Kevin Owens returned to WWE on SmackDown Live after months on the shelf, and he's already making a big impact.
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced KO will replace Kofi Kingston in the WWE Championship match against Daniel Bryan at Fastlane on March 10.
While a senior member of the company's active roster, Kingston's stock has risen rapidly in recent weeks. He wrestled for more than an hour in a Gauntlet match on the February 12 edition of SmackDown Live. Then he nearly beat Bryan for the WWE title in the main event of Elimination Chamber.
It looked like Kingston was poised for a well-earned singles clash with Bryan. Instead, he'll need to find other plans for Fastlane, much to the chagrin of his fellow New Day members.
After losing a tag team match to Bobby Lashley and John Cena at WWE Super Show-Down in Australia on October 6 and a singles match against The Almighty two nights later on Raw, Owens took time away to undergo double knee surgery.
His injuries were incorporated into a storyline, as Lashley turned heel by attacking the Canadian after their match and smashing his knees on the ring post.
In recent months, WWE has heralded Owens' return with multiple vignettes. The first aired in December on the same night as a promo for the return of his friend, Sami Zayn, who was also sidelined after undergoing double shoulder surgery.
Then, in February, WWE aired footage of The Prizefighter cutting a promo while at a bowling alley with his son. During the segment, he said he was one month away from returning to action.
Owens was spinning his wheels to some degree prior to getting injured, as he was engaged in a long-term feud with Braun Strowman. Since WWE was building up The Monster Among Men at the time, KO suffered several losses and was routinely embarrassed by his adversary.
He had built up some momentum as a heel tandem with Zayn on SmackDown Live that led to a tag team match against Bryan and Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 34. After losing that bout, though, they were moved to Raw and struggled to gain traction.
Even so, Owens is one of the best all-around talents WWE has to offer because of his strength on the mic and in the ring.
Although he has played a heel character during his entire tenure with the company, the Canadian has shown in other promotions he is capable of being a strong babyface as well. That gives WWE some options moving forward.
A feud against Bryan would seemingly position Owens in a babyface role, but that obviously won't be the case given the circumstances leading to his Fastlane match.
The 34-year-old is a highly decorated competitor with reigns as intercontinental champion, United States champion and universal champion on his resume.
Since he can thrive essentially anywhere on the card, WWE should benefit greatly from Owens' return.
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