On December 9th, 2001, he made history. The smarmy, microphone master, "Ayatollah of Rock'n'rolla!" became the first ever Undisputed World Champion in WWF/WWE history. Chris Jericho beat not only future WWE Hall of Famer "Stone Cold" Steve Austin that night, but fellow future WWE Hall of Famer Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
A legend born, yea? Eventually...yes. But his first title run, though it lasted through Wrestlemania X8, was one that saw him as widely mocked, under-appreciated and stripped of any credibility.
Worst of all? All of this was done "on-air." It is here that I begin to make my point when I say I am seeing noticeable similarities between Jericho's first run and the first reign as WWE Champion for the charismatic character simply known as "The Miz."
I understand the dynamics of a "Closet champion," but in the case of Jericho it was taken too far. If he competed at all, it was never a clean win, DQ or some other cowardice. As Wrestlemania approached, he was inserted into a feud with the man who would eventually take his Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania, one Paul "HHH" Levesque.
Rather than have a straight up, man/man feud, WWE creative gave him the on-screen ex-wife (real life future wife) of HHH, Stephanie McMahon to help guide him to victory. All this did was turn one of Jericho's classic banter battler's into his boss. He became Steph's "go-fer." He walked her dog, cleaned its poo...classy stuff like that. When he lost the belt, it was not even a close match. Thankfully the excruciating pairing with Steph ended soon thereafter.
This brings me to The Miz. Thus far, he too is painted as the "Closet champion." He is not getting clean wins, and only so due to interference from his "protege" Alex Riley. Like Jericho, his mic skills are almost without equal, as his ability to draw heat from any crowd in any city, on any night. His finisher, like Jericho's, is often ineffective against the top face opponents (see recent live matches with Randy Orton).
Randy Orton. He will ultimately be The Miz's "HHH" when The Miz's "Stephanie(s)" (Riley, announcer Michael Cole) are rendered useless or unavailable. When this happens, I wonder how long he will fight to get back to the top of the card with guys like John Cena, Orton, "King of the Ring" Sheamus, a rising John Morrison or the pending return of CM Punk and rumored return of HHH.
Perhaps it is just the cynic in me that sees Cena's wasted feud with The Nexus as an indication as to the lack of creative potency in WWE's creative department. Perhaps it is just that there are too many huge fish for the little Monday Night RAW! tank. Maybe it is even just in my head. Or maybe, juuuuuuuuust MAY-be...it is the fact that HHH has squashed and kept potential spotlight players down for well over a decade.
Orton was tutored through the business by a family lineage, but mostly by HHH once he entered WWE. My hope is that the WWE will not repeat history, nor Orton make the push backstage to do so. A Miz/Morrison feud would do business. I just have this nagging feeling that HHH products Orton or Sheamus will ultimately rip the belt from The Miz in epic fashion.
I further wonder if The Miz will then have to wait the same nearly SEVEN years that Jericho did to get it back?
I do not doubt The Miz in terms of physical acumen, commitment to his craft (see this piece over at WrestleZone as a potential indicator of said commitment) in and outside the ring. I just have to wonder how long some of these other large fish are going to let this growing minnow swim in their tank with that bling, before they remember their contracts. And the escalators for "titles held" and "pay-per-view" main events detailed within.
I am hoping, for the possibilities his swagger and charisma bring to the product, that being compared to Cena, in terms to work in and out of the ring, will off-set the egos that always rise in any sport or "sports entertainment" product where individual titles exist.
I guess I hope that in a few years, people will see the Jericho/Miz comparison...but in terms of Jericho's later title runs...and not his first.