MONTREAL – Forget Brock Lesnar’s return to Montreal Friday night. The people in attendance only wanted to see one match: Kevin Owens versus Sami Zayn versus Dean Ambrose.
It wasn’t Owens’ first show in Montreal for the WWE. He debuted here last September. It wasn’t even Sami Zayn’s debut in his hometown, as has wrestled three times already, once in 2013, once in 2014 and another time in 2015.
So what was the appeal of seeing the two of them another time?
It was the first time that they were pitted against another at the Bell Centre.
On a card without John Cena or Roman Reigns, but with a rare house show presence of Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, the crowd, estimated between 7,000 and 8,000, wanted to see two guys and one match. And they had to wait until the very end because WWE agents decided to put the three-way dance for the Intercontinental championship in the main-event spot, a huge accomplishment for both Owens and Zayn.
After headlining tons of smaller buildings around Montreal and the province of Quebec, they finally made it to the top, headlining the biggest arena on Canadian soil.
Of course, with such a huge professional wrestling history in Montreal, it wasn’t the first time that two Quebec wrestlers main-evented the home of the Montreal Canadiens. But it hadn’t happened in a long time.
Since WWE started producing shows in Montreal in 1985, it only happened twice that two Quebecers were headlining a show on opposite side. The first time, in January 1989, was a six-man tag with Hulk Hogan teaming with Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Ronnie Garvin against Dino Bravo and The Rougeau Brothers, and the last time, in October 1994, when Jacques Rougeau Jr. squared off with Pierre-Carl Ouellet, at Rougeau’s first retirement show.
The latter is quite interesting because Rougeau and Ouellet both played a huge part in Owens and Zayn’s careers.
Although Owens was trained by Rougeau, Ouellet took “The Kid,” as he was called back then, under his wing for a number of years. Also, the very first time that Owens and Zayn got in the ring together was in another three-way that also included Ouellet. The former WWE tag team champion was working for the IWS at the time Owens and Zayn were wrestling there as well. He once told this writer that “Bravo-Rougeau and Ouellet-Grenier already took the big step to WWE … the next duo to make it could be Steen (Owens) and Generico (Zayn).”
And he was right.
Both of them took Montreal and the Bell Centre by storm Thursday and Friday night. Both did tons of media interviews — radio shows, TV stations, websites, the whole nine yards. On Thursday night, while Owens was in studio for a TV interview, Zayn was a guest of the Montreal Canadiens, got a 30-second interview on the giant screen and received his own personalized custom jersey.
As for the match itself, it was by far the best on the card and the one that got the most reaction.
Montreal’s own Pat Patterson — whose auto-biography, ghost written by SLAM! Wrestling’s contributor Bertrand Hebert, will be released in August — was first introduced to the crowd. He thanked the crowd for the homage he got the last time WWE was in town and added that Montreal was the best wrestling town in the world. Although it might not be true anymore, you couldn’t find anyone there to disagree.
Zayn was the first wrestler to get to the ring and he got a huge “ole ole” chant when he revealed his Canadiens jersey. The funny story about this is that many fans think people are chanting “ole ole” to Zayn because he’s from Montreal and this is a chant one can hear at Canadiens’ game, when in reality, it is because of his former persona, El Generico.
Then Dean Ambrose made his entrance and got a decent pop, but was definitely the intruder in this match for the local fans.
And then came the champion.
Owens got a monster pop, way bigger than Zayn — or anyone on the card for that matter – and that includes Lesnar.
Even though he was the most popular guy there, Owens, still a heel, refused to shake hands with Patterson before be match got on its way.
Owens and Zayn got a lot of time together in the ring and the crowd was really into it, chanting a couple of “This is awesome” along the way. The finish saw Ambrose hitting the Dirty Deeds on Zayn, Owens breaking the pin with a Santon Bomb and pinning Zayn for the win.
The post-match segment was made for Zayn to get over with the crowd, with Ambrose putting him over saying everyone should be inspired by him and Zayn cutting a promo.
Zayn said that he and Owens started from the bottom here in Montreal and now they are main-eventing the Bell Centre and he thanked the fans for that. He said that sooner or later, he would beat Owens for the Intercontinental title, maybe at WrestleMania. It was a really good babyface promo and Zayn was a bigger local star by the end of the match. The only thing missing was just some thank yous in French to get the crowd even more behind him.
All in all, the main-event made that show unforgettable for everyone who attended it. With such a great history with this sport, the sky is the limit for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in their hometown and they could very well help leading the way to another golden era of wrestling in Montreal.
Here are the results:
Enzo Amore & Big Cass w/Carmella beat NXT tag team champions Dawson & Wilder in a non-title match
Jack Swagger defeated Stardust
Goldust beat Viktor
Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman defeated Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper in a handicap match
For Lesnar’s return in Montreal after 12 years and all the publicity behind this, it was really a short match, only five minutes or so, with a very short Paul Heyman promo as well. It really felt like a warm-up for tonight’s show in Toronto.
Charlotte w/Ric Flair beat Natalya
WWE World tag team champions The New Day (Kofi Kingston & Big E) w/Xavier Woods defeated The League of Nations (Sheamus & Wade Barrett) by DQ.
WWE Intercontinental champion Kevin Owens beat Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose to retain his championship in a three-way match.