Jericho's Second Coming: One Year On
On November 19th 2007, the wait to find out who was behind "SAVE_US.222" was over, as Chris Jericho returned to the WWE, proclaiming that he would save RAW from boring, monotonous wrestlers such as Randy Orton. One year to that day, Jericho is the World Heavyweight Champion, but is now the very same boring, monotonous wrestler he was crusading against when he returned.
The transformation from that night in Fort Lauderdale to today—let alone from Jericho's original WWE stint from 1999 to 2005—is staggering. Yet it's interesting to trace at the same time. Jericho was inserted straight into the RAW main event against Orton, only to have John "Bradshaw" Layfield cost him the title at Armageddon.
The two then feuded, with one notable incident seeing JBL try and hang Jericho from the RAW set. Then JBL was moved onto a feud with Finlay, leaving Jericho in limbo.
When Jeff Hardy was suspended for 60 days in March for his second failure of the Wellness Programme, Jericho was given the Intercontinental Title, which seemed at the time to place him right back in the midcard where he had spent the majority of his first spell with the company, making the comeback a failure to many at the time.
His only involvement at WrestleMania XXIV was as part of the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, although he did defeat that match's winner CM Punk the following night on RAW. It seemed at that point that he was destined to stay in the midcard with the Intercontinental Title.
However, in April, he started the feud that would change his career for the better. On an episode of RAW from London, Jericho interrupted a Shawn Michaels promo and got Sweet Chin Music for his troubles. He was then made the Special Referee for Michaels' match with Batista at Backlash, after which he accused HBK of lying about a knee injury—a suspicion he was proven right on.
After a defeat to HBK at Judgment Day, and shortly after Michaels' loss to Batista at One Night Stand, Jericho reached breaking point over HBK's actions, and turned on him, throwing him face first into a television screen. It would be a turning point in Jericho's career that he has not looked back from.
After Michaels cost Jericho the Intercontinental Title to Kofi Kingston at Night of Champions, Jericho moved on full time to HBK, injuring his eye at The Great American Bash, and then punching Shawn's wife Rebecca at SummerSlam.
During this time, Jericho abandoned his flashy Y2J persona, in favour of a more serious tone, with dull grey suits and a five-o-clock shadow. Instead of playing things up for laughs as Y2J would do to entertain the fans, Jericho would now rant on about Shawn Michaels to annoy the fans for minutes on end.
Although he had become the man he hated upon his return, it was a much needed change for his character, which despite the two year layoff, was starting to get somewhat stale. Jericho also changed his ring gear at this time, from his flashy long tights to serious dark trunks.
At Unforgiven, Jericho and Michaels would meet in a non-sanctioned match, in which HBK beat Jericho from pillar to post, much like Jericho had done to Michaels at The Great American Bash. Only this time, Jericho wouldn't be complaining about an eye problem after the match.
Later that night, Jericho, covered in massive bruises, would re-emerge as CM Punk's replacement in the Championship Scramble Match, pinning Kane to become the World Heavyweight Champion for the fourth time in his career.
Over the next couple of months, Jericho would assume CM Punk's position of being in the right place at the right time.
He would win a steel cage match against Punk by falling out of the cage after a Punk headbutt, steal a pinfall from JBL after JBL had hit Batista with a Clothesline from Hell, and defeat Michaels in a Ladder Match at No Mercy after a long tug of war with the World Heavyweight Title ended with Michaels drawing Jericho into an accidental headbutt.
Jericho would lose the title at Cyber Sunday to Batista, thanks to various wrestlers interfering, but he would win the title back for a fifth time a week later on RAW in another steel cage match, using a piece of unscrewed metal to fend Batista off before falling off the cage.
Last week on RAW, Jericho ended his feud with Michaels by defeating him in a Last Man Standing Match, albeit with help from JBL. This Sunday at Survivor Series, Jericho defends the title against John Cena in Cena's home town of Boston, and it wouldn't surprise me if Jericho somehow fluked a win there as well.
Jericho has his detractors at the moment for his basic, "boring" heel promo, and the fact that he can't seem to click with anyone other than Shawn Michaels, but he did click with John Cena during their feud in 2005, and I'm sure they'll work well together in 2008.
Jericho is also currently getting the blame for RAW's low ratings, which tends to happen when you're the champion, but I think it's more to do with his challengers, and with Cena returning this weekend, the ratings should pick back up, hopefully with Jericho as champion.
His critics, in my opinion, are giving him a bit of a hard time, as he's still a phenomenal worker, and his "bland" promos are meant to be a stark contrast to his extravagant, funny promos as Y2J. His only fault in my view is that he doesn't play heel quite as well as another blonde Canadian—Edge.
The Rated R Superstar set the bar high this year for how a heel should work, and for some people, Jericho just doesn't make up for Edge's absence. But he's still awesome in his own right, and he did indeed "save" the WWE—just in a different way to how we thought he would when he returned a year ago today.
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