Kevin Owens has a prime opportunity to prove himself on WWE’s big stage when he faces John Cena in a match at the Elimination Chamber event on Sunday, May 31. The bout may be a bit surreal for fans that perhaps never thought it would be taking place this soon, and there is no doubt that it’s a dream spot for Owens to be in.
There can be no bigger test for Owens at this point in his very young WWE career. He may be a 15-year veteran of the business, but facing Cena in a high-profile match is something altogether different. This is prime time, a choice position, and Owens is lucky to have it.
It’s not that he can’t handle the pressure, however. It’s the fact that anyone could have been booked to work Cena at Elimination Chamber, but the company chose Owens.
Owens and Cena had one confrontation, and that single meeting led to the match being booked. It was perhaps one of the quickest set-ups for a match that fans had seen in a very long time. Had it not been for Owens’ interruption of Cena that night on Monday Night Raw, this one would have had no reason to happen at all.
Owens had a great chance to impress on that night as well, and he more than delivered.
But this is not a one-off confrontation with Cena; this is a moment that could potentially be called “career defining” if Owens does indeed take advantage of it. It all comes down to how he looks and how much he’s allowed to do against WWE’s top gun.
Owens must be given room to work. He is presented as the ultimate bruiser in NXT, that brand’s version of Brock Lesnar. Every time he’s in the ring, he decimates his opposition and leaves carnage in his wake. It’s that mentality that has kept him above the rest in terms of character and has put him among the company’s most feared talents from a storyline perspective.
Owens is respected for what he can do, but he’s also hated for how he does it. He has ice water in his veins, with no regard for the welfare of others that he may hurt. He is the true definition of a heel, and his mystique is only getting stronger.
But John Cena is not an unknown talent, and Elimination Chamber is not NXT’s weekly program. Owens may not be allowed to mow through Cena as he has others like Sami Zayn, and for that matter, he may not be allowed to take the majority of the match.
If that happens, his reputation and character suddenly become very meaningless very quickly.
Fans need to see Owens at his best. He needs to hit the ring with full force, focused on Cena and bent on his demise. The work he’s done in NXT should not be ignored, and any fans watching on May 31 should see the same guy they’ve seen dominate every week.
The booking must be right here. If Owens is eventually going to be something more than what he is, he cannot be schooled by Cena from opening bell to the final bell. This cannot be a case of WWE’s top talent giving the new guy a lesson in humility; this must be the new guy proving he belongs no matter what.
Owens must step up his game and whatever happens, it must be evident afterward that he is a force to be reckoned with in WWE. Barring a sudden jump to the main roster, this may be the only time Owens has against Cena to prove anything.
Cena’s open challenge for his United States Championship led Owens to his door as it led Zayn, but that does not mean he’s on an NXT run. This is likely just a way for the company to get its newest stars in front of the top star, to feel them out and test their instincts.
It’s probably also a way to see how the crowd responds. When this is all over, Cena could go back to working stars from the main roster only. His match with Owens will be ancient history and fans will be debating on what happens next.
So in the meantime, they must also be discussing how good Owens looked and how bright his future is. If the booking is there, and if Cena is willing to give Owens what he needs to get over, then the hope for Owens’ future success will not be in doubt.
It all hinges on this dream spot at the Elimination Chamber. Owens went from being on the casual fans’ radar to being thrust into the main event scene with Cena. Other guys would likely do anything for such a spot, and Owens must work hard to prove he deserves it.
Vancouver-based brand Mr. Gray has unveiled a new set of imagery for 2015. Known for its superior made-in-Japan socks that incorporate premium, high-gauge yarns, this latest lookbook juxtaposes the old world appeal of Mr. Gray with Vancouver’s modern cityscape. As the warmer weather approaches, the brand also offers a number of low-top sneaker friendly, summer-appropriate options.
Following hot on the heels of its LC-A Minitar-1 Art Lens, Lomography is back with another decidedly quirky new lens. Launching on Kickstarter, the New Petzval 58 Bokeh Control Art Lens is a follow-up to the wonderfully bizarre New Petzval lens and this time offers a 58-mm focal length, along with the ability to control the level of the photographer-dividing swirly bokeh it creates.
That’s all from Mr Blatter for now, and with that I’ll hand over to Michael Butler. In the meantime catch up with our global round-up of the latest reaction to the crisis at Fifa.
That was a long speech by Blatter which covered some of the same ground as his opening of the 65th congress earlier. In total he has spoken for well over 30 minutes so far this morning in Zurich – Prince Ali is yet to address the audience. Here’s some of the reaction on the ground from British journalists:
Blatter says Fifa now has lots of committees. Ignoring fact some of those arrested served on those committees.
