A few days back I was surfing through this wonderful website as I tend to do and came across a post about WWE putting up a video detailing the rivalry between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. The job WWE did is simply put as bare bones. They put minimal effort into the video and didn't go into detail about why the detest each other so much. On Monday night WWE showed another video on RAW going more in depth but only saying their WWE history and omitting what happened on the independent scene. I don't think that's fair to the viewing audience to sweep over a decade's worth of storytelling so that's where I thought I would come in.
I've seen just about everything there is to see about the rivalry between Kevin & Sami and I honestly think may be the best told story in all of Indie Wrestling and in the top 5 of wrestling stories period and I'm going to guide you through it with breakdowns, video recaps and links to matches if I can find them.
On that front you can essentially catch their entire rivalry if you subscribe to two service. The first service is the Highspots Wrestling Network for 9.99/mo and the second is ROH Ringside with tiered pricing. I currently subscribe to HWN and honestly I find it to be a better deal than the WWE Network. Whereas with WWE you can find almost any match floating around on Dailymotion or Youtube (piracy is wrong though kids) Independent Wrestling is harder to find and expensive to buy individually. HWN gives you a ton of indie wrestling from a multitude of promotions including Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Combat Zone Wrestling, and Pro Wrestling Experience, in addition to shoot videos, raw exclusive ECW fancam footage, and early CM Punk era IWA Mid South. I have not personally tried ROH Ringside but from what I've heard it can have it's fair share of bugs but you get a large number (but not all) of ROH events throughout their past and all of season one of ROH on HDNet.
I will say though that a significant number of these matches that are important to the Kevin Steen/El Generico story are not available on ROH Ringside. They are however on the Kevin Steen: Ascension To The Top, Kevin Steen: Descent Into Madness, and Kevin Steen: Hell Rising DVDs. There avaibility on ROHWrestling.com fluctuates so you may have go hunting for it.
In this first post I will talk about the El Generico/Kevin Steen tag team and they became on of the primer tag teams of the 2000s
Steenerico Introductory Video
Who are Kevin Steen and El Generico
While Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens may be who show up on Raw and Smackdown this story starts with two guys by the name of Steen and Generico
First of all let's address the elephant in the room, this El Generico gentleman. El Generico is the generic luchador. Born an orphan from Tijuana, Mexico who learned lucha libre and moved further up North America to achieve his dream of becoming a world renowned Pro Wrestler. He speaks little to no english and has a soft spot in his heart for children. Now you may be asking yourself "what in the world does this have to do with Zayn and Owens?"
Well around early 2013 El Generico retired to go take care of the orphanage he was raised in with his Pro Wrestling earnings because the orphanage was in terrible shape. This was also around the time that Sami Zayn made his first appearances in florida for NXT. Also upon further analysis one would notice that Sami Zayn and El Generico while born on completely opposite sides of the US border and sharing completely different backgrounds are extremely similar. Zayn does all the same moves as Generico, dances the same as Generico, and they both share a passion for Ska. As a matter of fact they both have the same colored skin and goatee.
Some people have theorized that Sami Zayn was trained by El Generico and while Generico did make a temporary hime Quebec where Sami is from i find that to be impossible for Generico was mostly on the East or West coast in america or touring in Japan or Germany among other countries. Some people have stated that they must be related and while they do look eerily similar and they're both around the same age so they may be twins. That makes no sense though because Zayn is from syrian descent and lived in Canada for the majority of his life, why would Momma Zayn orphan one kid and keep the other and how exactly would Generico get to America?
The last and most possible theory is that Generico and Zayn are the same person. People supporting this have claimed that we've never seen Generico unmasked, we've never seen them both in the same place, and when Generico disappeared from the indie wrestling scene Zayn popped up in NXT. While this theory makes the most sense and I occasionally find even myself believing, it could not be true. The reason we've never seen Generico unmasked is because he is extremely proud of his lucha roots and never found it right to unmask. The reason we've never seen them in the same place is that Generico was on the prominent indies and Zayn wrestled for smaller companies before getting to the WWE such as other guys like Simon Gotch and Chad Gable. It's purely coincidence that when Generico went to Mexico, Zayn signed to WWE.
