Jimmy Jacobs recalls producing the Festival of Friendship.
Jimmy Jacobs was one of the top Ring of Honor superstars in the late-2000s. Eventually, he hung up his wrestling tights for a short length of time to become a part of the WWE creative team. During his time with WWE creative, Jimmy Jacobs has been credited with coming up with the list of Jericho which eventually led to the split of Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens in the segment known as the Festival of Friendship.
Now, Jimmy Jacobs is detailing some of the behind-the-scenes drama of that day as Vince McMahon was not in attendance and the person in charge that day, Triple H was not a fan of the creative direction for the segment.
Speaking on Jofo in the Ring, Jimmy Jacobs revealed his own original vision for that segment and how Vince McMahon’s blueprint of a vision ended up becoming the skeleton for the actual segment that played out on television in 2017.
“Yeah, I produced that. Some of that was Vince's vision. I saw a little bit more I wanted different people coming in. I wanted it to be a little bit more like The Rock/Mick Foley This is Your Life. Because you need some conflict, right? You need somebody for Jericho to shit on. I had an idea of like, you bring out like these two old friends ‘Herb and Marv,’ and Jericho is like, ‘See, these guys are amazing friends. They're 90 years old. They've had a friendship for 70 years. We can we could have a friendship like that have. That's like our friendship and Herb goes. ‘Oh, yes, me and Marv are the best of friends.’ Jericho takes offense to that and goes, ‘I'm sorry. But the best of friends. No, no, Kevin and Chris are the best friends. Jericho and Owens are the best of friends. You know what happens when you think you're better friends than Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens…’ Jericho puts like old people on the list. Like that was my vision for it, which I thought would have been a little better.”
“Vince's vision was, Chris gives Kevin presents. I thought that was a little like, ‘Huh, what are you gonna do with that?’ Then I go well, so basically, the presents have to not land. Kevin has to not like them because you need conflict in there somewhere. But yeah, so I ended up taking Vince's general vision. Then, you know, writing it and rewriting it.”
Carrying on, Jimmy Jacobs would say he doesn't remember who had the idea for Kevin to put Chris Jericho on his own list but he knew that that was the hook for the whole segment and that's the way it had to end.
“I don't remember whose idea that was. That, I think that might have been Kevin's idea. Actually, I think that was Kevin's idea. It's interesting because you say that's the iconic part. I agree. There's some fun stuff in it. But to me, the drama was always going to be when Chris gets excited because ‘Oh, a new list,’ and he looks at the list, and he goes, ‘Why is my name on here?’ Then he turns it around and that moment where he realizes his best friend stabbed him in the back. That's the Shakespeare, man. Like that's it. It's that moment, the moment he realizes he's about to be betrayed, that is the Shakespeare.”
Furthermore, Jimmy Jacobs recalls the day of the segment and Vince McMahon not being at the arena in Las Vegas that day. Triple H was the man in charge and Jimmy Jacob says end of the segment at all. According to Jimmy, Triple H felt that it was all too goofy for Kevin Owens as a character. Triple H, of course, is very close with Kevin Owens due to Kevin Owens’ time in NXT.
By the end of it, Jimmy believes that the second was so good that Triple H ended up liking what the end product became.
“We're in Vegas, the day of, Vince wasn't there that day. Triple H was in charge and Triple H did not like all the Chris Jericho/Kevin Owens stuff because Kevin Owens was a Triple H guy, and Jericho was a little goofy for Hunter. You have seen that in NXT when Hunter was in charge, and it was all serious stuff. I think Triple H saw Kevin being muddled in this goofiness as not good for Kevin. So Hunter wanted to just have like, in the middle of, you know, Kevin starts to cut a promo, ‘Hey, Chris, I realize you tried to do all this nice stuff, and I appreciate it,’ and then Kevin just jumps up attacks. Like Hunter hated the whole List of KO, he's like, ‘This is so goofy, wouldn't it be better if he just jumps in.’ I remember being in the production meeting like, wanting to lose it. I was like, I know like Jericho will take care of this. Jericho, he's not gonna stand for this. Even though Hunter’s the boss that day like Jericho will go to Vince. That's what happened.”
Jimmy continued, “So that was a weird day, there was a lot of tension there. Look, this happens. This isn't to point fingers at Triple H and say, ‘Oh, you're wrong,’ or you're bad or anything like that. It's just to say people have different views on things. It was scary for me creatively. To go, ‘Oh, no, we might lose the moment of the whole thing. Because someone else has a different creative vision.’ I'm glad that, you know, Vince came through and you know, eventually Hunter sort of said, ‘Alright, do what you guys were gonna do.’ It was a frickin' home run. I think Hunter really likes it at the end, I don't think he saw what it was going to be before that. But once he saw it, I mean, it was a frickin’ home run. That was for me — when that promo was over, that was the highlight of my WWE career for sure.”
In the years since then, Chris Jericho has openly spoken about needing to go to Vince to make sure that that segment went off as intended. Kevin Owens has always openly spoken about his love for Triple H and their close connection due to their time in NXT.
Today, NXT has become more assimilated into the traditional WWE creative and is reportedly less creatively autonomous and the present NXT 2.0 team will now report to Bruce Prichard as the rest of the WWE creative teams do as opposed to Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and others treating NXT as a separate entity. Learn more here.
Should you use any portion of the quotes above, transcription credit should go to Fightful with a H/T linking back to this article.