Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are finally going to war.
The former best friends are now getting a chance to settle their differences at WWE Payback, and for many fans, it's been a long time coming. A match of this magnitude has been teased before, but now it's happening on the WWE main event stage, where it should be.
This is surely what WWE wanted from these guys from day one.
Owens and Zayn have such great chemistry, and it's that chemistry that has brought many fans back for more. Their rivalry has connected with the crowd on a very visceral level, and the hate between them has been palpable.
They have been very convincing in their efforts to get over, and it's worked on every level.
Owens is the evil opportunist, a man who will do anything to be on top. He stabbed his best friend in the back and did not even blink when he did it. Owens and Zayn had a long history, but KO threw it all away for a chance to become NXT champion.
The developmental title meant that much to him, which was a great sign of things to come.
Owens' character took his spot in NXT seriously, and he was willing to do the unthinkable to win the belt. He proved how heartless he is, and he did so with very surprising crowd support along the way. Fans were supposed to hate him, but they clearly appreciated and respected him.
But Sami's role as the underdog has definitely earned the fans' favor.
Any other talent working against Owens may not have been able to get over, but Sami has done just that. Fans look at him and see someone they can support, someone who deserves their love and respect as much as Owens does.
They quite possibly see a man similar to Daniel Bryan, and that has definitely been a plus for Zayn.
Sami is in his element in this feud, as he is playing the part of a man betrayed. He is the sympathetic figure who has bounced back from a heinous attack and only improved because of it. His resolve has been strengthened like never before, and he is the favorite in the minds of many to win at Payback.
But no one can deny the progress that Owens himself has made in WWE.
He came in with a vengeance and has operated on an old-school level. He rejects the cheers from fans and throws them back in their faces. He is narcissistic in his approach, as he cares only about himself. His actions are despicable, yet he does whatever he wants with no apologies to anyone.
This is what a heel is supposed to be.
Owens could very well have been the top heel by now, but WWE seems content to book him at the midcard. Considering that no one should be forced up the ladder before their time, the fact is Owens is probably right where he should be at the moment.
But there is no denying he's capable of more. The same can be said of Zayn, and that's why this match will likely steal the show at Payback.
It's really a preview of things to come for WWE. These two could conceivably be feuding for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at some point, and that means the company is on the right track by featuring them now.
They are unquestionably in a great place, and they should be.
But when it comes to this particular match, Zayn is the one who should come out on top. Owens has proven himself on the main roster, but Sami is still working to do just that. Fans want to see him do well, and beating KO at Payback is part of that.
A Zayn win would not hurt Owens but would definitely help Sami.
The best part about this match is that there should be more to come. This is a feud that deserves much more than just this bout, and both guys are fully capable of getting it over for at least the next two to three WWE events.
As long as fans are emotionally connected, Owens and Zayn should be able to do some serious business with this rivalry.
This is how main event stars are made—one intensely intriguing match at a time. Being able to draw the crowd in and make it care is a very important skill for any pro wrestler, and it's something that these two men definitely have together.
Tom Clark can regularly be found on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.