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Having Brunch With Kevin Owens and Ali in Manila


WWE just wrapped up its WWE Live in Manila show last Friday, September 20, 2019, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. We were happy to witness the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, EC3, Chad Gable, Mandy Rose, and the Smackdown Live roster for the first time.

However, earlier in the day, the Smark Henry crew took part in a small media roundtable event held at the Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City with WWE Superstars Kevin Owens and Ali to promote the event and also get to know more about the show and the two stars.

We had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions from the two and they were very gracious in answering and sharing their own thoughts, opinions, and experiences to the media representatives present. 

Here are the most interesting snippets of what was discussed during the roundtable.

On Ali as a modern representation of faith and background in today's WWE:
"It's a heavy responsibility and not one that I think I intended to do on purpose. My message and my purpose, it's not just to represent Muslims or religions. It's to represent anybody from anywhere that ever felt like they're being defined. Where you're from, what your name is, what you believe in, that shouldn't define you."

"It's something to respect and I understand that you have pride from where you're from, but the minute we start labeling each other or assuming things about each other, that's when it becomes a problem." Ali continued.

On Ali as this year's breakout star:
"I feel like I was on course and fate took a different turn. This year had been a little bit of a rocky road for me from a professional standpoint. I came to the SmackDown Live roster with a lot of steam and I feel like a lot was expected of me but unfortunately, I had a pretty serious injury that took me out of the title picture."

He did go on to praise Kofi Kingston getting the spot he was slated to have by stating, "...I'd tell everybody it wasn't an accident. It was just fate. I feel, Kofi Kingston, what he's been able to accomplish, was meant to be. You can't write a better story than Kofimania and I'm very very happy and proud of him."

He was still hopeful after. "From a professional standpoint, I'm watching something unfold that I know I'm capable of. The year's not over. I feel like I'll find my way."



On Owens' favorite NXT moment:
His favorite match on the brand was his very first. "My first one at NXT. It was a culmination of so many years of hoping to get here and it was with somebody I really like a lot - a really good friend of mine, Juice Robinson (CJ Parker at that time)—and it was just a really special night. He broke my nose." Owens said before letting out a little laughter.

On who Owens likes from NXT, NXT UK and 205 Live:
Owens gave a very diplomatic answer and played no favorites. "There's really too many to name wherein I don't even want to name one specific person because I'd feel bad for leaving anybody out. The crew of talent from these three shows you just mentioned, the pool is so deep that anybody from those rosters could [be the next big star.]"

On Owens' finishers and which would he like to be associated with:
Owens didn't want to state which one was his favorite and said, "I just want to be remembered for creating moments that people talk about many years. I really don't have a preference. I'm sure before my career is over, I'll switch to another finisher."



On Owens being a babyface after being a heel for so long:
"It feels like it was two years too late, but that's fine. It's happening now and I'm doing the best I can."

On Owens as someone who breaks the stereotype physique of a WWE Superstar:
"Well, it's probably a lot easier if you're ripped and jacked," Owens joked causing everybody to laugh. "I went a different way, obviously and it's been arduous but it has been very rewarding to me. I don't know how many people have tried to change me throughout my career and I don't know if it's hard and all. It's all good advice. It's a matter of me being hard-headed."

He shared his advice to those looking to follow his path. "I just decided to do it and not let anybody tell me I couldn't do it. I guess that would be the advice I have for somebody who doesn't fit the mold as we say." He then quipped, "Hey, but if you're young, just work out a lot."

On Owens' secret to good promos:
"Some people have the ability to communicate in ways that are going to reach people and make people listen, and others don't. I appreciate the compliment. It means a lot to me [that], whenever I take a microphone, people actually listen and pay attention to what I'm saying. That's something I don't take for granted."

On NXT moving to Wednesday nights:
"I have no doubt NXT will eclipse RAW and SmackDown [Live] through time," Owens stated boldly. "Not that we don't work hard [on RAW and Smackdown Live], but everybody on NXT feels like they have something to prove because it's NXT. I think it makes for a very interesting dynamic right now."

Ali seems to agree. "I tell everybody passion is purpose. Passion is power. NXT has an opportunity to ignite the world and they're going to do it."


Video from WWE

On 205 Live not getting as much love than the main roster:
Ali came from this brand so he shared his personal experiences. "205 Live gets put in a tough spot. Jack Gallagher said it best when he said 205 Live is the opening act that goes on after the headliner." He compared the situation akin to Metallica playing before an opening act.

He did go on to praise the brand and its stars. "I use WrestleMania weekend as an example. Think about this, Saturday [NXT] TakeOver, Sunday WrestleMania is four hours, there's a three-hour RAW, two hours of SmackDown Live. Then, here's comes 205 Live. And still, somehow, someway, they find a way to wake up this crowd and get them invested. I will put the men of 205 Live every week against anything that you see on the [WWE] Network..."

Owens shared his own anecdote from WrestleMania weekend. "I remember being put at the dark match at the end of SmackDown Live which basically meant I was closing out the entire WrestleMania week. I was going to be the last thing these fans see but before me was the 205 Live event which was Buddy Murphy vs. Tony Nese. I was saying I don't need to go out there at all. That being the closing segment of the week would've been fine because they got a crowd that was really tired and had seen so many hours of great wrestling and by the end of the match, everybody was on their feet."


