Chris Jericho's 10 Career Defining WWE Moments
My name is John and I'm a Jerichoholic. I have been since the mid-1990s when I first saw Chris Jericho in ECW and later in WCW. When he arrived in WWE in 1999, I was ecstatic because WCW used him poorly and I was optimistic about WWE using him the right way.
The Attitude Era was in full swing when Jericho arrived. He's a guy that could cut an entertaining promo and have awesome matches, so I figured he would fit right in. Not only did he fit right in, but he was one of the most valuable performers during WWE's most successful period as a company.
Here we are 14 years later and Jericho (now 42 years old) is still one of the best in the world at everything he does.
Like the title suggests, these are about the moments in his WWE career that help define him.
There were dozens of other great moments that I could have picked, but I'm going to limit myself to 10. Let's get to it.
10. Winning the WCW Title from the Rock at No Mercy: 10/21/01
Chris Jericho started in WWE in the summer of 1999. In the two years that followed, he won multiple titles, although he didn't win one of the "big ones" until No Mercy 2001. When WWE bought WCW in March 2001, that also meant that they bought WCW's titles, meaning that the WCW World Title was considered a big deal.
The Rock won the WCW Title from Booker T in the main event of Summerslam 2001 and went on to feud with Chris Jericho soon after. Rock was the biggest babyface in WWE at the time, while Jericho was the fiery babyface who always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. He wasn't a heel yet, but he was heading down that road.
The match went for about 25 minutes with each guy coming close to winning the matchup a few times. I loved how dramatic some of the near-falls were. Even though it was a face vs. face battle, the crowd was into everything they did because they had done a great job of building up a competitive rivalry. Could Jericho win the big one? That was the question.
Towards the end of the match, Stephanie McMahon (part of the WCW/ECW heel Alliance) made her way towards the ring with a chair in hand. Neither guy was an ally of Stephanie. In fact, both of them were known for insulting her quite a bit, so it was odd to see her out there.
She slid the chair in to the ring. Rock ended up giving Stephanie a Rock Bottom. Man-on-woman violence? Not a fan. The crowd sure liked it, though.
While the referee was checking on Stephanie, Jericho ended up giving Rock a face-first Russian leg sweep (think of the Skull Crushing Finale that The Miz uses today) onto the chair, which was good enough to win the WCW Title.
"I can't believe it! I can't believe it! Chris Jericho has damn sure won the big one." - Jim Ross
It wasn't a full heel turn for Jericho. That would come later, but this was the night when Jericho finally won the big one and as a Jericho fan, it's something I'll never (ever) forget.
9. Trish Stratus Turns on Jericho at WrestleMania 20: 03/14/04
I loved the Chris Jericho/Christian feud that was based around the "Loonie Bet" where they competed to see who could hook up with Trish Stratus or Lita first. As the story went on, Jericho developed feelings for Stratus, but she couldn't trust him after finding out about the bet.
You mean wrestlers are untrustworthy? What a crazy concept for an angle! That's sarcasm, my friends.
This led to a Jericho vs. Christian match at WrestleMania 20 that was a lot of fun. What I liked most about the story is that it took them several months to get there. Jericho and Christian were heel allies who then split up to get to that point.
Too often we see matchups that are simply thrown together without much backstory. The build up to this match is what made it so intriguing to me.
Towards the end of the match, Trish Stratus came out. She cost Jericho the victory by aligning herself with Christian. At first it looked like it was an accident, but after the match, she shared a passionate kiss with Christian, and Jericho was left alone.
A lot of Jericho's best moments came during his runs as a heel, but this was a time where he played a sympathetic babyface character and he was able to pull it off. It showed how much depth he has as a performer.
8. Jericho's IC Title vs. Rey Mysterio's Mask at the Bash: 06/28/09
The backstory for this one wasn't that special. It was simply the culmination of a feud that took place over the Intercontinental Title between Jericho and Rey Mysterio, who was also a big rival in his WCW days.
Jericho had his run as a top guy in 2008 and then went down a peg in 2009. That doesn't mean this feud lacked excitement. It was a great rivalry that provided us with three memorable pay-per-view matchups.
They had a match at May's Judgment Day 2009 event where Mysterio retained the IC Title in an entertaining matchup. Lucky for us, that wasn't the end of this rivalry.
