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How Kevin Owens Controls the Crowd

It’s not about cheers or boos — it’s about noise

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On the latest episode of The Masked Man Show, David Shoemaker brought on Kevin Owens to talk all things professional wrestling. They touched on how Owens made it to WWE and what makes him so great at interacting with the crowd.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

The Importance of Running Your Mouth

David Shoemaker: You seem to have a sort of relationship with the fans that’s different than everybody else. I mean, a lot of people are booing you, but … let’s say, they’re respectfully booing you. They’re along for the ride with you. And it really seems like you kind of have them in the palm of your hands in a certain way, where you could be getting cheers if you wanted them, but you can control the interaction that you have. It’s wonderful to watch. Do you have a philosophy? Do you have any techniques? What’s your feeling about that?

Kevin Owens: I don’t think I have techniques or anything like that. I do think I have a pretty good connection with the crowd almost everywhere I go. And I don’t know why that is. I think it’s just something I developed through time. I have this ability [but] other people have this, too. I’m not saying I’m special or anything like that. But if I’m in the middle of a match and someone from the fifth row yells something, I’ll hear it. It’s weird. I can hear things that other people don’t necessarily get to hear. I’ll hear a fan heckle me, you know, and I’ll answer right away. It’s just something I do, and I really don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know what it is. But I know that it’s an aspect of my persona that a lot of people enjoy.

I think that all started when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin told me to run my mouth as much as I could when I met him at an airport several years ago. I met him at an airport when I was on my way to a PWG show back in 2005, and of course at that point I considered myself the biggest Steve Austin fan in the world, so I had to talk to him. And he gave me that piece of advice and it really changed my career. Because I immediately put it to work that very weekend when I was in that match with PWG. I started running my mouth, not only before the match or after the match, but in the match. And I think that’s very appealing to a lot of people because it’s kind of different.

And I’ve actually — not to toot my own horn, but I feel like I’ve noticed more and more wrestlers in WWE or even the independents doing that. Now, I’m not saying that it’s because of me, but I definitely feel like I’m at the forefront of it, as somebody who’s been doing it for a very long time. And there’s been more of a spotlight shined on it.

It’s About Noise

K.O.: As far as cheering or booing me goes, I really feel like people can do what they want. When I was watching wrestling, I never considered who was the good guy and who was the bad guy, and whether or not I should cheer or boo them. I love some of the bad guys, and I despise some of the good guys. But I also loved a lot of the good guys and despised a lot of the bad guys. I just responded however they reached me. What I do, my philosophy is, I want to have fun. And I kind of started catering to myself when I was a kid. Like, if I did something, or I do something in a match, I’m kind of trying to think, “Would Kevin when he was 15 years old watching WWE, would Kevin have enjoyed that? Would that have entertained him? Would that have made him boo or cheer?” And if the answer is yes, then I’m going to do it. And then the fans respond appropriately, however that calls out to them.

Some things I do can make one person boo me out of the building and make somebody else cheer. But I want noise. The most incredible reaction I’ve ever heard in WWE so far [was when] I was wrestling John Cena. I would come out first, and when they’re standing in the ring and his music hits, you get hit by a ton of cheers [but] you get hit by just as many boos. And it makes for this incredible noise. Just, it’s hard to put into words. It’s like a wave of just noise. It’s not one or another. It’s just this crazy reaction. I remember thinking so many times when that would happen, I want that. That’s what I want. That’s what I’m working for. So if people are split down the middle, I don’t really mind, as long as they’re making a lot of noise and they’re being very loud, that’s what I’m looking [for].

Getting Called Up and Wrestling With John Cena

D.S.: When you get the word that you’re getting called up, do they tell you right off the bat you’re getting in the ring with John Cena? And then once you find out you’re in the ring with John Cena, do they tell you, “We’re thinking about this being a few-months-long feud”? I mean, what was the — what did you find out? How did that happen?

K.O.: Well NXT started doing shows outside of Florida, like in the summer of 2015. So I was on the group flight with everybody about to fly to Philadelphia in May of 2015, and I got an email saying, “Hey, by the way, you’re not coming home with everybody on Sunday. You’re staying for Raw.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting.” Course I started asking Matt Bloom about it, the head coach, and he didn’t know anything. Or did he? He played dumb, I guess. I’m like, “All right, well, I guess I’ll see what happens.” And then that night, Triple H pulled me aside and told me, “Well, you’re getting called up.”

I’ll really never forget that moment. I was told not to get my hopes up about being on Raw or SmackDown. Or the main roster. You know. I was told I’d be given a chance and then I’d be like everyone else. But obviously [with] the way I look [and] stuff like that, you might not ever get on the main roster. I was told not to get my hopes up. I saw that as a bit of a challenge. But then here I was … and I was told I was getting called up. And I felt like time stood still. And then [Triple H] went on to say, “You’re starting on Raw this Monday. You’re doing something with John Cena.” That’s all he had at the time. Everything else was just kind of up in the air but it was really surreal to hear, but also made complete sense to me. I remember thinking later on that that’s exactly where I belong. I belong on Raw. I belong with John Cena. Because that’s where I view myself. So it was really cool to get that validation. I knew that’s where I belonged. And yeah, they told me don’t get my hopes up, but I had my hopes up, because I knew. I had faith in myself. A couple months later, I was [proved] right.