With his victory at Elimination Chamber over John Cena, Kevin Owens became a major player in the WWE. The company wanted to get everybody's attention. Now that they had it, what would they do next? We already knew there was a rematch planned for Money in the Bank. How would they sell us on the prospect of the fight? When Kevin Owens came to the ring to cut his promo on Monday Night Raw, we found our answer. In my opinion, WWE took one of the boldest steps they could take with this angle.
As Owens was celebrating, he noted how the only thing he could think of was talking to his son. As a devoted father and family man, his son means everything to him. Owens just had the greatest moment of his career, and for all he knows, tomorrow he might get injured and never get to advance past it. If he's going to celebrate it, it has to be now, and it has to be with his son.
Given this insight into the man, one can imagine his reaction when his son just wanted to know about John Cena. Sure, he was glad his dad won, but was John Cena okay? In both kayfabe and reality, his son is one of the largest John Cena marks around. Now a lot of readers might not see what the big deal is. He's a Cena fan, of course he's going to wonder. Yet to anyone with kids, they instantly understood why Owens was stung.
When it comes to little children, parents, especially fathers, are jealous. Our kids should revere us above everything. We want to be heroes to them, and we want to be seen as their heroes. The issue isn't that Kevin Owens' son likes John Cena. The issue is that he likes John Cena above him. Even if he is a heel, everyone can identify with this sentiment. This isn't some cartoon feud where the foreign heel goes over the top rudo for no reason whatsoever (Rusev) or some crazy hick spouts a bunch of nonsense about a message. (Wyatt) This is a father fighting for the admiration of his son, and, living vicariously, the right of all fathers to have their sons view them the biggest damn deal in the world.
When I saw this angle play out, I might have had a different reaction than others. They were more or less following the theme of one of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale, a movie loosely based on the childhood of actor Chazz Palminteri. In it, the youth Calogero is torn between two worlds. The first world is the world of a poor working class Italian family in the Bronx. While their needs are always provided for, there isn't a lot that is glamorous about their life. That life is symbolized by his father Lorenzo (Robert DeNiro), who makes his living as a bus driver.
As an escape from that lifestyle, Calogero is enamored with the local celebrity, mob boss Sonny, played by Palminteri. Despite his reputation (well earned) as a vicious thug, Sonny takes a liking to "C" (Calogero's nickname given by Sonny) and takes him under his wing. Rather than teaching him the ways of crime, he stresses the importance of education and staying out of trouble.
Lorenzo sees this and despises Sonny, not so much for his life of crime (which he does oppose) but more for the fact that his son is seeking Sonny for all of life's important lessons. Sonny matters to his son more than Lorenzo does. While C comes of age as a teenager amidst a racially polarized neighborhood (and the greatest beatdown scene in cinema history in a bar with bikers), the real dynamic of the movie is always about the interaction between the lessons Lorenzo teaches his son, and the lessons Sonny does.
While you might think as a mob boss Sonny is a bad guy in the movie, there are more shades of gray. Sonny, being used to operating outside of societies structures, also doesn't harbor some of societies baser instincts. When C falls for a young black woman, his father tells C to stay away, partially because of his own racism, and partially because of fear of society. Sonny says love is love, that she might be one of the "Three Great Ones", and to forget what society says and go for it. Even with these shortcomings, you still sympathize with Lorenzo. He's the working man, the guy who busts his ass to feed his family, and when offered a chance at a shortcut, he refuses.
In the WWE world, Owens is Lorenzo. When all his friends advanced to the WWE, he was behind because he was more concerned with raising his family with his wife. He was jealous and insecure of all of those wrestlers, but you could understand why. He doesn't have the natural gifts everyone else has, but he has hard work, and he works harder than anyone.
In a sense, Cena is Sonny. Not in the evil vicious killer sense, but in that he is the local celebrity who has a set of values Owens does not want his kids learning. Lorenzo saw through Sonny's facade. Sure, he was always surrounded by people waiting on him hand and foot, but everyone feared and loathed Sonny. Given a split second, they would murder him and not think twice. Owens sees through the facade. Cena isn't some underdog. He's a corporate product who has had every opportunity given to him. Sure, he still had to work hard, but Cena has never been in danger of scrapping by. (This is the story remember.) He sees in John Cena a privileged brat, and he doesn't want his son to emulate that.
None of this is to take away from the fact the Kevin Owens character is a violent sociopath. He brutally destroyed his own best friend in a display of calculated violence because he saw Sami Zayn as one loose end that needed to be tied up. Despite his blue collar appeal, Kevin Owens has worn a different WWE shirt every time he's come out there. He hates the recognition Cena gets, but he had no problem exploiting that recognition to make a name for himself. He uses "love of family" to justify some pretty awful things. This doesn't make him evil. It makes him human, and in sports entertainment, nothing is more entertaining than seeing someone human take out a god.
While there is the possibility that not only will Cena "get his win back" and even win the feud, there is also a chance that they might be onto something with Kevin Owens, one of the most human heels they've had in a long time. You might not root for him, but if you look long and hard, you will see yourself in him. That's what makes this feud so damn compelling.