At the first June pay-per-view named Extreme Rules, Jericho captured the IC Title using a very unique counter as he ripped off the mask of Mysterio while Rey was attempting to hit the 619. Mysterio covered his face up with his hands, which distracted him long enough for Jericho to roll him up for the pinfall to win the match as well as the IC Title.
A few weeks later at the second June pay-per-view event titled The Bash, they had a match where Jericho's IC Title was on the line while Mysterio's mask was on the line. Even though we knew Mysterio was winning that match, they kept us interested the entire time.
The counters throughout the match are what I remember the most. You can't fake chemistry. These two had it a decade earlier in WCW and it continued during this feud. Jericho's Codebreaker was great following a Mysterio springboard attack. Then there was Mysterio going for the attack off the top rope, which led to Jericho countering with the Walls of Jericho in the center of the ring.
The finish saw Jericho take off the mask of Mysterio only to find out that Mysterio had another mask on underneath it. That revelation was enough to surprise Jericho and led to the finish with the 619 setting up the top rope splash. The crowd absolutely loved it. It was the culmination of a rivalry built around great wrestling matches. Simple concept, right? It works.
It was the perfect example of how to book a feud and a final match with the babyface winning. To me this was one of the best feuds of 2009 although I would have liked if they had four or five months to tell the story instead of rushing it in only two months.
7. Losing to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 19: 03/30/03
It was set up at the Royal Rumble when Jericho and Michaels were the first two men in the match. Instead of Jericho, his buddy Christian showed up and that allowed Jericho to attack Michaels from behind. It was a very cheap move that showed how Jericho would do anything to get the upper hand on Michaels.
That led to a lot of brilliant promos between the two men as Jericho talked about how he dreamed of being the next Shawn Michaels. He patterned his look after him. He studied tapes of him. He had long blond hair like him. They even showed photos of a younger Jericho looking like Michaels as a way to prove how much of a fan he was.
The match would have been great without any build, but the fact that they spent over three months building it up made it that much more special. When you add in the fact that it was the first WrestleMania match that Michaels had in five years that made it even more special. Michaels is my favorite wrestler ever, so I had high expectations for this one. Not surprisingly, they gave us a classic.
They did an amazing job of making believable near-falls, timing everything perfectly well and putting on a great display of counter wrestling. My one main gripe is that Jericho worked over Michaels' back quite a bit early, then it kind of stopped and he didn't sell it as much as he probably should have. The back injury was the key story going in and it was the big reason why Michaels got so much sympathy babyface heat. I would have liked an even longer Walls of Jericho sequence at the end.
The finish saw Michaels beat him with a cradle instead of the superkick. I remember some people complaining about that online because it wasn't a decisive finish, but I was okay. It told the story that they were so evenly matched that neither man could win with their finisher. Finishes like that teach fans to become invested in every near-fall because then they know a match can end at any point.
Post match, Michaels wanted Jericho to shake his hand as if to say he respected him now. Jericho hugged him to a huge ovation. It was as if the crowd didn't care that Jericho was a jerk for so long because they just saw him have this epic matchup with his idol. The crowd totally bought into it. Then Jericho kicked him in the balls! He shoved Michaels down, too. It drew massive heel heat for Jericho.
This was Jericho's way of telling the fans that they may want to see him have a feel-good moment, but this wasn't going to be it. It was a classic heel move. I loved it.
6. Turning Heel Against Shawn Michaels on Raw: 06/16/08
Shawn Michaels was in a match against Batista with Jericho as the referee at the WWE Backlash 2008 pay-per-view. During the match, Michaels faked a knee injury as a way to avoid a Batista Bomb and also caused Jericho to get Batista off Michaels. Michaels capitalized on that opportunity with a superkick and he won the match.
Jericho didn't appreciate being lied to. He mentioned it several times. Then he posed this question: "How does Shawn Michaels, one of the greatest performers of all time, turn into such a lying, cheating, pathetic little worm of a human being?" Then he hit the clothesline. But that's wasn't all.
The best moment was when Jericho told Michaels that "the worst is yet to come." That led to Jericho throwing Michaels face first into a television screen (affectionately known as the Jeritron 3000) and Michaels selling it as if it was the most painful thing he ever experienced.
