When Chris Jericho returned to the WWE at the 2013 Royal Rumble, most fans expected him to only be back for a few months before leaving again.
It’s become very apparent that those within the company do, too.
After all, the creative team obviously hasn’t prepared very well for Jericho’s return. Instead of having a concrete plan in mind for what it wanted to do with Y2J, creative seems to have been preparing for his departure since his return.
It’s inevitable that, just like in 2012, Y2J will be leaving the WWE again sooner rather than later. But that’s the case with a number of other legends in the company, and those guys all have had long-term plans in place for a while.
The Rock has been headed for his match with John Cena essentially since WrestleMania 27. Meanwhile, we’ve figured that The Undertaker would face CM Punk for several months, and it’s been obvious since last year’s SummerSlam that Brock Lesnar would take on Triple H.
Plans for Jericho, however, haven’t been clearly established at all, which is weird when you consider that he’s just like those other major stars in that he’s likely going to be off of TV soon too.
The WWE, for reasons still not fully understood, has shown that it really had absolutely no idea what to do with Jericho upon his return.
While those other stars had major WrestleMania rivalries lined up months ago, Jericho has bounced back and forth between a few “rivalries” that have had little to no progression and seem to be just randomly thrown together. Although he’s been his typical entertaining self, Jericho has been rather directionless as the creative team has struggled with indecision over what to do with many of its stars at WrestleMania.
Initially upon his return, it looked like Jericho would reignite his 2012 feud with Dolph Ziggler, but after early teases, that ultimately went nowhere.
Now, it appears that the initial phases of the rumored Jericho/Fandango feud have begun and that these two will collide on the grand stage of the WrestleMania 29.
Jericho himself likely doesn’t mind taking a bit of a drop down the card to feud with a newcomer. He’s had no problem with putting over rising but unproven stars in the past—Heath Slater and Evan Bourne, for example—and odds are that he’ll have no problem doing the same for Fandango.
The issue with the recent booking of Jericho isn’t that he’s headed for a WrestleMania feud with Fandango. After all, he is known for making the best out of every situation, and he will likely make this feud work, too.
The real issue is that Jericho’s impending departure from the WWE (whenever it may be) seems to have caused the creative team to keep him in standby mode. He’s sort of just been there, without any real direction or meaningful rivalries. He’s entertaining and has good matches, but it’s as if the creative team doesn’t want to put any real effort into his character because they know he’s leaving.
When Y2J returned at the Royal Rumble, the WWE should have had a concrete plan in place that broke down what he would do from that return all the way through WrestleMania or whenever it is that that he’s set to depart. Clearly, the WWE has done that for Undertaker, Triple H, Lesnar and The Rock, so why can’t it do the same for Y2J?
Is Y2J's inevitable departure hurting his progression in the WWE?
Although it’s in Jericho’s character to be willing to do what’s best for the sake of the WWE rather than himself, that doesn’t mean that the company should struggle to come up with legitimate, long-term storylines for him. It’s detrimental to Jericho just like it would be for anyone else.
While so many other characters in the WWE are moving forward, Jericho has had remarkably little progression since his return.
Some fans won’t carry about this because he’s, well, Chris Jericho. But others will notice that—no matter how popular or talented a superstar is—it’s hard to truly invest yourself into what he’s doing if you know it’s really not leading anywhere.
That’s the problem with the booking of Jericho right now: He’s stuck in the mud, with no signs of getting out.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!