As noted, Owens reportedly went to Vince with concern over how the masks weren’t being used as much as they should, and how people were not practicing proper social distancing. This talk reportedly led to WWE’s mandatory mask policy, and the fines being given out. Talents are being fined $500 for their first offense of not wearing a mask, unless they are working in front of the camera, and $1,000 for the second offense.
Owens spoke with Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated this week and confirmed that he spoke up about the concerns he had with the COVID-19 outbreak and how it was being dealt with. Owens was asked why last week was the right time for his to return to RAW, after he previously had a few weeks off due to COVID-19 concerns and his wife’s grandfather passing away from the virus.
“I hurt my ankle at WrestleMania so I needed time off, and then I came back—and 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,” Owens said. “We live in Orlando, so it’s not just going to the Performance Center. It’s 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 wouldn’t 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 don’t 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 it’s 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 we’re 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.”
Owens continued and said WWE immediately did what they could to fix the situation after he expressed the frustration he was having.
“It’s been brought up—at first, the masks weren’t being taken seriously enough,” Owens said. “Eventually, a fine system was implemented to make sure people took it seriously. That came from me. I thought that the masks weren’t 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 don’t blame anybody for the mask thing. It’s easy to forget how important those masks are. Some people just straight up believe that the masks don’t make a difference, and that’s their belief. But if we’re all going to work together and we’re all trying to keep each other safe, I think it matters.
“If you’ve had somebody in your family affected by this the way my family was, it’s 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. That’s 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.”
Owens will face Seth Rollins during tonight’s Grudge Matches edition of RAW, the final show before WWE’s “The Horror Show at Extreme Rules” pay-per-view. This will be a rematch from Owens’ WrestleMania 36 win over Rollins. He was asked how you make your next match as fresh as possible when you’ve worked with someone as often as he has with Rollins, and how they create something different together on RAW tonight. Owens revealed his initial reaction to WWE telling him he would be facing Rollins again tonight.
“It’s funny you say that. And I don’t know if I’m going to ruffle some feathers by saying this, but whatever,” Owens said. “There is a part of me, and Seth too, I’m sure, when you wrestle somebody so many times and then you hear you’re wrestling them again—like when they told me I was wrestling Seth on Monday—I had that exact reaction, which was, ‘Again?’ You know? I thought we did our business at WrestleMania and over the last six months [laughs].
“Once you get past that initial reaction, you focus back on the fact that Seth is one of the best and we have great matches together, matches that I think are great. Some other people might disagree, but I really enjoy them. And then it goes back to, ‘How can we make this one stand out? How can we make this one good? How can we make sure people enjoy it?’ But there is that feeling, like, there’s 100 guys on the roster, but for one reason or another, me and Seth tend to find our way back to each other quite a bit.”
Owens continued and talked about his career history with Sami Zayn, noting how this is the longest period where they’ve been away from each other. He also said he’s looking forward to tonight’s match.
“It’s the same with me and Sami Zayn. This has been the longest I’ve been away from Sami in our careers, and it’s because we’re on separate shows,” Owens said. “I’m sure if we were on the same show, we’d end up right back toward each other in one way, shape, or another. There are some people throughout your career where that happens—look at Cena and Randy Orton. They wrestled each other so many times throughout the years. Sometimes they’d be away from each other for two years, and then they’d just find their way back to each other.
“It’s just something that happens a lot in the wrestling business, and it’s not just WWE. I think it’s in any wrestling promotion, some people just end up wrestling each other a lot. Most of the time, it’s the people that have really good matches against each other. So in a way, I take it as a compliment. And it’s a challenge as well, like you said, to make everything feel different. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m looking forward to people watching the match and hopefully enjoying it as much as I will performing in it.”
Owens is a three-time WWE United States Champion, a two-time WWE Intercontinental Champion and a one-time WWE Universal Champion, but he’s never held the WWE Title. He was asked if he still has a goal of becoming WWE Champion. Owens noted how current WWE Champion Drew McIntyre has never defeated him.
“Of course,” Owens said. “I’ve never been WWE Champion, I was Universal Champion. I’d love to add the WWE title to the résumé. Drew McIntyre has never beaten me. We’ve had two matches together, and they were both pretty good. I think I won the first one and the second one ended when the NXT guys came and stuck their nose in our business.
“But I know this: Drew McIntyre is the champion, and Drew McIntyre has never beat me. So it would only seem logical at some point that I get one of those title shots he keeps handing out to other people. So we’ll see.”