This was the best feud of 2008 without question. It can be argued that it was the best storyline in Jericho's career, too. Actually, I won't accept arguments. It clearly was the best story of Jericho's career.
I'll have something else from the feud a little later.
5. Winning Tag Titles with Benoit vs. Austin & HHH: 05/21/01 Raw
What's the best match in the 20+ year history of WWE Monday Night Raw? That's a question that is tough to answer because there have been so many terrific matchups over the years. However, the night that the Canadian Chrises beat the Two Man Power Trip for the tag titles might be my favorite match in the history of Raw.
Austin was the heel WWE Champion while Triple H was his ally in the duo known as the "Two Man Power Trip." Austin and Hunter had won the tag titles about three weeks earlier. It's not like they were long term tag team champions, but as main-event players holding the tag titles, it was a big deal.
As for the babyface team of Jericho and Benoit, they were two of the most liked performers in the company, especially by the online wrestling community. The crowd in San Jose, Calif., also loved them because they were loud during the entire matchup. The booking was great, but so was the atmosphere.
The match was set up in the opening segment of the show with Jericho coming out to tell Austin that he was a slut for selling out to Vince McMahon. Of course he called Stephanie McMahon because that's something he usually did, too. That set up a brawl and the match became official for the main event.
There were a number of awesome false finishes in the match where Benoit had Austin in the Crossface and Triple H broke it up with a chair shot to the back. Benoit found a way to kick out at two. The majority of the match saw the heel duo working over Benoit using every trick in the book.
When Benoit broke free of Triple H with a German Suplex the crowd exploded. That wasn't it, though. He couldn't make the tag. Austin and Triple H were so good at cheating that the ref was unable to see the tag.
When Jericho finally got the hot tag, he was on fire. Everything he did was met with a huge ovation from the fans. When Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho on Austin in the middle of the ring, it sounded like the roof was going to blow off the arena. Then Triple H knocked Jericho off of Austin.
That was the most famous moment of the match because as Triple H made that move, he tore the quad muscle in his left leg. Hunter slid his way out to the floor to set up the next spot on the announce table. Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho on the table while Triple H fought through the pain.
In the ring, Benoit hit a flying headbutt. He yelled at the ref to get in the ring. Austin came back with a Stone Cold Stunner. I remember thinking that was the finish, but Jericho pulled the ref out.
Jericho's Lionsault didn't work the first time, but the second one did. Hunter came back in to attack with the sledgehammer, only for Jericho to move and Austin took the hammer shot from his partner. Benoit took Triple H out, Jericho covered Austin and they won the tag titles. What an ovation.
It was the perfect example of putting over two guys who deserved it. It put Benoit and Jericho on another level in the eyes of the fans. Why? Because they worked together to beat these two top guys with tag team gold on the line. There wasn't one star in the match. It was a team effort.
"Benoit and Jericho, in the biggest match of their lives, have beat Austin and Triple H for the tag team titles." - Jim Ross. That sums it up.
It's one of the best tag team matches in the history of Raw and in WWE history as well.
Of course, WWE won't let you remember this match because it has Chris Benoit in it. That's fine. I don't blame them for thinking that. That doesn't mean anybody that saw the match will ever forget it.
4. The Fake WWE Title Win Against Triple H: 04/17/00 Raw
I don't legitimately get mad when I watch a wrestling show. No matter what happens I can shrug it off, hope that what happened is for the betterment of the story and quickly move on from it. However, when it looked like Chris Jericho became the WWE Champion only to have the decision reversed, I was furious.
After insulting Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley (the storyline wife of Triple H at the time), Jericho suggested the WWE Champion Triple H put the WWE Championship on the line. Hunter agreed and Jericho added The Acolytes (Bradshaw & Faarooq) in his corner to make sure that Hunter wouldn't have any of his friends at ringside to help him win the match.
They had an entertaining 10-minute matchup with a hot crowd emotionally invested in everything they did. Jericho gave Hunter a slingshot that knocked out referee Mike Chioda. Shane McMahon interfered for Triple H, but then the Acolytes chased him away. Jericho ended up knocking out Triple H with the WWE Championship that Stephanie McMahon slid into the ring.
