The warning signs were all there.
We should've known something was up when Kevin Owens half-heartedly walked down the ramp and refused to join in any of the pomp and circumstance that Chris Jericho had set up at the start of the "Festival of Friendship" on Monday Night Raw.
With Owens' increasing frustration at each additional gift that Jericho offered, from the "Ralph Guggenheim" intertwining sculpture, to the uncomfortably accurate rendition of "The Creation of Kevin" in the style of Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" that Jericho revealed to an incredible reaction from the Las Vegas crowd, Owens let it all go a bit too easily.
But after the "Craigslist magician," conveniently named "Friendship," the pair seemingly got on the same page as Jericho put the magician on "The List."
When Jericho called out Goldberg just before a commercial break (and somehow held his pose throughout the two-plus minutes away to complete his "get ... it" gimmick) and we instead got the first on-screen Raw appearance of Gillberg since 2007, the "Festival" had already began to approach Mick Foley and The Rock's infamous "This is Your Life" segment in terms of sheer ridiculousness and crowd enjoyment. But even after ramping himself up to get a few licks in on Goldberg before their Fastlane match for the Universal championship ... and instead getting Duane Gill, Owens was oddly composed.
Instead, it was an interaction earlier in the night with Triple H -- Owens' first on-screen moment with the man who essentially handed him the Universal title since it happened all the way back on August 29 -- that should have been the biggest sign that something was amiss. As Owens and Jericho shared well-meaning pleasantries and "I love yous," it seemed as though the fun, goofy friendship that has, for better or worse, been the main attraction on Raw for much of the last six months, would count the "Festival of Friendship" as the shining moment that would ultimately lead to the slow spiral and disintegration of their partnership down the line.
Then, as Owens presented what he prefaced as a meager counter to all the gifts Jericho had showered upon him, fans were treated to one of the most devastatingly beautiful betrayals in the long, storied history of the WWE. Owens had gotten Jericho a new list -- "just what he needed", in fact -- and Jericho admired it for a moment as he let the box it came in drop to the ground. A puzzled look then fell across his face.
"Why is my name on it?" Jericho asked no one in particular, but as he slowly lifted the list up to give it a closer look, fans got a chance to see what Jericho would soon learn the hard way: this wasn't the List of Jericho. It was the list of "KO."
After months of teasing a potential breakup, Owens dropped it upon Jericho's head, unleashing a destructive whirlwind that saw his now former best friend tossed all over the ring and outside of it. All of the well-meaning gifts Jericho had given Owens were also destroyed.
There was an apron powerbomb and all kinds of other attacks, but the ultimate betrayal came in the form of a moment reminiscent of Marty Jannetty flying through the barbershop window more than 25 years ago. Owens smashed Jericho's face through the Jeri-tron 6000 in the middle of the ring, striking the last embarrassing blow before leaving his best friend defeated in a heap.
While we didn't get an immediate sound bite from Owens in the aftermath, his motives seem clear. After Triple H gave him a pep talk, it was time to finally get serious as the Universal champion. That level of aggression has been sorely lacking during Owens' first major WWE title reign, and while that frustration and ultimate disappointment that seems to lie ahead in a few weeks' time at the hands of Goldberg seems as though it'll play well into a future anti-authority story, it also goes to show just how much Owens, like Seth Rollins, was hurt by Triple H's lengthy on-screen absence.
For now, though, let's just appreciate the happier times, the silver-sequined jacket and fedora, the showgirls, the stunningly accurate painting and everything that led up to the moment of ultimate betrayal that was the "Festival of Friendship." Jeri-KO wasn't always perfect, and was occasionally far from it, but on the whole it helped produce future first-ballot Hall of Famer Chris Jericho's strongest run in ages, possibly in his whole career.
The third act of this story, which looks all but guaranteed to end with a WrestleMania showdown, should also go a long way in proving just how big a star Owens has become in his own right.
Bayley wins the Raw women's championship in controversial fashion
You'd think such a tremendously devastating moment in the middle of the show would have cast too dark a cloud over a main event match for the Raw women's title, but you'd be wrong. It's a testament to the work of Charlotte Flair and Bayley, who laid it all on the line during a tremendous match to close out Raw. We got our second women's championship title change in 24 hours, following Naomi's SmackDown women's championship win at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view on Sunday, as Bayley won her first Raw women's title in highly controversial fashion.
You can read our detailed recap of that moment and its historical significance, and know that this is only the beginning in a what seems like it'll be a multi-way conflict heading into WrestleMania.
Hits and misses
• We certainly couldn't have imagined such an eventful Raw at its start. Stephanie McMahon opened the festivities in typically polarizing fashion, trying to get the crowd behind her only to disappoint them soon thereafter. A Roman Reigns interruption led to a 2-on-1 handicap match against Raw tag team champions Gallows & Anderson, and that match did little to help their ongoing credibility issues. Instead of having them get out of hand after a 2-on-1 beatdown led to their disqualification, leading Reigns to stumble away and escape, the tag team champions were instead neutralized by one man and sent scrambling themselves.
Sure, Braun Strowman gave Reigns some comeuppance later in the night, countering a pair of Superman punches and a spear attempt with a running powerslam following a shockingly competitive match against Mark Henry, but it was simply another case of Reigns being made to avoid looking weak at every moment possible. It's been detrimental to superstar after superstar who has crossed his path, and it's unlikely to be the last instance of such an action, by any stretch.
• If it wasn't for the antics that followed, the kickoff to a Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn would have been one of the clear highlights of the night. After a soft-spoken, yet aggressive, interview with Michael Cole, Joe came off looking like a million bucks. He called out Zayn as a guy who was just "happy to be there" only for Zayn to walk out to the ring right after the break. After falling victim to Rusev for much of the match, Zayn hit a Helluva Kick out of nowhere to secure a big victory, and he wasn't done. He called out Joe as a sellout who cleans up other people's messes, and got blindsided for his efforts. If their history in NXT is any indication, anything these two do together should be solid gold.
• After 17 weeks of promos, we finally got the reveal surrounding the makeover of Emma into Emmalina. With a few brief words, we got shocking news; after waiting that long, it was now time for the makeover of Emmalina back into Emma. As much as Emma's work pre-injury earned her a shot to be as serious as anyone else in the Raw women's division, it's unclear exactly what her future holds after this confusing moment.
Move of the night
Akira Tozawa's snap bridging German suplex. In a world where American Alpha and countless others have made suplexes simply another part of their repertoire, Tozawa showed just how devastating the move can be in his victory over Ariya Daivari Monday night.
Quote of the night
"Chris, I have two kids. I can't be having them see this -- you don't even have any pants on."
"It's art -- you don't need pants!"
-- Owens and Jericho's exchange after the reveal of "The Creation of Kevin."