It’s day four of my Wrestlemania previews, which means we’re past the halfway stage! We’re just three days away from wrestling’s biggest annual event, so let’s get cracking!
It’s the match that has had the longest regular build, features one of the all-time greats, and has the potential to absolutely steal the show. It’s the United States Championship match between the reigning champion, the g.o.a.t, Chris Jericho, and the prizefighter himself, Kevin Owens.
This is a storyline that goes all the way back to the weeks before SummerSlam. Chris Jericho had been having his issues with Enzo Amore, and of course with Big Cass in his corner Big Chris was outnumbered. So, apparently quite randomly at the time, Kevin Owens – fresh off a rivalry with his former best friend Sami Zayn – told Jericho that he had his back.
This newfound alliance proved to be a fruitful one, as they would go on to defeat Enzo and Cass with a combined pop-up Codebreaker on Amore. Elsewhere on that show, Finn Balor would become your first ever WWE Universal Champion, but got injured in the process. His subsequent vacation of the title would open a door.
Kevin Owens would be handed the title by Triple H, but his “friendship” with Chris Jericho did not suffer. It proved to be the best solution for all parties: Jericho was in the midst of a career renaissance, and was closer to the top of the card than he had realistically been for years. Kevin Owens, in his first championship reign, was given instant credibility after the way he won the belt by having a legend like Jericho at his side, and used him to hold on to his prized possession.
And for viewers, we got a highly entertaining bromance. The two were consistently the highlights of Raw with their interviews and promos, as week after week they produced comedy gold. Every single stupid idiot in the back had to be weary of getting “it”, and ending up on The List of Jericho. That would always be a devastating KO blow to the psyche of their opponents.
But the crowd started lapping it up each and every single time. Jericho slowly but surely became one of the most popular guys on the show. As a heel.
Towards the end of last year, questions started turning to when the split would happen, to how it would happen. WWE started teasing it, but then extended their lifespan when Chris Jericho won the United States Championship in January. It was Jericho’s first championship in seven years, and completed his Grand Slam set. That’s just how good Jericho was last year, it was inevitable he would get another title run at some point, he’d been too good not to.
When Jericho accepted Goldberg’s challenge to KO’s Universal Championship on Owens’ behalf, things started becoming clearer. Then, the split finally happened at the Festival of Friendship. Owens gave Jericho a gift, a new list. The List of KO. And there was only one name on it. Chris Jericho.
Y2J responded by costing Owens his match against Goldberg at Fastlane, which saw the 50-year-old win the Universal Title. We also started seeing an alliance between Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe, under the broad tutelage of Triple H. And because of the way the rivalries have worked out, Sami Zayn has been interspersed in the last couple of weeks of this feud too, but the brawls have tended to boil down to Owens and Jericho.
I say this match could steal the show at Wrestlemania, because with all the other matches on the card, and so many featuring big names, I feel like this match has gone under the radar a little bit. And it features one of the greatest superstars WWE has ever seen in Chris Jericho, and one of the most consistent performers of the last couple of years in Kevin Owens. The match itself could be great on its own, but it has the long term story that fans are invested in to add to the tension and drama surrounding the match.
I have to fully expect Owens to walk out as champion. Jericho is taking some time off this summer to go touring with Fozzy, which means they may have time for the rematch and then Jericho goes. It may seem like a bit of a demotion for Owens to go from holding up Raw as the top champion for months, to then be the midcard champion as part of a stable. But this is a mid-card championship whose last two holders will have been Roman Reigns and Chris Jericho. This is a stable featuring guys of the pedigree of Triple H and Samoa Joe. Owens is going to be featured in likely the top storyline on Raw coming out of Wrestlemania (at least one of the top two or three), and unless something drastically changes will be the only singles champion on the show on a regular basis. He will be in exactly the same role as he has been over the last six months, only holding a different belt. That’s not a bad thing for Owens.
I’m really excited for everything around this match. The video package WWE can potentially put together to play right before the match should be fantastic, the match itself should be great, and the fallout can consume the main storylines on Raw for months to come. It’s all long term booking, it’s all going to effective, and it’s all going to be a lot of fun to watch. It’s a win-win-win.