As we reported earlier today, WWE only implemented their recent mask policy after Kevin Owens spoke to Vince McMahon and said he was uncomfortable with the people at tapings not wearing masks or social distancing. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Owens confirmed that he was indeed the man behind the new policy. Here are highlights:
On why he came back and how he helped with the mask policy: “I hurt my ankle at WrestleMania so I needed time off, and then I came backand then I went away again. I just felt like it was the right move for my family and I to sit out a few of the tapings of Raw and assess the COVID outbreak. We live in Orlando, so its not just going to the Performance Center. Its everywhere. We thought it was the right time to quarantine and practice safe guidelines. Last week, I saw the measures that the company was taking, from the testing to the splitting up the crews to make sure Raw and SmackDown wouldnt be there the same day, and sending out very clear very indications that masks were required unless we were in the ring.
A big part of this is my wife lost her grandfather to COVID. We make these decisions together. I dont want anything I do to make my wife uncomfortable when I get back home. I want to make sure that she feels safe and that my children are safe. Every decision I make, I make with her. She saw the efforts the company made, as well, and she said maybe it was time for me to go back to work because its what I love to do. The company depends on me and there are a lot of fans that look forward to seeing me on TV every week, so were just trying to juggle everything. The family being safe, of course, but I also want to contribute to the shows. With her blessing, I went back. And what I observed gave me hope and gave me a sense of security.
Its been brought upat first, the masks werent being taken seriously enough. Eventually, a fine system was implemented to make sure people took it seriously. That came from me. I thought that the masks werent being worn seriously enough, so I went and talked to the people in charge. They immediately did what they could to remedy the situation. I dont blame anybody for the mask thing. Its easy to forget how important those masks are. Some people just straight up believe that the masks dont make a difference, and thats their belief. But if were all going to work together and were all trying to keep each other safe, I think it matters. If youve had somebody in your family affected by this the way my family was, its a lot easier to remember that these masks make a huge difference. These masks do make a difference, and I felt it was important for people to take that seriously. I was pleased that the company felt the same way and made sure to get the message out to everybody that this is a big deal. Thats why, in the end, I decided to come back. I feel comfortable going back to work, and I feel as safe as I can be there.”
On putting so much of himself on social media, talking about things like Larry Csonka’s passing: “To me, I dont see it as a risk. And I dont even think about it as being vulnerable. You know, I created a Twitter account many years ago because Colt Cabana told me, You really need to start a Twitter. This is when it was just starting up, and he said, Its a really great tool to promote the shows youre on, to promote your merchandise, so I opened it but I didnt use it as a wrestler would beyond tweeting the links to my t-shirts or whatever at a time when I was on the independents. I just tweeted about things around my house, my wife, at the time I only had one kid so Id tweet about my son, my family, my cats. I had a couple thousand followers, and then obviously my follower-base grew as I started getting more prominent on the independents and then in WWE. But I never changed the way I used the social media.
Whether Im vulnerable or not, Im just me. Im obviously a lot more aware that my scope is a lot broader now. Ive had encounters on social media that were very unpleasant, Ive had times where I left Twitter for a couple months and didnt even look back. For some reason or another, something will bring me back, whether its a situation socially or something like that. Or my cat makes me laugh and I decide I want to share it. Thats just me.
Talking about Larrys passing, or Lyle [Williams] the photographer from CZW that passed away, I bring these things up because these people touched me personally. If I can try to bring a little bit of a tribute to them, thats what I like to do. It probably goes way over the head of a lot of people who just follow me because of WWE, but I was on the independent scene for so long. So thats a part of me, and that never changed. I dont see it as vulnerability, I just do it.”
On wanting to work with Rey Mysterio: “You know, I actually asked a couple times to wrestle Rey a couple times on various tours and live events. For one reason or another, it just couldnt work out. I would love to get in the ring with him and wrestle him. Ive gotten to team with him a few times, and the first time we teamed with each other was a six-man tag. I believe it was in Europe, and it was me, Rey and Braun Strowman against, I think, AJ [Styles], [Luke] Gallows and [Karl] Anderson. I dont even remember. The one thing I do remember is getting to team with Rey. The Europe tours can wear you down. The travel is lengthy, but I just remember when I saw my name next to Reys on the card, I was so pumped. I remember being dead tired getting to the arena, then seeing that, and being tired didnt matter anymore.
Being such a fan of Rey for so long, and Im not going to pretend were close, were not, but hes a great guy. Id heard good things about him for so long before I met him, and those things are obviously true. Hes the type of wrestling veteran I respect so much. Theres a lot of wrestling veterans who will look at the performers of my era and look down on them and talk down about wrestlers of my generation. Then there are other wrestlers that embrace change and have an open mind, and thats Rey.
Rey never makes somebody that doesnt have as much experience as him feel silly or feel bad, hell be more than happy to embrace a new idea. There are a few guys like thatWilliam Regal and Mark Henry are two more. When I take a step back from the ring and my role is to help the younger generation, theyre examples of how Id like to be and how Id like to help. Theyre trying to make things better for everybody, instead of telling you that youre doing everything wrong.
Rey is still an incredible performer. Hes just as fast and quick and graceful as hes always been, which is amazing considering how long hes been doing this. Hopefully we get a match together at some point, but if we dont, Ill always look back at having the chance to be in the same locker room as him as a highlight in my career.”