Pro Wrestling Countdown: Chris Jericho's Greatest Matches
The Pro Wrestling Countdown has returned and, in the words of Y2J, the Pro Wrestling Section, the Bleacher Report, the IWC, the Internet, and the entire Cyber World…will never…EVER….be the same. Again!
In the past decade it is hard to think of too many wrestlers in the WWE who have been more consistently good in everything they have done than Chris Jericho. He became the first Undisputed WWE Champion, he is a nine-time Intercontinental Champion, and he has had some of the best matches and programs with just about anyone the WWE puts him in the ring with.
Jericho started out his career being trained by the Hart family. He then proceeded to wrestler all over the World. He wrestled in the NWA, in Japan, in Mexico, and even made a pit stop in a little company known as ECW. Then, in 1997, Jericho found a home in WCW’s cruiserweight division, where he made a name for himself.
In 2000, Jericho had one of the most memorable debuts in WWE history during one of The Rock’s promos, and his amazing debut was a sign of many other great things to come.
This is my tribute to one of the most talented and entertaining guys to stand inside a WWE ring in a very long time.
Here is my tribute to “Lion Hart”. Here is my tribute to “The King of the World,” “The Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla,” and "The Best In The World At What He Does." Here is my tribute to “Y2J,” Chris Jericho.
Honorable Mention: Chris Jericho vs. John Cena (SummerSlam 2005)
This match was Chris Jericho’s swan song in the WWE. I think that is why I've always had a fondness for it.
When I was aching to see some Y2J action I often went back to this match, and I think it is an amazing match. Jericho was on his way out of the company, and on his way out he helped put over John Cena as a champion and really aided him in becoming a credible WWE Champion.
The early going told a nice story as Jericho outwrestled Cena throughout the entire opening moments of the match. Jericho does a great job of controlling the pace of the match and not letting it turn into an all-out-brawl. Every time Cena tried to mount any offense, Jericho answered with a sound wrestling reversal.
After both men were taken out by a superplex from the top rope, Cena tried once again to build momentum, only have it answered by another reversal from Jericho. The match was all about Cena answering adversity and trying to overcome the most insurmountable odds and come out holding the title above his head.
Near the end of the match the crowd began “Lets Go Cena” and “Lets Go Jericho” chants. You can see the early seeds of John Cena’s fan backlash that plagued him throughout late 2005 and most of 2006.
The match ended with Jericho arguing with the referee and Cena reversing Jericho’s move into the F-U, getting the win despite the fact that he took way more abuse than Jericho, who took almost none in this match. But that is what was supposed to happen. The hero is supposed to come back from the brink of oblivion and save the world from total destruction.
The next night, Jericho would lose a “Loser Leaves WWE” match to Cena, and he was carted out of the arena by security. I really admire Jericho’s willingness to put over the WWE’s best bet at a new “Superstar” on his way out.
This was an interesting match and it was really fun to see how far Cena’s ring work has come since his rise to prominence in 2005. Still, it wasn’t quite good enough for the top 10.
No. 10 Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Guerrero (Fall Brawl 1997)
The opening match of Fall Brawl 1997 is also the first match on my Countdown.
This was Eddie Guerrero’s rematch from his bout with Chris Jericho at the final Clash of the Champions event.
The match was all about the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. I find it odd that Jericho is playing the babyface and Guerrero is playing the heel, as both work much better the other way around. But that does nothing to take away from the match.
The entire match moved at a very odd pace, as you can imagine a cruiserweight match might. However, you can always see shades of Jericho’s tutorage from Stu Hart as he often kept Guerrero on the mat.
Eddie spent much of the match trying to build an offense against Jericho’s mat-based strategy, which he employed during this title defense. Every time Guerrero got out of a hold and began to get some offense in, Jericho would ground him.
At this point in their careers, each represented one of the two types of cruiserweight wrestlers. Chris Jericho was a primarily mat based wrestler and Guerrero would much rather use high impact aerial moves to get a victory. However, both men had been known to use both styles prominently throughout their careers.
The match really represents the potential that WCW had. They had access to great talent, but never managed to make their most talented performers “stars”. The cruiserweight division in WCW is probably the greatest thing the company ever accomplished, and it introduced several future WWE World Champions like Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, and even Eddie Guerrero.
In the end, Guerrero won the Cruiserweight Championship with the Frog Splash in what is truly one of Chris Jericho’s hidden gems. Such an entertaining match.
Eddie Guerrero won the match and his victory set up the infamous Mask vs. Title match between himself and Rey Mysterio Jr. at Halloween Havoc a few months later. Both Jericho and Guerrero would go on to become World Champions and two of wrestling’s most popular stars.
