Kevin Owens has commented on the confusing ending sequence to his WWE Universal Championship match with Roman Reigns at the 2021 Royal Rumble, speculating that the referee in the contest had been 'paid-off' to cheat him out of the win.
In a match filled with high-spots and drama, Owens had handcuffed defending champion Reigns to the bottom of a light fixture at the conclusion of their Last Man Standing match last weekend. But, as special counsel Paul Heyman struggled to unlock the 'cuffs, the referee administering the ten-count halted their progression through the numbers.
Reports suggest that Heyman's difficulties in opening the handcuffs meant the referee had no choice but to delay his count, but Owens has suggested that the match official was in cohorts with Reigns and Heyman in order to stop the Prizefighter from claiming his second Universal Championship.
“I’m still recovery from the Royal Rumble," Owens said on the The Jake Asman Show." It was a pretty rough night for me. I was thrown off a 12-foot platform onto a bunch of tables, I got hit by a golf cart, I jumped off a forklift that was about 10 feet in the air, I burned my arm on a light that was part of our setup, and to top it all off, I didn’t win because I think a referee got paid off or something.
"A lot to recover from. I’ve never been cheated by a referee that way before. I used to play hockey in Canada as a kid so you would think it would happen before."
Owens' in-character comments suggest a continuation of his feud with Roman Reigns on SmackDown, something that was further addressed last Friday when the 36-year-old delivered a Stunner to the Universal Champion during his face-off with Royal Rumble winner Edge.
On top of their Last Man Standing match, the two have also clashed in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match and a Steel Cage match, with Reigns taking the win in all three.
Speaking on his and Reigns' most recent meeting, Owens gave details as to his match strategy for trying to take down the Head Of The Table in a Last Man Standing outing.
He added: "I had a few options on how to approach it. I could try to knock him out, but he’s a tough guy. I figured I could go after his legs so he couldn’t stand up, but it wasn’t working that well.
"He went a different route and tried to throw me off high things and hit me with vehicles. Different strategies. Towards the end, I turned his own trick on him. He brought handcuffs, I handcuffed him to something and I thought I had him, I really did have him.
"Some screw-ups from the referees and here I am, sitting in my car without the Universal Championship. It goes to show, no matter how prepared you are for a match in WWE, you never know how it’s going to go."