Kevin Owens is heading into WrestleMania 32 with less than a year of experience in WWE, but he has already managed to become a 2-time Intercontinental Champion. Super fans within the WWE Universe know he debuted in NXT in late 2014, and fans around the globe may even know Owens has been wrestling since the year 2000. Performing as Owens and under his birth name, Kevin Steen, The Prizefighter has won titles and championships everywhere he’s gone, usually as quickly and as decisively as he’s won his battles in WWE.
Owens hasn’t been competing on a major stage for terribly long, but his career in the independent scene was filled with memorable moments and major battles, as well. In Combat Zone Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and Ring of Honor, Steen cemented his name as perhaps the best brawling wrestler in the world today, and certainly one of the best promos. His star shines brighter than most in the WWE Universe, and many predict Owens is a lock to one day be WWE World Champion. Once that day comes, maybe people will know everything there is about K.O., but until then, there are still plenty of facts about the man fans may be surprised to learn. Facts like…
10. French Is His First Language
Owens is billed from Marieville, Quebec, Canada, but he was actually born in a city called Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Coming from a city with that name, only 30 miles away from Montreal, it may not be that surprising French was Kevin’s first language. Although the majority of the residents of Canada speak English, the country is officially bilingual, mostly due to the large number of French Canadians in Kevin’s native province of Quebec. WWE has a track record of pretty much ignoring any superstar who can’t cut a promo, so it’s a good thing Owens eventually managed to learn English and become one of the best speakers in the business. It’s amazing that when watching him talk there’s barely even a hint of an accent, let alone the heavy accent of a man who didn’t learn to speak English until his teens. What genius teacher perfectly taught Owens his English? Well, actually…
9. He Learned His English Watching WWE
Language teachers will inform students the best way to learn a language is to constantly immerse themselves in it, speaking only the language they are trying to learn for long stretches at a time, in order to make it as familiar as possible. Kevin Steen interpreted this method as “watch Raw and talk like Jim Ross.” WWE offers all of its commentary in English, Spanish, French, and occasionally other languages for major broadcasts, but for whatever reason the young Owens decided to watch his wrestling in English, and he claims Jim Ross helped him learn the language. It wasn’t just Good Ol’ JR—pretty much every wrestler to pick up a microphone played a part, as Owens would mimic their words and phrases, learning what they really meant later. Of course, there’s no direct French translation for “slobber knocker” or “beat like a government mule,” so we don’t exactly recommend the Rosetta Stone: Jim Ross Edition.
8. He Was Trained By Champions
Like most wrestlers, Kevin Owens doesn’t have just one person he credits as his “trainer,” but rather quite a few. Included amongst his first and most integral trainers are former WWE Tag Team Champions, The Quebecers. It makes perfect sense considering Owens is actually from Quebec himself, where Jacques Rougeau, Jr. opened a wrestling school in 1999. Rougeau’s Quebecer partner Pierre/Carl Ouellet also taught at the school. The Quebecers held the WWE Tag Team Championship three times in the mid 1990’s. Although the former champs laid the foundation for Owens’ future, he credits the trainers at NXT with further helping him fully realize himself as a performer. He has included Terry Taylor, Norman Smiley, Dusty Rhodes, Billy Gunn, and Triple H in the long list of wrestlers who helped him become the man he is today.
7. He Started Wrestling When He Was 16
Jacques Rougeau’s wrestling school opened in 1999, and the very next year Kevin Steen signed up, despite the fact he was only 16 years old at the time. While it isn’t a completely foreign concept for a wrestler to debut in their teens, it remains incredibly rare, even in the small-scale independent Canadian companies Steen was working for. He primarily worked for Rougeau’s company, and later made appearances in IWC, the Internet Wrestling Syndicate, in 2003 while still only 19. One of his first matches for the company was a triple threat match against his trainer, Pierre Ouellet, and the man who would follow Owens throughout his entire career: El Generico, also known as Sami Zayn. Just how close have Zayn and Owens been their whole lives? Keep reading.
