It was fall of 2010, and I was in my junior year of college. I’d been a wrestling fan (again) for a few years by that point, but I was only recently dipping my toe into indie wrestling. My first DVD from Ring of Honor, Unscripted, had somewhat disappointed me. Instead of heading back to the mainstream of WWE and TNA, though, I decided to give it one more go and purchased the most recent great show in ROH’s library (at that point), Death Before Dishonor VIII. The title alone was enticing, but I really needed something to capture me. Thank the wrestling gods something did.
My roommate was out, and I didn’t want to invite my friends for a possibly un-entertaining event, so I popped it into the Xbox 360 hoping to love what I was soon to see. I was immediately let down when a tag team by the name of Up in Smoke began their entrance. No disrespect to Cheech and Cloudy, since I do find their matches pretty fun, but at that moment, they were not what I wanted to see. Mid-groan, though, something unexpected happened. A red-bearded man in a mask stormed past the tag team and into the ring. Furiously walking around the ring, he soon snatched the mic out of the announcer’s hand and yelled two words, “STEEN! NOW!” The crowd went nuts! I was so lost, but the commentators informed me that this man was El Generico, and he was calling out his former tag team partner and best friend Kevin Steen. A man named Steve Corino came out to inform Generico that it wasn’t happening, but Steen came out anyway. The slobberknocker began, and I became an indie wrestling fan.
I became so invested in this match, that I cursed Steen’s name when he cheated to win. These two guys whom I knew nothing about had drawn me into their story, and I couldn’t get enough. I soon hunted down every DVD that had a moment in this feud. Steen’s turn in 2009, the tag matches involving Corino and Colt Cabana, and the random singles match here and there. Hell, I even looked into PWG because of these two. And really, it’s a good thing I did. If you want to get the whole feel for the Generico/Steen story, both companies are essential.
Steen turned on Generico at Final Battle 2009, leaving him lying in the ring after a vicious chairshot to the head. These guys were former tag champs! They’d known each other for years! Sure, the tag partner heel-turn is an oldie in wrestling, but this was the first time I’d seen it done with such hate. That chapter of the feud came to an end a year later at Final Battle 2010 when Generico put down Steen with a chairshot to the head and forced Steen to leave ROH (bookends are important, folks). Steen won his return to ROH at Final Battle 2011 by defeating Steve Corino, and Generico was soon gunning for his old friend. The two had a last man standing match in the first half of 2012, but it was at Final Battle 2012 the two had their last encounter in ROH in an awesome ladder match for the ROH World Championship.
Believe it or not, though, that wasn’t their only ladder match against each other. Like I said, both ROH and PWG are essential for the whole story. After Steen’s exile from ROH, he became PWG World Champion for the second time but eventually lost the belt to El Generico in a ladder match in October 2011. Even there, the two were former tag champs. They began to tolerate each other in 2012 in order to deal with the Young Bucks, but they still didn’t like each other. Actually, the Young Bucks are pretty heavily featured in the story of El Generico and Kevin Steen. It was a loss to the Young Bucks at Final Battle 2009 that sent Steen over the edge and led to his attack on Generico, the dominance and douchebaggery of the Bucks led to a partial alliance of the two former friends in PWG in 2012, and it was at PWG’s annual Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament in 2013 that the Bucks once more defeated a finally fully reunited Generico and Steen in Generico’s last indie match before he made his trek to WWE.
And that seemed to be it. That seemed to be the end of my all-time favorite wrestling feud. Steen went on to lose the ROH World Championship and became sort of a veteran anti-hero there while he became a wonderful heel in PWG. Generico arrived in NXT unmasked and soon began putting on the best match of whatever show he wrestled on as Sami Zayn. I never thought these two would meet again unless WWE foolishly released the newly christened Zayn. But then the unexpected happen. See, despite being one of the absolute best on the independents, Steen doesn’t fit the look of what WWE normally goes for…but it happened.
Kevin Steen signed with the WWE this year, and I rejoiced. Hell, I think any wrestling fan who knew of Steen rejoiced. I was happy, but I tried to not get hype. Sure, this meant that Zayn and Steen could someday meet in a WWE ring, but that didn’t mean they would. After all, WWE signed Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro) and Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno), the Kings of Wrestling (undoubtedly one of the best tag teams in their heyday), but the two tagged maybe once before Hero was let go. So yeah, didn’t get too hype. I did get ridiculously happy, though, when it was announced that not only would Zayn be challenging for the NXT Championship once again against old rival Adrian Neville, but that Steen would also be making his debut as Kevin Owens on December 11–my birthday! And what a birthday present NXT Takeover (R)Evolution was.
Opening match and Owens’s nose gets broken. Vintage Owens bleeding everywhere. Yeah, he didn’t bust out the Package Piledriver (his indie finisher), but it was still incredible seeing him in a WWE ring. WWE even gave the indie fans some fanservice when they played a clip with Owens staring at Zayn while Zayn mentally prepared for his title match. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the show, but the main event blew me away. A fantastic match that saw Zayn finally winning the big one on NXT. Of course, the locker room emptied out to congratulate him, but Owens ran past everybody to get to the ring first and hug his old friend. A tear came to my eye–not gonna lie. The rest of the celebration was fun. It eventually ended, so Owens came back out to escort Zayn to the back…but it happened. Owens threw Zayn onto the ramp and powerbombed him onto the ring apron. With blood streaming out of the cut on his nose, Owens stared at Zayn’s unconscious body.
So, that’s why I’m writing this. I needed to get all this out. Like, I don’t even know how to describe this or to what I can compare it. Hearing that Sting was in TNA made me take another look at wrestling, and Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles kept me in wrestling, but El Generico and Kevin Steen really cemented my love for wrestling. I love wrestling because of those two. Not only are they both fantastic performers, but their story has also been phenomenally told. If WWE plays their cards right, they’ve got the next Flair/Steamboat, Rock/Austin, and Punk/Cena on their hands. I’ve never been happier to be a fan of anything, and I owe it to them. Here’s to you, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Can’t wait to see you guys main eventing WrestleMania.