Referee Earl Hebner entered the ring, which was interesting because he was having issues with Triple H in the weeks leading up to this. Hunter ended up shoving down Hebner. Jericho capitalized with a spinning heel kick and a Lionsault to cover Triple H for the victory and the WWE Championship! It was one of the loudest ovations I have ever heard.
The title reign didn't last, though. Later on Raw, Triple H brought out Mike Chioda and Earl Hebner (who was held by Shane McMahon in a Full Nelson) to complain about it. Hunter showed Chioda (the assigned official) the footage, who said that it was a fast count. Jericho ended up giving the WWE Title back to Triple H.
I was mad that Jericho didn't win the WWE Title in that moment. That's the fan in me. When I look back on it now it really was an awesome way to put more heat on Triple H.
They would have a match at the July 2000 pay-per-view event called Fully Loaded with Last Man Standing rules and it was a classic. It could have made this list, but I chose to keep it out. Trust me, it's a great one, too.
3. The No Mercy Ladder Match Against Shawn Michaels: 10/05/08
I would love to include the entire feud with Michaels, because it is seriously one of the 10 best feuds in WWE history, but this list is about more than one feud. Instead, I'm going to focus on the last match in their feud. Jericho had captured the World Heavyweight Title a few weeks earlier in a Scramble match, so the stakes were raised here.
I didn't think Michaels was going to win the World Title because when he came back to full-time action he only won it once in 2002. My impression was he was just there to have great matches and stories without holding a major championship again.
However, in this feud with Jericho it was built up so well that they made you believe that Michaels wanted the World Title just because Jericho had it. He wanted to take everything away from him. It made sense.
What was so great about this ladder match is the hatred they had for each other. Sometimes in wrestling they have ladder matches that are all about the high spots as a way to excite the fans.
This one certainly had those high spots, but the psychology and backstory in this match are what really made it special. You got the sense that they really hated each other. The ladders were the perfect weapons for these two that had so many amazing ladder matches over the years.
There were a lot of cool spots in the match, like when Michaels set up a ladder beside the announce table. Jericho climbed up and wanted to give Michaels a back suplex through the table, except that Michaels turned in mid-air so he landed on Jericho as they went through the table.
I'm not sure how many ladder shots to the head there were, but they were so creative in the spots they did. I loved when Jericho countered a superkick by ramming the ladder into the face of Michaels. It wasn't about dozens of spots where they climbed the ladder. It was more about bringing pain to your opponent.
One of the scariest bumps of the match was when Jericho was at the top of a huge ladder and Michaels shoved the ladder so that Jericho took a bump all the way out to the floor. It was a dangerous spot where he landed on his knees. Michaels nearly got the title, but Jericho was able to stop that attempt.
The finishing sequence saw Jericho get tripped him in the rungs of the ladder as they were fighting at the top. Jericho's buddy Lance Cade prevented Michaels from grabbing the title. Michaels was able to take him out with a superkick. Jericho recovered, Michaels went back up and they brawled at the top of the ladder.
Each guy was holding onto one side of the title. Neither could grab all of it. Jericho ended up using a headbutt to knock Michaels down and Jericho grabbed the title to remain the World Heavyweight Champion.
Would it have been nice if Michaels won the title to put an end to the feud? Yes. As a Michaels fan, I would have loved it. But Jericho's win made sense because he moved on to a feud with another babyface in John Cena.
This was the match of the year in 2008. It was also the feud of the year. It was the culmination of a four-month story filled with several twists and turns along the way. They also had four excellent pay-per-view matches in 2008 with this one topping them all.
It was the best match in the best year of Jericho's career. Truly a defining moment for him.
2. Jericho's Debut Promo on the Aug. 9, 1999, Edition of Raw
"Welcome to Raw is Jericho!"
The Millennium clock counted down for several weeks. We knew it would expire on the Aug. 9, 1999 edition of Raw, but what was it for exactly? I remember the rumors online at the time. Jericho was no longer in WCW after his contract expired, but he could have re-signed with them. We didn't know what he was going to do. I remember he had a website that he would comment on once in a while, but it's not like he was going to give it away.