6. He’s Teamed With Sami Zayn His Entire Career
Fans of WWE and NXT know Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have an intensely long history, in both of those two companies and well before they ever entered the WWE universe. They may not all realize, however, just how far the connection extends. After wrestling for a variety of Canadian indy promotions, the first well-known American company Kevin Steen performed for was Combat Zone Wrestling. His debut match took place in 2004, and was a fatal four-way match against Excess, SeXXXy Eddy, and of course, El Generico. Shortly thereafter, Steen and Generico formed a tag team, which would dominant the American independent scene. Together, the duo managed to win both the PWG and ROH Tag Team Championships. Steen first turned on Generico in 2009, and their feud has followed them through every company they’ve competed for.
5. He Booked His Own Feuds
The tag team, breakup, and subsequent feud of Kevin Steen and El Generico is considered one of the more personal, emotional, and downright entertaining angles to have made its way through the American independent wrestling scene in the past few decades. Feuds in WWE are largely devised by a McMahon or one of their writers, but in smaller companies, the wrestlers themselves have a lot of leeway for creativity. According Steen, he pretty much wrote the entire feud by himself. The battles between the two were so well written and beloved by fans, they won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Award for Best Feud of the Year in 2010. The saga between the two first culminated in a Loser Leaves Town Match, which Steen lost, forcing him out of ROH for much of 2011. This does pose two questions: why did the wrestlers get so much control, and why did Steen leave for so long after getting it? Sometimes two questions have the same answer…
4. He Had Problems With Jim Cornette
While Steen and Generico were turning ROH into their personal warzone, the head booker of Ring of Honor was Jim Cornette. Cornette is a legend in the wrestling business, mostly for his incredible creative mind, but also for a long history of putting his body on the line for the wrestling business. This hasn’t stopped Steen from being open about just how poor the relationship between the two seemingly always was. They disagree on specifics, but the main problem seems to be that Steen, who everyone knows is a bit overweight, does not fit into line with Cornette’s depiction of “what a wrestler should look like.” Unable to lose the weight Cornette demanded, and becoming depressed because of the demand to begin with, Steen was forced out of ROH for much of 2011. Although he had problems with Cornette, there must have been at least a few members of Camp Cornette who Steen must have idolized, because…
3. He Named His Son After Owen Hart
In most interviews, Kevin Owens has named his favorite wrestler as Steve Austin, but he clearly has a soft spot in his heart for Owen Hart. In 2007, he and his wife welcomed their first son, and chose to name him after the 2-time Slammy Award winner. Only six months after his son was born, Steen brought his infant child to the arena to witness PWG’s Tag Title Tournament in May of 2008. After winning the tournament and the titles with El Generico, a fellow wrestler named Excalibur took to the ring to insult Steen and his family. After a series of power bombs, Steen picked up baby Owen and carried the 6-month old baby into the ring, allowing him to pin Excalibur. Who knows whether or not all the love would make up for the way WWE treated Owen over the last few years of his life.
2. He’s A Former World Champion
Since becoming a member of the WWE Universe just two short years ago, Owens has already proven himself as a major force and a competent champion, proudly holding the NXT Championship once, and the WWE Intercontinental Championship twice. Though he hasn’t yet reached the top of the WWE mountain, Owens has proven himself as the best wrestler in a few smaller companies already. He has won the World Championship in ROH, PWG, and AAW. He has also held major titles in smaller companies, as well. Though there’s no comparing the giant world of WWE with these smaller federations, it’s clear Owens has been a dominating force everywhere he’s traveled.
1. He Debuted As The Best
Kevin Owens debuted in WWE on May 18, 2015 to attack John Cena and basically beat the hell out of him, while still holding the NXT Championship. After a grueling match lasting more than 20 minutes, Owens planted Cena with a Pop-Up Powerbomb and cleanly won his debut match. Though Cena would best him in their two rematches and he would subsequently be shunted down the card, this remains one of the most shocking and overwhelmingly successful debuts in recent wrestling history. Owens spent the rest of 2015 clawing his way back to the top, winning and losing the Intercontinental Championship, but not yet reaching the level of success of his initial victory. Although he has a long path ahead of him before winning the WWE World Championship or entering the Hall of Fame, in his debut year Owens already pulled off an incredible accomplishment. The Cena victory alone was enough for him to be named the Best Wrestler of the first half of 2015 by Rolling Stone Magazine, and most other publications have had no choice but to agree.