Kevin Owens may seem like an unlikely wrestling star to the casual or uninitiated fan. WWE’s Universal Champion lacks the Adonis physique many of his rivals rely on to compete on wrestling’s biggest stage. But don’t be fooled. Owens is one of the more skilled grapplers to ever climb between the ropes, his moves perfected for a decade on the independent circuit before NXT and Raw fans wised up.
Here are 14 things you didn’t know about WWE’s Kevin Owens:
1. Kevin Owens, born Kevin Steen in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, grew up speaking French. He learned English watching Monday Night Raw and imitating the commentary of Jim Ross and various other wrestlers and personalities.
2. Steen was inspired to take up wrestling by watching a videotaped match between Shawn Michaels and Diesel at WrestleMania XI. In that 1995 WWF World Heavyweight Championship match, Diesel successfully defended his title, pinning Michaels after an awkward Jackknife powerbomb.
3. Steen started his wrestling training at the age of 14, working with former NWA and WWF wrestler Terry Taylor soon after. His first match fell on his 16th birthday — May 7, 2000 — and he continued to wrestle with various Canadian promotions for the next four years.
4. In 2005 Steen picked up with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, an independent promotion run by pro wrestlers which started a couple years before. PWG has helped launch the careers of WWE Champions CM Punk and Daniel Bryan as well as Adam Cole.
6. Kevin Owens is good friends with Sami Zayn, dating back to their days on the independent circuit. The wrestlers used to be both rivals and tag team partners, when Owens went by his real name and Zayn by El Generico. The pair won the World Tag Team Championship twice as part of PWG and again with Ring of Honor.
7. Steen grew up a huge fan of pro wrestling and carried that appreciation into his life inside and outside the ring. He named his son ‘Owen’ after the late Owen Hart, commonly thought to be one of the greatest pro wrestlers ever. His ring name also pays homage to the fallen wrestler.
8. Steen’s son played a key role in the ring at a very young age. During a PWG event in 2005, Excalibur insulted the six-month-old Steen, only to suffer a series of powerbombs from this father. Steen then placed his son on top of Excalibur for the three-count.
9. Steen and Zayn attended WWE’s TLC 2012 after headlining the Ring of Honor’s finale earlier that day. Dolph Ziggler took down John Cena in a Ladder Match, as the friends and ROH rivals, who had just competed in their own Ladder Match, watched from the nosebleeds.
10. Kevin Steen signed with WWE in the summer of 2014 and was dispatched to NXT. Two months after his debut, wrestling as Kevin Owens, he captured the NXT title from longtime friend and rival Sami Zayn.
11. Owens made his WWE main-roster debut in May of 2015, attacking none other than John Cena on an episode of Raw. The NXT champion defeated Cena, the United States champion, in a non-title match a couple weeks later. The win was considered a major upset at the time.
12. Owens lost his rematch with Cena, falling short of the United States Championship title in July of 2015. But the rising star took the Intercontinental Championship title from Ryback a couple months later.
13. In August 2016, Owens won the WWE Universal Championship over Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Big Cass in a four-way elimination match. He’s held the title for six months, basically since its creation, and successfully defended it multiple times.
14. Kevin Owens loves animals. While traveling to wrestle, he visits zoos whenever he can, particularly in cities that are new to him. Owens even used to sell ‘Zoo Enthusiast’ t-shirts at his events. His higher profile with the WWE has afforded him the chance to get tours and handle the animals.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.