FATP: Chris Jericho’s WWE Return
Phew. This is gonna be tough. I have something to admit to all of you about Chris Jericho’s WWE return.
My name’s George, I’m 31 years old and for most of the last 15 years, I’ve been…a Jerichoholic. It’s an addiction, and a serious one at that. I hope that you’ll all support me as I try to recover from my latest relapse.
All joking aside, I’m a self-confessed Jerichoholic. Have been since the moment he debuted on Raw in 1999, interrupted The Rock and turned Raw is War into Raw…is…Jericho!!!
I don’t know why, and I can’t explain it, but from the moment I saw Jericho on WWF/E TV, I was hooked. I was completely transfixed by the blond-haired Canadian, having had little to no knowledge of him before then.
Of course, since then, I’ve gone back and watched as much of his early work as I could and it’s fair to say that Jericho is one of the most entertaining, technically-sound, athletically gifted, exceptional professional wrestlers of his, or any, generation.
Jericho honed his craft in Mexico and Japan, as well as ECW and WCW before that infamous night on Raw when he interrupted no less than the Great One himself – arguably the biggest mainstream star that the wrestling business has ever created.
By the time he arrived in the WWF/E, Jericho had already been working for close to a decade, giving himself a solid foundation on which to build upon with WWF/E, the largest professional wrestling stage in the world.
In an era where wrestlers don’t just have to wrestle, they have to entertain, Jericho held his own amongst the Austins and Rocks of the world when they were at their peak. Very few men can claim to have done that, but Jericho’s definitely one of them.
Imagine my surprise when I heard what had happened on Raw this week.
Despite completely not expecting it, Jericho – once again – made his triumphant return to the WWE, fooling all of us YET AGAIN, and was heralded like a returning hero. It’s become Jericho’s trademark in recent years.
It got me to thinking – why does Chris Jericho seem to be exempt from the treatment that most other returning former stars get – derision and contempt?
It’s not an easy question to answer. Believe me, I’ve tried, and that’s what I’m going to try to do here.
In recent years, Jericho’s appearances might have been sporadic, but there’s always been a purpose behind it, and he’s made no secret of the fact that the only place we’ll see him wrestle is in the WWE.
He won’t go elsewhere to wrestle and make a quick buck living off his reputation, he’ll come back to the place where it feels like home and he’ll do what’s, pardon the pun, best for business.
You only have to look at Jericho’s recent past to see that he’s – more often than not – the man who WWE turn to in order to help to elevate up-and-coming talents. Jericho’s like the measuring stick. If he can’t bring the best out in someone, then there’s something far wrong.
Since 2012, he’s worked with CM Punk, Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler, Fandango, Ryback and seemingly now, he’s on a collision course with the WWE’s fastest-rising star, Bray Wyatt.
I won’t lie and say that every one of those feuds/interactions worked out in the long-term. They didn’t. But what Jericho did for the likes of Punk, Sheamus and Ziggler was legitimise them as main-event worthy talents. Their success or failure was then their responsibility.
Jericho’s at the stage of his career now where wins and losses don’t matter as much to him, if at all. He’s a sure-fire headline Hall of Fame act, a multi-time World Champion and his body of work stands up there with the best of them. He’s done all there is to do in wrestling.
So why does he come back, and why does it mean so much?
Part of it is undoubtedly down to Jericho’s supreme talent, both in terms of his promos and in-ring work, but WWE also have to take responsibility for the lack of established stars who are capable of helping – or willing – to get younger guys over.
I remember hearing Jim Ross, or someone of that stature, saying once that “you don’t have to go over to get over”, which is why I never understand fans bitching or moaning that when Jericho comes back, “he never wins”.
That’s utter nonsense. Of course he wins, but he wins when it’s RIGHT for him to win. Jericho coming back and steamrollering the next generation of stars doesn’t enhance Jericho’s legacy, and it doesn’t help the younger talent either.
