Ranking Kevin Owens' 7 Greatest Matches of WWE Career

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2020

Ranking Kevin Owens' 7 Greatest Matches of WWE Career

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Since arriving on WWE Raw in May 2015, few Superstars have competed against as many wrestlers of as many different backgrounds and styles as Kevin Owens.

    The self-proclaimed Prize Fighter of WWE has battled against, and stolen shows with, everyone from resident Superman John Cena to fellow Quebecois (and career-long friend) Sami Zayn. 

    His ability to spar with the most effective strikers, grapple with the finest wrestlers and brawl with the biggest badasses in WWE has made him one of the most eclectic and celebrated in-ring performers of this generation.

    In celebration of his 36th birthday, relive these matches that have helped define KO's stellar career in McMahonland.

7. Shane McMahon, Hell in a Cell 2017

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    It was way too long, and featured a bit too much time spent outside of the steel structure, but the Hell in a Cell match between Owens and Shane McMahon in October 2017 represented WWE's trust in KO to perform at a high level in a significant match.

    Months of hostility gave way in a contest that saw Owens bump for McMahon, flying off the side of the cage and through an announce table. That high spot was just getting the crowd warmed up, though, as McMahon later scaled the cage and proceeded to dive off...only for Sami Zayn to turn heel and pull Owens to safety in time for the prodigal son to crash through the table below.

    Three seconds later and KO had one of his more significant pay-per-view victories.

    Quality-wise, he had better matches, but this was his chance to prove that he could headline a PPV without a championship involved, and he did so to great success. 

6. Roman Reigns, Royal Rumble 2017

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    While he has never had a problem beating an opponent clean in the center of the ring, some of Owens' best work in WWE has been as the slimy heel, particularly during his run as Universal champion.

    At the 2017 Royal Rumble, Owens defended against Roman Reigns while his very best friend in the entire world, Chris Jericho, watched from above. Suspended in a steel cage to prevent interference, Jericho still managed to slip Owens a pair of brass knuckles that nearly earned the champion a victory. Neither that nor a massive frog splash to Reigns, driving him through a table, was enough to put The Big Dog away.

    Sent crashing into a pile of chairs, then felled by a powerbomb through a table, Owens appeared to be on the brink of dropping his title. Then, Braun Strowman appeared and slammed Reigns through a table. The cowardly heel Owens conveniently popped up and scored the win.

    Between showcasing the relationship with Jericho, which was the saving grace of the Raw brand for quite some time, and highlighting how extraordinary a heel Owens could be just by taking an ass-kicking and still managing to win, it is a match that stands out as one of KO's more underrated and underappreciated performances in WWE to date.

5. Dean Ambrose, Royal Rumble 2016

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    The rivalry between Kevin Owens and Dean Ambrose spawned a lot of matches over their shared time with the company. Almost too many. What felt like a neverending program, though, saved one of their best for last as the months-long program over the Intercontinental Championship culminated in a Last Man Standing Match to kick off the 2016 Royal Rumble pay-per-view.

    The crowd in Orlando, Florida, was red-hot, a testament to the competitors' ability to keep fans invested despite the overexposure of that particular pairing. The match itself was appropriately violent, as it should have been given how many times they had fought and how increasingly intense the program had become. Despite the violence, it was never over-the-top dangerous, another testament to the experience both Owens and Ambrose had in those settings.

    Like so many of Owens' greatest matches, he fell short of winning, but the quality of the bout and his ability to rise to the level of his competition became apparent.

4. Finn Balor, TakeOver: Brooklyn

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    Pressured to perform up to the level of the instant classic between Bayley and Sasha Banks that preceded it, Owens and Finn Balor took to the ring in the main event of the inaugural TakeOver: Brooklyn for their Ladder Match in which the NXT Championship was up for grabs.

    Determined to regain a title he had lost on July 4 in Japan, Owens was aggressive and punishing from the outset.

    As he has done so often in high-profile bouts, he took incredible risks and bumped to make his opponent look good. Still, he recovered and controlled a good portion of the match, even delivering a wicked apron powerbomb that would have incapacitated a lesser opponent.

    Balor, though, proved resilient and, ultimately, delivered a Coup de Grace that finally put Owens down and allowed him to retrieve the title and pick up the win.

    The match was Owens' goodbye to an NXT brand that he had not nearly spent enough time with. Pegged for the main roster from the get-go, he was off to bigger, better things on Monday Night Raw.

3. Seth Rollins, WrestleMania 36

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    In today's WWE, a Superstar is ultimately judged on how they perform when the lights are brightest and stage grandest. While Owens had been part of fairly high-profile matches over the course of his career at WrestleMania, he had yet to have that one defining moment that solidified his legacy.

    Seth Rollins called him out for as much in the weeks leading into their clash at The Showcase of the Immortals. 

    With pressure on him to not only shut up The Monday Night Messiah and pick up a monumental victory, but also solidify his status as one of the top competitors of his generation by way of the elusive WrestleMania Moment, he entered the most unique Show of Shows as one of the most must-watch performers on the roster.

    And he delivered.

    Unwilling to accept a cheap disqualification win, he goaded Rollins into restarting the match, then proceeded to whoop up on the former universal champion. From there, he scaled the massive WrestleMania sign and lept off, driving his opponent through an announce table.

    The jaw-dropping moment created an instant highlight-reel addition, and his win ranks as one of the most significant of his time in WWE. Unfortunately, a reported ankle injury has prevented him from following it up and building momentum.

2. John Cena, Elimination Chamber 2015

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    In his first opportunity to leave an impression on WWE's main roster fans, Owens battled franchise star John Cena. For anyone, that is a daunting task. Owens, though, seized the opportunity the match presented him and made himself a star.

    A dramatic match highlighted by the multiple finishers and breathtaking near-falls that Owens had perfected on the indies and Cena had brought to the mainstream through his work in WWE, it kept fans guessing as to whether the attitudinal newcomer or smiling babyface would emerge victorious.

    Owens answered with an emphatic Pop-Up Powerbomb and stunning pinfall, clean in the center of the ring. Any and all doubters were, for the time being, silenced in what remains one of the most impressive examples of first-match booking in WWE history.

1. Sami Zayn, Battleground 2016

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    Owens and Sami Zayn is a feud WWE has not visited in nearly three years, but it still ranks as the greatest of either man's run in the company. Beginning with a shocking betrayal at the conclusion of NXT R Evolution, it told the story of good friends turned bitter enemies.

    After Zayn neutralized Owens in the Ladder Match to kick off WrestleMania 32, costing him his Intercontinental Championship, they opted to settle their differences in a grudge match at the July 2016 Battleground pay-per-view.

    A wildly dramatic match that lived and died on the near-fall, it told the story of two men with an unwavering determination to beat the other. Championship aspirations, professional advancement and personal glory...none of it mattered.

    It was all about proving one was better than the other, and fans were invested in the simplicity of it all. "Fight forever" rained from the fans out of appreciation for the artistry and storytelling that accompanied the in-ring action and athleticism.

    Again, Owens lost while Zayn earned one of his defining wins. Still, his work in that program and that match, in particular, earned him the attention of management and by August, he would be Universal champion.