While we’re all focused on work/shoot and other debates surrounding Monday, Aug. 28’s John Cena and Roman Reigns’ promos, let’s turn the calendar all the way back to July 23 and SmackDown’s Battleground pay-per-view (PPV).
To refresh your memory, Kevin Owens won the United States title from AJ Styles in a weird finish which saw referee Brian Nguyen count three on The Phenomenal One while he was applying a submission to KO. There was immediate confusion in the ring and online. The outcome was a rare miss for bookies, who to that point had been reliable due to late insider money, and divided online sources about whether Owens was scripted to win or if this was a botch.
Either way, Chris Jericho returned for a one-off appearance the following Tuesday, took the pin in a Triple Threat to put the belt back on Styles, and the story continued.
WWE’s course correction, and their promotion of that week’s SmackDown, always supported the “botched finish” theory, and Jericho himself confirmed it in a recent visit to Busted Open Radio:
“The idea was for me to work with AJ on Tuesday, and do nothing with Kevin. And then the match happened on the Sunday and they legitimately screwed it up, it happens sometimes - the finish didn’t work... whatever happened.
And then there’s all these stories... no, there was never [an emergency phone call from WWE] - I was just gonna be there to play Clint Bobski [during filming of the ‘second tape’ of Southpaw Regional Wrestling] and they’re like, well, put me on the show. That’s why they did the Triple Threat, because they had to get the belt back on AJ because of the screw-up on the weekend.”
Personally, it strikes me as a little weird he wouldn’t have been scheduled to do anything with Owens, given their recent history, but what do I know? Jericho says his presence was just a coincidence because he didn’t want to miss out on doing more Southpaw, and the quickly booked fix was just another example of Vince McMahon’s genius:
It ended up working out great. It was the classic Vince line of taking a negative and turn it into a positive. And it was a great appearance, the match was great, the promo was great. It was a lot of fun.
So that’s settled.
Now about this Cena promo...