Thursday, March 24, 2016

The 2015 TWB 100: Number Three

Owens is the last male competitor on the TWB 100 to be revealed, hint hint
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3. Kevin Owens
Points: 6045
Ballots: 65
Highest Vote: 1st Place (Henry Casey, Sean Orleans, Scott Holland, Kevin Newburn)
Last Year's Placement: 18th Place

TH: Kevin Owens in 2015 was appointment television in all aspects of the game. The supremely charismatic yin to Sami Zayn's fiercely determined yang made people watch him with interest, both in and out of the ring. But this list isn't for out of the ring. It's for in the ring, right? Yeah. Owens was a wee bit polarizing in the ring, and criticisms were all over the place. Some said his matches had too many MOVEZ. Others said he relied too much on the chinlock at times. Neither criticism is really unfair, but honestly, I don't buy either one for a second, or at least I don't buy them enough for me not to put Owens in my top ten. For one, I'm not sure he's ever had a match filled with MOVEZ that didn't warrant them. Look at the John Cena matches, which is where he mostly went into the typical indie well. All of those matches were woven together nicely, where no real spot was done without some kind of reason behind it. The chinlocks may seem more egregious, but in my view, Owens almost always did something with them to spice them up. Against some opponents like Finn Bálor or Cesaro, he'd wrench back so hard on them that they'd be de facto submission holds. Against others like Dean Ambrose, they were avenues for him to get in his legendary in-ring shit talking game going. And to boot, he had some of the best, most entertaining matches of the year: Takeover: Rival against Zayn, Beast in the East against Bálor, the trilogy vs. Cena, Summerslam vs. Cesaro. He has the resume of a top ten wrestler this year, and landing at number three seems more than appropriate for the chaotic half of wrestling's Batman-and-Joker tandem.

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Elliot Imes: He was an absolute star in both NXT and WWE, something very few others can claim within the same year. It says a lot that Owens has been given the ball to run with when you remember that he is the exact opposite of WWE's ideal wrestler. Vince McMahon might go home at night and pray that Owens gets thinner and cuter, but he begrudgingly has to allow Owens to carry the workload in each show's best match.

Frank McCormick: I never knew a dad-boded, surly Canadian father with disgusting armpits was exactly what WWE needed, but 2015 proved that was exactly the case. No one trashtalks in the ring like Owens, and that honestly is my favorite part of his matches, or would be if it weren't for the fact that just about everything is my favorite part of his matches. His pissed-off dad-rage adds energy to even the most pedestrian matches. The only thing that can make me love him more is the inevitable face-turn to "Kevin Owens: Zoo Enthusiast."

Butch Rosser: The French Canadian Murder Bear is possibly the top of the top shelf of heeling, and befitting his in-ring style it's a throwback with some new century sheen on the fringes. He's willing to be reviled but is always transparent about his motives, as willing to show his cute son playing with a championship belt on Twitter as he is to clown some fan before blocking them, and the kind of guy where you always know and understand where he's coming from then you end up cringing when you see how far past the line he goes to get to wherever is next. He powerbombed his ex bestie Sami Zayn from a solid into a powder in order to get the NXT Championship two months to the day after his debut. He stepped on John Cena's title without challenging him for it (at first) and then beat him clean in his main roster debut, possibly the most shocking scripted moment in WWE's 2015. After trading blows with Cesaro, he ended the year a snarling, sarcastic, misanthropic Intercontinental Champion more than willing to tell the world that this was his show. When you're almost always appointment TV and your eternal rivalry might be powering a literal international monolithic conglomerate for the next five years, you don't exactly worry about people asking to see the receipts on your braggadocio.

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Brandon House: For a guy who hasn't even been in the company two full years yet, KO's done pretty good for himself. The NXT title match against Sami Zayn was full of drama. Watching him kick around Alex Riley was fun. The match in Japan against Finn Bálor was fantastic and the rematch in Brooklyn was great as well. His matches against Cena and Cesaro and Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler were all tremendous. That's the theme with Kevin Owens, he has good ass matches and had good ass matches all year long. With Sami Zayn on the main roster, 2016 should be just as good if not better.

