Chris Jericho left the WWE in 2005 because he was burnt out from wrestling and that he needed a break from the sport. Jericho was still one of the biggest draws in WWE and could have a feud with a star and make that star look even better and mold him into a solid wrestler (Example would be John Cena twice). People were shocked as Jericho took a 2 year break from wrestling in order to get his body healed up and his mind back focused on the profession that made Jericho a star in the first place.
When Jericho came back in 2007, a lot of things had changed with the WWE and with Jericho himself. The major change with Jericho was that he had lost his infamous long hair and more cleanly fit unlike the old Jericho was. Jericho didn’t gain the same fan fare that he had back in 2004 and 2005. Fans loved Jericho’s match qualities and love how Jericho could still entertain no matter what situation he was in but the fans knew that Jericho could never be the same Y2J as before and Jericho himself knew that.
Chris Jericho went through 5 months of bland promos but was having great matches but the opportunity for Jericho to redefine himself came when the HBK “fake injury” angle came up in April 2008. Jericho saw an opportunity to maybe turn heel and get the fans to hate him by pointing out HBK’s lies and how he faked his way to a victory. Jericho and HBK had an awesome match at Judgment Day 2008 and the fans realized that maybe the WWE was onto something with Jericho’s attitude change and that led to the full heel turn of Jericho in June 2008.
Instead of being classic heel Jericho as he had done in the past, Jericho instead “killed” the old Y2J persona and made himself change into an egotistical, sadistic, and well a plain asshole to the fans that tried to make everybody’s life a living hell no matter what. Jericho’s heel promos were gold and as the 2008 year went on, his rivalry with Shawn Michaels just got better and better because of the effort that both men put into, hell it was the 2008 PWI feud of the year and it kept wrestling fans glued to the television. The 2008 No Mercy finally culminated into a World Title Ladder Match between these two future Hall of Famers. That match was one of the best ever and it showed wrestling critics that Jericho was better than ever.
The full heel turn was more than just a haircut or a few new words in the Jericho vocabulary, it was a complete change in his persona and it really gave Jericho’s career a whole new dimension that few men have and ever will do in professional wrestling. I keep waiting to see Jericho try to go back to the Y2J persona but if the WWE continues with this heel Jericho, then I can see the fans giving him heat for years to come which in the wrestling world means you are doing something right.