For years, Kevin Owens was one of the most admired and talked-about names on the independent circuit. On December 11, 2014, he officially made his debut at WWE NXT: R Evolution and made a huge impact. I recently spoke with Kevin about NXT and his thoughts on the whole experience that has changed his life.
Alex Obert: When you made your way out the ring for your debut match at NXT Takeover: R Evolution, what was going through your head?
Kevin Owens: I wish I could tell you exactly what I was thinking about, but there were so many things going through my mind. I thought a lot about my family because they got me to the point. It sounds really corny because it seems like that’s what people would say when there’s a big moment in their lives. I thought about my kid, my parents and my wife. I remember at one point, I stopped midway through the ramp before I got in the ring and I clearly remember having a flash of running to the ring in my first match. It was just such a culmination. It’s always been my dream. It’s really hard to describe how memorable that was.
Alex Obert: You made your debut against CJ Parker, who has been praised in the past by Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins. What are your thoughts on him?
Kevin Owens: CJ Parker’s probably the best guy we have here that hasn’t been prominently featured on NXT, for whatever reason. He’s one of those kinds of people that no matter where they are or what they’re doing, they’re gonna find a way to make it work and shine. Eventually he’ll have his time. Our match was ten minutes or so and he made the best of it. He broke my nose two minutes in. A lot of people had a lot of things to say about him breaking my nose, but in a way, he made a huge statement. I think CJ Parker is a big part of the future. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been in the ring with, in all honesty.
Alex Obert: What is the feeling like being here now in NXT with several of the top names that you worked with on the independents?
Kevin Owens: Sami Zayn and I have had a long history. Same goes for Adrian Neville. I might not get the chance to work with them now, but Seth Rollins, Cesaro and Daniel Bryan, all those guys, we all spent a lot of time together wrestling all over the place. And I’ve said this before in an interview on WWE.com, seeing Cesaro and Seth and Daniel Bryan was such an inspiration for me. Even though I knew them and I’ve been through a lot of the same things and been to a lot of the same places, seeing them succeed when I was trying to get here was so inspiring. Neville got here first and then Sami, they did really well for themselves too. It’s a really incredible feeling to be in here with them. I started wrestling before Neville and before Zayn, but I look up to them in a lot of ways. They were here first and they made it work here first and they made it work here when a lot of people thought that guys like them wouldn’t be able to make it work here. In a way, they laid down a lot of the groundwork for somebody like me to be able to work here. It’s great to be here with them.
Alex Obert: Which NXT matches really wowed you that took place before you came onto the main roster?
Kevin Owens: I was watching NXT for a long time and as soon as the Network was available, I watched every episode I could. Even before that, NXT was on The Score back in Canada. I saw all of Sami’s matches with Cesaro. I saw Neville win the title. One match that really made me feel like I had to get here was Sami Zayn versus Jack Swagger. It’s actually kind of forgotten about because a lot of people talk about the Cesaro matches, which were all amazing, but it was really eye-opening for me to see Jack Swagger and Sami Zayn have a match like that. It made me realize if those guys, who are two very different people from very different backgrounds, managed to make magic like that, I could do that too and I could do it with a whole bunch of new characters and people. As much as I enjoyed my time on the indies, I really felt like it was time for me to move on to something else. You want to keep moving up. I feel like me being here is the next logical step. To see that happen, it just gave me faith.
Alex Obert: With a whole new roster of opponents, who do you have your eye on that you haven’t worked with in the past?
Kevin Owens: I feel like CJ Parker and I could do a lot of good things together if we get to wrestle each other again. As far as just NXT is concerned, I’ve never been in the ring with Finn Balor at all. We did team with each other in England back in June before we both came here, but it was very short and it wasn’t really anything too memorable. But I feel like we have very good things in our future together. Same thing with Hideo Itami, we teamed before a long time ago, but it’s nothing like it would be now, whether it’s us teaming or competing against each other. I really didn’t know anything about Baron Corbin before I got here because he wasn’t an independent wrestler, he came through in a different way. But I’ve seen him do some really good things here and I think me and him would be interesting. There’s a guy called Tye Dillinger who has been here for a while and he’s been on TV a couple times, I still think he’s poised for big things too. I’d like to get to wrestle him. There so many answers to that question. Everybody here is so passionate and so good in different ways. Wesley Blake and Chad Gable, just to name a few. Everybody here is just working towards the same goal. Everybody here wants to be the best and go as far as they can. It will be easy to have good times and good matches with everyone. I’m really looking forward to working with everybody.
