I am sort of in the middle on this. I still like Owens a good bit and I generally like when he is on my TV, but I think he has been running against the wind in 2016.
I agree completely that he started hot in NXT and I think more or less his whole run there was pretty good. He probably even overachieved to be honest.
The Cena feud was fun and better than I would have imagined 1 month earlier. They probably went a bit heavy handed on the indy style. I bet those matches hold up better over time in a vacuum than they do in the moment. They bleed together a good bit in the moment, but I can imagine in a year or two scrolling through and enjoying some of them a lot. Still, it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and - even in victory - he really couldn't work as the monster he was in NXT. Stylistically he became just another indy guy with big offense. Agreed that some of the luster came off.
My biggest problem was the stoogy stuff he did in the aftermath. They clearly had no idea what to do with him, but they wanted to use him. He felt lost, goofy, not at all an ass kicker for months. This whole period was more or less lost to me all the way up to the point where he wont the title and his relationship with Jericho hit its stride.
I loved his comedy stuff with Jericho. I thought the snarky heel champ and his buddy shtick was good. They were fairly nuanced in their promos an it was effective. The fans were eating it up (and I don't think that was all Jericho) and I really believe that a lot of people were invested in him losing the title. He has been a good heel champion that people legit want to see lose, but still want to see on their screens.
I also really liked the aesthetic change he took on after getting the title. He cleaned himself up and a lot of times he really did feel like a prize fighter, like a lot of MMA fighters who would clearly rather be wearing a T-Shirt, but they are professional badasses and now they have money so they clean up and they act like a champion. He was performing a champion that earned his glory but wasn't quite comfortable with it. In terms of putting together a character that was a little different and resonated with him as a person and a long time charicter, he was pretty well balanced and interesting.
Now, here are the two problems for me. First and foremost, those last two points didn't work well together. They could, but i do think there was some dissonance. Owens needs to be a heel that has a pretty prominent strand of ass kicker, a heel that wins clean and hurts people or at least hurts people and only cheats to get out at the absolute last minute in certain spots. The Jericho friendship, as fun as it has been, has overemphasized his need for help and under-emphasized Owens the ass kicker champion. The WWE wants the comedy from Owens (and they should) and they want the guy who makes himself stand out, the brutal, violent guy who is different (and they should), but I am not sure they are putting him in spots to do both very effectively at once.
The other problem is that he can - as discussed above - he can underperform in big matches and he does tend to throw everything into every match. I see flashes. The ass kicker is in there and Owens can bring it out at the right moment. For example, I though the HIAC match was really quite good and mostly because I thought he turned up the intensity and that match felt different to me. The Zayn match was fantastic, partially for the same reasons, but too often his Raw matches don't feel much different than his ppv matches. Personally, i would like it if he reigned in the in-ring trash talk and the offense for most matches. I would like it if he wasn't so cute about things all the time and if that was more for special occasions. I would like it if he focused more on ass kicker and sprinkled the goofy comedy in a little more strategically. All that would help differentiate matches and add layers. It all seems sort of jumbled to me right, but that stuff honestly is probably as much what the WWE is asking of him as anything.
Ultimately, hat is why i kind of think Owens has been pretty good, even when I am not crazy about what I am seeing. Maybe I am giving him the benefit of the doubt or even a pass because I have been a fan for a while (quite likely), but I see him overachieving given the context and what he is given. He is a guy who pays attention to details and I like that. I like the little things he does to try to be different, to try to push things forward. Moreover he is someone who thinks of wrestling as creating moments (heard him say this more than once on podcasts and what not) rather than creating great matches. You can see that when he is building and when he is in matches. He wants to create the moment when you invest or you say holy shit. Unfortunately, the WWE hasn't always been great at helping him do that with where they have put him and they have overexposed him with their model. It is hard to create moments when you are on TV as much as he is and that could explain his wrestling style and him going all in on RAW matches as much as PPV matches.
To me, many of my criticisms are more with the booking and I don't love they way he has adjusted to the WWE model, structurally, but I have generally enjoyed him on my TV and would rather see him evolve as champion a while longer than I would see them switch gears again.