One of the last times I went trick or treating on Halloween as a young man, I dressed up as Chris Jericho. I believe it was right after his WWE debut, which is still one of the most well designed debuts in history. So, out I went, with a blonde wig done up with the ponytail at the very top of my head and a sparkly shirt that my mother had owned in the 1970s. I had been a fan of what he had done in WCW’s Cruiserweight division, backing up his in-ring ability with unparalleled charisma and comedy hijinks. From hiring the less-than-physically-impressive, Ralphus, as his bodyguard; and writing his list of 1,004 holds to counter Dean Malenko’s meek 1,000 - Jericho brought the comedy to wrestling.
But it wouldn’t be Jericho’s patented three handled family grudunzle that would get him over in 2016. Over the years, Jericho has evolved. And as anyone who knows anything about evolution knows, these mutations aren’t always for the better. Sometimes they’re happy accidents, and other times they’re failed experiments. But the Ayatolla of Rock and Roll-a has always taken risks with his character development. And when he returns from a tour with his band, Fozzy, we’re never quite sure whether or not he’ll be riding into town with a white or black hat.
Chris Jericho is a natural heel, and while he’s tried to get over as a face time and time again, it’s never exactly worked out for him. As a babyface, he’s always been put on the back burner, and was generally used to be some light comic relief. But as a face, he’s not as funny. Jericho’s bread and butter lies in his ability to get under the audience’s skin, and though he’s infinitely creative, he stands by traditional heel tactics to this day.
Early in his career, Jericho had a gun pulled on him by a fan in Mexico because he was being such a relentless instigator in the ring. Simply by telling the audience to shut up and creating fun catch phrases, he makes it easy for the crowd to interact with the show. While it’s not rocket science, it does take the finesse of a seasoned ring veteran, as well as some natural talent. This time around, Chris Jericho would shift into a smug, pretentious, egomaniac. With a wispy mustache and beard combo, a high fashion scarf, and a limp wristed strut, Chris Jericho is currently the most over heel in the company. Once again, he is the best in the world at what he does.
For the most part, Jericho returns to put over some young guys and to maybe help out a guy like Fandango with their new found momentum, by giving him a win at WrestleMania. If it didn’t work out, Chris’ heart was at least in the right place. He was also entertaining enough to get by on the mic, and was smart enough to know that a heavy loss record didn’t really matter as long as you can sell a fight. Jericho found some success in the late-2000s as his soft-spoken, suit wearing, serial killer heel character, having a classic feud with Shawn Michaels, but Jericho hasn’t been as popular as he is right now since...maybe ever.
Even in 1999, he struggled to be a top guy, and when he became the Undisputed Champion, he was still competing with the likes of The Rock and Steve Austin. But now that we have the gift of Jericho on Monday Night Raw with a lot of younger wrestlers who are relative unknowns to the world outside of wrestling, he might be the WWE’s most popular superstar for the first time in his career. While John Cena comes and goes, and takes his international fame with him, Jericho has stayed for his longest run in the past decade, and has become the best part of the flagship show. His best friend, Kevin Owens, may have the strap; and tag teams like The New Day and Enzo/Cass have been hugely successful in using comedy to capture their audience; but no one does it better than Jericho.
Whether it was an accidental natural evolution or not, Y2J has become a fan favorite through being a cocky, silly heel. Of course, the WWE spent the last week or so in Canada, where Jericho is guaranteed to get over. But the fact that Jericho can get a gimmick like a clipboard over with the audience, and spend a show searching for it, is a testament to his charisma. What can I say? The man knows how to sell a list! Between his list of 1,004 holds and his list of people who are just mildly cross with him, Jericho can bring a piece of paper out to the ring and get a reaction enviable by any top star.
So, the question is, will we see one more Jericho title run this late in his career? While he may not be retiring any time soon, it’s fairly unprecedented for a guy who is focused more on putting over new talent to jump back into the limelight and become the face of the company. While they’ve teased a breakup, a feud between Owens and Jericho is inevitable. These past few months have already shown a huge resurgence in Jericho’s career and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The “G.O.A.T.” he started wearing on his trunks may have been an incidental premonition. While he has always been one of my favorite wrestlers, he snuck into my top personal 3 this year.
So, as far as the Greatest of All Time are concerned? You know what? Huh? You know what’s gonna happen? Hmm? Chris Jericho… YOU JUST MADE THE LIST!