JC’s Top Rope Report: The Legacy of Chris Jericho

If you read any of my articles or listened to me on the HTCWrestling Podcast, you know my thoughts on wrestlers sticking around past their prime. The same can be said about part time wrestlers. Trotting out Brock Lesnar does nothing for me. The same thing when The Undertaker comes out to the ring and does the same crap he’s been doing for the last ten years. They don’t add anything to the product because they refuse to change to make themselves interesting again. Just look at the D-X vs Brothers of Destruction match from Crown Jewel. It was four guys doing the same act from 20 years ago. These guys come back for money and nothing else. But there is one exception to the rule. And since I’m sure you’ve already read the title of this article, you know who that man is.

Chris Jericho.

Chris Jericho is a man that has been around the wrestling business for 30 years. And somehow, some way, he continues to reinvent himself every time he reappears. Think about that. Imagine having to change how you present yourself to an audience every 30 years. And yet you somehow always find a way to do it and do it well.

It started all the way back in WCW. When Chris Jericho debuted he was your classic long haired, white meat babyface. He pandered to the fans like every other face did. Then he turned heel. It was a big move in Jericho’s career. Everyone knew that Jericho was a good wrestler, but his heel turn solidified that he can be a great character and overall performer as well. His stuff with Dean Malenko was great. He was great in his constant call outs of Goldberg. Jericho put himself on the map with that heel turn. And the WWE saw that.

Of course everyone remembers Jericho’ debut in the WWE. It is one of the greatest moments in the history of RAW. As a kid at this time I never read the dirtsheets. So I had no idea who was coming out at the time. I knew who Chris Jericho was and the fact that he interacted with The Rock for his debut made him a big deal. And Jericho became one of my favorite wrestlers from there on out. What was on of the first wrestling shirts I bought with my own money?

That’s the best picture I could find of it. The only other shirt I bought before it was an Austin 3:16 one.

Jericho of course became a household name in the WWE. It is where he became the first Undisputed Champion. He main evented Wrestlemania 18. He had a great feud with Shawn Michaels. He actually had multiple feuds with Michaels that were great. People will point to their program leading into Wrestlemania 19 but I actually loved their program in 2008 with Jericho sending Michaels into the Jeritron 6000. And why is that you might ask? Well it is because it lead to the one of many Chris Jericho character changes that would begin over the years. Jericho was getting booed by the fans shortly after his return, so he got rid of his Y2J persona and became a straight laced, serious talking, no B.S. character. Many people compared it to Nick Bockwinkel’s character from the AWA. It gained praise from everyone in the wrestling business and was one of the first signs that Jericho knew this business better than anyone.

Jericho kept this character until he left again in 2011. When he returned in 2012 he once again changed himself. Jericho came out to weeks of silence leading up to the Royal Rumble. Jericho returned on and off to the company in the coming years. He had programs with the likes of CM Punk, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles.

But his best work was his last run with Kevin Owens in 2016. He went back to being goofy Jericho. And it was great. This of course was the debut of “The List.” I’m sure I don’t need to explain that to anyone reading this. But it became one of the best things on RAW. And his partnership with Owens was great. Now of course any wrestling fan knows that all great partnerships like this must come to an end. But during this time Jericho once again became the talk of the wrestling world with another reinvention of himself. The partnership ended when Jericho accepted Goldberg’s challenge to Kevin Owens for the Universal Title. This lead to the Festival of Friendship segment on RAW, which was once again one of the best segments in recent years to happen to RAW. The heartbreak on Jericho’s face when he saw that Kevin Owens gave him the “List of KO” was so sad and real. You could tell Jericho really liked working with Owens. And of course, the fact that they got screwed out of the Universal Title match at Wrestlemania that year was crap. This was a program and feud that deserved it. It was one that you could tell these two put a lot of work into. Jericho made a couple of sporatic appearances after that. But this pretty much ended the run of Jericho in the WWE for now. You have to think that the way this program ended left a sour taste in Jericho’s mouth. And it lead to his next run in the wrestling business.

There were a good amount of people, myself included, surprised to see Chris Jericho show up in New Japan in November 2017 to challenge Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12. You have to credit Jericho for going over to New Japan while they were the talk of the wrestling industry. And he fit right into the promotion. Jericho again changed his character around, calling himself the “Alpha” to Kenny Omega. Jericho became a vicious heel, attacking Omega and laying him out. They had a very good No DQ match at Wrestle Kingdom. Jericho then attacked Tetsuya Naito the next night at New Year’s Dash and beat him for the IWGP Intercontinental at Dominion in June. He held it until this past Wrestle Kingdom, losing it back to Naito. I like to call this version of Jericho “Second Mid Life Crisis” Jericho. I don’t mean it as an insult, because this may be the best version of Jericho since his change to the serious character in the WWE. We’ve never really seen this type of vicious character from Jericho before. It’s different. It’s unique. And it is what makes him such a great performer. He knew he needed to change when he went over to New Japan and that is what he did. Also, “Judas” by his band Fozzy is a really good song and I like that he is using it as his entrance song.

And now Chris Jericho is on to his next adventure in All Elite Wrestling. And guess what? I’m sure that he will once again change his character around to fit in with his new promotion. This one actually surprised me more than Jericho going to New Japan. Jericho had constantly said he would not work for another promoter in North America besides Vince McMahon. That obviously changed. But Jericho always enjoys a challenge, and I’m sure the idea of starting up a new wrestling promotion is something he would love the opportunity to do.

The longevity Chris Jericho has been able to have in the wrestling business is something every other young wrestler should study. As I said earlier, this isn’t The Undertaker coming out for one match every year. This is a wrestler, 48 years old, constantly changing with the times in order to keep himself fresh. The only time Jericho ever got stale was when his character stayed the same for too long. And what would happen when it did? He would change it and become almost a brand new wrestler.

Chris Jericho knows his place in the wrestling business. He knows he can’t keep up with a full time schedule that most companies have nowadays. Instead, he comes back for the big shows and matches. But he actually builds a storyline that gets fans intrigued and interested in his match. I think if you were to ask foreigners who watch New Japan, they would tell you that they had more interest in the Jericho/Naito match than they did the Omega/Tanahashi match.

Jericho has always been one of my favorite wrestlers. He’s great both inside and outside the ring. There are very few times I could say that I’ve ever been disappointed in a Chris Jericho match. Where does he rank on my list? At this point he would rank #3, just behind Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin. Jericho constantly delivers on the big stage. You could make an argument that his last two Tokyo Dome matches at Wrestle Kingdom were his two best matches of his career. I know the majority preferred the Omega/Jericho match, but I was more of a fan of his match with Naito.

The Legacy of Chris Jericho in the world of pro wrestling is something to behold. When people list the all time greats when it comes to pro wrestling, Chris Jericho’s name often gets omitted. Will he ever has much name recognition as The Rock, Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan? No. But did he have better overall careers compared to those men? I’d say you could make the argument that he has. He may never draw the money those three made, but his overall body of work is better than them. Chris Jericho knows how to market himself. He knows how to keep himself fresh in the world of pro wrestling. And if he keeps it up, he will have to be considered one of the best overall performers in the history of pro wrestling.

Chris Jericho used to say “I am the best in the world at what I do.” And at this point in his career, it is hard to argue against that.

Until Next Time,

Justin C

Follow Me On Twitter @JCWonka