The Rock was in the ring cutting a promo when suddenly the clock appeared on the Titantron. Fireworks went off. A new song started to play. Then "JERICHO" appeared on the screen. And there he was on the stage with his arms extended out wide. The crowd popped huge. It wasn't a short pop. It was a long, sustained ovation for a guy that deserved.
"I am Chris Jericho, your new hero, your party host and most importantly the most charismatic showman to enter your living rooms via a television screen. For those of you that do know me, then all hail the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla!"
He spoke about how he was there to save the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE, of course). Of course he was lying like heels do. He entered the company as an egomaniac living in his own world. It was a lot of fun.
Jericho said that the fans could care less about the people in the locker room and the idiot in the ring. He encouraged the fans to chant "go Jericho go" and mentioned the "Y2J" name as well.
The Rock replied to Jericho's speech by telling him to shut his mouth. When Jericho went to tell him his name, Rock said it didn't matter what his name was. Rock ended up insulting Jericho like only he can and he got the last word in. Jericho looked upset.
It was the first dueling promo between two of the best talkers in the history of the business. They would have many more dueling promos of those over the years, but I think I can speak for all Jerichoholics when I say that we'll never eeeeeeeever forget the first one.
1. Beating Rock & Austin to Become Undisputed WWE Champion at Vengeance 12/09/01
"Good God almighty, Jericho has done it!" - Jim Ross
The two names that fans associate with the Attitude Era the most are "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock. They were the biggest stars from that era in terms of popularity, drawing power and whatever other factors you want to use. They were the guys at the top of the food chain. Others may have been near that level, but they were numbers 1 and 2.
When it came time to crown the first ever Undisputed WWE Champion (bringing the WWE and WCW title together) in December 2001 at Vengeance, most fans figured it would be Austin or Rock to win. I was hopeful that they might go in another direction, but didn't think it was likely.
There was a four-man, one-night tournament with Steve Austin defending the WWE Title against Kurt Angle and The Rock defending the WCW Title against Chris Jericho. Remember when Jericho beat Rock for the WCW Title a couple of months earlier? Rock got the title back and Jericho was in full heel mode going into this match.
They had another awesome matchup. It was on par to the No Mercy match and also the Royal Rumble 2002 match. I really loved their matches. Anyway, this time instead of Stephanie McMahon factoring into the finish, it was WWE Chairman (co-owner in the story) Vince McMahon. Jericho used a low blow following the McMahon distraction and then a Jericho version of the Rock Bottom won him the WCW Title.
Immediately following Jericho's 20-minute match with Rock, Jericho had to face the WWE Champion Steve Austin in the unification match. This match really broke down towards the finish. McMahon battled with storyline co-owner Ric Flair and referees were taking bumps all over the place.
Austin had Jericho in the Walls of Jericho, which led to Jericho tapping, but there wasn't a referee to see it. Booker T showed up out of nowhere to strike Austin in the back of the head. Jericho covered, Hebner rolled back into the ring and Jericho won the match.
The story was that McMahon didn't want Austin or Rock to win. I realize that some may think that Jericho was an afterthought in the match, but so what? He was part of a huge event with some of the biggest names in the history of wrestling. It was such a big deal that here we are over 12 years later and Jericho still finds ways to bring up this accomplishment, which is what he should do.
Are they the best matches in Jericho's career? No. But it's the one thing Jericho can claim that nobody else in WWE history can claim.
Jericho can he say he was the first Undisputed WWE Champion, but he can also claim that he beat Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night. That's why it's No. 1.
This was a lot of fun to write. I could have listed 50 moments and they would have been great, too. There were so many to pick from. I omitted some great matches over the years like Fully Loaded 2000 against Triple H or Royal Rumble 2001 against Benoit to name two.
There were also feuds with CM Punk, Edge, John Cena and The Undertaker to name a few that were exciting, but none of them made this list.
There was also the memorable "Price is Right" comedy skit with Bob Barker that was a lot of fun too. It's hard to capture everything that Jericho's done, but I'm happy with the finished product here.
Please let me know your thoughts. I love reminiscing about the career of one of my favorite performers ever.
John Canton is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can read more of his work at his website TJRWrestling.com. He also writes for LayfieldReport.com. You can follow John on Twitter @johnreport.