That was possibly the worst speech I’ve ever heard. 22 mins of deluded, rambling, irrelevant, self-serving Blatter blather. ***APPLAUSE***
Blatter telling congress about how much lovely broadcasters and sponsors bring in to Fifa (which he then gives to members). #fifa
As his president’s speech draws to a close, Blatter says:
It is not good for all this to occur two days before the election. I’m not going to use the word coincidence but I do have a small question mark.
We are at a turning point and we need to pull together and move forward. We cannot constantly supervise everybody in football. We have 209 members and 300m active participants, men and women. And with families, friend, we reach a figure of 1.6bn people that are directly touched. Our stat from last year, the German press said we are wrong. And though often Germans tell Fifa it is wrong, we are at 1.6bn.
We are a very important entity. With popularity comes responsibly. How can everybody take responsibility? There are limits on the pitch of the goal-lines, the sidelines, there’s a referee and a time limit. Outside the pitches there are no geographgical limits, no time limits, no referee.
Sepp Blatter gives the president’s address:
You will know that right now we are going through troubling times. I will not call in unprecedented – also in election congresses such as 2002. These events have cast a shadow so let’s try to lift that shadow. Let’s try to lift our spirits. We can’t let the reputation of football be dragged through the mud like that. Because they are truly at fault, especially if they are found guilty.
They are not the entire organisation; certain individuals who have forgotten that Fifa is based on respect discipline and a team sport with the same goal. We need to be singing from the same song sheet, especially when we talk of the character of the organisation. It’s our goal to share this respect with all of you.
In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of what happened, and to whom, on Wednesday:
To recap on how the voting will work, before the 209 associations cast their votes, incumbent Sepp Blatter – angling for a fifth term in the top job – and his only rival, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, will each address the Fifa congress. Prince Ali, from Jordan, was elected Fifa vice-president for Asia in 2011.
Voting takes place in a secret ballot, although several countries and regional groups have already declared who they intend to plump for.
Michel Platini’s suggestion yesterday that Uefa could consider a boycott of the 2018 World Cup has understandably caused a stir. The Guardian’s Damien Gayle has more:
The World Cup would go on even in the face of a boycott by Europe’s football federation, the head of Nigeria’s national association said today.
“A World Cup without [Europe], it would be regrettable. But I assure you, it will go on,” said Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigerian Football Association, as he backed Sepp Blatter to remain as the sport’s global chief.
OH MY GOD. At Fifa congress, they’ just tested e-voting system by asking delegates if Germany won World Cup. Five per cent said no! #FIFA
Palestinian protestors burst in shouting "red card for Fifa" before being bustled away by security.
Sepp Blatter opens the 65th Fifa congress:
The events on Wednesday unleashed a storm and it was even questioned whether this congress would take place or the agenda may be changed. Today I am appealing to unity and a team spirit so we can move forward together. It may not always be easy but it is this reason that we are here today. We are here to solve [these problems]. This may not happen in one day but we are starting and we will do it with the members of the national associations because you are the ambassadors of our football. You have the power to change the face of Fifa. You have the power in your hearts, a power you can not buy on the markets.
Let’s get down to work. Let us not just talk about problems, let us go and solve them. let us move forward. The important point is transparency. The important point is where is our football? Where does Fifa stand in the world? It is the fight against corruption, match fixing, and racism – which we still have in our game and it hurts. We will naturally talk about development but that all belongs together. We have a chance to create unity.
Fifa’s 65th congress is under way in Zurich where, following Friday’s arrests, only 25 of the 28 delegates have taken their place on stage. There are 18 points on the agenda and 18th will be the vote for presidency.
Protest over treatment of migrant workers in Qatar ahead of 2022 World Cup, as reported on extensively by Guardian. pic.twitter.com/ju5PEgVtCM
Hello, Lawrence Ostlere here to take the helm for a while, and the first thing to report is that Fifa have postponed today’s post-vote press conference until tomorrow, meaning the winner will not face the media today.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has denied that any public money was used to bribe Fifa officials in his country’s bid for the 2010 World Cup.
In a statement, Mbeki said:
As former president of the Republic of South Africa, I have noted reports alleging that bribes were solicited and paid to some officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association [Fifa] in exchange for our country to host the 2010 soccer World Cup.
I am not aware of anybody who solicited a bribe from the government for the purpose of our country being awarded the right to host the World Cup.
English FA chairman Greg Dyke has backed the idea of a co-ordinated European boycott of the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (I’ve taken the quotes from Press Association):
What there is no point in is one or two countries saying ‘We’re not going to take part’ because they will carry on with the tournament without them and that is pretty unfair on the fans.
But if Uefa as a group said ‘Look, unless you get this sorted we are not going to be in the World Cup’ then I think that we would join them.
