew packed houses as Intercontinental Champion. The IC title was ALWAYS on the line and he was able to somehow escape loss. THAT WAS THE DRAW... You didn't see Honky Tonk Man losing Non-Title matches. He'd cheat to win or use DQ/Countout rules against his opponents.
Kevin Owens? Please... He loses Non-Title matches all the time... Don't believe me? Let's analyze his Win/Loss record since August 29th, 2016 when he WON the WWE Universal Title. Again, special thank you to Internet Wrestling Database:
38 Wins, 34 Losses - I approximate for all matches between September 5th through February 19th (give or take 1 or 2 matches that I've miscounted). We're just barely above 50%, which is SAD for a World Champion. Now, if you just saw Kevin Owens wins over Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins, he looks like a champion. Losses are mostly DQ in nature against Rollins whereas Owens completely dominates Zayn. Owns him badly!
But if Kevin Owens is involved in any match against Roman Reigns, that's where the majority of losses come from.
Take the month of December 2016 alone... Sure, you see that WWE Roadblock Pay Per View victory via DQ by Kevin Owens against Roman Reigns BUT that was the ONLY time during December that Owens had anything that looked like a win against Roman. In fact, Owens was 1-9 in SINGLES matches during December with Roman Reigns scoring PINS in each and every one of those 9 losses for Owens. That's right, the WWE Universal Champion was PINNED 9 times during December by then United States Champion Roman Reigns. 9 freakin' times! Not to mention 3 more clean pins by Reigns over Owens during late November. Between late November throughout December, Owens is 1-12 against Reigns and Reigns has PINS for all 12 of his victories over Owens! Your WORLD CHAMPION was pinned 12 times in just over 1 month by the lower tier champion! 12 times!
Folks, I keep presenting FACTS in the forms of actual numbers whether it's RAW Viewership or how the overpushed wrestler is booked to dominate... I don't know what else I can tell if you. If you're drinking the Roman Reigns Koolaid, then Vince McMahon has your money hook, line, and sinker.
How in the HELL can you even trash Kevin Owens as a "draw" when he's not allowed to be put in a position to draw? He barely has a 50% winning percentage as WWE Universal Champion in any type of matches and 1 wrestler completely dominates him on any WWE show. It's one thing if I saw a bunch of Disqualification, Countouts, or Owens victories over Reigns... That would tell me that a well booked HEEL champion was in place like Rock, Flair, Honky Tonk, or Triple H. Nope... Roman Reigns is allowed to slaughter him repeatedly in these STUPID Non-Title matches and again, Roman was US Champion for the majority of this victories on Owens.
FACT remains that RAW viewership has tanked over the last 3 years that Roman Reigns has been pushed... Averaged 4 million during early 2015 and we're now averaging around 3 million during early 2017. Numbers don't lie! The January 6th, 2014 edition of RAW where Roman became the ONLY member of the Shield to defeat CM Punk scored a 3.2 rating... Through June 2016 when Roman was last WWE champion, just above 2.0 in the ratings. Numbers don't lie but the WWE would rather have Roman dominate its current RAW World Champion... What if Kevin Owens was pushed as a dominant heel champion or at least didn't get pinned??
Numbers show that the decline has stabilized with Kevin Owens on top... So there's that. Oh, and Bill Goldberg is a legitimate draw. He's going to beat Kevin Owens at WWE Fast Lane, count on it!
THE RAW SMACKDOWN
I've had a few of you ask why on earth do I mix RAW and Smackdown reviews together. It's like that cruel office prank of mixing M & Ms and Skittles together in 1 bowl. Who knows why I do it? It seems fun to me to mix them up, so whatever keeps me SANE reviewing these WWE Infomercials will allow me to plaster on a smile and get through these show reviews. OK?
