There was bound to be excitement at the conclusion of Monday Night Raw considering the vacant WWE Universal Championship was to be contested in the main event with a new champion crowned. It’s just that no one watching expected what transpired.
At the conclusion of a Fatal 4-Way elimination match that included all sorts of twists and turns, Kevin Owens pinned Seth Rollins — thanks to interference and a turn by a returning Triple H — to become just the second universal champion to date.
Let’s take a look at how we got here.
The title, vacated 24 hours after Finn Balor became the first universal champion by defeating Rollins at SummerSlam, was up for grabs on Raw. Former world heavyweight champions Rollins and Roman Reigns were joined by Owens, an industry veteran, and upstart Big Cass in the match, which played out in thrilling fashion over more than a half hour Monday night.
Owens scored the first elimination relatively early after hitting a frog splash and pinning Cass. Following that was a 10-minute period where Reigns hit the Superman Punch so many times it was tough to keep count. He appeared to be ready to make a second elimination … until Triple H jumped out of the crowd and into the ringside area.
Triple H’s surprise return began with a Pedigree outside the ring on Reigns, who was rolled back into the squared circle so Rollins could score the 1-2-3. This is where things got interesting.
After throwing Owens back into the ring, presumably so Rollins — a Triple H protegee — could become champion once again, Triple H turned his back on Rollins, delivered the Pedigree to him and allowed Owens to get the pinfall and win the championship.
Unexpected as the finish was, it came at the end of a spectacular match and injects some juice into WWE, which has been dealing with bland PG storylines and unimaginative creative for years. The recent brand split and WWE Draft have already resulted in a marked improvement — despite the uneven rosters and a couple shaky storylines.
Putting the new universal title first on Balor and then on Owens shows that WWE is committed to developing not a couple new stars but rather an entire set of them. Owens, Rollins, Reigns, Balor, Dean Ambrose and AJ Styles have all been elevated as main eventers over the last couple of years. And with NXT churning out talent both young and older, there seems to be no shortage of ways WWE can move its product forward.
This title is particularly sweet for Owens, who has been wrestling since age 16 and cut his teeth in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor. Long overlooked, Owens signed with WWE’s NXT developmental brand in 2014 and won the NXT title in February 2015, two months after his debut with the brand.
He made appearances on WWE’s main roster starting in May 2015 and was a full-time call-up two months later after dropping his NXT title and separating from the developmental brand from good.
As Owens celebrated in the ring and the show went off the air Monday night, the Houston crowd loudly chanted, “You deserve it!”
It had to be a sweet moment for Owens, and WWE fans should see it as one of potential legitimate change within the company … even if it did take Triple H getting involved again.
Tonight I teach a 7-foot tall monster that height is irrelevant. I show an architect that his vision is all wrong. I destroy an empire. #RAW
— Kevin Owens (@FightOwensFight) August 29, 2016
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Raw shocker: Triple H helps Kevin Owens win WWE Universal Championship