Kevin Owens is a heel.
There was a time when heels being...well, heels was part of what made pro wrestling great. This aspect of the industry, especially in 2016 shouldn't have to be explained, but after reading about a recent "incident" at a WWE house show, I wanted to write this column in an attempt to put the situation into prospective.
Kevin Owens, the WWE Universal champion and top heel on Raw, was scheduled to wrestle Roman Reigns at a live event in Lowell, MA last weekend. As Owens walked toward the ring, he spotted a young fan in a Roman Reigns t-shirt and told him that he should buy a KO t-shirt instead. The Canadian star then changed his mind and told the youngster not to buy his shirt and not to touch him. The fan's mom recorded the interaction and posted on Facebook that her heart "sank" because Owens was rude.
So, a heel wasn't all smiles and that ruined the entire experience for the young kid? Seriously?
This will sound very basic, but it must be pointed out here. One of the reasons that fans support the heroes in the pro wrestling genre is because the heels generate heat and the audience wants to see the "bad guy" lose. Without that heat, what is the reasoning to support the hero? In theory, the fans rallying behind the baby face gives them the encouragement to overcome the odds to defeat the heel. For example, part of the draw to pro wrestling is that the concept presented is that if the fans bought tickets to support their star, they could actually influence the result of a contest. Obviously, there's a different dynamic in 2016 with the business exposed as predetermined, but the point remains that crowd participation is one of the selling point to draw a live crowd.
For example, when Bruno Sammartino battled the evil villains of his era, crowds flocked to see him because they knew they had to be their to support their hero. In the mist of the cold war, the audience couldn't let the Italian strongman battle the Russian, Ivan Koloff without them.
Granted, there's a line of decency and personal conduct that shouldn't be crossed. And, Kevin Owens did NOT cross any type of line. He wasn't vulgar or reckless toward the young fan so there's really no logical reason to complain as if Owens simply playing his part of the performance is somehow a traumatic event. In the social media era, it seems as though some people are just looking for their "Youtube moment" to go viral so that other people will notice them and the mom that wrote the message to complain about a "bad guy" wrestler was probably attempting to get other fans to take notice. If KO yelled obscenities toward the kid, that's a different story entirely, but that's NOT what happened.
Keep in mind, this interaction took place within the context of a wrestling show when heels portray themselves as "bad guys" to project the hero/heel dynamic that was mentioned earlier. Considering it's 2016, if a wrestler is at an autograph signing and they are rude to fans, that's also a completely different story because their role isn't as a villain when they meet fans.
Again, this should go without saying, but there's a different between the characters on TV and the athletes portraying them. Kevin Steen is the person behind the Owens persona and it would be unfair to judge him as a person strictly based on when he was clearly playing the role of the villain at a wrestling event. Another aspect of this whole situation that should be realized is that Steen has a son around the same age as the fan he confronted so realistically, do you think he would actually try to ruin the experience for him? Plus, if you've followed his career for any amount of time, it's obvious that Steen's family is very important to him so he doesn't seem like the type of person that would try to ruin a family experience.
Just my two cents, I actually met Kevin Steen at an ROH show a few years ago and he was one of the politest wrestlers that I've ever met so I truly don't think he had any malicious intentions last weekend.
Let's not forget, Kevin Owens has quickly become one of the top acts on WWE TV and his passion for the business is displayed when he's in the ring, which is one of the reasons that he generated a crowd reaction. You won't find an Owens match when he doesn't give it 100% and he has done well as WWE champion.
The bottom line is, Kevin Owens is a heel and there's nothing wrong with that.
Until next week
You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta