Going into Wrestlemania 33, it seemed obvious what the main event was going to be – Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens for the WWE Universal Championship. It was the best story the company had and their friendship and eventually rivalry had been building up for the past year.
Together the pair were extremely entertaining and were a bright spark in a particularly bad year of booking for WWE. While Smackdown was hitting it’s peak, Raw fell into a lull after the brand split, especially with Roman Reigns’ suspension before the Shield Triple Threat and the injury to Finn Balor on the day he became the first ever Universal Champion.
This led to Triple H helping Kevin Owens to win the title, in a turn which was never explained and never really referenced after. It was a very confusing time but gave us some iconic segments with world champion Owens and United States Champion Chris Jericho, as the pair dominated the title scene on RAW.
Owens eventually turned on Y2J in 2017, in the critically acclaimed festival of friendship. This lead tot he Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho match at Wrestlemania 33 in 2017, although it was not as you’d expect. While it was originally meant to main event and have the Universal Championship on the line, Vince McMahon had a change of heart prior to the show. He had Owens drop the title to Goldberg and moved the match to the second match on the card – a death slot for many wrestlers.
This irked Jericho to no end. This was his magnum opus, the greatest storyline he’d been a part of and some of his best work yet. As a character he had excelled and he’d made a lifelong friend in his fellow Canadian. But it had all been for nought, as they had been taken out of the last Wrestlemania main event Jericho would ever have, which prompted him to leave the WWE.
Not long after the match, Jericho would go on hiatus from the WWE. He would make a handful of appearances before signing with NJPW in 2018 and joining rival start-up AEW in the January of 2019. He cites the Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens match as the final straw that saw him make the call to leave WWE for pastures new.
Talking to Kurt Angle, the WWE Hall of Famer who hosts his own podcast “The Kurt Angle Show“, Chris Jericho revealed that because Vince McMahon only saw him as a “second match guy”, by not putting Owens vs Jericho in the main event of Wrestlemania, despite having the best story.
“I don’t see what else I could do, I felt the same when I left WCW. I had this great story with Goldberg, everybody was into it and Bischoff didn’t want to do it, Goldberg didn’t want to do it and if they’re not going to go with this, they’re probably not going to go with anything else I can think of.”
“I felt the same with the Kevin thing, I can’t go any higher than this and if Vince sees me as a second match guy, that’s where I’ll be my entire career so I need to split and that’s what I did. Not bitter, not angry, no problems but it was disappointing. But, as I’ve always done, if I don’t feel it’s the right place to be, I leave. That’s the way to do it and that’s what I did.”
He also spoke about the Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens match on an episode of Talk Is Jericho. He explained that you want to be first or last, but never second in the show. He also revealed how their time was cut from 29 minutes to 15, leaving a rushed match that could not reach the full potential of the feud.
“Now if you know anything about placement on a wrestling show, if you’re not last, you want to be first. If you’re not first or last, you want to be the semi-main event. Other than that, it’s pretty much a quagmire, unless you can get a good spot like Shawn and I did.
“But we had 29 minutes. This did not have that. It was scheduled for 15 minutes, and don’t forget, it takes a minute and a half to walk to the ring. It was just a match that was just there. And it really bothered me because that story was one of the best, if not the best story, of that whole WrestleMania season. I still think the Festival of Friendship was still one of the best segments in ‘Raw’ history.”
Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens was one of the best feuds of all time, but was ruined by last minute changes and it’s position on the card. Since leaving the WWE, Chris Jericho has become an AEW Champion and ROH Champion and has reinvented himself many times over in the twilight of his career.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.