Video from WWE

On the difference between live and televised shows:
Owens compared the experience by stating, "It's pretty enthralling on TV, but when you're there live, it's just a totally different experience. I'll remember the first show I went live, it was just mindblowing."

Ali then backed him up. "It's a really unique opportunity for us to really pick the camera, turn it around and put it on the audience. It's all about them rather than just the TV show."

On keeping up with the WWE lifestyle of traveling and schedules:
Owens said that it felt like being on autopilot because of how they've gotten used to the lifestyle. "I was talking to Daniel Bryan as we were transferring flights. We landed in Narita on our way here. We just had a 14-hour flight and were about to take a four-hour flight. It's not something that most people would just be able to do and then go perform or work and it's just what we do..."

"I'm sure once some of the guys get called up and they haven't been used to this kind of travel and performing right away, it might be a lot to take in, but I think everybody gets used to it eventually in the end. No matter how tired we are, once we get to the show and we hear the energy of the crowd, nothing can keep us from having a full tank of energy to go out and do what we do best."

Ali agreed with the sentiment. "I'm a guy who has a very structured day. Then you go on tour and then you try to structure a day based off the time that's available." He mentioned how things like FaceTime with his daughter was very important and that makes it a lot easier.

On memorable feuds with long-term rivals:
Ali was the first to respond. "If you're able to do that, it's kind of a unique thing because people react to it more. You always have this. No matter how far they go away, they always seem to come back into the story and people just get behind it."

"Me and Sami [Zayn] have been at this for 15 years. It's cool to have that with him," Owens said. He told a story about their small start from PWG up to being in the same ring at WrestleMania 32. "To us, we've been doing this for a decade but they're excited to see it with a hundred thousand people waiting to see it. It's really cool to have this legacy with somebody like that."

He then teased that his rivalry with Zayn might still continue in the future. "Me and Sami, we literally have almost a lifetime and we're not even done."



On memorable encounters with the fans:

"Sometimes, we'll be told that we did something on a show and it meant the world to his person, and to us, it's just something that we don't even think about later, so that's always great to hear," Owens shared while talking about good encounters.

However, there are also bad experiences such as one he had in Atlanta. "I have my son with me at the show, and this guy wants a picture or something but I have my son with me and it's very late and it's raining. I don't have the time to stop because I have my son, so I said no and then he started spouting off insults and getting mad at me and he had his kid with him too."

He offered this advice to fans everywhere. "It's never because we don't care, but there's always a reason why somebody might not be as friendly to fans outside the arena as people wish they were. So I'd say be careful of what you judge and what you say about these people..."

Ali chimed in and shared his experience of inspiring a young fan. "I didn't realize that a fan was so enthusiastic that I was wearing [a mask] because she suffers from some form of respiratory disease where she has to wear what's called a Vogmask that helps you breathe. So she said, 'It's so cool that you're normalizing it because I had to walk around in public wearing this mask and people think like I'm weird like, why I had this mask on,' and the first thing I thought about was that she was complimenting my mask so much so I said, let me send it to her and I sent her a light-up mask."

On social media:
Nowadays, Owens isn't as active on social media and he shared why this has been the case now. "I have Twitter and I don't use it as much as I used to. It's mostly not good," he explained further, saying it's not anywhere as fun as it used to be.

Ali, on the other hand, gave importance to his social media accounts. "To me, as far as getting a message out, a lot of people relate to us or find some sort of inspiration from us and social media is the only way for them to express that so I do try to stay engaged with that aspect."

He then shared the other side of the coin. "On the flip side, there are some people that like to make racial remarks and whatnots towards me specifically. But again, it's always an opportunity to [show that] hate doesn't defeat hate."

On this era being the Golden Age of wrestling:
Owens praised today's model of wrestling being available anytime, anywhere. "I am thrilled that wrestling is just available and with the way technology works now, there's literally wrestling from all over the world and any day you can watch anything at this point and I think that as a fan, that's pretty incredible."

Ali addressed how it's also the Golden Age for competition. "It's not just WWE, there are competitions from all over the world. You have this access to fans now so you're forever trying to stay ahead of the curb but you are aware of what's going out there and what's going on."

He also shares how he tries to make himself stand out. "I'm trying to be able to distinguish myself, separate myself, and be identifiable. It's only going to get more difficult when there's more access to it, but from a fan's standpoint, yes, it's rock and roll. It's as much wrestling as you want."

Did you watch WWE Live in Manila? Were you happy with the results? Sound off in the comments section below.

Photos and videos from WWE

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Miguel “The Migz” Llado is your supposed style icon and NXT reviewer at the Smark Henry offices. A lover of everything music, wrestling, videogames, and food, he lives his life tweeting his mind off (@the_migz) and ‘gramming random food items and locations (@tha_migz) as he sets on his journey to completely do things spontaneously. You can also add him on PSN (MigzLlado) to show your WWE2K19 (or any PS4) skills. When not being a smark, he lives his life being (and trying to be) an awesome architect, musician extraordinaire and armchair fantasy booker.

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