The current landscape of the professional wrestling industry has had fans on the edge of their seats as WWE and All Elite Wrestling take part in an arms race of sorts. The internet is rife with speculation about where new and upcoming free agents will land. Kevin Owens was among those names as his contract was set to expire in January.
On Sept. 7, the 37-year-old seemingly escalated rumors that he could head to AEW and reunite with The Young Bucks and Adam Cole. Days after All Out, he tweeted the coordinates to Mount Rushmore, which was the name of his stable with the Superkliq during their run with PWG. It may have been just a fun nod to his friends after Cole's debut, but it was enough to get everyone talking.
The Prizefighter later deleted the tweet, but it was unclear what it really meant. Maybe, it was never anything more than a clever inside joke among friends or simply a way to create leverage ahead of his negotiations with WWE. It's hard to tell, and we'll likely never learn the truth.
Nevertheless, Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select put an end to months of anticipation as he broke the news that Owens signed a new multi-year deal with WWE. This may disappoint some viewers who hoped to see a Mount Rushmore reunion or an opportunity to compete against some fresh opponents outside of the company. However, it may have been the best decision for the former United States champion.
A Timely Decision
During a recent interview on Pat Laprade's Les Anti-Pods De La Lutte podcast (h/t Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc.), the Canadian star revealed his reasons were simple.
"The decision was pretty easy because it was the best thing for my family, really," he said. "When it comes to that, it's always a pretty easy decision to take. WWE has been my home for seven years now, so I have a sense of belonging."
Considering the past year, it's hard to question anyone in wrestling who would make job security and a hefty salary a priority. After all, WWE released 81 wrestlers in 2021, and Ring of Honor announced that it plans to go on a hiatus. According to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio, Owens reportedly signed a three-year deal with a no-cut clause worth $2 million to $3 million per year.
If this is true, it's a shrewd move for both parties. WWE gets a chance to retain one of its biggest stars after the massive losses of Cole and Bryan Danielson. Additionally, The Prizefighter insulated himself and continued to provide for his family.
Even more, this seems like a wise move ahead of a crowded free agency period in 2022. That's not to say that someone as talented as the Marieville, Quebec, native would have any problems finding a new home. However, it's easy to see how he would have stiffer competition in his next landing spot, where he would have to essentially rebuild his brand in front of a new fanbase.
That may not have been that difficult, but it does raise the question: What would be the incentive in the long run? It's a shame that Owens hasn't been a world champion since 2017, but can you honestly imagine he would win a title with AEW within the next year? If that's the case, why should he take such a big risk?
His recent comments seem to suggest that he's happy where he is and this new contract is the security he needs. Honestly, that's more important than any aspirations we may have for him as fans of his early work or what AEW is doing right now.
What's Next for Kevin Owens
The last four years have been something of a mixed bag for the second WWE universal champion. He has proved that he can be both a tremendous babyface and a terrifying but surprisingly relatable heel. However, he hasn't quite reached the height of his success in 2016 since or surpassed the high expectations that run alongside Chris Jericho set.
To tell the truth, WWE dropped the ball when Owens lost the title to Goldberg instead of feuding with Jericho for it at WrestleMania 33. The two were engaged in one of the hottest storylines at the time, and the conclusion was a bit of a disservice to the work they had done.
Still, it's baffling that such a captivating superstar hasn't held a world title again, especially considering his trajectory in 2019 following his feud with Shane McMahon. When he defeated Seth Rollins the following year on The Grandest Stage of Them All, that seemed like the win that would catapult him back up the card for good. Instead, COVID-19 stifled his momentum, and he later entered a rather predictable rivalry with Roman Reigns.
Yes, Owens has been a part of the title picture, but it doesn't seem like he's in a position to realistically win at times. In fact, The Prizefighter will take part in a fatal four-way match for the WWE Championship on Jan. 1, 2022, at the next pay-per-view event, Day 1. This will likely be a great matchup, but he doesn't seem like a favorite to win.
Nevertheless, Owens still has unfinished business with WWE. There's still so much he has yet to achieve with the company, like a Royal Rumble win or a major WrestleMania program. This could be the perfect time to take those steps forward, as there is a notable lack of consistent main eventers.
The Canadian star is a phenomenal worker with an even better character. This is probably the best place for him right now, but it's up to the powers that be to invest in him as a legitimate star that has decided he's in for the long haul. He actually wouldn't be a bad prediction for the 2022 men's Royal Rumble winner.