They tell you in Hollywood that an amazing motion picture simultaneously surprises the audience and satisfies them at the same time, which is exactly how people in Houston’s Toyota Center reacted when Kevin Owens earned the WWE Universal Championship belt at the end of Monday Night Raw on Monday.
I know this to be true because no matter how loud the amplifiers blared music, what the announcers were yelling or for that matter, how villainous the ending, you could hear the crowd chanting in the background to the company’s top bad guy: “You deserve it.”
Now that’s some respect.
Say what you want about pro wrestling fans such as little ol’ me. You can call me stupid for watching it, but I’m not so stupid to where I don’t want to see a lifetime of dedication go unrewarded.
I’ll try to be brief about Owens’ accomplishments in the sense that I don’t claim to be a wrestling insider as other bloggers do. I do know that, much like stand-up comedy, you have to be a person of uncommon drive to be a pro wrestler. He’s spent half of his life as one, having started at 16. It’s an unusual vocation, solitary, taking you to the oddest places for chump change and golf claps from tiny audiences.
You toil for years under blind faith that your brass ring is within grasp.
Having said that, I remember people telling me stand-up must be the toughest job on the planet. I disagree. I think one of the reasons comics are wrestling fans because we recognize it is a tougher form of entertainment than stand-up. The risk of major injury is real, but you still have to be tell a damn good story in the process.
And Owens has surely been entertaining, honing his traditional heel routine for more than a decade around the world. The man is incapable of not talking trash, as if — like a great white shark has to keep swimming — stopping to be nice meant he would sink and die.
Consider how the WWE for the last 18 months has forced Roman Reigns on its fans, despite his lack of ability to connect with an audience. (Side note: Reigns can still learn to connect. Making eye contact with the audience is a good start when delivering a promo.)
Owens, conversely, smashed that fourth wall between performer and audience as the seasoned veteran he is. It also doesn’t matter if the show is televised or a WWE house show. I know this having seen Owens perform away from the cameras.
What made the result even more eye-popping was that the in-house crowd knew in advance they would see something major in that episode. Typically, championship belts change hands during pay-per view events. To have its most-important belt awarded on basic cable is almost groundbreaking for wrestling fans.
Four wrestlers competed for the belt, with Owens deemed lest likely to succeed by those bloggers who are allegedly in the know. Among the remaining three included two former champs — Reigns and Seth Rollins — with crowd favorite Big Cass.
Having chosen one of those three to win would have been the safe route for the company. It was so safe as to be expected, predictable. Like another push for Reigns.
Allowing Owens to ascend to the top of the heap, though, opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities for future episodes of “Raw,” which is going to be a must-see this upcoming week. How will Rollins react to betrayal from former allies? Does Cass consider turning on his tag team partner for more solo title shots? Will Reigns learn a move other than a punch?
But that’s a few days away for the writers to think of a good plot twist. For now, the bad guy in red and black has a matching championship belt to sling over his shoulder.
For those of us who admire work ethic, you’re damn right he deserved it.