No. 9 Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam (King of the Ring 2002)
In 2002, Chris Jericho and Rob Van Dam were in the same boat—both extremely talented and popular pro wrestlers were hovering right under the main event scene.
An argument could be made that Jericho was a main event draw already due to his Undisputed Championship reign, but “Y2J” was viewed by most fans as a very weak “paper” champion. Even though I love Jericho's work, I have to agree with this.
To me that is what makes this match so interesting. Both men were seen by the fans as fighting for the same reason.
The match itself was very good. While they opened the PPV, they did so in a grand fashion. The whole match had a very fast paced feel to it, and neither Jericho nor Van Dam took a moment to slow it down.
You can understand why. They wanted to finish the match as fast as possible. Even if they won, they still had another opponent to worry about later that night.
So the sense of urgency and the drive of these two guys who are trying to make an impact and break that “glass ceiling” makes this match feel way more important than it actually was.
But I think that in itself is what Jericho is so good at. He makes everything he does feel important and is so good at making you care about what you’re watching.
No. 8 Chris Jericho vs. Jeff Hardy (Raw February 25, 2008)
This match came just a few months after Jericho had returned to the WWE after nearly three years away from the ring, and this is one of the early matches were you can see him getting back into the groove.
Jericho had just finished a rather lack luster feud with JBL, and Hardy was riding a huge wave of fan support and getting a push (too bad he would get suspended two weeks after this match).
The match was a Money in the Bank qualifying match for Jericho. This match has no underlying storyline, but I love it for the simple fact that it was the first time I really got excited about Jericho’s performance in the ring since he made his “big” return to the WWE.
The match was nothing more than an above average, 12 minute television match. However, this was just a taste of things to come as the rest of Jericho’s 2008 would be spent having one of the greatest feuds of the last decade.
The match ended with Jericho getting the victory. After the match the two stood across from the ring and traded glances and nodes as a sign of respect. The story does not end there however.
Two weeks later, Jeff hardy was suspended for violating WWE’s wellness policy and Jericho ended up defeating him for his Intercontinental Championship. This marked Jericho’s record setting eighth reign as the title holder.
No. 7 Chris Jericho vs. Christain (Unforgiven 2004)
This match had been brewing for a long time.
Jericho and Christian had gone from being tag team partners to mortal enemies in the course of just a few months. After months of fighting, Jericho injured Christian’s back in a steel cage match on Raw.
While Christian was away, an injured Edge, the reigning Intercontinental Champion, promised “Y2J” a title match as soon as he was cleared to wrestle. However, things soon changed and Edge was stripped of the title due to the fact he could not defend the title.
As fate would have it, Christian came around the same time demanding he be crowned the new champion. Jericho happily disagreed with “Captain Charisma”. So we got a ladder match to decide the title’s fate.
The match took place on what was a very lackluster Pay-Per-View, and really stole the show. The first time I watched this match I remember thinking “Canadians really know how to have good ladder matches.”
What I love about ladder matches, especially good ones, is that most of the time you forget what the opponents are fighting over. You become more interested in seeing what the next move will be or how the grounded opponent will stop the person from ascending the ladder to win.
Jericho walked away the winner with his seventh title reign as Intercontinental Champion after a nearly 25-minute match. But in all honesty, I could have watched the two Canadians go at it for another 25 minutes.
No. 6 Chris Jericho vs. Dean Malenko (Uncencored 1998)
The long feud between Jericho and Malenko stemmed from Jericho claiming he was a better wrestler than him. But “Y2J” refused to have a match with him.
This lead to Jericho defending his title against Malenko at the 1998 Pay-Per-View; WCW Uncensored.
This match is another one of Jericho’s hidden gems from his days in WCW’s Cruiserweight division. He was wrestling the man I consider to be the greatest cruiserweight wrestler ever, for what I consider the most prestigious title in WCW history.
The early goings of the match saw each man trying to wear down the other with submission moves, until about five minutes into the match when Jericho attempted to leave the arena and lose the match, but retain his title. But Malenko broke the count as Jericho ventured back into the ring.
Jericho did a good job of outwrestling one of WCW’s top mat wrestlers at the time, and continued to keep Malenko from gaining any momentum. In a way, Jericho was fighting fire with fire.
The pace of the match continued to increase as Jericho stayed in control for a majority of the contest until the final moments, when it looked like Malenko was going to sneak out a victory. But Jericho caught the “Man of 1,000 Holds” in a hold of his own, The Lion Tamer, and retained his Cruiserweight Championship in a long forgotten, but brilliant, match.
No. 5 Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania XIX)
I have watched TONS of Chris Jericho matches while writing this article—more than you could imagine—and I knew this match would make it somewhere on my countdown.
I have always enjoyed this match and after watching it again, I was shocked when I realized that this match is almost a decade old. It felt like it could have occurred just yesterday.
The early moments of the match featured a wide array of back and forth wrestling. You can tell the two were trying to wrestle a similar game. The match is really entertaining to watch, as Jericho plays off the WWE fan’s knowledge that HBK has a surgically repaired back that was supposed to end his career and spends almost the entire time working on it.
The last half of the match is really the most suspenseful and entertaining part, as the entire crowd at Safeco Field makes this match feel like the main event for a WWE Championship.
The interesting thing is that the match happened because the storyline was that Jericho wanted to step out of HBK’s shadow, which set the seed for a angle HBK/Y2J that would occur years later in 2008.
Maybe that is why their 2008 feud was so good. The fans already knew of Jericho’s dislike and hatred of Michaels, and his jealously of HBK’s career. Just a thought or personal opinion. Take it as a grain of salt if you disagree.
Anyway, Jericho may have played the heel here, but after awhile you can tell the fans stopped caring about who was the heel or babyface and started to care more about the match itself.
That is when you can tell a match is really good; when you start to enjoy the wrestlers actual wrestling instead of actually caring about who wins, you know a match is special.
In the end, Jericho’s own frustration got the best of him and HBK got the win with a roll-up to end what is considered by me his very best outing at a Wrestlemania to date. After the match, we get the infamous handshake that turned into a kick to the groin for HBK. The “The King of the World” had to have the last word.
For a night that was supposed to be remembered for matches like McMahon/Hogan, Austin/Rock III, and Angle/Lesnar, it seems that Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels “stole the show,” as they say.
While Angle and Lesnar’s match is still considered one of Wrestlemania’s best in recent memory, when you mention Wrestlemania XIX to someone HBK and Y2J’s battle is more often than not the first match people want to talk about. At least it is from my experiences anyways. I think that says a lot.
No. 4 Chris Jericho vs. Triple H (Fully Loaded 2000)
One of Chris Jericho’s first opportunities to “dance” in the main event was also only the second last man standing match in WWE history.
The match, which took place in Dallas Texas, was the big blow off from a feud that steamed from “Y2J’ mocking Triple H’s new wife, Stephanie McMahon, even calling her a “bottom feeding hoe.” The match ended up being very, very brutal, as I’m sure you can tell from the photo to your left.
“The Game” dominated almost the entire first half of the contest, giving Jericho almost no offense at all due to the fact that he had walked into the match already injured. I think this was one of Chris Jericho’s first chances to wrestle with “the big boys,” so they wanted to create the illusion that Jericho was a bit outmatched and make it seem he had to struggle to get an upper hand. I think this helped the match tell a story.
While Triple H may have been in control in the beginning, towards the half-way point in the contest Jericho found his rhythm and began to create some offense. Jericho never got to stay in control of the match long, as the entire match followed the pattern of Jericho struggling to keep up with “The Game.”
In the end, Jericho lost the match just barely after both men went through an announce table. While Triple H walked away with the win, Jericho left the match proving he could hang with the best WWE had to offer.
No. 3 Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit (Royal Rumble 2001)
This match occurred in one of the last years when the Intercontinental Championship actually meant anything.
Don’t believe me? How about this fact. The last time the Intercontinental Championship was defended at a Wrestlemania besides the laughable 25-second match from JBL and Rey Mysterio a couple of years ago was at Wrestlemania 18. That was over eight years ago!
The two Canadians spent the first five minutes or so actually wrestling. Most ladder matches start out with one opponent getting knocked out and the other bringing in a ladder. However, this match played a little differently than past occurrences.
Benoit and Jericho played this match very smart. They made it apparent to the viewer that they wanted to make sure the opponent was fully incapacitated before they climb the ladder.
This made the fans more interested in the actual match instead of who could get up the ladder the fastest. It is actually a very smart way to wrestle a ladder match. Some credit should go to J.R. and Jerry Lawer for pointing this out to the viewers.
Even though they actually wrestled in the first few minutes of this match, there are tons of brutal moments in this match. In the middle of the match, Jericho is on the outside and as Benoit flies through the ropes to jump on Y2J he gets hit in the head with a steel chair before he even touches the ground. That is such an awesome moment, and this match is full of them.
