On the June 9, 2008 edition of Monday Night Raw, "Y2J" Chris Jericho would embark on one of the most creatively sufficient heel turns wrestling has ever seen.
WWE got a plethora of mileage out of Ric Flair's retirement in 2008. The retirement storyline hit its crescendo at WrestleMania XXIV in March of 2008 but spawned three compelling feuds that carried into October of that same year.
First up was Batista, a good friend of Flair's both on and off-screen. They were two-time tag team champions and bandmates during the days of the undeniably successful Evolution stable. When Shawn Michaels retired Flair from the WWE, Batista's problem with the outcome was evident starting the night after when the two shared an intense showdown.
The feud would see Michaels and Batista exchange victories at Backlash and One Night Stand, respectively. These victories were sandwiched by a Michaels victory over Chris Jericho—who figured into the Flair fallout by playing a biased investigator with an agenda—at Judgment Day.
Jericho was slowly starting to show signs of becoming a villain with his borderline obnoxious line of questioning on Shawn Michaels while he and Batista took turns feuding with the 2011 Hall of Famer.
Michaels had faked a knee injury during his first match against Batista in the post-Flair era, leading to a win. Jericho, who served as a guest referee in that match, took exception to Michaels' lies and aggressively sought answers.
MIchaels' repeat appearances on Jericho's Highlight Reel led to brief interview that quickly degenerated into a brawl. Jericho would would toss Michaels into the Jeritron after a low blow, effectively turning him heel.
The brilliance of Jericho's heel turn was that he was justified in his conflict with Shawn Michaels. Michaels had admittedly lied to Jericho about a knee injury as part of a mission statement to do whatever it took to win. This is heel motivation 101, yet HBK had built up so much good will with the WWE fanbase that they refused to boo him.
Jericho's frustration with WWE fans inspired a darker, sociopathic character based on Anton Chigurh. Jericho went on to bloody Michaels at The Great American Bash. He punched his wife in the face at SummerSlam. A ladder to the face of Chris Jericho during their blow-off match caused a chipped tooth.
This wasn't a feud as much as it was a war, yet it settled for Feud of the Year among multiple wrestling publications.
Jericho was doing some of the best work of his career in all aspects from promos to wrestling, and Shawn Michaels continued to defy the laws of age during a second half of his career that had somehow outperformed the first.
The box office numbers for Michaels-Jericho may not have been staggering, but wrestling was rewritten, with this particular chapter telling a story of how to uniquely pit good against evil.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!