SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Kevin Owens: Juice Robinson Is the Best Promo in the Business
The road to stardom in WWE is full of obstacles, even if you are already established as one of the company’s premiere talents. No one is a better example than Kevin Owens.
Owens is a bona fide WWE star, yet he wasn’t booked for this past WrestleMania. Owens picked up considerable steam heading into his SummerSlam match with Shane McMahon, but his story is still taking time to develop since his pay-per-view win.
No matter what is presented to him, Owens will do everything within his power to make it work and regain the top spot in the company. A critical piece toward achieving that is creating and delivering promos that evoke the type of emotion that makes a person refuse to stop watching.
His promos were outstanding in the build to SummerSlam, but fall short, Owens admitted, of the constant mic work of New Japan star Juice Robinson (who also worked for WWE as CJ Parker).
“I think I’m pretty good at talking and getting my point across, but nobody makes me feel what they’re saying the way Juice does,” said Owens. “Yes, he’s my friend and I love that dude, so it might seem like I’m biased, but I’m not. I’m friends with a lot of people and some of them suck at talking, and I’m happy to tell them.”
Owens is a perfectionist and critical of his own work, but remains adamant that Robinson is otherworldly on the mic.
“I don’t think saying ‘no’ is me being humble, although I think that is a quality everybody should have—and a quality a lot of people within our industry don’t have, and I find that a bit appalling, to be honest—but I don’t think it’s humility,” said Owens. “I think it’s foolishness to consider yourself the best at anything. But Juice is just on another level. He just comes and talks. I used to see it in the Performance Center. We would have these promo classes with Dusty Rhodes. The way he talks comes from a real place and he’s genuine. He is the best.”
Another star that was able to capture an audience with his promos was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who returns to Raw next week at Madison Square Garden. An interaction with Austin in New York could thrust Owens back into the title picture, though the same could have been said of the RawReunion show in July that chose not to have a segment featuring the two together.
Owens is using the stunner as his finisher, which was made famous by Austin as the Stone Cold Stunner—and has no plans to rename the move to make it more of his own.
“No, I have no interest in calling it anything else other than the stunner,” said Owens. “It’s not the ‘Stone Cold Stunner,’ obviously, because Stone Cold isn’t the one doing it.”
Owens decided to use the stunner more than two years ago after he saw a proliferation of powerbombs, making his pop-up powerbomb feel slightly more ordinary.
“I felt like everybody was doing powerbombs left and right, and I wanted to try something else,” said Owens. “And one day it occurred to me that no one does the stunner as a finishing move, but to me, it’s always been the best move. So I just went to Steve one day when he was here and I asked him, and he said, ‘I can’t believe nobody’s asked me this before, but of course you can use it. Do whatever you want with it.’
“I did that out of respect for the people who’ve come before me. I would never want to do that without his approval. He gave me the approval and it’s working for me, so I have no intention of stopping and no intention of renaming it, either. It’s the stunner and it always will be the stunner.”
Owens made headlines earlier in July after an appearance on Lilian Garcia’s Chasing Glory podcast when he told Garcia, “My wife would tell me, ‘You are the Universal Champion, and I’ve never seen you more stressed.’ I look back and think, ‘I would have done things different as Universal Champion if it were up to me.’ Ultimately, I was still the Universal Champion. But I honestly don’t remember enjoying it, which sucks.”
Owens believes that his words have been taken out of context.
“I think people misquoted me on that Universal champion thing,” said Owens. “I did enjoy the run and being the champion, I was just always worried about what would happen next. I wasn’t enjoying the moments enough, and now looking back, I wish I concentrated more on savoring the moment.
“I’m still always worried about what’s next. Jimmy Jacobs, who used to work here, said it best in the DVD that WWE produced about me when he said, ‘It’s a gift and a curse that Kevin always wants more.’ But I’ve learned to be better at enjoying the moment. I had a conversation with Shawn Michaels a while back when I was leaving for my surgery, and that was a big help for me and helped me open my eyes. The biggest help came from my wife and my kids while I was off. I still think about this probably a lot more than most people do, but that’s something I just carry with me. But I am enjoying things a lot more.
“I definitely enjoyed it, it’s just that I didn’t appreciate the moment enough. It was a mistake how I didn’t take the time to appreciate it, but I’ve learned from that mistake, and, if it ever happens again, I’ll have a very different mindset.”
(More) Takeaways From All Elite Wrestling’s All Out Pay-Per-View
The loss of Jon Moxley, who is recovering from a staph infection, certainly hurt the show, and there was no singles match that was nearly as gripping as Cody-Dustin Rhodes from this past May. But the show was still very good, and the outstanding match featuring the Young Bucks against Pentagon and Fenix is an immediate candidate for match of the year.
Ultimately, the show did what it needed to do by setting the stage for their television premiere on TNT this October.
A frustrating moment occurred during Cody Rhodes’ entrance to the ring before his match against Shawn Spears. Rhodes’ dog, Pharaoh, was part of the entrance, but the dog was noticeably bothered by the fireworks that were set off during the intro.