I'm not going to tell you what to think ladies and gentlemen, believe one of these theories or come up with one of your own but for the sake of this argument we're going to say Generico and Zayn are the same person because finding Sami Zayn matches with Kevin Steen is extremely difficult.
Kevin Steen doesn't have a big backstory like El Generico does, he's just a man that loves to hit people. Hard. Born and raised in Merrillville, Quebec, Canada, Kevin was trained by former WWE tag champ Jacque Rougeau and made waves in the Canadian indies before becoming an appreciated worker in the late 2000s in america and the biggest independent wrestling star of his era in this decade.
One thing that may shock you about this younger Kevin Steen is that he's baby faced, highflying, and way skinnier like almost shockingly so. To put this point in perspective here's a backstage promo of skinny Steen with a frost-tipped Chris Sabin and here's a video of Steen busting out a 450 (here's a video of an even skinnier Steen doing a 450)
Wrestling Syndicate on the Internet
Both men had different starts in the wrestling business but their story together starts at the Internet Wrestling Syndicate. IWS was a promotion that likened itself to the US's Combat Zone Wrestling in which it did storyline centric deathmatch wrestling but it was the only deathmatch scene around so wrestlers who were based in that style were fighting fiercely for positions. Steen and Generico made names for themselves in the promotion by being the best wrestlers out of the entire promotion. As a matter of fact that's how Steen got his "Mr. Wrestling" nickname because he was heads and shoulder above everyone else in terms of talent. Steen and Generico didn't team though and weren't really even friends.
Just because they weren't friends outside of the ring doesn't mean that they didn't make magic inside of it. They put on excellent matches in front of the IWS crowd and word spread to america where east coast wrestling fans were clamoring to see the "Canadian kids".
An example of a match that made US fans clamor for Steen and Generico is one they had with one half of The Mounties in Pierre Carl Oulette
The first alliance between Steen and Generico may not be how you imagined it. Steen had just lost a last man standing match Damian and after the bell rung out came Beef Wellington who Steen had betrayed earlier. Beef goes and tries to injure Kevin with a chair but mutual El Generico comes out to stop him. Generico while holding him back gets persuaded by Steen to turn on him and blindsides him with a helluva kick in the corner. This is the first time that we see the Package Piledriver into a brainbuster combination as well. You can see the entire match below and the moment happens about 28 minutes into the video
Eventually Steen and Generico got their shot in the states through the combined efforts of Combat Zone Wrestling and Jersey All Pro Wrestling. While IWS was supposed to send their talent to JAPW first something came up and they weren't able to do so but because of IWS wrestler seXXXy Eddy performance in that year's Tournament of Death, CZW invited four IWS wrestlers for a tryout match those wrestlers being: seXXXy Eddy, Excess, El Generico, and Kevin Steen. And what would the four lads do with that opportunity. They'd tear the house down.
This obviously is only a clip of the entire match but it is a sight to behold seeing these four skinny dudes who the people in the former ECW arena want to boo, at the end of the match earn a standing ovation. You can check out the full match here on the streamCZW service.
During their time in CZW Steen and Generico obtained a lot. Generico gained a legion of fans and a modicum of respect. Steen gained the reputation as the can-do kid and also held the CZW Iron Man championship for a record length coming one day short of a year. But what Steen and Generico gained the most out of CZW are two vital connections, the first being with Ring of Honor through the CZW vs ROH War Storyline (a storyline that gives Steen/Generico a run for it's money) and the second being a tag team match against SBS.
The SBS (acronym unknown) are a stable and occasional tag team comprised of Excalibur and Super Dragon. These two guys are important because they are both owners of so-cal based PWG. Steen has said in interviews that Dragon used to hate both he and Generico when they first arrived in the United States and wasn't too happy about having a match with them. Then they had the match.
