Chris Jericho used every ounce of his television time on Raw to hammer home his message. Heading into a sentimental main event match at WWE Payback against CM Punk, his message was simple.
I'm a good guy.
Before, during and after his match against Big E. Langston, Jericho made sure this message was delivered almost to the point of obnoxiousness. He used old catch phrases, got the crowd worked up after each move, and even got chummy with Jerry Lawler once the match was over.
It was all designed to disarm fans before a seemingly inevitable heel turn, when he becomes the bad guy.
There is nothing that Jericho can do that will make him more well-liked than CM Punk ahead of a return match for Punk in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. And Chris knows that. But the more fan-friendly he appears prior to Payback, the sweeter, and to some more unpredictable, a change of heart will be.
Think of Jericho's antics as a slower-burning, more deliberate version of his last return "promo." On that night, Jericho played the Tennessee crowd like a fiddle. He squeezed out its every last cheer simply by pantomiming before leaving without saying a word, much to the crowd's dismay.
Jericho is once again good-guying it up, making sure he leads his little Jerichholic ducklings down to a river in Rosemont before finally snapping their necks.
Jericho is scheduled to go back on tour with his rock band Fozzy in August. This will give WWE time to wind up the former world champion. This is usually done by turning talent heel so that they'll be harder to miss once they're gone, once they've done the job on the way out.
A similar scenario played out when Jericho and the WWE first parted ways in 2005, with Jericho's final match coming against John Cena.
With a high-profile Money in the Bank pay-per-view coming up, a Jericho-Heyman pairing would make for another interesting short-term main event program opposite John Cena. Jericho has turned losing into an art form since his return in 2012. Before his next WWE hiatus, his final act could be a masterpiece.