Sports Illustrated has learned that Rhodes had made specific instructions for only flames during his intro, and that the fireworks were not to be set off. This infuriated Rhodes and his wife Brandi, leading to the biggest source of heat backstage at All Out.
As for Chris Jericho’s stolen title belt, the missing title belt gave an incredible amount of attention to AEW.
Not that it wouldn’t still have been a compelling story had “Hangman” Adam Page been champ, but it was apropos that Jericho was the champ when the belt went missing—and both he and AEW managed to capitalize on the story before the belt was recovered Wednesday morning.
The Plight of Cesaro
One of the highlights of this past weekend was Cesaro’s outstanding performance against Ilja Dragunov at the NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff show.
The match was hard-hitting, physical, and raw, and Cesaro fans were treated to a surprise: the Swiss Superman picked up a meaningful victory. Cesaro’s presence immediately lends credibility and legitimacy to the NXT UK brand, which stole headlines from AEW’s All Out pay-per-view on Saturday.
All of that made Cesaro’s loss on Monday’s Raw even more frustrating.
Cesaro lost to The Miz in a five-minute throwaway match. On the bright side, if we’re reaching, this lends some credence to the theory that Vince McMahon—who clearly isn’t a fan of Cesaro as a singles star—isn’t involved in the booking process in NXT, which is run by Paul Levesque.
Still, Cesaro’s lack of direction on the main roster is disheartening. There were plenty of others who could have done the job for The Miz, especially considering Cesaro flew across the pond from Cardiff to Baltimore just to look at the lights.
Kevin Von Erich Returning to Texas for MLW
Texas wrestling legend Kevin Von Erich returns to Dallas this Saturday for an appearance at Major League Wrestling’s FUSION television taping.
Von Erich is the only living member of the famed set of brothers who entered the business, following in their father’s footsteps.
The Von Erichs were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 for their vast and monumental contributions to the business of professional wrestling, but their story is also one of heartbreak and tragedy.
A son of famed wrestling promoter Fritz Von Erich, who built World Class Championship Wrestling into one of the hottest entities in all of pro wrestling by the mid-1980s, Kevin Von Erich has endured a staggering amount of anguish in his lifetime. His brother David died suddenly in Japan at the age of 25 in 1984 (the official cause of death was inflammation of the small intestine, though drugs have long been suspected); Mike passed away in 1987 when he overdosed at the age of 23; Chris committed suicide in 1991 at 21 years old; and Kerry shot himself at the age of 33 in 1993.
Following all of the heartache and turbulence in his life, Von Erich—Kevin Ross Adkisson—chose to leave Texas and move his family to Hawaii, noting that the Pacific Ocean has no memory.
Now 62, and a grandfather of eight, Von Erich has watched two of his sons, Ross and Marshall, star for Major League Wrestling since their arrival in May.
Von Erich will corner his sons in a War Chamber match this Saturday as they team with “Filthy” Tom Lawlor and Low Ki against CONTRA Unit, a faction featuring MLW world champion Jacob Fatu.
Von Erich admitted that he never planned for, or even wanted, his sons to join the business, which was the same position he found himself in with his own father once upon a time in 1975.
“I was like my dad, who wanted me and my brothers to do something else other than wrestling,” said Von Erich. “I’ve told them—look how I walk, look how I limp. It’s so rough on the body, but they want to be just like their father. They want to be just like me, and they love it. I’m glad to see them having a good time, like we did, and selling out their shows.”
Fact is often stranger than fiction in the business of professional wrestling. To the outside world, Von Erich understands why his family’s story appears to be desolate. But he sees it differently, gasping at the triumph of human spirit when he watches his sons redefine redemption in the ring for the Von Erichs.
“They have a fierceness; they’re willing to stand up and take on anything. And they do it right in the ring,” said Von Erich. “It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?
“I was in my boat the other day, and I was just giving thanks that I’ve been through so much and I came out on the other side. I need to thank all the people who’ve prayed for me and my family—thank you so much. Our secret to life is family.”
Von Erich is also eager to reconnect with his extended family—the wrestling fandom—in Texas.
“This is my first time back to Dallas in nearly 14 years, and I can’t wait,” said Von Erich. “I love Texas and I’m proud to be raised there. I’m proud of wrestling. I did move out here to Hawaii to get away from it all, but my boys have rejuvenated my love for the business.”
The MLW show will also honor the late Gary Hart, one of wrestling’s most famed managers and an integral part of the success of WCCW.
“It’s such gratification to do this with MLW, a company that is devoted to good entertainment and a fusion of different styles,” said Von Erich, who was quick to note that he is only planning to be ringside during the War Chamber match. “I’m looking forward to just watching. There is enough firepower in that ring, they don’t need me.”
Von Erich moved to Hawaii to remove himself from wrestling, but he is grateful for the chance to reawaken buried memories of his brothers while relishing watching his sons in the ring.
“I see a piece of each of my brothers in Ross and Marshall,” said Von Erich. “Ross’ feet move just like Kerry’s, and they have such similar mannerisms. When Marshall talks and smiles, I see Dave.
