Two Canadian Superstars, once the closest of friends, will bring their differences to a conclusion Sunday night at WWE Payback as United States champion Kevin Owens defends his title against Chris Jericho in one of the event's marquee bouts.
The feud, once one of the hottest in the company, has seen its heat diminish as the rivals found themselves on separate brands.
Red-hot or ice-cold, Sunday's match will represent the conclusion of a rivalry that began last fall.
Good Friends, Better Enemies
For months, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens were the best of friends on WWE Raw. The grizzled veteran Jericho repeatedly interfered on behalf of his amigo, ensuring Owens retained the Universal Championship. Then he got overzealous and stuck Owens in a title defense against Goldberg, which resulted in The Prizefighter losing his coveted prize.
An incensed Owens, having used Jericho to his benefit long enough, divorced himself from Jericho by throwing him face-first through glass. At WrestleMania 33, he added insult to injury, relieving Y2J of the United States Championship.
Suddenly, the Superstar who had been responsible for Owens' unfortunate meeting with Goldberg and subsequent championship loss was, himself, on the wrong end of a title match defeat.
In the wake of The Showcase of the Immortals, Jericho issued a challenge for his contractually obligated rematch and a match was announced for Payback.
Unfortunately, a Superstar Shake-up brought an abrupt end to the hype for the match as Owens was sent packing to SmackDown and Jericho was left to sell the match in a few backstage promos.
The biggest issue with Jericho and Owens' WrestleMania 33 showdown was the slow start to the match. By the time it hit its crescendo, the damage had been done. What should have been a legitimate show-stealing contest given the quality of the story was merely very good.
That is an issue that plagues Jericho's work later in his career. Too often, it feels as though he is attempting to build some sort of epic contest. As a result, the early portion of the match is slow and methodical. Rather than feeding off the crowd, the contest follows whatever master plan he has laid out in his head.
Look no further than the massively disappointing Ambrose Asylum match from 2016 that ranked as one of the worst pay-per-view matches of the year.
By adopting that style of match, the Superstars are forced to go all-out late, completely abandoning the pace of the match in an attempt to garner a reaction they could have had if they let the audience's reaction dictate the match.
When Jericho and his opponents are not obviously trying to create some epic encounter and instead go wit the proverbial flow, the result is a highly entertaining affair that reminds fans of how incredibly talented Y2J is even at this point in his career.
The Pick Is In
As one of the marquee stars acquired by SmackDown Live in the Superstar Shake-up, Owens needs to win this and turn his attention to AJ Styles.
Jericho is embarking on a tour with his band Fozzy, and while his star power would help a show like SmackDown, it is not feasible to swap him for Owens at this point when The Prizefighter is around every week and capable of contributing every Tuesday night.
Owens wins this one clean in the center of the ring following the Popup Powerbomb.