Last December, fans gathered at the Bob Carpenter Center for the WWE Live Holiday Tour’s Sunday Smackdown event. The roster for the tour featured big names in WWE, including LA Knight, Kevin Owens and the current Women’s Champion Iyo Sky.
WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment, has visited many locations globally, showcasing the athleticism and showmanship of its Superstars to an expansive audience.
“I think the amazing thing about WWE is that there’s something for everyone watching no matter their age or background, which makes it a very unique form of entertainment,” Owens, a current WWE Superstar, said.
Owens has been wrestling since he was 14 years old and signed with WWE in 2014. Since then, he has had an extensive career within WWE, working with many notables in wrestling – such as John Cena, and establishing a long-standing tag-team partnership with Sami Zayn.
Despite the “entertainment” in WWE’s name, Owens feels that his job as a Superstar is about something more.
“[WWE] is a unique blend of both athlete and entertainer,” Owens said. “It is an athletic performance, but we’re putting on a show that tells a story. If we do it right, we take them on a rollercoaster of emotions.”
Event attendees seemed to appreciate both aspects of Owens’ job. DJ Yeager, a spectator accompanying his excited nieces and nephews, marveled at the acrobatic skill displayed by the Superstars.
“I just saw a 370-pound man get on the top rope and do a back layout across the floor, then get up and walk away from it,” Yeager said. “As somebody who is pretty well-versed in gymnastics, that’s impressive, regardless of if you land on your feet.”
While gymnastic experience is not a requirement to work in WWE, many Superstars display significant acrobatic skills. Wrestlers such as Kofi Kingston and Iyo Sky utilized some tumbling in order to win their matches during the event.
Though the athletic aspect left Yeager impressed, he also commented on the entertainment value of such a medium, even as someone with little knowledge of professional wrestling.
“It’s like body slam Broadway,” Yeager said. “I have no idea what’s coming or what to expect or who these people are. I can’t lie though, I’m looking forward to it. I’m fascinated.”
Despite stressing that entertainment is just one part of his job, Owens ultimately agreed that storytelling and audience engagement are important in his line of work.
“There’s no sport like the WWE,” Owens said. “People can get on a rollercoaster of emotions watching regular sports about whether their team is winning or losing, but our one goal is not to win or lose. Our one goal is to make sure people get the story that we’re trying to communicate.”
Owens competed in his first “WWE NXT” televised match in 2014. He was promoted to the main roster in 2015 and appeared on “WWE Raw.” In the time since, he has held a variety of WWE titles, including Intercontinental Champion and the coveted Universal Champion.
Although Owens has had a successful career within the wrestling circuit, he acknowledges that every match and partnership presents a new learning opportunity.
“I have never been arrogant enough to think I have it all figured out – even now, I am always open to learning,” Owens said. “I go in every day open-minded, and I think that’s the way to do it for this industry.”
Given the nature of WWE, injuries are frequent and retirement comes early for many Superstars. However, at 39 years old, Owens has high hopes for his legacy in the sport.
“All I want is for people to remember me as someone who gave everything he could, always ensuring that what I did was memorable,” Owens said. “I always want people to remember my part and feel they got their money’s worth from my performance.”
The final match was a brawl between Jimmy Uso, a notorious villain of WWE, and fan favorite LA Knight. After sufficient struggle and a close call where Uso’s partner Solo Sikoa nearly pinned LA Knight, Owens charged into the ring to save the day, helping LA Knight secure a heroic victory.
Fan reception of Owens seemed favorable, as Owens’ ring entrance and exit were met with massive cheers.
“I love LA Knight and Kevin Owens,” spectator Robert Jimmar said after the match concluded. “I thought it was an amazing time. I’d never been able to see any WWE up close like that.”
After cheering along to eight action-packed wrestling matches, fans herded out of the Bob Carpenter Center chanting LA Knight’s signature “Yeah” at the top of their lungs.