There would be no point pulling England out if everyone else stays in. It would have no impact. It would just be forgotten.
But if you could pull Uefa out, that might have an impact. If Blatter gets re-elected, then that should be discussed.
I hope he doesn’t win but if he does I think the events of this week have turned him into a diminished figure and I can’t see him lasting more than a year or two.
Mr Blatter’s statement yesterday in which he basically said ‘Leave it to me, I will clean it up’ – nobody is going to believe that.
Aside from the presidential election, Fifa congress will also today tackle a call by the Palestinian Football Association for a vote demanding the suspension of Israel from the world football organisation.
The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont, reports:
Despite last-ditch attempts at mediation by world football officials, the Palestinian delegation insisted it would push for a vote unless Israel expels five teams based in illegal Israeli settlements from its football league.
The five teams are Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Bik’at Hayarden and Givat Ze’ev, which play in Israel’s lower divisions.
Once you’ve read through our global round-up, here’s your quick catch-up of Guardian Fifa coverage:
It’s widely expected that Blatter will sail off with his fifth presidential term today, despite the eruption this week of corruption allegations that have long haunted his time as Fifa’s chief.
So who will be voting for him?
The Fifa congress will begin at 8.30am UK time (9.30am in Zurich).
There are several items on the agenda – including “suspension or expulsion of a member” and “president’s address” – before item 17: election of the president. We could see the results of that election around 4pm UK time.
Welcome to Friday’s Fifa live blog, as voting is set to begin in a presidential election that under-siege incumbent Sepp Blatter is nonetheless expected to win handsomely.
Before that, here’s a global round-up of all the latest from the last few hours:
Brazil unrepresented at Fifa vote after Marin arrested and Del Nero flit. Football has been rotten in home of the beautiful game for years.
Our BoD met and has made the decision of voting for Prince Bin Ali Hussein as we cannot support the current political leadership of FIFA.
Dortmund have already confirmed that Gundogan will depart the club this summer, but the Express quotes “United sources” as insisting that the German “is not on their radar.”
The £20 million-rated Gundogan is certainly set for a move, though, with Dortmund’s chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watzke, recently revealing as much, per the Express:
Gundogan will be leaving Borussia Dortmund this summer. That is a fact. I am very confident we will see various clubs coming in for him. It has not been our intention to see him leave. It was his ambition to move clubs [this summer]. Therefore, we agreed. We will sell him.
Gundogan, 24, has been cited by many as an ideal long-term replacement for key deep-lying midfielder Michael Carrick at Old Trafford.
However, Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe insists that not only is he not necessarily that kind of player—he is more of a box-to-box midfielder—but his form has been negatively affected by a lengthy injury:
Tighe makes a compelling case for why United boss Louis van Gaal should think carefully about pursuing Gundogan, and the latest reports suggest the Red Devils may not be interested after all.
Even if he does not move to Old Trafford, though, the highly rated midfielder will surely get a move to a top club.
Arsenal have been linked with him, per the Express, while German giants Bayern Munich are also reportedly circling, per Bild (via Bundesliga expert Clark Whitney):
United certainly need a long-term replacement for Carrick, as they have looked lost without the English midfielder in the team in recent times.
However, Gundogan, perhaps correctly, has seemingly not been earmarked as his obvious heir apparent at Old Trafford.
Scholes Backs Di Maria
United legend Paul Scholes believes Angel Di Maria should be given at least one more season at Old Trafford to prove his worth.
The Argentinian arrived in Manchester from Real Madrid last summer for a British-record £59.7 million fee, but he failed to set the Premier League alight in 2014-15—although he still provided 10 assists, per WhoScored.com.
Rumours have abounded that the Red Devils may cut their losses and let him go, with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich both linked with a move for Di Maria, per Kevin Palmer of ESPN FC.
However, club hero Scholes believes United should keep him on despite his poor performances, especially with United returning to the Champions League next season, per the Independent: “The quality is there and I don’t think United can afford to lose him. They need that kind of player if they are to compete at the highest level in the Champions League. Let’s see what next season brings.”
Di Maria was one of Real’s best players in their Champions League-winning 2013-14 season and has all the qualities to become one of the best players in the world at United.
Football writer Andy Brassell believes Van Gaal should be building the team around the 27-year-old, which is not an overly bold claim for such an expensive player:
It would be somewhat ludicrous for United to offload Di Maria after just one season in which he has failed to adapt to Premier League football.
As Scholes notes, his experience will be vital in the Champions League next term, and an in-form Di Maria could also push United toward challenging for the Premier League title.
However, should PSG come in with a big enough offer, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Di Maria will be moved on, even though it could prove to be be a big mistake on United’s part.
Letting The Freedom Of Truth Uncover The Value Of Life