No two ways about it, the WWE sustained a devastating blow this past Wednesday when Seth Rollins suffered a brutal leg injury — one in which he tore his ACL, MCL and medial meniscus. Rollins had been the focal point of programming for months now, with when he’d finally drop his WWE World Heavyweight Championship being arguably the company’s biggest narrative.
Combine the loss of Rollins with the fact that John Cena, who was headlining pay-per-views against Rollins just month ago, has taken a much-needed breather and it’s hard to see the WWE’s already-slumping ratings going anywhere but down. The first assumption would be that the WWE will rush to the phone lines, hurrying Cena back, clearing Daniel Bryan for competition or fattening Brock Lesnar’s wallet for a few more appearances.
And, granted, that’s the more realistic option too. But it may not be the best one. One of the chief criticisms lobbied against the wrestling Goliath over the past several years is an inability to create new stars. Now the company doesn’t have much else in the way of options. Yes, it might suffer in the short-term, but in the long run, infusing some new blood would do wonders for leveling the playing field when Rollins and Cena return.
So, then, who is well-suited to step up in the absence of Rollins? That begins with the Authority. Triple H and his cohorts are what, in story, allowed Rollins to ascend. The power-hungry group wants to control every aspect of the WWE, including who holds its championships. Kevin Owens would be a great choice to take over as the Authority’s chosen one.
No, he’s not as aesthetically pleasing as Rollins, but that’s about the only aspect in which these two differ. They’re both tremendous in-ring competitors. A list of 2015’s top matches will see both names listed numerous times. They’ve also been built rather strongly, Rollins has a clean victory over an icon in Sting and Owens made his WWE debut by toppling Cena.
But neither Rollins nor Owens garner heat because they win, instead, it’s how they win. They’ve both proven capable of beating anyone this side of Brock Lesnar cleanly, but repeatedly opt to take the easy way out. Rollins, throughout much of his run as champion, relied on outside interference to pick up victories. If Owens is being challenged, he’ll simply stroll out of the arena, accepting the count-out loss and taking solace in the fact that he wasn’t pinned.
Alongside that, Owens is a known favorite of Triple H. Of course, Seth Rollins was, but a rift in their on-screen relationship became readily apparent over the past several months. If The Game jumps at the chance to push his “pet project” in Owens then it’ll seem as though he, much like Rollins, had a high-profile spot handed to him on a silver platter. Have Triple H take some subtle digs at Rollins in the months that follow and a ready-made narrative is awaiting his eventual return.
Rollins, like Triple H did over a decade ago, will likely return from his injury to a thunderous ovation. And there’s no doubt that, after hearing his one-time mentor bash him at every opportunity, that he’ll be after revenge. Of course, Owens will be the wall set up between that eventual collision. Rollins and Owens would undoubtedly have some tremendous matches and Rollins having to fight his way past a formidable foe in Owens will only strengthen the tension between he and Triple H.
No, Kevin Owens doesn’t have the trademark “look” that many envision in a pro wrestler. He’s downright portly. But that only serves to belie his jaw-dropping ability as a performer. Odds are that he’ll continue to float around the mid-card scene, hoping the slow burn approach eventually leads him to greener pastures. But there’s never been a better time for him to take that next step. Take a risk, WWE, you may just wind up hitting it big.