It’s been almost two years since I penned an ode to the incredible Chris Jericho. The man himself was kind enough to read it and retweet (thanks, Chris) and I was very pleased with how it turned out. The article was a justification that Jericho could and should be classed among the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. I listed championships won, longevity and work outside the squared circle – all areas in which he excels. After writing it, I fully expected him to begin winding down his career – especially the wrestling side of things, and focus on his music and podcasting. It’s safe to say that yet again Chris Jericho has surprised us all by not only refusing to wind down, but reach new and greater heights.
Since I last wrote about how great this man is, he’s been involved in one of the best recent story-lines in WWE; the Festival of Friendship. Not only was this whole storyline a great vehicle for Jericho to be creative, obnoxious and heelish, it also gave him the opportunity to be funny again. Though I think Jericho’s best work is as the serious, asshole heel, his comedy work is fantastic and with just the raise of his clenched fist with thumb hovering over a pen, clipboard held aloft in the other hand, the audience’s anticipation would grow. Jericho leaned into the microphone asking his opponent or person across the ring those wonderful words; ‘Do you know what happens, huh? Do you? Do you know what happens to people who piss me of?’ The audience takes a breath, holding the phrase in our chests, ready to shout it. ‘You just made the list!’ Cue a huge pop and smiles from all around as Jericho furiously scribbles down the name, glancing upwards to give a grimace as he scrawls on the paper.
After his feud that elevated his former friend, Kevin Owens and made ‘The List’ a collector’s item, Jericho faded away from the WWE scene for a while, picked up his microphone and boarded his tour bus to take Fozzy around the world once more. His band has gained a strong, steady following and tours sell out. A buddy of mine caught them at a Rock Festival in Wales and although he wasn’t a wrestling fan, he left loving the energy and effort both Jericho and the band put into their set. My buddy now owns a couple of Fozzy albums. The Fozzy tour took in many countries and gigs, but Chris Jericho had his eye on one country in particular, Japan.
Jericho’s appearance in NJPW, when he was broadcast on the big screen around the arena and the world, didn’t send ripples throughout the country and the wrestling world. It shook it. It registered on the Richter scale. See, this is where I’m coming from in saying that Chris Jericho is a true great of professional wrestling. Many former WWE talents have left the organisation and gone to different federations or territories. Many have blossomed, forged new careers and made themselves into stars. So what was different this time? Why was this considered so much more? Because this was Chris F**king Jericho, that’s why. That’s not to say those who have left WWE and gone to other promotions aren’t nobodies – far from it, this is more about the weight Jericho carries; his prestige, talent, history and charisma. This was a seriously big deal.
Jericho hasn’t just stayed relevant, he’s stayed popular and that’s the difference. Regardless of the role he played during his WWE years; heel, face, tag, singles star etc. it didn’t matter because his popularity remained, and that’s what makes him who he is. Jericho is no faded star with grey areas covering his wrestling past; he’s been consistently top of his game since he stepped inside the ring. Yes, his outside work of podcasting, singing and writing have kept him in the spotlight, but that just proves how talented the guy is and how highly he’s regarded. To be able to leave WWE, walk right into NJPW and into a major angle and match shows how much faith is shown in him by senior officials over there. He’s not a risk, but a major asset and draw. Also his match didn’t draw cries of derision and treachery from his WWE fans or management. No, in fact he was lauded for his choice and fans lapped up the proposed Alpha/Omega match and buy rates for the show went through the roof. NJPW isn’t a fledgling company that didn’t have fans before, but Jericho’s inclusion and involvement in building up the feud brought in more eyes, more fans and more money.
The match itself was incredible and we shouldn’t be surprised that once again, Chris Jericho reinvented himself for the fans. In fact, this is my favorite Jericho incarnation of all; angry, abusive, give no sh*ts Jericho. His mannerisms, swagger and demeanor were fantastic. His interactions with the fans and audiences; flipping tables and middle fingers were fantastic. It elevated the match and show to another level. The fact that Kenny Omega came out on top didn’t matter overall – although made perfect sense – but Jericho’s job was done in coming into another federation, kicking down the door and putting on a hell of a show.
As quickly as he’d arrived, and Jericho was gone from Japan to touring once more. His brief appearance done and possibly a check mark next to an item on his bucket list. Perhaps now was the time when he would begin to slow down? WWE weren’t bringing him back for a program anytime soon, and life seemed good on the road. Nope. Not by a long shot. Here he is, back again in NJPW, sporting a new look, a new swagger a new opponent and walking away with an IWGP Intercontinental Title around his waist. I’m scared to predict what will happen next as the legendary Chris Jericho ponders his next move. One thing is for certain though, whatever he does, it will make us all stand up and take notice. There’s even talk within WWE of potential crossovers with other federations. Could you have ever seen this happening without the impact Jericho has had in the last twelve months?
There’s a question asked of many wrestling stars and fans alike; ‘who would be on your Mount Rushmore of professional wrestlers?’ For me, I struggle with this as your opinions of stars when you’re both a child and adult vary greatly, but I fully believe that one of the four will be, no has to be Chris Jericho. There’s simply no reason to not have him there. I could list his achievements all day, and they’d likely be longer than his own list of moves, so I’ll leave you with one thought; if you had to pick your Mount Rushmore of wrestlers and you didn’t have Chris Jericho on there, do you know what happens, huh? Do you know what happens to people who don’t pick Chris Jericho?