WWE Introspection: The Art of Jericho
Professional wrestling is an athletic art form that we all, as active members of the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC), love to get involved with.
Whether we are writing articles about WWE's flaws or just looking for information to satiate our love for pro wrestling while we wait for the next chance to watch Monday Night Raw or Friday Night SmackDown, we all have some drive to be more involved with this art form known as professional wrestling.
We all have our own stories about how we got involved in watching WWE or how it affects us. At the same time, each professional wrestler in the WWE has their own stories of personal triumph and loss.
These stories can be small or gigantic in their impact on us as a community and as individuals. We thrive off the actions of individual superstars and the moments they make as they create stories within themselves.
We all love these moments because, as human beings, it is within our nature to love stories.
One such wrestler who created many stories within the squared circle is Chris Jericho. Over the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about how much the WWE needs Chris Jericho and about his eventual return to his home, the WWE.
Why do we as fans need Chris Jericho to come back? What can he bring to professional wrestling that can shape the art's future?
Credit where it is due, much of Jericho's history and thoughts that are talked about in this article are derived from Chris Jericho's great DVD Breaking the Code: Behind the Walls of Jericho.
Now, let's introspect our experiences in WWE as they relate to the great Chris Jericho and how he has shaped our views of professional wrestling.
Determination and Perserverence
Chris Jericho began training for professional wrestling when he was 19.
He entered into the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling where he met Lance Storm.
The two became good friends and would team on and off throughout their early time in the business.
For Jericho, it was his life dream to become a professional wrestler. To accomplish that goal, he scoured the world looking for chances to compete.
Jericho would be Leon D'Oro and then Corazón de León in Mexico where he would begin to catch on with fans, and then he traveled to Japan where he would wrestle the great Ultimo Dragon who Chris still considers to be one of his favorite opponents.
Six years, he wrestled and worked all around the world to get recognition.
This shows just how much work wrestlers have to put in to get into this business. Sure, now, there are easier ways to get in especially through the FCW promotion, but we, as fans, criticize these men who have worked for years on end to hone their craft and find a way to get into the mainstream wrestling promotion.
For many wrestlers, just being a member of the WWE roster is huge. That is why so many wrestlers take up horrible gimmicks and ridiculous angles. They have already accomplished their dream.
Every word we write or say that criticizes a wrestler probably does not even faze them as they have succeeded where other men have failed for years.
Daniel Bryan, for example, has only found his way into the WWE now after 20 years of work especially in Ring of Honor. Finally, making it to the WWE must have been a truly amazing moment for Bryan.
Chris Jericho wrestled for six years and all over the world, and he has been said to have loved everything that he was involved with. He even said that he would not have wanted to come into the WWE any other way.
The work Jericho did would finally pay off when Jericho was invited to go wrestle in ECW.
Finding Pride in Action
Jericho would wrestle for a few months in ECW which would allow him to garner the attention of Eric Bischoff who would offer Chris a contract in WCW.
Once Jericho came to WCW, he was quickly thrust into an emerging cruiser weight division.
As the NWO reigned throughout WCW, Jericho was never given a chance in the spotlight; however, he took up the charge and began a great run in the cruiser weight division.
At this time, this division was great as it featured many young stars from Eddie Guerrero to Rey Mysterio to a long time rival of Jericho, Dean Malenko.
Over this time, Jericho would find his niche as a heel. He paraded around with arrogance and was allowed to speak for short bursts before or after his matches.
He would produce some amazing work from his list of 1004 holds to his conspiracy theory (long before R-Truth) venture throughout Washington D.C.
Jericho may not have been given the ball as WCW champion, but he took what he got and became a great competitor.
It just showed that, given just enough leeway, true talent can shine through. He may not have had the confidence of WCW as a main event player, but his feuds as a mid card wrestler were enthralling for the audience, even looking back on them today.
Sometimes, the WWE Universe never gives stars like these the chance to show their talent. They are left out to dry by the WWE because they do not get support from the crowd.
Watching Zach Ryder fight each week for air time was a great experience to watch as he showed that, even with no faith from the high ups, a star can become popular by connecting with the crowd.
Today, we watch wrestlers like Tyson Kidd show great promise, and all they lack is a chance and support from the crowd.
Chris Jericho's popularity as a heel got him into an indirect feud with Goldberg that eventually crashed due to politics alone, causing Jericho to make his long time goal a reality and sign a contract with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, eventually WWE).
Success, a Fical Friend
Jericho started big. Really big!
He would have one of the greatest debuts of all time when he came out while the Rock was in mid-sentence and proceeded to show off his amazing charisma.
His debut was sealed when he was put in his place by the Rock.
While his debut was outstanding, the follow-up was not. Jericho soon found himself lost in the shuffle on WWF. He had no matches and no direction.
His initial work had not been enough to make a stellar impression on the high ups of WWF management. Left with nothing, Chris was asked if he would work with Chyna.
At the time, Chyna was Intercontinental Champion which was a title that Jericho had longed to hold since Ricky Steamboat had once held the title.
The problem was only that working with a women is still an unprecedented idea and not entirely reflected on well for the male wrestler; however, Jericho was willing as it was that or nothing.
