Building up a rivalry to the point where the audience really wants to see the match and are willing to pay to see it is not always as easy. It certainly sounds simple enough, but when you are doing it without an opponent being there to work with it is seemingly impossible. However, this year’s build to Wrestlemania (WM) features not one, but two situations that are requiring matches being built without an opponent. Despite this somehow WWE is making it not only work but are arguably two of the best built matches on the card in my opinion and one opponent isn’t officially announced.
Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins have had very successful careers, but there is no question both men have truly found their comfort zones with their new heel characters. In my opinion, both men are the best versions of their characters in their WWE careers. The once former rivals had formed a heelish bond with their intentions being to make it to WM. They failed at winning the Royal Rumble in order to be in the main event. Rollins failed in the Elimination Chamber and Owens didn’t even qualify to be in the chamber match (yes, I know KO doesn’t work Saudi shows). They would set their sights on the tag titles in hopes to just be on the WM card at this point. However, on the March 7th episode of Raw, their road to WM hit a roadblock when they lost the Raw tag team championship match. Both men were devastated that their WM dreams appeared to be killed.
However, both men would soon try to make it to WM without the other by going unconventional routes to do it. Owens jumped back into his WM goal that same night by making a challenge to a HOFamer that has been retired for almost 20 years.
Kevin Owens Challenges Austin
For weeks any chance Owens has gotten to bad mouth the state of Texas, where WM is being held, he has taken it. Now because the rumors had already ruined the surprise, we all knew Owens was taking these shots because a certain Texas Rattlesnake would be possibly coming out of his retirement and having his first match in 19 years. As both Owens and Rollins were depressed about WM, it was Owens to be the first one to snap out of his depression and decided to formally call out the biggest wrestling star ever out of the state of Texas in Stone Cold Steve Austin. Although not being built as a “match” but instead a talk show segment, it sounds according to rumors this is expected to be more than just an Austin arrival, stun Owens and drink beer.
Austin wasted no time in responding to the challenge to be on the KO show the next day in a social media video that went viral. Austin said we can call this The KO Show, a match, a fight, or a brawl, but either way he plans to open up one last can of whoop-ass on Owens at WrestleMania 38.
“Nineteen years ago, I wrestled my last match in a WWE ring,” Austin said. “After three Rock Bottoms, 1-2-3, I lost the match and for nineteen years I’ve had to live with that defeat, knowing my time was up. Kevin Owens, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for waking something up deep inside me that I’ve kept buried for nineteen years. Ever since you started running that damn mealy mouth of yours, talking about the state of Texas, the great state of Texas, you got my attention, and why would you want to do that, Kevin? I can think of two reasons. One, you are one dumb son of a bitch, and two, you are fixing to get your ass kicked by ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. But if you want to call this The KO Show, a match, a fight, a brawl, whatever, I will guarantee you this – in Dallas, Texas, where I started my career, at WrestleMania, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin is going to open up one last can of whoop-ass on you, Kevin Owens, and that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so.”
So, it was set Kevin Steen would get his WM moment with his childhood idol, but Austin has not appeared on WWE TV besides this one viral video to build this altercation up. The weight of this promotion has been on Owens and WWE creative to build up this dream match without Austin directly on the show.
This past week’s Raw saw the show open with the signature smashing glass and Austin’s music playing as the crowd in Chicago popped with excitement. I was surprised when I heard Austin’s music, but my first thought was it’s probably going to be Owens fooling the crowd. However, I did not expect Owens coming out dressed as Austin with a bald cap on as well. Since Kevin has always been such a fan of Austin his whole life and himself having been in the business for almost 22 years, he knows how to work a crowd. Using all of Austin’s mannerisms and catchphrases and mocking Austin and the crowd in one of the best segments in wrestling this year in my opinion.
As someone that remembers Raws featuring DX dressed as the Nation of Domination and the Corporation, this segment very much reminded me of those. In my opinion it was very well done and made you want to see Austin to come in and take Owens out. Then while Owens was in the ring the glass shattered again and the crowd popped again huge as Owens has a concerned look on his face this time as he prepared for Austin. Now I will freely admit they had me thinking wait is he actually there? I’m sure I’m not the only one that wondered that at this moment.
Then as it was clear Austin wasn’t coming out, Owens cracked up that he got the audience again. I remember Shawn Michaels doing that same thing in Canada teasing Bret Hart was returning to WWE to beat him up, but it was just a heel Shawn messing with the crowd. Owens then tried to do the signature Austin catching beers in the ring, but failed to catch them, which the audience enjoyed laughing at his failures. This angered Owens who targeted the ring side attendant blaming him for his “bad throws” and stunned the attendant and poured beer over him.