Super Dragon was thoroughly impressed by the two Canadian kids and offered to fly them out to California to do a PWG a match as a team. Originally Steen & Generico were supposed to face the team of Quicksilver and Scorpio Sky but due to a travel snafu they had to face each other and in doing so impressed the fans (match on Highspots Network)
Making A Spot
With CZW, ROH, and PWG all committing to book Generico and Steen the mid-aughts looked prime for the taking for the Montreal duo. One the west coast in PWG both Steen and Generico were making waves. Steen became PWG World Champion in 2005 and engaged in a feud with Super Dragon that lasted seven months from March's Ernest P Worrell Memorial through November's Astonishing X-Mas and was met with critical acclaim throughout the wrestling world. El Generico had become sort of the workhorse of PWG putting on great matches along with winning the PWG tag titles multiple times, once with Human Tornado as "Two Skinny Black Guys" and once with Quicksilver, before getting a run with the PWG World Championship
In Combat Zone Wrestling the duo had success through the quality of their matches and crowd response but things weren't perfect. The aforementioned year long CZW Iron Man Championship reign of Kevin Steen was paper thin in terms of legitimacy. See for his year long reign Steen only had five successful defences, a year long title reign with only five defences is something you would expect from a 50 day reign not at year long one. Also in his entire CZW career even including the one off CZW World Title match he had in 2012 and CZW promoted show in Germany (which technically was a wXw show) El Generico has a combined total of three wins in his eight-year Combat Zone career.
On top of all that the icing on the cake is that CZW announcers and management would constantly degrade all the Canadian talent for being lazy and inferior to the American talent. Steen and Generico wanted out and the only way they could while staying a big name on amercian soil is by committing to Ring of Honor and that wasn't working as planned either.
Ring of Honor at the time was the independent promotion to go to, the one where you made the biggest name and the most money. Steen and Generico were often booked for ROH's shows and had matches against worthy competitors but weren't given opportunities to shine and move up the card comparable to how WWE is treating Russev right now. Both Generico and Steen saw that if they didn't find the way to make a splash in ROH they would get pushed off to the side and since of trying to divide and conquer wasn't working they decided to join forces to trying and get the attention of ROH officials for more opportunities.
Making An Impact
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn have a certain vibe about them. A demeanor that puts them on separate ends of the spectrum but still very alike. Owens and Zayn have calmness and in control about them until something triggers them and then they're all intensity. In the mid aughts Generico and Steen were anything but alike. Steen was a big Canadian bully who loved to inflict pain and show his superior wrestling ability through a multitude suplex variations and high flying maneuvers but behind this was a deep hurt of not being able to show that he's a main eventer and get the chance to fight the Samoa Joe's, Danielson's, and Low Ki's of the world. On the flipside Generico was a man who prided himself in his ability to be like by everybody, a man who had nothing to prove, had pride in his heritage, loved the spirit of fair competition, and just wanted to have fun. Night and Day.
With such deep contrasting personalities they often clashed as opponents and teammates. Generico hated the measure Steen went through to put away his opponents and Steen hated Generico's unwilling niceness to the extent that it was of detriment to the team. Due to the the lack of understanding on both men's side they struggled, but there was one thing both men can understand and that's opportunity. Steen and Generico noticed that if they set aside their animosity for each other and combined their skills they were a force to be reckoned with. They noticed this in the summer of 2007 that if they teamed up it would be successful by winning the PWG World Tag Team Championships.
In ROH though they had a harder time to reach the top like they wanted. They had an epic rivalry with then ROH World Tag Champs the Briscoe Brothers in which they wrestled until they couldn't wrestle anymore. Regular tag matches, street fights, lights out, falls count anywhere, steel cage, two out of three falls, you name it they did it with Steen and Generico come up victorious a few times but in non-title matches. The feud became extremely intense as it went down the line as well. .
