Is Chris Jericho one of the G.O.A.T.S?
I remember first seeing Chris Jericho in WCW back in 1996. I had just started getting back into wrestling around the time he debuted. When he came out to face Alex Wright, I thought ok we have a white meat babyface rah-rah hype type guy and I did not think that I was going to like him. As a young wrestling fan, I tended to gravitate towards the bad guys or “heels”. Jerry Lawler was always my favorite especially when he was a heel. Ric Flair was the coolest man to walk the face of the planet, in my opinion, when I was a youngster. So, obviously, Jericho already had one strike against him in terms of me being a fan of him.
After watching his match with Alex Wright, I was kind of thinking to myself, hmmmmm that was not half bad! He was a smooth worker, looked the part of a wrestler with his long hair, and had great charisma. A few buddies of mine that watched wrestling were talking about Nitro that night and kinda poking fun at Jericho’s debut. “That dude was cheesy AF”. “Who does this guy think he is?” “He’s trying to be Shawn Michaels!” He was a cheesy babyface but there was something about how he worked and how he carried himself that was just “different”. It was a good difference, though. He did remind me of a Shawn Michaels “type”. He could WORK.
As time went on and he kept putting on great matches, my friends and I started saying good things about Jericho while still acting like we did not like him around each other. We were too cool to like Jericho, so we thought. Then…..he turns heel! Now we are all on the Jericho train! He was one of the most entertaining heels of that era. Now don’t get me wrong, NWO was running the show and was entertaining as all get out. They were the reasons that most of the people were watching the show. To me though, Jericho and his tantrums and Ralfus and his move list to make fun of Dean Malenko were some of the funniest shit on Nitro! It was genius!
Nitro started to really suck. I used to flip back and forth between Raw and Nitro. It got where I no longer liked watching Nitro. Stupid storylines. It was getting real predictable and they were burying the “smaller” guys like Jericho, Benoit, and Guerrero. Those guys were telling the best stories in the ring on Nitro and they were getting buried. Then there were rumblings that Jericho wasn’t happy and might be looking to jump ship. One of my good friends who were really in tune with the Dirt Sheets starting telling me that he might be going to WWE. I was excited to see what the WWE machine would and could do for him.
The year 2000 was upon us and everyone had a countdown clock. WWE was no different except their clock did not add up to the year January 1st, 2000. We were all trying to figure out who it was, It seemed to be pretty hush hush on the internet up until the clock started to run out. A friend of mine that was in tune with the business said that it was probably going to be Jericho. I was pumped! All my wrestling buddies were pumped as well! Man what an exciting time. He was gonna be on the same show as Stone Cold and The Rock! This was gonna be epic! The Rock was in the ring when the clock struck zero. When Jericho came out he got a pretty good pop. The Rock laid some of his promo stuff in on Jericho but it added Jericho’s debut. He came in as the “Y2J” character. It was perfect for the time.
He got the belt fairly early in his WWE career. Albeit only lasted for less than a day. Then he gets thrust into a chance to win both belts on the same night against The Rock and Stone Cold. I went into this PPV thinking that there is no way that they will put the straps on him. I, like everyone else in the world, was a huge Stone Cold fan. Loved The Rock’s work as well. Their star power outshined his by a shit ton! But he ended up winning and unifying the Championship Titles. I could not believe it. To me this was the point where I started thinking, ok this guy is now the main event player and has FINALLY gotten the chance to carry the ball.
I always loved how Jericho worked in music to his promos or his look. By now he had a pretty good Cover Rock Band called Fozzy. They were pretty damn good I thought. So now we have a heavy metal music fan that is on top in the wrestling world. That was “music” to my ears. Ha…get it. Music. His matches started getting better and better. Promos were on FIRE. He was white-hot for 5 or 6 years and finally, he took a break around 06 or 07. He then trained with an improv troupe based in LA to help hone his craft as he was trying to land acting gigs. Think about that, he was a wrestler that does his own promos and most of the time they are just off the top of his head, is going to study improv to get better. He could already talk on the mic better than most people in or out of wrestling.
Finally, after 2 years out of wrestling, he gets the itch to come back. When he shows back up on Raw he kind of looks the same except with short hair. So, being the genius he is, he decides to change it up a little and stop using his old catchphrases and ring attire and intro music and intro attire. This guy did not have to change a thing but he had the wherewithal to change his entire persona to make sure he was not stale. Genius move on his part. He had some of his best matches on this run in the WWE. He was Jericho but it was a different Jericho. He was starting to cement himself as one of the men in WWE and professional wrestling.
Now his band Fozzy has gotten some traction. Playing some festivals in Europe and some decent tours in the States. He was on top of the wrestling world and climbing up the charts in music. His style was on point. His wrestling was on point. He was on point. His promos were even more fire than before. His entrance gear was OVER the top. He was a GREAT heel!
He leaves WWE again and does a few shots in Japan with Kenny Omega. This is where I learn about Omega. The dude can flat-out work. Those matches they had were unreal. Once again, he changed up his style, his gear, his attitude. He became The Painmaker. Great gimmick. He evolved himself once again. The mind this guy has for the business and for changing things up for himself is truly unbelievable.
Now we have AEW. The saving grace for wrestling for me. And surprise, he changed himself again! This Jericho is more along the lines of The Painmaker in my opinion. Le Champion has arrived! This guy just gets the wrestling business. He gets self-promotion. He gets the crowd. He just gets IT. He gets us, the fans.
I know I have skipped over ALOT of his career and I have gone mostly on memory writing this so I may have some dates wrong. I just was not going to Google everything. Wanted to shoot from the hip as he does. In my opinion, as a lifelong wrestling fan, this man deserves to be in the GOAT conversation of professional wrestling. Hands down. No doubt about it. He has transformed himself, reinvented himself. He has changed with the times. That’s what separates him from most of the GOATS of wrestling. The man’s stats speak for themselves. They are almost unmatched by anyone in the sport. He DESERVES to be in the conversation with Flair, Dusty, Harley Race, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, Stone Cold. Now we add Jericho to THE LIST!!