wrestling / Columns

A Conspiracy Theory About Why the Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho Feud is So Lame

March 12, 2017 | Posted by Jake Chambers

Lost in my personal rage and confusion about how a Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg world title match is seemingly destined to headline a Wrestlemania in 2017 is a much larger and slower-burning problem on WWE RAW: the Kevin Owens/Chris Jericho feud. While re-booking a match that 13 years ago almost imploded the WWF for a version today that might have less combined in-ring experience than the Bam Bam/LT Wrestlemania XI main event, at least on a weekly basis the Brock/Goldberg feud is but a harmless itch on the festering body of disease that constitutes the WWE’s weekly Monday television programming. Owens and Jericho, however, take up SO much time and provides SO little pleasure. How has this happened?

Sometimes I want to applaud the WWE for taking these celebrated indy stars and serving them back to us without any tampering: Kevin Steen, Claudio Castignoli, Tyler Black, Jon Moxley, PAC, Prince Devitt, Uhaa Nation, Samuray Del Sol, even Roderick Strong, Samoa Joe and Austin Aries. They didn’t make any of these guys funky dancers or garbage men; no gimmicks just wrestlers. But sometimes I also think this has been a big mistake. Maybe, though, there’s a more sinister concept at play here from corporate WWE, and there is no better example than what they’ve done to Kevin “Owens”.

When the WWF took Cactus Jack, Dustin Rhodes, Johnny B Badd, Ron Simmons and Stunning Steve Austin, and turned them into Mankind, Goldust, Wildman Marc Mero, Farooq Asad and The Ringmaster, it was kind of brilliant actually. Sure, there were plenty of tweaks and changes over the years, but they put a unique WWF-spin on established mid-career performers, most of whom went on to become some of the most important wrestlers of all-time with their new gimmicks. Hell, WWF did this to Terry & Dory Funk, Harley Race and Dusty Rhodes, and the iconography they created for those legends still persists to this day over the larger more successful NWA careers they had in the first place. The Vince McMahon WWF was so incredible at packaging and presentation, it might almost be the equivalent of Shakespeare, Mozart or Jack Kirby – I just don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again.

Now the general online critical perception of what’s wrong with the creative side of WWE these days is because this “senile” old man is still in charge of all the decision making, but that’s bullshit. Does anything that we know about Vincent Kennedy McMahon suggest a safe, conservative, pandering personality? Nah – so I suggest that maybe he has started to soften on his choices because he’s buckling to the influence of others in his inner circle.

Kevin Steen… man, wouldn’t the old Vince McMahon love to get a hold of the raw materials that this guy had and just mold him into a new, stronger shape? That intense rage and sarcastic wit, the signature appearance and phenomenal athleticism; Kevin Steen was a Scott Hall or a Mean Mark just waiting to be turned into a Razor Ramon or an Undertaker. But instead we’ve got this homogenized version of the madman from the indys who now comes out with the same braggadocios material that every WWE wrestler has these days, throw in some cocky-one liners, a “mean streak” where he can snap at any moment, dress him up in a suit, and make him snarl all mean to the camera. To me that sounds like the career of a certain Ric Flair-loving son-in-law, not the unique genius-of-personality that is Vince McMahon.

So what’s the motive then? Why is something like the meandering and substantially un-cool feud between Owens and Jericho allowed to happen? Has Vince lost it? Or are there other forces behind the scenes that are conspiring to homogenize the WWE in general for economic purposes that oppose legitimate creativity?

First let me outline all the reasons why the Owens/Jericho feud has basically sucked:

1 – Fucking Predictable

This is a storyline that we’ve heard every fan proclaim that “this is going to be great when they finally break-up” from the moment Owens and Jericho first became friends. Everyone could see this coming… for eight months!

The dramatic concept of foreshadowing does not mean I’m going to hit you with a brick of obviousness right off the bat and then spend a painstakingly boring amount of time to just show you how that obvious thing obviously happens.

A surprise is allowed to be a surprise, and friends are allowed to be friends. The actual surprise in this feud would have been Owens never turning on Jericho, and an actual tag team break-up surprise right now might be American Alpha or Enzo and Cass. But there is almost no point to a tag team or a faction any more other than to hint towards that eventual, predictable break-up. Being tag team champions is an instant demotion that results in the single most predictable match lay-out strategy in all of pro-wrestling: the hot tag. We all knew that a team of Owens and Jericho wasn’t going to be lighting the tag “division” on fire, and therefore no matter how many times they tried to fake it we could all see the break-up coming from day one.

2 – The Emasculation of Chris Jericho

Jericho is definitely good at re-inventing himself, but the pathetic, clueless friend bit was way weak. Why would this legendary manipulator be so naively grifted by a pretty basic ploy? It’s not like Owens had this massively intricate plan to take advantage of Jericho, and so all we’re left with in the “betrayed babyface” spot is Jericho as this victim in a teenage love story.