Smackdown opened with Daniel Bryan calling out Naomi... Injury to her leg causes her to forfeit the Women's Title. I'm happy that Naomi got a chance to be champion after years upon years of being denied gold due to bad luck... But she just came back from an injury and after 1 month back, you give her a title? How about letting her prove durability first and then awarding a title. She gives it up and of course Alexa Bliss is down to "claim" her title. That's not happening as Daniel Bryan makes Becky Lynch vs. Alexa Bliss immediately happen for the vacated Women's Title. How about announcing it for next week instead? Bliss vs. Becky was good, but I have the same heavy criticisms of seeing that repeatedly like I do Charlotte vs. Sasha (more on that later!). At the very least, Becky and Alexa feel equal and Alexa plays the cowardly heel to actually draw heat. Charlotte is the Triple H of women's wrestling, too dominant as a heel.
RAW opened up STRONG with a nice video package of last week's Jericho/Owens Friendship segment which was well done and Executive Producer Kevin Dunn deserves credit for that kind of thing. He really does... Creative ideas, no, but video production, YES! Kevin Owens is in the middle of the ring, dressed in a nice suit, and has the spotlight on just him in a chair. He then proceeds to cut a KILLER promo on Bill Goldberg which builds upon the killer heel that we saw last week. It was EXCELLENT... Before I began watching NXT, I heard nothing but praise about how much of a ruthless heel that Kevin Owens was on NXT. From what I've mostly seen on RAW, particularly with Jericho, he's been in sort of that comedic heel role without much of the killer instinct. If Kevin Owens can follow this up by pulling a GOOD match out of Bill Goldberg, the WWE needs to push Owens HARD for the rest of the year. You know, let him WIN MATCHES AS CHAMPION... Before he could say something on Chris Jericho, he dropped the microphone and left the ring... Nice.
Smackdown proves how thin the tag team division is with American Alpha vs. Breezango. Just call up Revival already, please... After the match, though, the Usos cut a good promo from the crowd to challenge American Alpha. I like that and it was a good segment... But the Usos, sadly, are so damaged as a team. With the Brand Split, they should have dominated the brand until a team like American Alpha could rise up and challenge them. Nope... We got Slater/Rhyno instead for a 1 night good feeling moment.
Enzo/Big Cass vs. Sheamus/Cesaro was just OK... What perplexes me about Enzo and Big Cass is the lack of teamwork that both actually have because they are so mismatched in size. Plus, it's always Enzo as "face in peril" before Big Cass's hot tag. Afterward, Enzo eats a Sheamus boot (slow motion replay looked sick!) and the Los Angeles fans troll by chanting "Thank you Sheamus". OUCH. That's brutal. But maybe it's not just the LA fans trolling... The act has become tired, possibly...
Tag Champions take on the Immortal Roman Reigns up next... Ugh. Sure, it didn't have a finish, but why even have this match? Tag Team Champions should NEVER and I repeat NEVER take any singles wrestlers in handicap matches. Makes no sense, business wise.
I really enjoyed Natalya vs. Nikki Bella... THAT was the match that I expected 2 longtime veterans to have. Better yet, the storytelling to set-up Nikki and Maryse's heat was great. Nikki was shoved into Maryse backstage and then Maryse attacked Nikki with a pipe to cost her this "Falls Count Anywhere" match against Natalya. Later, the other half of the Mixed Tag for Wrestlemania (Cena & Miz) would be established.
Didn't care for the Cruiserweight Title match contract signing. I have ZERO care for that division or the wrestlers. Not feeling it at all. Seriously, a contract signing for a Cruiserweight Division? Who wants to see that moment? WWE actually has Dean Malenko and Paul Heyman ON THEIR ROSTER as paid WWE employees... Can someone try to ask those two how a successful Cruiserweight Division could work? Good God, I'm so over this division, the purple coloring, and the poorly viewed 205 show. NO THANK YOU.
Bayley segment... I'm with podcaster Solomonster on this one... WWE robbed Bayley of having her first Women's Title being special. She won it on a televised edition of RAW and worse yet, a tainted victory. In know, all of you will say that it will make her hungry to keep chasing... But she's champion. Can't erase that, nor can you redo that. Things are made worse by Stephanie McMahon insisting that Bayley should "do the right thing" and give up the Women's Title. Funny thing is that the WWE has the roadmap to get Bayley over. Just watch NXT during 2015 when Bayley had to climb her way to earning that NXT Takeover Brooklyn 2015 NXT Women's Title shot. Sasha Banks came down to "back-up" Bayley... Am I the only one seeing a HEEL TURN coming? Sasha has run her course as a babyface, ya know, winning the Women's Title 3 freakin' times already on RAW... Wouldn't doubt that the "Boss" will turn on Bayley at some point in the near future...