“Watching my boys is like seeing a living scrapbook, and I can’t wait to see them wrestle in Dallas this weekend.”
The (Online) Week in Wrestling
• Bayley was tremendous as a babyface, but it appears there is no ceiling to her potential as a heel.
• The storyline is still developing, but it’s fantastic to see Erick Rowan featured on SmackDown.
• Daniel Bryan also shared a heartbreaking tribute to his friend Josie.
• Newly-crowned AEW world champion Chris Jericho roasting the locker room was a highlight of the post-All Out videos
• The return to the ring of “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson even caught the eye of The Rock
• CM Punk gave a spectacular interview at Saturday’s Starrcast, even touching on the impending “war” between AEW and NXT—with his own advice on what to watch: “Don’t let them trick you into thinking it’s ‘Us vs. Them,’ whether it’s WWE, AEW, NXT. You can f---ing watch it all, and that’s rad.”
• Trent Beretta offered a take slightly different than Punk’s.
• Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Zack Sabre Jr. at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Royal Quest show in London this past weekend, and with the win becomes RevPro’s new British Heavyweight Champion.
• On the topic of New Japan’s Royal Quest show, this photo of IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada is incredible.
• A rare sight that surfaced this week on Twitter: Hulk Hogan hitting his famed leg drop on the wrong side.
WWE Network Airs Tribute to the IC Title
WWE is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the creation of its Intercontinental Championship.
This past Sunday, Zack Ryder looked at 20 of the most influential matches in IC history on the WWE Network. A special will air Thursday with a roundtable IC title discussion with Randy Orton, Christian and The Miz.
Growing up, I was always a bigger fan of the IC title than I was of the world title. SummerSlam always seemed to bring out the best in the IC title, with Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect and Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith both standing out as instant classics, and my childhood was also filled with IC title runs by Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, and Dean Douglas (well, two out of three ain’t bad).
Storylines in the IC title picture always seemed to be ahead of their time. Back at SummerSlam in 1990, Mr. Perfect was supposed to defend the title against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, who needed to be replaced due to injury. Beefcake was replaced by the Texas Tornado, better known as Kerry Von Erich, only 10 days before the match, and the storyline was that Perfect underestimated Von Erich, costing him the match—which was the same backstory used by the AEW commentary team for Kenny Omega’s loss to PAC this past Saturday at All Out.
Footage of the mythical Pat Patterson title win in Rio de Janeiro will not air at any point during the special.
Coming Soon on SI.com
This Friday, a Q&A with Ricochet will post on SI.com.
Ricochet discusses making a career of redefining what is possible, his work with AJ Styles, the King of the Ring tournament, a new advocate in Paul Heyman, and the current WWE status of his girlfriend Kacy Catanzaro.
Conrad Thompson Previews “Grilling JR” and “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard”
Conrad Thompson has new episodes of “Grilling JR” and “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” airing this Thursday and Friday.
Thompson and Ross examine WWE’s Unforgiven ’04 pay-per-view, which was a seven-match card with a main event of Triple H vs. Randy Orton for the world heavyweight championship.
“That stretch in 2004 was a really interesting time in the company,” said Thompson. “There was no real competition for WWE. They had all the talent in the world, and the focus less on characters, size, and promos—and far more about the in-ring abilities of talent, and guys like Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were finally getting a great chance in the company. Jim Ross will also spend a lot of time talking about Vince’s vision for the company in 2004.”
Thompson then reconnects with Prichard to discuss the seemingly long lost Ground Zero: In Your House pay-per-view from September 1997.
The show was headlined by Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker, which ended in a no-contest and effectively set up the following month’s Hell in a Cell match between the two. WWE champion Bret Hart wrestled on the card, much to his displeasure, in a match that was not the main event, as he defended the title against The Patriot.
“This show is a precursor of things to come,” said Thompson. “Taker and Shawn Michaels are about to change the way cage matches were perceived in the modern era, and this was the first time we ever saw The Undertaker break out the over-the-top rope suicide dive. To see a big man fly like that was something we’d never seen before.
“Vince was also experimenting what to do with Bret Hart. One month removed from SummerSlam, Bret was looking for opponents. Steve Austin was hurt, so he was on the sidelines, and it was challenging to come up with an opponent here. Bret was really catching fire with his anti-American thing, so he’d needed to work with an all-American guy, but ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan was working for the competition and Kurt Angle wasn’t a thing yet. Michaels and The Undertaker were tied up, so I understand why they pivoted to The Patriot and doubled down on Bret’s anti-American component.”
Thompson also just finished his wrestling convention, Starrcast III in Chicago, and he is eager to for Starrcast IV in Baltimore this November.
“This was the best Starrcast we’ve run,” said Thompson. “We had it all figured out by Starrcast III, and I’m really proud of that. And I’m looking forward to Starrcast IV in Baltimore. It’s such a great wrestling town with a rich wrestling history, and it’s a former staple of WCW and the NWA. With the title being ‘Starrcast IV,’ people are free to jump to conclusions about the legends who are going to be there.”
Tweet of the Week
Presidential candidates with pro wrestling on the platform? Welcome to 2019.