Ranking the Top 10 Kevin Owens Matches We'd Love to See in AEW
Following in the footsteps of WWE Superstars such as Paul Wight, Christian Cage and Bryan Danielson, Kevin Owens may be the next big name who leaves the company for All Elite Wrestling.
The Canadian signed a five-year deal in 2018, but his contract was restructured and will expire on January 31, 2022, according to Fightful Select (h/t Josh Nason of Wrestling Observer Newsletter).
After Adam Cole debuted for AEW at All Out on Sept. 5, Owens tweeted GPS coordinates that pointed to Mount Rushmore, which was his faction in PWG alongside Cole and The Young Bucks. KO also changed his bio location to "Almost there" and the Bucks temporarily altered their location to "There."
All signs point to a debut in AEW sometime in February 2022, as Owens wouldn't be subject to a 90-day no-compete clause unless WWE were to release him before his contract expired.
Assuming the 37-year-old doesn't re-sign and decides to join AEW, there are many talented wrestlers he could lock horns with.
Let's rank the top 10 possible opponents for Owens if he does jump ship to AEW.
10. Jon Moxley
Owens has fought Dean Ambrose a number of times, but not Jon Moxley.
AEW breathed new life into Moxley when he joined in May 2019 and allowed him to flex his brawler style in a much better way than anything he showcased in WWE, where everything is toned down.
Owens isn't known for brutal hardcore matches in the same regard, but that poses an interesting element that separates Moxley from the rest of the pack.
While there will be many people on this list who have never fought KO before, Moxley would be an example of someone worthy of another go-around to see what they can do together.
9. Christian Cage
Owens is in that rare range of his career where he's been in the game long enough to know all the ins and outs, yet he's still young enough that he can learn from someone who's wrestled a little longer.
Sitting under the learning tree of retired wrestlers is incredibly advantageous, but it doesn't compare to being able to step in the ring with them. And few are in a better position for that than Christian Cage.
Cage has stated previously on the AEW Restricted podcast that Owens was one of the people he wanted to work with had he stayed in WWE (h/t Wrestling Inc). He admires his passion, the way he delivers his promos and considers him a fearless competitor in the ring.
Undoubtedly, Owens would take that opportunity and run with it, especially if he was the heel in the program. Cage would be a prime babyface to play off for promos and garner sympathy when he beats KO down.
8. Cody Rhodes
While many wrestlers in AEW view matches as more of a series of maneuvers than a story, Cody Rhodes tends to wrestle more akin to WWE style.
Often, his matches—while still entertaining and athletic competitions—follow more of a psychological approach, which is one of the most overlooked ways Owens has excelled.
The best KO matches tend to be when he's a more dominant heel, which he would assuredly be against Rhodes, who is a perpetual babyface.
Rhodes would put Owens over like he got mauled by a bear, similar to how Malakai Black looked better in one match with The American Nightmare than he did in his entire time on the WWE main roster.
MJF has to be in consideration to feud with Owens, if only for the promos alone.
MJF is the top heel in the industry right now. Seemingly no one can touch him on the microphone, and he always knows how to rub people the wrong way.
Owens is one of the few in WWE who isn't as scripted because he has a similar trustworthiness. Even if he's given an outline of something to say, he does his best to get it across in as entertaining a way as possible and often saves it from being a bad promo.
With the gloves off and WWE no longer pointing him in any particular direction, Owens could be one of the few wrestlers to give MJF a run for his money in a promo.
Even if they never step foot in the ring together for an actual match, the real selling point would always be the verbal sparring surrounding it.
MJF works well as the weasel in a match against someone who is more of a go-getter fighter, which Owens is. KO is also great at getting steadily more frustrated during his matches, and MJF would get him to a point where all hell breaks loose.
=6. Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, Ricky Starks and Sammy Guevara
Every list like this is going to include a bevy of young stars like Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, Ricky Starks and Sammy Guevara.
For the most part, it's the same talking points. They're young, hungry and already great in the ring. Working with Owens would be something we haven't seen before and they would all benefit from learning opposite him between the ropes just as he would with Cage.
Their similarities make them hard to rank beyond a tie, but their differences justify putting them all in our our top 10 here.
Darby Allin vs. Owens would be a showcase of dominance. KO would exhibit power and deceptive speed while Allin would be an underdog with a never-give-up attitude and a willingness to be thrown around.