To settle this title feud that had become all too personal Ring of Honor put on their first Ladder War match. The Ladder War was brutal and while Steen and Generico came out on the losing end they finally got the respect and notoriety they so desperately craved.
"Número Uno Tag Team, El Genérico y Kevin Steen!"
After the battle that they had with the Briscoes Steen and Generico were now a priority in ROH getting tag matches with some of the best teams across the country and getting high profile matches. Steen had an intense Rivalry with ROH champion Nigel McGuinness and Generico had matches with Chris Hero and (Daniel) Bryan Danielson. And they did this while still displaying the tag team prowess they were known for.
One thing still eluded them in ROH and that was the tag team championships. They entered the the tournament for the ROH tag titles and got all the way to the finals before they were defeated by The Age Of The Fall represented by Jimmy Jacobs (remember this name) and Tyler Black, the architect now known as Seth Rollins. Generico and Steen simply couldn't get over the hump that was The Age of The Fall who had an answer for everything the duo did. On their third attempt to beat them though they overcame the odds and pinned Jacobs to win the titles.
Even though they were champions that didn't mean that the El Generico Vs Kevin Steen matches had come to an end. On the contrary Steen and Generico faced each other more than a handful of time during this time, but There was an air of respect between the two men instead of the animonity that they previously had. One of these matches just so happened to be for the IWS Championship (the "I" now standing for International instead of Internet).
Now that Steen and Generico reigned over the independent tag scene with the ROH tag championships their friendship came to a peak. Generico would encourage Steen to the ends of the earth and Steen would defend Generico at all costs. It was as close as you can get to a brotherhood without actually being related. And things were going great until the American Wolves intervened. Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards took Steen and Generico to the limit for the championship just like how Steen and Generico took the Briscoes to the limit two years prior. And just like two years prior this feud ended in a ladder war where Steen and Generico lost which was somewhat of an upset.
Even though they lost the ROH titles Steen and Generico were still debatably the best tag team in the world. I say debatably because they were some tag teams of their caliber such as The Motor City Machine Guns, Beer Money, Jeri-Show (i guess...), F.I.S.T., or The Hybrid Dolphins. There is one specific team though comes to mind when specifically talking about Steen & Generico and that team is The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks had been coming up on the west coast in PWG and had been working their way east where they landed in ROH. Before June 2009 there had only been one match involving Kevin Steen or El Generico with either Matt or Nick Jackson and that was a six man tag where both individual tag teams were on opposite sides so while they had been associate with each other they had never formally faced each other. Their first two meeting came at ROH Contention and Aries V Richards where Steen and Generico won both meetings almost handedly.
The thing about The Bucks though is that they are students of the game and they're incredibly smart so when they're traditional offense wasn't working they had to find a new way to finish him off. So when they faced Steen and Generico on their home turf in California for PWG BOLA 2009 the strategy that they came up with was to kick Steen in his face until he gets knocked out.
And it worked. It worked in spades. It worked so well.
Steen and Generico had been not as successful as of late and it was usually Steen eating the pin or being the reason for the team's loss. That combined with a knee that needed to be rehabbed and fans thought that their next match against the Bucks at ROH's Final Battle 2009 may be his last for a while. It was disappointing for fans of his and Generico's that had been with him through CZW burying him on commentary or even back to the IWS. The two Canadian kids had finally gained traction in US, Europe, and Japan during tours for Dragon Gate and Dynamic Dream Team. The one thing that they had to look forward to is when Steen came back from surgery they would be better than ever. Just because one half of the team was injured that didn't mean that "Steenerico" as the fans had come to lovingly call them was through, it was just on pause.
So with all this backstory heading into Final Battle 2009 nothing was certain save for the fact that Steen and Generico were going to be together forever. Right?
Thank you for reading. I have finals this week and next (cries tears of stress) so I may not be able to finish doing this series but I'm going to at least try. Steen is my favorite wrestler of all time and if this helps you get more involved in one of the best rivalries in the history of wrestling, then I've done my job.