It’s about getting the right mix and in the main, Jericho’s able to strike that balance. He’s able to make his opponents look credible and legitimate by having competitive, 50/50, BELIEVABLE feuds and matches.
The key word there is BELIEVABLE. Put it this way, it means something for a Dolph Ziggler or a Bray Wyatt to beat Chris Jericho. You can’t say the same the other way round.
Right now, WWE have a severe lack of established babyfaces who are able to put over their vast array of up-and-coming heels. Apart from John Cena, what established babyface is there to help to elevate the young guns? Nobody. And THAT’S why WWE probably sounded Jericho out about returning for a short-term run.
Jericho has an air about him. A gravitas. An unrelenting charisma that just draws people to him. He’s a true superstar in every sense of the word, and that’s why the fans go crazy when he returns, no matter how short the run may be.
Simply put, Chris Jericho FEELS like a big star and the WWE is a poorer place when he’s not around.
Because Jericho feels like a big star, and I mentioned his impressive resume briefly before, it means SO much more for a newer talent just to feud with him in the first place. Seeing Jericho return to wrestling feels completely different to when anyone else does. It’s the unknown.
First off, the surprise returns, which we all probably know are going to happen at some point, but we hardly ever know about them beforehand. Not 100% anyway. And secondly, there’s a wealth of potential matches Jericho can have. There are so many guys on the roster who Jericho could have OUTSTANDING feuds with.
It’s a shame that Daniel Bryan’s injured right now, because a potential Jericho/Bryan feud is simply mouthwatering. From a purely selfish point of view, I hope that’s something we get to see in the not-too-distant future. Just imagine the wrestling masterclass that would be!
The first order of business for Jericho this time around is Bray Wyatt. After an tremendous feud with Cena, which really showed how good Bray is, he needed another protagonist at the same level. That’s where Jericho comes in.
On paper, it looks like a match made in heaven. The promos, matches and interactions will all have a big-time feel. It ticks all the boxes. In reality, it’ll be just as good. Why? Because it’s exciting. It’s fresh. It’s new. And more importantly, we’ve never seen it before. It’s not often you can say that about WWE these days.
Jericho/Bryan and Jericho/Wyatt are just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine Jericho/Cesaro, Jericho/Rollins, Jericho/Ambrose, Jericho/Reigns. They’re just six potential feuds/matches off the top of my head. Every one of those matches have $$$ written all over them, and I’m sure I could come up with more if I went through the WWE roster.
People get excited about Jericho returning because it opens up a whole range of different possibilities. He’s not around on a regular basis, so he’s not interacting with the newer talent as much, which makes it mean more and we don’t take him for granted.
What I’m saying is that fans appreciate Jericho returning because they know he’s genuine and authentic, not just in it for the money.
In general, Jericho’s not interested in revisiting old stories. He’s there to break new ground and do things differently to 95% of the other guys on the roster. There’s a different psychology to what Jericho does, and how he goes about it. He’s able to evolve, yet retain the same characteristics that we’ve all come to know and love.
When he does come back, he’s balls to the wall and the same Jericho he was back in 1999. There’s no discernible change in his attitude, or the way he goes about his business. When he’s in the WWE, he’s 100% committed to doing it. You NEVER see Jericho phoning it in, or looking like he doesn’t wanna be there.
I really can’t talk highly enough about Jericho as a performer. He’s entertaining and funny, yet he can back it up in the ring. He’s not a mug. He knows how to tell a story, both verbally and athletically, which is a rare commodity these days.
With every return that Jericho makes though, it’s always tinged with a bit of sadness because it’s bittersweet. It’s phenomenal that he returns and has so much respect for the business, but we know he’s not gonna be around for the long-term.
That’s why we need to make the most of Jericho when he’s here. Don’t take him for granted. Because you’ll notice a HUGE gap when Jericho inevitably leaves again.
You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, and that’s why Jericho will always stand out among his peers.