Jungle Boy vs. Owens would be more of a fast-paced energy ride. The Prizefighter has surprising agility for someone his size, and that would pair nicely with the current AEW star's high-flying.
Starks would have to be the heel against Owens and would be almost a hybrid of Jungle Boy and MJF. This is a storytelling match that would get better the more time they have.
Guevara would likely wrestle a more ground-based and technical match with some moments of agility to offset Owens as the more ferocious brawler.
5. Chris Jericho
While new and fresh is something to strive for, there's something to be said about revisiting past mistakes and making up for them.
Owens and Chris Jericho never really got to have the match they wanted at WrestleMania 33, and Vince McMahon hated it so much he called it one of the worst bouts in the history of The Show of Shows.
There's no doubt Owens and Jericho would like to turn back time to prove they could have made magic.
4. CM Punk
Owens joined WWE roughly seven months after CM Punk left, so they never had an opportunity to share the ring together. But it could have been a feud for the ages.
Now that Owens is reportedly heading to AEW and Punk is back from retirement, there's a second chance for it to happen.
This is a similar scenario to several others on our list.
Punk rose to prominence before Owens, which paints KO as a student type.
Both have gone through the indies and honed their skills prior to WWE and maintained that chip-on-their-shoulder attitude. They're also both tapped into the stories of pro wrestling, so their creative input could breed a masterpiece.
It would also be a fresh match with a marquee value that appeals to long-term WWE fans.
3. The Young Bucks
History has shown you can't go wrong with a Young Bucks match. They have earned their reputation for being one of the best tag teams of the modern era.
Owens against Matt or Nick Jackson would be great singles matches, but a tag team match could be even better. Part of the fun is thinking about all the possible options of who could partner KO.
Any number of stars such as Cage, Punk, Danielson or Moxley could make for great partners, but arguably the best-case scenario would be Sami Zayn if he joined AEW as well.
Shawn Michaels was a direct inspiration for both the Bucks and Owens, so it would be interesting to see if they pulled off any homages to The Heartbreak Kid's career while facing each other, too.
2. Orange Cassidy
Orange Cassidy quickly stood out in AEW as one of the most interesting performers for his blase attitude and unique style.
Against the right opponents who know how to play along, Cassidy can get fans to laugh at how silly his matches are while becoming deeply invested in the athleticism.
Owens knows how to have fun. He would ham it up considerably as a perfect foil for Cassidy. Freshly Squeezed is calm in his comedy, while KO can go over the top and bombastic with his reactions.
The more riled-up Owens would get, the better it would dictate the flow of their match. Eventually, it would go from something to chuckle at to probably one of the best matches of the year that would have fans clamoring for a second round.
1. Kenny Omega
Of course, no list like this would be complete without Kenny Omega, who topped the PWI 500 this year.
The Best Bout Machine didn't earn that nickname for nothing. He's consistently been one of the best in-ring performers for years, and every wrestler worth their salt should have him on their fantasy list to work with.
Omega vs. Owens is a headline act for any show. That could have been a WrestleMania main event had The Cleaner gone to WWE at any point.
No matter who is the heel or face, all scenarios work. This could be one of those matches that fans call back to like "Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat or Bret Hart vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Just to quickly take note of some other honorable mentions who were in the running, here are a handful of those who didn't make our cut:
- Adam Cole: These two have fought before and it was great. Let's see it again!
- Bryan Danielson: This is another rematch but without WWE's script, and it could be far better than anything they did together on SmackDown.
- Joey Janela: If Owens is going to destroy anyone, Janela would be a punching bag who could absorb a lot of brutality.
- Brian Cage: With his size and athleticism, Cage is an interesting opponent for anyone. That is especially true of someone like Owens, who can hang with the quickest and be the power player in his own right.
- Lance Archer: Few would have a knock-down, drag-out fight with Owens better than Archer.
- Lucha Brothers: There isn't much to Rey Fenix or Penta El Zero Miedo against Owens other than knowing it would be very good.
- Miro: As a babyface, Owens could present one of the biggest challenges to Miro.
- PAC: PAC is among the most trustworthy talents to put on a great show no matter who he's up against. He'd lose to Owens and make a spectacle out of it.
- Sting: There's no telling how many matches The Icon has left in his career, but this psychological battle could be epic.
This list could go on and on, so make sure you keep the discussion going by leaving a comment with your top 10 picks.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.