Chris Jericho is in that echelon of WWE superstars who are all but guaranteed to be in the Hall of Fame someday. However, when he enters the MetLife Arena for Wrestlemania 29; The music hits, the lights go off and his jacket twinkles in all its glory. Will it be in the dark of the New Jersey night, or merely fading into the twilight?
I find it sad that Jericho’s placing on the Wrestlemania 29 card will be affected more by his iconic entrances need for darkness than his stature in the company. He may only be a part timer who hasn’t been relevant since his return over a year ago, but Chris Jericho deserves more than the apparent feud with Fandango. As Jericho’s career heads toward it’s end, he has been more than willing to help the younger talent and put emerging stars over. This has generally been very good for the build of new stars, which the WWE is clearly lacking. Despite this, a well mooted point is that Jericho isn’t a main event player in the eyes of fans today, he’s certainly not a guy that’s going to have a title around his waist any time soon. That means being in the ring or even a feud with Jericho isn’t enough to get someone over on it’s own. Why is this? That’s because of the Fall of Y2J and that’s what I’d like to address.
Let’s go back to the Y2J Problem, the rise of Jericho
In my eyes, Jericho made the single greatest debut in the history of televised entertainment. The internet knew, the insiders knew however, the average wrestling fan had no idea. This was a time when everything on the show was important, the Mid-card wasn’t looked down upon and the Tag Team Division was at its peak. A match from any level of the roster was good enough to grace the main event, even a Diva’s match. No joke. So, after Jericho’s debut he slotted into the mid-card and quickly began to outshine everyone at that level and he became widely recognised as one of the best workers in the company. If anything, this hindered him at first. Ultimately being placed into a long feud with Chyna which did nothing but bewilder everyone as to why his talent was being wasted. Then after an outstanding match at Wrestlemania 2000 with 2 of the other top workers (It’s sad that a still very green Kurt Angle was a top worker) he engaged in a long-term rivalry with Chris Benoit, one of the best in ring feuds of all time. This along with 2 WWE Championship reigns, despite the stripping of one, he was firmly rising to the upper echelons of the roster.
Fast-forwarding past a legendary career, a departure and a brilliant, if not very obvious, return in 2007. We land in 2008, a period where I wasn’t as much an avid watcher of ‘the product’. During this time you could see that Jericho was on top form, he had one of the best gimmicks around and adjusted his move set to compensate for it. It’s not the Jericho that most people will remember, but over that years feud with HBK and World Heavyweight Title reign, it easily became his best year in the WWE and industry as a whole. This was partly because he was able to give the WWE 100%, and partly because he played his role perfectly but mostly because he became a ‘legitimate threat’.
Jericho’s legitimacy wasn’t brought on by his years of knowledge and experience in the ring, it wasn’t even brought on by the strength of his booking in his title reign. It was simply because he adapted to what people in 2008 needed in their Heel champion. A massive part of that was returning in 2007 and bringing the Codebreaker with him. An impact finisher rounded Jericho’s move-set out perfectly, and being honest, there’s not many finishing manouvers more ‘Heelish’ than smacking someone in the face with your knee. Just ask William Regal, he’d concur I’m sure. I felt that it was the final piece of the Jericho puzzle, the thing that would elevate him onto an almost equal footing with HBK as the greatest ‘undersized’ performer in WWE history. Then, for whatever reason, he was placed in that awful feud with Mickey Rourke and the Legends, continued that with Steamboat and then dropped back into the Intercontinental title picture all before a very decent Tag run with Big Show. As time wore on though, Jericho started to fall into his role of helping the younger talent before a punt to the head sent him on his way.
Now, you could take either of those Chris Jericho’s and place them into today’s roster and he wouldn’t be any better off than he is now. And that’s the problem. Jericho has always changed with the times, adapted his persona and in ring style to what was suitable for that period. He almost succeeded in that last year by ‘trolling’ everyone after a series of creepy ‘end of the world’ vignettes.
If he’d continued to troll instead of becoming the a-typical angry heel, it may have worked. His feud with Punk was less than stellar and the match at Wrestlemania 28 was a bit of a let down. Although, nothing comes close to the atrocity that was the Chicago Street Fight That Doesn’t Take Place In Chicago Or In A Street… Fight. Then a rushed programme with Ziggler did nothing more than tease us of what could have been.
Then, with the greatest of surprises, he returned at this years Royal Rumble and battled throughout with Ziggler, although there was to be no real continuation of that feud. As good as he is, Jericho has ‘phoned it in’ on too many occasions now and he just doesn’t have that ability to have a great match with anyone at anytime, anymore. That’s probably more down to a lack of effort or care than anything else. Granted, when I hear that he will be wrestling against any decent workers, I know it will be passable and put in with a Bryan or Punk, it has potential to be off the charts. The Chris Jericho of 2013 has too much on his plate, Being in a rock band, Being a tv and radio show host, to be the best wrestler he can be. To slightly contradict my assertion of the Fall of Y2J, Jericho 2013 is far superior to the 2012 version. That is very likely that he has realised that he’s not the Jericho of past and seems to be more realistic about his limitations and expectations. Despite this, the face-off between him and D-Bry at the start of the Elimination Chamber was just terrible to watch. Then, despite his best 20 seconds of promo time in 5 years, telling Wade Barrett about his legacy as an Intercontinental Champion, and one of the best triple threat matches in recent history, he seems destined to be stuck in no mans land come April 7th.
I’m not going to go on about how this could be actually turn out to be great or how good a worker that Fandango actually is. It’s just simply terrible that 2 weeks before Wrestlemania, Chris Jericho isn’t booked for a match and if he is, it will be against someone making their in-ring debut. Despite his legendary career, Jericho is a man most remembered for his debut, so perhaps it’s with a hint of irony that at Wrestlemania, it will be his opponent that’s debuting on the grandest stage of them all.
Chris Jericho is the ultimate midcard talent, the greatest Main Eventer that never truly was.