Since each man’s return in 2012, both Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar have made waves both online and on television. Both have had a sporadic role in the WWE (Lesnar due to his limited contract and Jericho due to his Fozzy commitments) and have each drawn both criticism and praise. Given the similarities we do have, I pose the question: Who had a better return?
I don’t think this question can be answered in one week, so I’ll take a few to develop a good analysis of the return of each man. We’ll look at “The Big Return,” “The Short Term Impact” and “The Long Term Impact” of each return.
Check out Stage 1: The Big Return – Brock Lesnar!
Stage 2: Short Term Impact
In all honesty, this is the most difficult of the three stages to evaluate. Who is having a run that benefits the WWE most right now. For stage one, I evaluated each person separately. This time, I am going to look at the different factors of the short term impact.
There was a buzz around Chris Jericho’s return. The vignettes that aired created a sense of excitement, and when it came time for Jericho to appear, everyone was more than ready for it. The return itself got everyone talking—except for Jericho. It was weeks before he said anything. Some people loved it and others hated it. But it got people talking. The rumors of Chris Jericho winning the Royal Rumble got people talking. CM Punk versus Chris Jericho got people talking. The flag incident got people talking. The feud with Dolph Ziggler got people talking.
Jericho definitely generated a lot of buzz during his return stint. But it pales in comparison to the buzz around Brock Lesnar’s return. All throughout WrestleMania weekend we heard talks of returns for Lesnar and Batista. Hell, Batista was even sighted in Miami. But the night after, when John Cena stood in the center of the ring calling out The Rock, the fans wanted Brock. The fans wanted to see Brock Lesnar and not The Rock—IN MIAMI. Brock’s initial attack on John Cena had fans, casual and hardcore, salivating at the thought of the returning star and a new direction. Brock represented the continued change in John Cena (even if it never came to fruition). All of Brock’s appearances have a buzz around them. With Paul Heyman by his side, every Brock Lesnar appearance has fans excited to see what will happen next.
The buzz factor goes to Brock Lesnar.
Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho each have very different in-ring style. Brock returned as the MMA representative, complete with boxing style shorts, gloves and even his own sponsors. Chris Jericho performs in the most traditional wrestling gear possible (well, and a sparkly light-up jacket). Brock Lesnar has had two matches since his return, one with John Cena and one with Triple H. Your mileage may vary, but I rather liked each match. He also had a few pull-a-part brawls, and two of them were awesome.
Chris Jericho is highly regarded as a great in-ring performer. He had legendary matches as a cruiserweight in WCW, and really flourished against Triple H, Steve Austin, The Rock, Chris Benoit, Christian, Shawn Michaels, Daniel Bryan—and so many others—in the WWE. Since his return, he’s had some great matches with CM Punk (including WrestleMania 28), was in a great four-way at Over The Limit and had a great run with Dolph Ziggler to close out his current run. While I rather enjoyed Brock Lesnar’s matches, I loved most of what Chris Jericho did.
The in-ring performance factor goes to Chris Jericho.
Advancing The Product
When you reach a level high up the card in the WWE, there’s a lot of give and take. There are times where you’re going to look great, and times where you won’t. Sometimes you have to put someone over, and that doesn’t mean lose. You have to let someone look great. Brock Lesnar has had feuds with John Cena and Triple H since returning. He lost to Cena, but Cena looked like hell after the match. He beat Triple H after having his prior health condition come into play. Did either of those feuds help John Cena or Triple H? Did either of them help Brock Lesnar? In all honesty, the only people put over by Brock’s return are Paul Heyman and Stephanie McMahon.
Since Chris Jericho came back, he’s been the man eliminated by Sheamus in the Royal Rumble, lost clean to CM Punk in an amazing match at WrestleMania, put over Sheamus at Over The Limit and had Dolph Ziggler “end his career.” These are unselfish moves by a guy who, despite losing, is still one of the most over guys on the roster.
The advancing the product factor goes to Chris Jericho.
In the short term, the WWE has seen bigger rewards out of Chris Jericho’s return. I’d argue that we appreciate Chris Jericho now more than when he returned. Can you say the same about Brock Lesnar?
Brock hasn’t grown the business by leaps and bounds, hasn’t made anyone else better and hasn't put on amazing matches. If he were gone tomorrow I don’t think it would take fans that long to get over the loss. If we don’t already miss Chris Jericho, we will soon.
Stage 2: Short-Term Impact – Chris Jericho
Stay tuned for Part 3!