Joey on Earth: Kevin Owens’ rise to stardom in WWE was one of the most exciting things to happen to wrestling in quite some time. It’s impossible to not love watching him wrestle and he reminded us that with a great body of work in 2015. From the NXT matches against Sami Zayn to main roster matches against the likes of John Cena and Neville, Owens put out a nice hit list of fun matches and the sky is the limit for him as he likely achieves even more in 2016.

Scott Raychel: Kevin Owens had one of the best years a wrestler could have in 2015. After having consistently solid matches on NXT with the likes of Samoa Joe, Finn Bálor, and eternal blood rival Sami Zayn, he did what most wrestlers have been unable to do and continued putting in stellar work on WWE’s main roster, including a trio of great matches with John Cena. One could even argue he managed to breathe new life into the Intercontinental Title scene. A solid 2015, indeed.

Stygimoloch: I'm actually not that big a Kevin Owens fan compared to most wrestling fans I know. I enjoy both his character and performances a lot, but for whatever reason I don't quite invest any fandom in him. And despite that, he still placed in my top 5, because you have to recognise the talent here. I don't think I saw a single duff match from him all year.

Ryan Foster: Owens crashed through 2015 like a bulldozer through half-melted slush. He began the year by destroying arch-rival Sami Zayn and reigning supreme over NXT. By the time he lost his title he had given WWE no choice but to move him up to the show, making an immediate impact with a memorable series of matches with John Cena. By the end of the year he had established himself as one of the surest bets on the roster – whether it’s PPV or Main Event, you know you’re getting something great with a KO match.

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Scott Holland: It was incredibly difficult to sort the top of my ballot this year. I ultimately gave the top spot to Kevin Owens because I felt there was a degree of difficulty in headlining NXT shows from Full Sail to Japan to Brooklyn, equaling John Cena in a main event feud — while Cena was at his absolute peak, no less — and then stabilizing into a reliable main roster stud whose inclusion in virtually any match, from Smackdown opener to pay-per-view-spotlight, guaranteed a must-watch environment. It’s arguable I’m being unfair to Sasha Banks, whose latter half funk is due exclusively to opportunity and presentation, not her own talent, but as much as I loved the Banks-Bayley Brooklyn match, I think Owens’ task in battling Cena was a bigger hill to climb and he more than met expectations. Ask me tomorrow and you might get a totally different answer, but for the moment, I had to go with KO as No. 1. But it was no easy choice.

Bill DiFilippo: I care about Miz matches when Kevin Owens is in them. That’s kind of everything you need to say about Kevin Owens. His mind understands pro wrestling better than anyone else’s in WWE.

Joshua Browns: If I were simply picking with my heart, Owens would be my pick for #1, but – and good God, I hate myself for saying this – Sabrina the Teenage Witch kind of had a point. It’s not an entirely fair criticism because it’s partially about the way he was booked, but there was a point shortly after Owens’ NXT title loss to Finn Bálor (and right around the beginning of his feud with Ryback – BECAUSE EVERYTHING THAT RYBACK TOUCHES TURNS TO SHIT) where Owens’ booking changed to the point where it affected his ring work. He went from French Canadian Murder Bear to cowardly intentional count-out taking heel in the early fall, and his matches in the second half of 2015 suffered for it.

All of that said, #2 behind The Boss ain’t too shabby. Owens had a string of absolutely genius matches from January until June. I tend to give extra weight to the small handful of matches where the finish really “pops” me each year, and Owens beating Cena clean at Elimination Chamber is near the top of my “popped me” list for 2015. Everything he does in the ring just snaps, he’s ridiculously agile and skilled for a guy his size, and he’s always in character in the ring. If I were allowed to factor in Owens’ speaking skills, his great heel character work and his consistently funny Twitter annihilations, he’d be my top choice without hesitation. Banks gets the top spot because of how consistently great her work was throughout 2015 – but for my money Kevin Owens is the best wrestler in the North America right now. He’s off to a great start in 2016, too.