Days before WWE Hell in a Cell 2016, the company started to peel the human exterior off Kevin Owens and reveal the grizzly bear underneath.
Monday's Raw showed flashes of Owens at his best. He bore his fangs on Monday night, promising and issuing destruction. In moments, his WWE Universal Championship reign looked far more promising.
Subplots and the comedy stylings of Chris Jericho have overshadowed Owens' time as champion in the early going.
Raw's central story focused on Seth Rollins' distrust of his bosses and former allies. He remained incensed that Triple H betrayed him and gifted Owens the universal title. Raw's authority figures dominated screen time as a result.
When Owens appeared on TV, it was often at Jericho's side.
Y2J fired off jokes. He called everyone stupid idiots. He added everything he disapproved of to The List of Jericho.
On Monday's Raw, Jericho lost that list, and the hunt for it dominated the show.
As entertaining as all that has been, it forced Owens to be second banana. The champion didn't create enough lasting images of his own, and he didn't display his villainous ways nearly enough.
And while Monday's Raw began with Jericho and his list at center stage, Owens emerged at the end as a beast with blood on his hands.
The shift in Owens' presentation began in a backstage interview near the end of Raw.
There were no jokes, no catchphrases and no signs of Jericho. Owens instead talked about how much damage he was going to inflict on Rollins inside Hell in a Cell.
He promised to leave a scar on both his rival and the audience:
KO's words were miles more haunting than anything he's said during his reign.
Vaughn Johnson of Philly.com was among those wowed by the promo:
It didn't take long for Owens to show fans a preview of the havoc he would wreak on Sunday's pay-per-view. After Rollins bested Owens and Jericho in a Triple Threat match, the heel became unhinged.
A furious Owens battered The Architect.
And to punctuate the beatdown, he powerbombed his foe onto the ring apron. As Rollins writhed on the floor, the announcers wondered how he could possibly recover in time for the universal title bout.
Owens had hobbled his opponent in a show of his sadism. He was heartless and powerful, as he should be.
This was a throwback to some of Owens' most dastardly moments.
KO tried to break Sami Zayn in half at NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable with that same move. He powerbombed Neville out of commission. At Money in the Bank 2015, Owens responded to a loss by driving John Cena's spine into the ring apron.
In each case, Owens was a dangerous man willing to do anything to achieve his goals.
Going back to this Owens to close out Monday's Raw gave the champ instant momentum. He was not only the central figure of this narrative, but he was also a more convincing, more unsettling heel in this moment.
As Miami Herald columnist Scott Fishman pointed out, this is the right direction to take with Owens:
Busted Open radio also praised how WWE handled Owens on Monday night:
The Owens who stunned fans as he devoured former friend Zayn took hold of the NXT audience in a hurry. That same Owens, the one who floored Cena without a drop of mercy in him, reared his head again on Monday's Raw.
WWE found its groove with the champion by going back to what has worked in the past. The company has to keep using that strategy.
The level of violence and villainy Owens showed on the go-home show has to continue at Hell in a Cell and beyond. He will be at his best if he hurts Rollins in that cage, roaring over his fallen foe. He will be at his best if he eventually does to Jericho what he did to Zayn.
Monday night showcased the most compelling side of Owens. To reach his full potential as a top-tier heel, this incarnation of the champion must remain at the forefront.