Anyway, that segment set up YET ANOTHER Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte match. And because it was RAW, Sasha Banks is victorious. Blah blah blah... So over the Women's division on RAW. See, this is the problem with putting all of your eggs in just a few baskets. For the past 6 months, it has been all Sasha vs. Charlotte with an embarrassing amount of title changes. Meanwhile, RAW's Creative Team has NOT been building up the bench. Bayley looks under-developed on the RAW roster, Nia Jax has no heat, God knows what they are doing with Emma(lina)... Who else is in that division? At least with Smackdown, you have a DEEP bench of women ready to step up in the division. Becky, Alexa, Naomi, Nikki, Natalya, Mickie, and Carmella... 7 deep! And each can match up with each other and put good matches while being their own characters. It's SAD particularly when RAW has Charlotte, Sasha, and Bayley, 3 out of 4 of the Four Horsewomen!
Typical Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens match, although Zayn looks a bit deflated these days compared to how upbeat he was this time last year. And because Owens is champion now, Zayn gets dominated by Owens. Complete domination by Owens over Zayn, but that's how it should work with your World Champion.
I had tons of problems with the Smackdown Battle Royal for #1 Contendership... First and foremost, has WWE Creative become SO LAZY that they need Battle Royal eliminations to set up EVERY Wrestlemania match-up? Obvious heat is obvious, but come on! Miz was eliminated by Cena but then the Miz sneaks into the match and eliminates John Cena. Yet, the referees allowed that elimination of Cena to stick. HELLO?!? Don't you see that an eliminated wrestler joined the match and tossed John Cena? Sure, if this is some random battle royal for the hell of it, I can understand the bending of the rules... This is for the #1 contendership of Wrestlemania's World Title match! LAZY BOOKING... Worse yet, WWE once again recycled the 1994 Royal Rumble match finish of "2 wrestlers hitting the floor at the same time", as originally accomplished by Bret Hart and Lex Luger to set up Wrestlemania 10's matches against Yokozuna. AJ Styles and Luke Harper landed at the same time... Ugh.
I enjoyed Big Show vs. Braun Strowman. It worked as a HOSS match and the fans seemed into it at the live arena. BETTER YET, and Kevin Owens gets some credit for this as well during the 3rd hour too, RAW held steady above 3 million whereas they've fallen short during the previous weeks. Thus, it shows some interest in wanting to see Owens as champion and this curious Big Show/Strowman match-up. And the HOSS match was good... Big Show's recent fitness kick seems to be paying off and Strowman is actually pretty good. For as big as Braun is, he's in tremendous cardio shape. He's not sucking wind within the first 5 minutes as his Fast Lane opponent always does. Braun Strowman has a real future in the WWE and I'm quite glad to see him exceed expectations. Vince McMahon was right on that guy.
Now, many of you are like "Big Show losing makes him look bad before his match against Shaq". HELLO?!?! Shaq = NON-Wrestler. We've seen Big Show wrestling for over 20 years now. Thus, it doesn't matter that Big Show loses... He's a pro wrestler who has won multiple championships in that arena. Shaq has played basketball for his entire adult life and now rests easy on the TNT set covering NBA games. Y'all need to chill about Big Show looking bad before his Shaq match.
I'm LAUGHING at the post-RAW antics of the Rock actually calling CM Punk in the middle of a WWE ring in response to the fans chanting "CM Punk". Here's what needs to be said... If ANYONE but the Rock does that stunt, they are FIRED from the WWE and probably blackballed from the promotion for good. Rock has real balls and because WWE needs his star power from time to time, he can get away with stuff like this. I'd be PISSED if I were Vince McMahon and Triple H, rightfully so. He's a guy who walked out of the WWE during early 2014 and made accusations against the company. Furthermore, WWE's top physician has a lawsuit filed against CM Punk. Rock is doing the WWE Films thing at the moment and they want tight relations with him for various appearances, but damn, that was poor judgment by the Rock in the face of the company that made him a star.
