It was the celebration to end all celebrations. Quite literally.
The Festival of Friendship was everything that we as wrestling fans could ask for and more. It was filled with pyro, cabaret dancers, a mediocre magician giving a disgruntled Owens a pink rose, an ‘interesting’ sculpture and even a questionably erotic painting of the two ‘best friends’.
The festival had been the culmination of an unlikely friendship between both Jericho and Owens. They had teamed up after a backstage segment where Owens backed Jericho as he feuded with Enzo and Big Cass. This led to a tag team match at SummerSlam but the tag team developed their relationship further than just a one-off match.
Even after Owens captured the Universal Title after Triple H’s involvement in the match costing Rollins the title; Jericho remained loyal to his new ‘best friend’. Here and there though, small cracks started to appear in Jeri-KO. The seeds were sown a few weeks previous to the Festival of Friendship when Triple H pulled Owens aside in a backstage segment and asked for him to ditch his ‘best friend’. Owens seemed miserable whilst being lectured and came out to the ring looking aggravated later on.
The catalyst came in the form of Owens being unhappy after Jericho agreed to Goldberg’s challenge for a match at Fastlane and not Owens giving his permission. KO seemingly appeared to forgive Jericho afterwards knowing that Jericho would have Owens’ back in his match with Goldberg.
Meanwhile, Jericho was arguably in the best run of his WWE career. Although wrestling with a heel persona, the crowd and everyone at home was so emotionally invested in Jericho. ‘The list of Jericho’ had connected with the fans on such a level that signs were appearing in the crowd, the gifs were everywhere on twitter and wrestling fans around the world were all talking about Jericho.
The scene was set for Owens to turn on his ‘best friend’. It would be Jericho’s naivety and ignorance that cost him during the Festival of Friendship after divulging his deepest feelings about Owens and how much their friendship meant to him. It was an emotionally charged shoot that had Jericho confessing that his partnership with Owens was the most fun that he had had in his entire WWE career.
Owens, having bided his time for months now, returned the favour giving Jericho a gift of his own, a new list. This was no ordinary list though, this was ‘The list of KO’ and next came to the most heart-breaking words that Jericho has ever uttered… ‘Why is my name on this list?’ The brutalisation from Owens that followed turned Jericho into the most sympathetic babyface in the company and Owens returned to the heel that every fan hated with a passion.
For me as a wrestling fan, I thought that that the Festival of Friendship was the culmination of months of excellent storytelling from both Jericho and Owens. Furthermore, having the stamp of approval from Jericho with the status that he holds in the wrestling world meant that Owens was pushed further as one of the greatest heel characters that WWE had seen in recent years.
The top of this friendship mountain was a Wrestlemania match where the storytelling from both sides was phenomenal. My personal favourite is the one-finger rope break from Owens, a similar position to how he was in that portrait that Jericho had painted for him. Jericho, even though in the twilight of his career, managed another great performance that not many athletes at his age would be able to do.
Jericho continues to thrive both inside and outside of the ring and even though that friendship ended in tears… it gave us as wrestling fans a storyline that we were emotionally invested in and will look back on for years to come.