ORLANDO, Fla. — Chris Jericho entered the sold-out Orlando Citrus Bowl, the site of WrestleMania 33, with the United States Title around his waist and a gigantic List of Jericho onstage, the latter a very public reminder of the registry on which his challenger and betrayer Kevin Owens was recently placed.
At the event Owens coined “KO-Mania,” however, it was The Prizefighter who added to a list of his own — his list of accolades. Making good on his vow to repay Jericho for costing him the Universal Championship a month earlier at WWE Fastlane, Owens captured the prestigious stars-and-stripes title from his onetime partner-in-crime.
The Ultimate Thrill Ride’s ultimate grudge match started as any long-brewing brawl should: With fists flying. Jericho scored an early advantage, threatening the Walls of Jericho before soaring off the top turnbuckle with a cross body block to the floor. Jericho’s momentum was stopped, however, by an Owens superkick. The trash-talking brawler followed with a pair of cannonballs, the second of which was executed on the ring apron and caused the back of Jericho’s skull to crash into the ring post.
Familiarity may breed contempt, but in the case of the duo formerly known as Jeri-KO, it also bred an intimate knowledge of each other’s arsenals. Jericho and Owens traded counter after counter: The Prizefighter’s frog splash was met by knees to the midsection, as was Jericho’s first Lionsault attempt moments later. Owens tried to humiliate Jericho by locking in his own version of the Walls of Jericho, which Jericho endured. The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla then returned fire, countering another cannonball by Owens into the genuine article.
KO regained the offense and berated Jericho, repeatedly slapping him in the face and telling him he was never Owens’ best friend. The hubris caught up to him, though, when Jericho turned another Pop-Up Powerbomb attempt into the Codebreaker, a devastating impact that would have likely won the match for Jericho had Owens not been able to break the pin, in a last-ditch effort, by laying a single knuckle on the bottom rope.
Owens slipped to the floor, then managed to catch Jericho’s leg in the rope and snap it with a well-placed superkick. The former Universal Champion next dumped his fellow Canadian with a vertebrae-crushing powerbomb on the ring apron. Battered, exhausted and sporting an abrasion over his left eye, Owens rolled Jericho into the ring and pinned him, not only putting a final nail in the coffin in their rivalry, but starting a new journey as a first-time United States Champion.