Within a week of CM Punk’s return to the ring after a seven-year absence, Adam Cole’s surprise debut, and Bryan Danielson’s arrival, All Elite Wrestling continues to be a topic of conversation for potential free agents. Kevin Owens was trending on Twitter recently after reports suggested that his current WWE deal expires in January, a rumor that he fueled with some posts on social media. Granted, it’s entirely possible that Owens, who is a former Ring Of Honor Champion under his real name, Kevin Steen was just trolling the dirt sheets with his social media. At the same time, it wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question for Owens to at least consider an exit from the WWE, particularly because it definitely seems like he hit a ceiling in how far he will go within the organization. Yes, Owens won the Universal title, but that was five years ago, and the booking for his character was really hit or miss since that time. Obviously, his NXT work was notable because he was booked as a vicious heel, an aspect of his persona that made his stint in ROH such a stellar run. The same could be said for why the Owens/Chris Jericho feud got over as one of the most memorable angles on Raw in recent years, because Owens had the chance to work as a true heel. That being said, the past five years since the Jericho feud and the title run have been a mixed bag for him. Sometimes he was a featured performer and other times he was almost forgotten on the brand. For example, on a Summer Slam card that needed Bill Goldberg in one of the main event bouts because there aren’t enough challengers for Bobby Lashley, Owens wasn’t even on the card. A feud with “Happy Corbin” on Smackdown doesn’t seem like the greatest career trajectory either.
We can parse details on the slew of pay-per-view matches or an occasional championship run over the years, but the current status for Kevin Owens appears to be that WWE management either doesn’t have anything else for him to do or they see him in strictly a mid-card role. Sure, based on his look, the WWE did more with him than anyone probably expected, but isn’t that a rather low bar? Perhaps the fact that the booking didn’t completely butch his career being seen as a major plus is why many, including WWE Hall of Famer, Mick Foley, don’t have confidence in the WWE system.
The bottom line for Kevin Owens and any other potential free agent in the next few months is simply, do they have the potential to be used better elsewhere and is the money worth it? At a time when AEW is on such a roll and talent are making the jump, it’s important to remember that the sport is still a business and at the end of the day, it’s about making the most money possible. Tony Khan offering comparable or in some cases better money than WWE makes the decision to jump to All Elite easier, but if Vince McMahon wants to keep someone on the roster, everyone has a price. For Owens, considering his friendship with several already on the roster and the history that can be used to start angles, I think it would make sense for him to sign an AEW contract early next year. It’s not meant as a jab toward WWE, but I just don’t see them doing anything more than what we’re currently watching with Owens, but he already proved throughout his career that he has the charisma and the in-ring skills to be a main event talent. Furthermore, we know that the bulk of Owen’s push was based on praise from Triple H, but with the shift in power on the NXT brand, it’s doubtful that Triple H currently has the political power to get Owens a better spot on the main roster. Unfortunately, the best stuff he did in recent years were the recycled matches against Sami Zayn. Don’t get me wrong, they are always good matches, but the repetitive nature sends the message to the audience that the two were booked for another bout because the writing team doesn’t have anything else for them to do.
Speaking of Sami Zayn, his WWE contract will reportedly expire within the next few months, and his decision to exit from the sports entertainment empire might be an easier decision than Owens’ career path. While Zayn and Owens are close friends in real life and their careers have paralleled in many ways, Sami never got the main event opportunities that Owens had. Sami didn’t have the typical WWE look either, but he has an undeniable charisma and top-notch ability in the ring. It might sound repetitive at this point, but management just didn’t fully utilize Zayn at any point in his WWE career. He has much more to offer and if he eventually inks an AEW contract, I would guess that his work there would be similar to Miro’s current run. All Elite Wrestling could be a platform for Zayn to show what WWE overlooked for the past several years.
The downside of this is that assuming Owens and Zayn leave the WWE, the field within AEW becomes even more crowded for an organization that already has a bloated roster. I understand the logic of AEW Dark, but Youtube shows are really cannon fodder in the grand scheme of things. The major business to be done is still on Dynamite, and even if the organization can garner a steady audience for Rampage, the nature of TV on Fridays still puts Dynamite as the primary stage for AEW. If too many talents debut on TNT too fast, it creates a log jam effect where you have several names, but can’t use all of them properly, which is exactly what happened to TNA during it’s ill-fated attempt to go head-to-head with Raw over a decade ago.
The point being, Owens and Zayn would be tremendous assets for AEW, but similar to anyone else that the company signs from WWE, they have to be booked effectively to maximize their star power. How many currently on the AEW roster be released to make room for the recent additions? That’s not a knock on some of the lower card guys either, but the reality is that guys in their prime with star power will take priority, and there’s a bottom line on pay roll even for Tony Khan. The major upside is that the possible jump of Owens and Zayn will further the narrative that AEW has the momentum in the industry.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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