I have a confession to make. My name is John. I am proud to say that I am a Jerichoholic. I have been since I first saw Chris Jericho wrestle in WCW in the mid-1990s.
I think his WWE debut on Raw in August of 1999 is one of the ten greatest moments in Raw history. His 2008 feud with Shawn Michaels is one of the best feuds in any company in the history of the business. As a Canadian that loves professional wrestling, Jericho has always been somebody of which I've been proud.
Jericho is not just a successful pro wrestler, though. He can write too. His two books A Lion's Tale and Undisputed are, in my opinion, the best autobiographical books by any wrestlers along with the ones written by Bret Hart and Mick Foley. If you haven't read them please do so because they are worth the $10 for a paperback version. Trust me on that.
These days, Chris Jericho is out of World Wrestling Entertainment. He's on tour with his heavy metal band Fozzy as they promote their new album Sin and Bones. Storyline wise, he had his "contract terminated" on the August 20 edition of Raw after losing to Dolph Ziggler.
Earlier this week, Jericho appeared on the always informative Busted Open radio show. I read a recap of the interview on ProWrestling.net and found myself agreeing with so many of the things that Jericho said. While I encourage you to listen or read about it if you haven't done so already, there are some points I feel like elaborating on.
As we all know, times have changed in the wrestling business. In the 1990s and the decades before it, a lot of wrestlers worked in the indies or overseas for many years before ever making it one of the "bigger" companies like WWE, WCW, TNA, ECW, ROH or anything else you may consider on that level. This quote by Jericho sums it up well.
I worked for nine years before I came to the WWE. There are guys now who have been working there nine months that are on the show. It’s a different world out there right now than the way it used to be. There are a lot of great, great performers or potential great performers that are on the way to getting there.
He's absolutely right. Performing in the wrestling business is difficult to do without experience. It's like anything else in life—practice makes perfect. The more you do something, the better you should be at it. It's not true for everything (look at Charles Barkley's golf game for example), but generally speaking it holds true. It's why a lot of wrestlers usually peak when they are in their, 30s even though they started wrestling in their early 20s, or maybe even late teens in some cases. Every experience you encounter in the wrestling business matters in some way.
There are exceptions, of course. Kurt Angle was a very good professional wrestler within his first three years, but he was even better in 2005 than he was 2000 because he had more knowledge in terms of putting a match together by that point. The Rock was a much better worker in 2001 when he was putting over Jericho for the WCW Title than he was in 1997 when he looked lost out there at times. Shawn Michaels was better in 1997 than he was in 1989 and you could say 2008 was his best year when he was in his early 40s. You can go on and on with a number of different performers.
In Jericho's case, he had the best year of his career in 2008 as a heel against the legendary babyface Shawn Michaels. The story was perfect. The work in the ring was excellent. Jericho was very good in the early 2000s as well and he certainly had his moments back then, but by the time 2008 came around he had so much experience to build upon. It was the right time for two men who had chemistry, history and the perfect story to tell in the ring. In 2008, Jericho truly was the best wrestler in the world.
The other great point Jericho made had to do with experience in the ring.
It’s not so much experience time wise, it’s also experience with who you are working with. This is the cold, hard fact that nobody in the WWE has been working in wrestling longer than me with the exception of The Undertaker. I’ve been working longer than Kane, longer than Triple H. If you throw in Kane, Triple H, Jericho, Undertaker, geez who else has long term experience where you can go in with a young guy and instantly identify their strengths and weaknesses.? We can tell them, 'you need to work on this and this is amazing. Keep doing what you’re doing on that end.' It’s not just about having good matches, it’s about knowing what to do.
Knowing how to put together good matches, feeling things. How to react when things don’t go the way you want them to. Right before I left there was a tag match between myself and Zack against Dolph and Miz. Putting together the match, there were things that were obvious to me that they were still figuring out, which is cool and ok with me. But I was like 'wow this is second nature for guys that have been around a long time and they are still figuring it out', and when that light bulb comes on and they already have ninety percent, but that last ten percent is what makes you a great performer. Some guys never figure out that last ten percent and when the guys do, that’s when they become guys you can base companies around and put in main events.
Jericho spoke of Ziggler, Miz and Ryder when he talked about putting together matches. Of those three, I think Ziggler is among the top five in-ring performers in WWE right now. Miz has improved so much in the last few years while Ryder is likely going to reach that point because he's a hard worker that lives for the business. They're all at different stages of their careers, though.
