Nothing will fill WWE's Daniel Bryan-sized hole except Bryan himself, but Chris Jericho will be a major asset, one that helps alleviate the pain of the fan favorite being out of action.
Jericho coming back to the wrestling ring provides WWE with added star power, additional booking options and a boost to the babyface side of the roster.
On Monday's Raw, WWE promised the return of a former WWE champ. The Miz ended up emerging from a limo with a newly elevated sense of self worth. He bragged about his accomplishments in the acting world and promised to prove that his WrestleMania main event was no fluke.
It looked to be the kind of unexciting-but-overhyped return straight out of the WWE playbook.
Then came Jericho. After a nearly year-long absence, Jericho confronted The Miz, hit him with the Codebreaker and then soaked up the cheers from the fans.
The Wyatt Family made sure the celebration didn't last, mauling him in a three-on-one attack.
With Jericho now in the fold, WWE has a means to combat what it lost with Bryan recovering from neck surgery. The roster lacks top babyface stars, leaving few options for WWE officials' drawing board.
John Cena, Sheamus and an emerging Roman Reigns serve as the top fan favorites. Bryan would be in that group, arguably a more popular Superstar than even Cena.
Without the bearded warrior around, though, there's a deficiency near the top of the card.
Reigns hasn't yet proved that he can consistently deliver great one-on-one matches. He hasn't carried one side of a feud, his narratives so far involving several characters, foils and allies.
As popular as Sheamus is, he doesn't get the kind of electric reactions that Bryan did. The Celtic Warrior is a dependable option in the ring, but not a true top-tier star, at least not on Bryan and Cena's level. That's where Jericho comes in.
The thunderous response he got upon reentering the WWE fray is a testament to how highly fans still regard him.
His return is the equivalent of a multiple-time All-Star signing a mid-season deal to rejoin a basketball team whose top scorer is on the disabled list. It's not often WWE can bring aboard a man of his stature who isn't miles past his prime.
Jericho's resume is overflowing.
He has held just about every championship WWE has had up for grabs, headlined a WrestleMania and is already a member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. Normally when WWE adds someone with that list of accomplishments to the roster, it has to do so on a part-time or special-appearances basis.
That's not the case with Y2J.
According to Mike Johnson of PWInsider, Jericho's stay is "not a short quick in and out." Johnson writes that "WWE sources indicate that Jericho is figured into WWE's current creative plans through the 9/21 Night of Champions PPV." That bit of news has to thrill the folks in charge of booking feuds as they get an exciting puzzle piece to place somewhere.
One direction WWE is clearly taking is toward a Wyatt vs. Jericho showdown.
Before Jericho's arrival, Sheamus was the only realistic choice for The Eater of Worlds' next feud. Wyatt battling Jericho has even more sizzle, though. Jericho has been around longer and accomplished more, tangling with him is a bigger deal than doing so with Sheamus. In addition, Jericho's mic skills are going to make this rivalry a highly interesting one.
They already met at NXT, producing a praise-worthy match.
MATCH OF THE WEEK: Bray Wyatt vs Chris Jericho (WWE NXT 3/5/2013) http://t.co/LL5QnzIgFm— Discover Wrestling (@discoverwres) May 5, 2013
On the road to their pay-per-view meeting, be it at Battleground or SummerSlam, WWE now has an established, popular babyface to pit against rising heels like Cesaro or Rusev, or else plug into matches with veterans like Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio.
Bryan contributed stellar matches to Raw and SmackDown seemingly every week. He thrilled in effort against Orton, opposite Christian or The Usos. Although he's older and has more miles than Bryan, Jericho is sure to provide a similar run of quality bouts.
Fans saw that in action last year, when Jericho and Rob Van Dam belied their age, composing a great match on Raw.
WWE is banking on the fact that Jericho can produce ring work like that once more. With Bryan out, another mat wizard is needed.
The buzz over Jericho's return is sure to be loud, perhaps even loud enough to muffle the sound of Bryan's fanbase whimpering at the news that he may need a second neck surgery.