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Kevin Owens on How His Epic 2012 Ladder War Didn’t Go As Planned

He was in a lot of pain that day, but not from wrestling


December 16, 2012, was a banner day for pro wrestling in New York. WWE held its first pay-per-view in Brooklyn: TLC, where the Shield made their in-ring debut in a ladder match against Daniel Bryan, Kane, and Ryback. Earlier that day, Ring of Honor had a big show of their own at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan, Final Battle 2012: Doomsday, headlined by another ladder match: "Ladder War IV," between the then–Kevin Steen and El Generico, who was wrestling in his last match for the company. It was a brutal face-off, capped by a crazy piledriver through a tower of ladders.

Here are the two matches:

For me, the distance between those two fights was a subway ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn. For Kevin Owens, it was a truly epic journey. When Bleacher Report’s Dave Schilling and I interviewed Owens on The Masked Man Show, he told the tale of the pain he went through that day. But the pain wasn’t from being slammed through a ladder.

David Shoemaker: The closing move, the last spot in that match, where you go through like the three layers of ladders or whatever, is one of the greatest wrestling GIFs of all time. What’s that on the how-much-you-hurt-the-next-day scale? Is that the top?

Kevin Owens: Well, there’s actually a bit of a funny story that goes with that one. So, as far as how bad I was hurt the next day, I was hurting, but I don’t know if it was really related to that move you’re referring to.

What happened was that show was in the afternoon in the Hammerstein Ballroom, [and] that night was the first WWE pay-per-view to take place in the Barclays Center. It was TLC; it was Seth Rollins’s first pay-per-view. So, Generico and I did that match, and right before the match I started feeling a little weird and threw up as my music was playing. I’m like, "That’s not good." Went out, did the ladder match, and I managed to get through it, and came right back and threw up again, immediately, as soon as I went through the curtain.

But you know, we have to go to the Barclays Center to watch Seth Rollins’s first pay-per-view match. So I threw up all the way there. We drove there, I walked out, threw up in the parking lot, threw up right outside Barclays Center, went in, got my tickets that Seth Rollins had left for us. And you know, it was Seth Rollins’s first pay-per-view, so clearly he wasn’t in good with the office yet because the tickets were at the very top of Barclays Center — like three rows from the ceiling.

So I made my way up there, and of course it’s packed and I’m not feeling well. I’ve thrown up many times already, and I feel like I’m gonna throw up again, as I’m watching the show. Then at some point, Sheamus’s music hit, and that was it, man. I had to get out of there. And I’ve never told Sheamus this, and I’m sorry, I’m sure it had nothing to do with you personally, buddy, I didn’t know you back then, but I’m sure it had nothing to do with you. Just, as soon as I heard Sheamus’s music, I had to leave. And you know, it’s pretty steep, like if you fall, you’re fucked, man. You’re going to roll over people, you kill everybody.

I managed to get down the steps, I ran to the bathroom, I tried to go to one of the family companion stalls whatever, so it would just be me throwing up, not people taking shits next to me while I’m throwing up. I couldn’t get in there, I was really panicked, but an employee saw me, so he unlocked the door and let me in, and I proceeded to throw up for about a half hour. I was lying on the ground in the bathroom, the stall, just destroyed.

It had nothing to do with the Ladder War, but man, I was hurting pretty bad, and the next day I wasn’t feeling any better. Thankfully, I managed to see Rollins’s first pay-per-view match in its entirety. I managed to keep it in for the whole match, but yeah, I was in bad shape after that [Ladder War] match. It wasn’t the ladders, it was just, I don’t know, maybe the Olive Garden I had a couple hours before the show.

Dave Schilling: You know, you eat too many of those breadsticks, it just comes back up.

Owens: It’s the stuffed mushrooms that get me.

Schilling: There ya go.

Owens: I love the stuffed mushrooms at Olive Garden, don’t get me wrong. I just think I eat too many.

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