The raucous reaction Kevin Owens received on Raw in Manchester, England, on Monday was a strong indication of how popular he remains with the WWE faithful despite the brutal booking he's endured for the better part of 2019.
Truth be told, there aren't many babyfaces on either brand fans genuinely care about to no fault of their own. The company should be blamed for not giving viewers any incentive to want to rally behind them.
Considering how he's been handled by WWE on the whole this year, Owens should be no different than anyone else. However, he continues to come across like a star every time he makes his entrance, as he never ceases to elicit a strong response from fans in attendance.
Owens missed the first few months of 2019 because of injury but was brought back as a babyface in late February. Although seeing him portray a good guy was a refreshing change of pace for his character, WWE did his face run no favors by immediately placing him in the WWE Championship picture over others who deserved it more.
His failure to become champion at Fastlane resulted in him sitting on the sidelines for WrestleMania 35, only to return to his roots as a heel soon after. As well-received as his betrayal of Kofi Kingston was by the masses, their consequent WWE Championship feud did little to reestablish Owens as a top-tier talent.
He proceeded to lose almost every match he had from that point forward until again turning face to feud with Shane McMahon in time for SummerSlam. That program was when Owens' popularity peaked thanks to how hated Shane was, and for a while, the former universal champion was benefiting from working with him.
Owens was able to score two victories over the self-proclaimed "best in the world" and end their rivalry on top. That should have been what cemented him as a main event player on SmackDown, but his move to Raw in the 2019 WWE draft hindered his momentum greatly.
Since October's draft, Owens has made all of two appearances on the flagship show: once aiding The Street Profits to victory against The O.C. and then teaming with Seth Rollins and Street Profits to knock off Imperium on Monday.
He's slated to represent Raw in a multi-man tag team match at Survivor Series, which is clearly designed to be filler to get WWE through November. Beyond that, there doesn't appear to be any obvious plan for Owens on Raw besides feuding with AJ Styles over the United States Championship.
Even if WWE does decide to rekindle that rivalry between Owens and Styles from two years ago (with the roles reversed this time around), it's old hat for The Prizefighter. He needs something he can sink his teeth into higher up on the card—where he belongs.
Aside from his short-lived storylines with Kingston and Daniel Bryan earlier this year, Owens hasn't been consistently featured in the main event scene since his Universal Championship reign was abruptly ended by Goldberg in March 2017.
Now more than ever, Raw could use a beloved babyface such as Owens to build the brand around. Rollins has unfortunately proved that he is not the guy for the job, whereas Owens still has the unwavering support of the WWE Universe.
It's rare to find a Superstar as creatively damaged as Owens who has stayed relevant no matter what. Regardless of what role he's positioned in, he finds ways to make the most of the material given to him and knock it out of the park.
Needless to say, WWE has a serious problem when it comes to booking babyfaces as genuinely likable people. Owens is so relatable and entertaining that he doesn't struggle with that as much as the rest of the Raw roster does, and therefore he is the perfect person to replace Rollins as Raw's leading man.
With 2020 right around the corner, it is time WWE should be starting to build Owens back up as a credible contender to the WWE Championship and make up for what has been the biggest roller-coaster year of his career to date.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.