RAW > Smackdown this week... Just didn't like that Battle Royal to end Smackdown, which was an otherwise tight show. But barely. RAW did several things well this week to build up their next Pay Per View, but that's usually uncommon for them.
THE LAST WORD
Let's get back on the Randy Orton topic, please... Since my 2010 return, I've NEVER bashed Randy Orton's in-ring ability. In fact, when me and Chrisss did our Top 10 best in-ring workers, it was MY ranking that (a) put Randy Orton on the list and (b) put him in a respectable position. And I heavily defended that position. I remember remarking during 2010-2011 that Orton was "working circles around his opponents", many of which were everybody's favorite FCW/NXT indy darling call-ups. In fact, another LoP Columnist bashed me heavily for praising Orton and not those younger wrestlers.
Oh, and who else mentions Ohio Valley Wrestling "Class of 2002" more than me? I say repeatedly and was saying it before Brock Lesnar made his 2012 return. So before the RAW after Wrestlemania 28, there were only TWO wrestlers in the WWE at the time I began heavily writing again: Randy Orton and John Cena. I also remember stating that "RKO Out of No Where" internet memes could have really pushed Orton strong...
So spare me if you believe that I'm a non-stop Randy Orton. Many columns written by yours truly say otherwise. Go look them up.
What I have been critical of Randy Orton is his ability as a DRAW. The SummerSlam 2004 early World Title victory was a mistake as were many of the other rushed World Title reigns. However, I've been quite critical of the Wrestlemania 25 outcome where Randy Orton was finally ready to be a star and Triple H deflated him. In my opinion, he hasn't been the same ever since. Always a solid in-ring performer, but emotionally, he hasn't been there. Since that Wrestlemania, he often has that look as if he's going through the motions and often shows the "sad face" when he knows that he's losing or is in a storyline he dislikes. Just seems too robotic in the ring and doesn't show too much in the way of psychology for selling moves. Oddly enough, many were critical of his work with Roman Reigns during 2014 when he was unwilling to sell for him. When he's hitting his offense, however, he's quite convincing.
I like to deal in facts... Go look at Smackdown 2011's ratings when Orton is World Heavyweight Champion and then how quickly ratings tanked when Orton stole Daniel Bryan's WWE Title during late 2013. Don't forget how Daniel Bryan was quickly shoved into that Wrestlemania 30 "Evolution Dream Match" between Orton and Batista. Those are 2 legitimate samples to discuss over the last 6 years, folks. Good wrestler but top level draw on his own? Ehhhh, he needs some help.
To his credit, Orton's booking hasn't been consistent... Is he heel? Is he face? He changes often depending on what the WWE needs at the moment. Compare that to John Cena who has been 100% babyface since sometime during 2003. However, Orton's health and other needs for time off have also interfered with Orton's ability to draw within the last 6 years.
But like late 2013, the WWE has put full faith in Randy Orton to HEADLINE Wrestlemania again here in 2017. Despite Smackdown 2011, RAW 2013-2014, injuries, and other reasons for time off... WWE keeps giving Orton chance after chance. My basic point is that Orton is a 12-time World Champion... What does he have to show for it as a draw to merit #13, possibly at Wrestlemania 33?
That's all I was saying... Chill........ I don't "bash" anyone without facts by my side. And I'm not the only one critical of Orton, so get over just scapegoating me as the only Orton hater in the world. I don't hate him... I think he's a talented wrestler who doesn't always help sell the business emotionally. Simple as that.
Now that I've said that, I do hope that Randy Orton has a good Wrestlemania match-up and possibly helps to further establish Bray Wyatt as WWE Champion. While being a great World Champion is quite a legacy, putting other Superstars on the map is quite an achievement.
SO JUST CHILL... UNTIL THE NEXT EPISODE!
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