Do I want to see this emasculated version of Jericho beating up Kevin Owens to get revenge for not wanting to be his friend anymore? Why is THAT cool?

All the spoon-fed exposition dialogue in the world can’t back peddle over months of doe-eyed Jericho acting like a vapid Real Housewives character who is obsessed with writing names down on a list. What exactly was he going to do with that list? Someone clue me in!

3 – Jericho Has Kind of Sucked For a While Now Anyways

The perception that Jericho is in this kind of late-career renaissance is way overblown. Actually, he already had that back in 2009-10. However, since then they’ve used Jericho as this high-level mechanic for newer stars to get some upper mid-card experience with a veteran who is still supposedly capable of interesting storylines and great matches.

Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case. His last best feud was against CM Punk, where there were some good matches but a dopey try-hard storyline where Jericho was going to expose Punk’s family as being legit damaged. From there his notable feuds against Fandango, Bray Wyatt, AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose have been average at best, but disappointments no doubt.

4 – This is NOT leading to any good matches

At FastLane, everyone on Earth knew that Jericho was going to interfere in that match, even Kevin Owens, and yet he was still “distracting” by the playing of Jericho’s music & Titantron video, leading to his quick defeat in a nothing match against Goldberg. The “cerebral” Kevin Owens fell for the single most predictable method of interference in the WWE, and did it in a match where he explicitly said that this wasn’t going to happen to him.

So now we have Jericho back comfortably in his Wrestlemania mid-card enhancement talent slot, for a match that’s going to feel 5 minutes too short, and they’ll just re-do at the next RAW-branded PPV with some kind of “hardcore” gimmick. Bo-ring.

5 – That Strange Universal Title

Universal Champion Kevin Owens was one Dolph Ziggler defense away from being about as place-holder as is possible in the WWE corporate writing structure. You could tell from the second week of his reign that the WWE was not thinking of this as his signature run with a marquee title. And then he gets the unceremonious CM Punk treatment of having to drop the title to a part-time star so they can main event Wrestlemania, but without getting the epic title reign Punk had first.

And in less than 24 hours he goes from being the champion of the entire brand to now challenging for an also-ran WWE title in a guaranteed mid-card spot against a veteran part-timer who can’t main event a Wrestlemania. Has there ever been a worse title reign for such a great wrestler, or such a quick fall down the card? But the fact that it’s all over this contrived “Universal Title” in the first place; this toe-in-the-water Plan B move after the man they’d picked to obviously solidify that title as being important went down with an injury the day he won it.

So why?
Why make such a long and boring set-up for this feud? (And by boring, I’m just gonna skip over all this supposedly “hilarious” backstage skits and in-ring promos the two did together throughout this time. If you think The New Day and Enzo and Cass are funny, then you probably belly laughed to this “comedy” too, but it wasn’t my thing and I’m not sure what purpose any of these acts serve, honestly… so if you liked that stuff then you probably have a terrible sense of humor, just saying)

I believe this has been a predictable, time-killing, shit-dumb feud because the WWE intentionally wants to keep the Kevin Owens character as generic as possible. This is why they brought him in basically as Kevin Steen, this is why they kept his back-stabbing friendship storyline with El Generico, and this is why he will maintain his position on the card for the foreseeable future. The WWE will no longer take creative risks, and by neutering Kevin Owens they set a precedent to all the other “indy” wrestlers in his position that this is the model you need to follow.

If the WWE can successfully contain Kevin Owens in a way they were not able to with the more head-strong CM Punk and Daniel Bryan then the WWE can tighten the web of control they have over the entire industry. Wrestlers just have to go out there and maintain their generic look, read the lines to pre-packaged storylines, and have inoffensive matches. This division of labor carries an inherent security for the performers willing to sign with the WWE as long as they consent to the status quo. And the audience buys into it because the WWE’s covert hype machine has spun the commercialized mass media into co-conspirator shills. Even fans, like geek superstar Max Landis, are then forced to construct imaginary nuances from the generic garbage the WWE presents.

And I refuse to believe Vince McMahon is responsible. There is an alternate universe where Vince is getting ready to promote a Kevin Steen vs. El Generico Wrestlemania main event, while Brock and Goldberg are over in TNA or something. Instead, he’s conceding to the business people around him into making the easiest and safest product by taking the least risk. The Brock/Goldberg is the ultimate extension of this strategy, a wrestling feud with no actual wrestling, but the Owens/Jericho feud is almost more offensive because it forces two formerly unique and creative pro-wrestlers into months of lame, wheel-spinning crap. Is this art, Vince?

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