Alex Obert: What do you take out of being at Full Sail with the intimate setting and the crowd there?
Kevin Owens: It’s great, but it doesn’t feel like that intimate when you’re out there. I’ve never been in an environment like that with the titantron and the ramp and the lights and all the equipment. When I was walking out there, there might have been seven hundred people in the place, but to me, it might as well have been seventeen thousand. It felt to me like I was in any arena anywhere that the WWE puts on a show. It’s great to be surrounded by that and the fans are so into it. It honestly reminded me of Reseda, California where PWG runs their shows. I was in PWG for a long time and it has a very special place in my heart. I would definitely put it on the same level as far as how eager the fans are to have a good time. They are there for every step of the way and they appreciate everything that they are given. And that’s really cool, as a performer.
Alex Obert: Aside from in-ring action, what is it like to be working on your promos down at NXT?
Kevin Owens: It’s really fascinating. When we filmed the vignettes, it was very intricate. It’s a lot more intricate than you think. The vignettes are thirty seconds to a minute.. I think it took three to four hours to shoot all the stuff. We had to reshoot some stuff because we needed a shot of this shadow and this and that. There’s so many creative minds working together to make this special. I was really lucky, I can’t overstate that enough. Chris Chambers, Christopher Watts, Brian Kunsman, Ryan Katz and Bill DeMott, they were all helping me and gave great suggestions like “Do this. Do that. Turn your head this way.” It’s all intricate stuff it’s stuff that I’ve never done. Ring of Honor had TV, but nothing like this. It was never that intricate and never on a level like this. I’ve never done this stuff, so I’m really fortunate to have that many people who are that creative and know exactly what they are doing behind me for that. I enjoyed every aspect of it. It seems like it would be tedious, but it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to do. I really enjoyed it.
Alex Obert: What have you taken out of spending time with Triple H behind the scenes and getting to pick his brain?
Kevin Owens: All I can say is that Triple H is literally the most dedicated man in sports entertainment, nobody works as hard as he does. I only see glimpses of it when he’s at the NXT tapings and the specials, but he’s always available for ideas. We were talking about what I was gonna do and how I was gonna be presented, he was very hands-on. It’s not just me, he’s got his finger on the pulse of everything we do here. And we do a lot of stuff, there’s seventy people here and he keeps track of everyone. I don’t know when he sleeps, I don’t know when he works out, but he’s alive and he’s in great shape. From what I can tell, he’s a machine. His dedication is really something to behold. I’m lucky to have somebody like him willing to work with me, just like everybody else I mentioned earlier. He’s another great mind who knows so much more more about this than I do and he’s willing to share it with me and share it with anybody who wants the knowledge. It’s pretty awesome. You mentioned presentation skills or promo class or whatever you wanna call it with Dusty Rhodes, that’s probably my favorite thing about the WWE Performance Center. Once a week, I get to sit in with Dusty Rhodes. He’s hilarious and intelligent and he cares about everybody here. That’s just really nice to see because he doesn’t have to care about everyone here. He could just care about the top few guys that are clearly featured, but he doesn’t, he cares about everybody from Sami Zayn, who has been here forever, to Noah, who just started a couple months ago and is working to find himself and his voice. Dusty spends as much time with them as he does with us and that’s really incredible. The Performance Center is a pretty incredible place to be.
Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, what do you have to say to readers who are just discovering Kevin Owens for the very first time?
Kevin Owens: Buckle up!
Alex Obert: Sounds good! I’d love to thank you so much for your time.
Kevin Owens: Thanks man!