It seems that it is very rare now days that we get a feud over the Intercontinental Championship. We get feuds involving the Intercontinental Championship, but it is rare we get a feud that is over the title itself. Maybe that is why the title means almost nothing today.
At any rate, this is one of the greatest matches of the 21st Century, and certainly one of the greatest ladder matches of all time. By the way, this isn’t even Jericho’s best ladder match in my opinion ,so that should speak volumes about his greatest ladder match, which you will see a little later.
The match ends with Jericho winning the Intercontinental title for the fourth time, and perhaps without him knowing it at the time he ends one of his greatest matches standing on top of a ladder.
No. 2 Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio (The Bash 2009)
I’m sure there will be tons of people who think I ranked this match too high and that it is overrated because of all the praise it got last year.
But I think this match is truly brilliant and one of Jericho's most entertaining matches ever. He plays the heel role so beautifully here as he tries to unmask Mysterio by putting his Intercontinental Championship on the line.
He dominated most of the early going, as most of Mysterio’s early high risk moves don’t pay off. The rest of the match was Mysterio trying almost every high risk move to keep Jericho from holding him to the mat in submission maneuvers.
I think that is what makes this match so good to me. Jericho and Mysterio clash in their styles of wrestling, and it makes the match very interesting. I think Jericho really brought out the best in Rey Mysterio, as every time they worked together in the ring Mysterio seemed extremely motivated and tried moves he doesn’t usually use in the ring anymore.
As I’m sure you can tell, Jericho lost the match and his record setting ninth Intercontinental Championship to Mysterio that night. But the series of matches the two had made Mysterio relevant again.
Mysterio had been battling injures for the past few years and always seemed to get hurt just as he started to build momentum. However, this time Mysterio managed to keep it and now he is the reigning World heavyweight Champion on SmackDown.
It is curious that one of “Y2J’s” greatest matches of all time is a match that did less for his career than it did for his opponent.
When Jericho was drafted to SmackDown in 2009, he had his pick of people to work with and he chose Mysterio over other names like The Undertaker and Edge. I think it was because he knew what Mysterio was capable of in the ring under the right conditions, as this match showed.
No. 1 Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (No Mercy 2008)
You have seen two other ladder matches on this list. If someone didn’t know any better, they might assume that Chris Jericho was a “ladder match specialist.”
I think Jericho is just very versatile in his style of wrestling. The fact that three of his top 10 matches are ladder matches just speaks volumes about how good he is.
Jericho has always been considered a mat wrestler, and for a mat wrestler to have three excellent ladder matches means that he is much more than what people precise him as. Jericho is much more than a mat wrestler. He is one of those special talents in the wrestling business that can have a five-star match no matter what the conditions.
That is quite similar to his opponent in what I think is his greatest match of all-time—Shawn Michaels.
Michaels and Jericho had been having what many called (myself included) the feud of the decade, with some of the best writing and promo work involving the two athletes in a long time.
Jericho was on a mission to step out of the shadow of Shawn Michaels and basically end his career and spit on his legacy. After injuring Michaels' eye at the Great American Bash and punching his wife at SummerSlam, "HBK" became a different person. He had a mission to.
It was all about revenge. At Unforgiven, the two had a “Unsanctioned Match” in which Michaels finally got his revenge. However, the story doesn’t end there. Later that night, Jericho won The World Heavyweight Championship.
So after months and month of amazing matches, promos, and writing, we finally get the blow off match to one of the greatest things to happen in the WWE in a very long time. And it happens to be in a match the two men involved knew very well—a ladder match.
Many people say the ladder match has been taken as far as it can go. Many people on the Internet and elsewhere think that nothing more innovative can be done with the ladder. Well if this is true, Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho sure did their best to try and prove them wrong.
Many people talk about ladder matches being “spot fests.” I assume they mean the match is dumb and has no thought or story. If that is so, then this match is the smartest ladder match I have ever seen!
I agree with them to some extent. The best ladder matches are the ones where you forget about the ladder and are more worried about the actual story. Jericho and Michaels do this and also pull off huge spots, but you never feel like you’re watching a “spot fest.” They use the ladder in an effective and smart manner every time they abuse each other with it.
When I was watching this match live, I knew it would be one of Jericho’s best matches, but I didn’t think it would end up being the match of his career. But it did that. Not only that, but I believe his feud with Michaels will be the highlight of his career.
At the end of the match after Jericho won, you hear Michael Cole say “Jericho claimed winning this match up would allow him to take his place as one of the greatest champions ever.”
I don’t think Jericho will be remembered as one of the greatest World Champions of all time. However, I do think Jericho will be remembered as one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all-time, and this match truly solidified that fact for me.