Three-Way Dance: Kevin, Generico, and PCO, Oct. 2003
Where the story begins
[What’s that? Kevin and Sami have parted ways forever and will no longer have anything to do with each other? Well, I’m sure they both believe that, but you don’t have to. Let’s keep reviewing their history while we wait for them to sort this whole thing out, shall we?]
Once upon a time in Montreal… It’s October 2003, and Kevin Steen and El Generico are just nineteen years old. Kevin has just come out of three years of routinized wrestling school into truly impromptu wrestling; Generico has been trained by a guy who took his money to teach him how to take bumps on frozen grass in the park. Kevin’s been wrestling for IWS for a couple of months at this point, but only now is he booked to have his first match with Generico.
At the last second, the promoter adds a third wrestler to the mix, Pierre Carl Ouellet (PCO). PCO, a three-time WWF tag team champion, has become the mentor to Kevin that his formal teacher, Jacques Rougeau, never was:
Kevin and Generico appear to have been fine with, but bemused by, this decision to add someone to their first match together:
The promoter blithely assures them not to worry about it, all will become clear:
(There seems to be little evidence that it eventually all made sense. Such is wrestling).
So Kevin and Generico’s first match becomes a three-way dance with a much more experienced wrestler, and the one-on-one match will have to wait for another show. You’ve already read what will eventually happen after that, but for now neither of them knows what’s coming.
Generico comes to the ring billed at 157 pounds, and one suspects this is a generous estimate. Maybe they added the mask to the weight. “Olé” is written on his chest in magic marker with a smiley face beneath it; “Please buy my shirts” on his back. Kevin doesn’t weigh a whole lot more. PCO is nearly twice their age and pretty close to twice their size.
Kevin and Generico’s first interaction in the ring is to bicker over how to deal with the patiently-looming PCO.
Kevin seems to suggest they team up, but Generico is both more pushy and more oblivious, so he backs off and enjoys the schadenfreude:
It doesn’t go well.
Generico gets back in the ring and he and Kevin start taking turns attacking PCO, who fends each of them off pretty easily. However, their turns pick up speed until, by mostly sheer coincidence, they end up working together against PCO (somewhat to their own surprise):
PCO fights back and hurls them both out of the ring before executing a somersault plancha on them both.
They scramble back into the ring before PCO recovers. As he tries to get back in the ring, first Kevin kicks him back out, then Generico:
And finally working together again, they manage to shove him out of the ring (after just a bit of flippy showing-off).
Delighted, Generico celebrates and gives Kevin credit where it’s due, before taking an inevitable superkick right to the olé.
So okay, let’s pause for a moment. Let’s look at this. Here we are, three minutes into their first ever match together, and Kevin and Generico have started off bickering, developed into an effective team, and then had Kevin turn on Generico.
As a college professor, let me say: I know a thesis statement when I see one.
There it is, their whole dynamic, the whole story, in condensed form in their first three minutes. From here on in, it’s all elaboration and embroidering, reprising and echoing and subverting and coming back to the theme, making it new over and over, like an epic poem with stanzas or a fugue with variations. They make sure it’s never quite the same story twice. By the time they reach the height of their powers on WWE’s the main roster, Kevin will have gone from a cocky heartless sadist to a monster riddled with regrets and struggling to be better; Generico will have evolved from a cipher in a mask to a tragic figure broken by despair. They’ll have learned how to toss betrayal back and forth between them like a hand grenade, how to make each new layer of the old story deeper and more complex. But here it is in its shortest, most pared-down form, in a bar in Quebec in 2003.
With PCO temporarily out, Kevin and Generico go to town for a minute or so, trying and failing to pull off movies against each other, evenly matched.
And then they notice that PCO is trying to get into the ring again.
Eleven years after this match, I’ll be watching TakeOver R-Evolution. I’ll see Kevin Owens wrestle for the very first time, knowing nothing at all about him. I’ll see Sami Zayn, who had become my favorite wrestler a whole month or so ago, win the NXT championship. When Kevin turns on Sami, I will stand up and–in a burst of unbridled enthusiasm and staggering ignorance–announce that I want to understand everything that brought these two wrestlers to this moment. I will swear on the spot to see all of it. And this reckless vow will send me skimming back through their history, catching matches here and there as I rummage through the past (2012–2010–2007–2004), searching for a moment, any moment, where these two didn’t seem utterly at home in the ring with or against each other; looking for a match (because there has to be one, right?) where they’re endearingly awkward, charmingly unused to each other, still getting their bearings. I will go skipping backwards through time like a stone tossed across the sea, until I finally come to rest here in this moment in 2003:
PCO tries to get in the ring one more time, and this time Kevin and Generico don’t even hesitate before working together to deliver a dual dropkick and send him crashing back down to the floor.
The message is clear in their synchronized certainty, in PCO’s rueful eye-roll from the floor: please come back in a moment, they say; for now the ring is ours, thank you very much.
He’ll get back in the action again soon enough. In the remaining 10 minutes or so the brawl will range out into the crowd for a while, PCO will do his level best to hurl Generico into the sun, will suplex both Kevin and Generico simultaneously, and will eventually win a match which still makes Kevin beam when he remembers it ten years later:
But for a moment, even as the crowd howls at him to get back in and obliterate these two annoying upstart kids, he stands outside the ring and waits, giving them the space to write the first sentences in their story.
Up next: Kevin and Generico go international!
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