Like Jericho points out, it takes time to build up the knowledge needed to truly put together a match or feud that leaves people talking for years to come. I think his best WCW feud was with Dean Malenko, who would likely admit that his best feud was with Jericho. In WWE his feud with Triple H in 2000 was fantastic, capped off by an excellent Last Man Standing match at Fully Loaded that year.
As much as I like Ziggler and Miz, have either of them really had a feud like that? I don't think so. Ziggler wrestled Kofi Kingston many times over secondary titles, but it's not like any of the matches truly stand out.
Miz has had good feuds with some guys like Daniel Bryan. Any elite ones? Not really. Maybe they will soon. They're in their early 30s. I believe that their time will come because they are just now entering the prime of their careers.
In the defense of the wrestlers, it's not always on them. You have to be given an opportunity by management to have those showcase feuds. When Jericho had those opportunities he took advantage. Will guys like Ziggler and Miz do that? I think so. It's only a matter of when.
My favorite quote comes from Jericho talking about his most recent feud with Dolph Ziggler.
I couldn’t wait to work with Dolph but I needed a story. What’s the story? They said 'we will think of one later.' I said 'I don’t like that'. I need to think of one now since I have a promo tonight with Dolph. We can't think about this next week. That’s when I came up with the concept of everyone was bitching that Jericho never won a match on PPV. I don’t think of things that way. I win if the match is great. I win if people enjoy the match. Winning and losing, who cares? It doesn’t matter.
As a heel especially, you can win one out of ten matches and you’re fine. Once I came back from suspension, the tide had already shifted. The heel was gone. People wanted to cheer for Jericho. When that finally happens, you just got to go with it. I thought it would be real interesting to go with the 'you can’t win the big one' scenario. But sometimes the writers will write 'this old broken down guy who is on the last legs of his career.' I’m like 'wait a second, broken down? I’m in the best shape of my life, never been hurt, I’ve never missed a match and it’s not like I lost EVERY match. I beat Sheamus on TV, I beat Punk on TV and I beat Kofi a million times. I wanted to focus on the storyline of 'he can’t win the big one.' It gave us a great place to go. You always have to have a good storyline. Without a storyline, it’s just two guys in their underwear rolling around half naked.
Let me repeat what I feel was the most important part there: I win if the match is great. I win if people enjoy the match. Winning and losing, who cares? It doesn’t matter.
He is absolutely 100 percent correct about that. Winning matches doesn't matter as much as the average fan thinks. Do wins and losses matter to the "mark" fans? Of course. They want to see the heroes win while hoping that the villains, which Jericho has been for the majority of the last five years, lose.
Winning the crowd over is what really matters, though. Very few wrestlers can touch Jericho in that regard. Even after his losses, he's able to get his heat back by using his voice to get the fans riled up either against him or for him. The special ones like Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Rock and Ric Flair to name a few could always get their heat back. Some can't. They're the ones that fade away.
Do I wish Jericho was in WWE full time these days? Yes, of course I do. However, I also respect him for continuing to live his musical dreams with his band Fozzy as they reach new heights. He'll be 42 years old in December, and while he's been fortunate enough to not suffer any major injuries during his 20+ year wrestling career, it's obviously better for his body to be on a stage singing instead of taking bumps in a wrestling ring four nights per week.
I don't know when Jericho will be back in a WWE ring. I just hope when he does return he continues to share his wealth of knowledge with his peers in the wrestling business because I believe he's one of the smartest men that the business has ever had.
Whether he wrestles one hundred more matches or five more matches during the rest of his life, Jericho will always have a lasting legacy. His legacy goes beyond just his work in the ring. Read his books. Listen to his interviews. He speaks the truth.
Don't get mad at Jericho for going on a break from wrestling. He's earned that right. He's given us so much over the years as fans that he has earned it as much as anybody.
I'll leave you with one final Jericho quote that sums up everything perfectly.
I still want to have great matches, but I also want to pass off the experience, pass the knowledge that I have on to these guys, so when I go they can become the main event guys of tomorrow. Just like Shawn (Michaels) did with me.
To Chris Jericho I say this. You still want to have great matches and we still want to watch you have those great matches. Thanks for not only passing the knowledge to your peers, but to the fans as well. The wrestling business is better for having you in it.
John Canton is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can read more of his work at his website TJRWrestling.com where his friend Thomas Briggs recently reviewed the new Fozzy album "Sin and Bones." You can follow John on Twitter @johnreport too.