A favorite target of the IWC is bad gimmicks. The IWC will harp on how bad a character is because of the portrayal of their gimmick, but sometimes these gimmicks and ideas are forced upon the wrestler.
Not everyone is Santino Marella who will seemingly do anything, but most wrestlers will take a shot when it is given to them no matter how bad it looks.
Jericho took his downfall in stride and saw the bright side as he would become Intercontinental champion and, soon after, the WWF European champion. Chris Jericho would even eventually be given a huge feud that would see him "win" the WWF Title only to have the decision reversed due to HHH pressuring the ref.
There was a light at the end of the tunnel as there have been for many superstars. Just because Santino Marella or Zach Ryder seem to have gimmicks that make them unbelievable and not serious now does not mean that they could not eventually get something unique that will propel them to the main event.
Seeing the underlying talent in a wrestler is important in gauging their ability to become great stars.
Eventually, Jericho's stars would align, and he would reach the top of a wrestling organization for the first time in his career.
Achieving a Dream
Jericho was becoming big quickly. He debuted a new finisher, the Breakdown (aka The Miz's Skull Crushing Finale), and would defeat the Rock for the WCW Championship.
His time truly came shortly after though. On December 9, 2001, lightning struck alongside a hailstorm of crazy overbooking.
Chris Jericho would leave Vengeance that night as the first ever Undisputed Champion defeating both the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin on that night.
Jericho was at the top of the world and carried his arrogance around with him no matter where he went.
He would take a fall into the upper mid card where he would eventually level off, but, during this time, Jericho would get his dream match facing Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIX in a show stealing performance.
It just showed that hard work and determination could conquer size and lack of respect. This is the kind of moment I love to see - when someone truly becomes a star. In the IWC, these are the moments that can get praise or ridicule based on the person involved and their supposed talent.
Not many take the time to really think about how how that star must feel. We think about how far better stars have been put down in making the way for this particular wrestler.
The reason they find themselves in the main event may have many factors, but it is probably deserved and something that superstar will remember for the rest of their life.
For Jericho, he continued on as a star who could do anything and be involved with any angle.
Knowing When to Take a Break
Through all of Jericho's years, he had succeeded immensely. He had made his mark in WWF/E history that would never be erased.
Jericho would use his time as a star to put over men that deserved shots.
He never refused to lay down for anyone as he respected how hard each man in the locker room had worked to get where they were today.
One man in particular caught Jericho's eye. That man was John Cena. Someone Jericho has called one of the best workers he has ever been in the ring with.
Yes, one of the greatest in WWE history has called John Cena a great worker, and that is something that will not change. Being outside the WWE as we are, we do not always give credit to the men who are front and center.
John Cena is a huge star today for a reason, and Jericho understands that better than any of us here on the Internet.
Chris Jericho, around 2004 to 2005, began to find himself worn down from his long years of competing.
He had many things he wanted to do with his life and was too tired and distracted to properly compete at the level that he wanted to, so he used his last match in the WWE for the next two years to put over John Cena as he left kicking and screaming, the way a heel should leave as Jericho has agreed.
Over his time off, Jericho took up an active role in his band Fozzy and worked a variety of television angles. He also became a New York Times best selling author with his autobiography A Lion's Tale. Jericho showed himself to be extremely talented and varied in his pursuits.
Many only see Jericho as a wrestler, so they clamber to see him back quickly. The truth of the matter is that Jericho has many different desires, and he is a human being too. His time off is well-deserved.
Jericho was well-off having the time of his life and showcasing his talents until he watched the PWI match of the year between Shawn Michaels and John Cena on April 23, 2007.
Rebirth and Renewal
The itch in Jericho to return began to grow. He could not stay away for much longer.
Looking at his time away now, I would expect watching CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank may have created a similar longing for him.
The countdown soon began and, before anyone was truly ready, Y2J was back to save us all.
When Chris Jericho finally returned, it only took him a few months to grow into his greatest role. In the past, Jericho had seen many different roles and had much success; however, nothing could have prepared the WWE for the new Chris Jericho.
After a shocking turn of events on Jericho's Highlight Reel (see video), we witnessed the birth of the man who was the "best in the world at what he does". A villain in all respects, Jericho was the best performer in WWE after his change.
He would be given success through two more World Heavyweight Title reigns and making history as a nine-time Intercontinental champion (the original title Jericho had dreamed of holding even once in his career).
Jericho's success transcended all his previous personae. It showed how smart Jericho's decision to take a break truly was.
Jericho is one of the few men in professional wrestling history to take breaks. It makes us realize how hard these men work each and every day. No matter how good or bad we perceive them to be, these men have to travel around the world and work a full time schedule constantly.
Every one needs to take a break once in a while, and Jericho used his time away better than anyone.
He came back better and stronger than ever before, holding an even larger aura around himself that reminded us of how much of a star he was.
That is why when Jericho comes back from his hiatus which has now lasted almost a year I will feel prepared for him. No sooner. Jericho knows when he should come back, and he is probably fighting his own urge to make sure that time is right.
Becoming a Legend
Today, Chris Jericho is regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step foot in the WWE.
He is a great wrestler who has produced five star matches with Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, and Shawn Michaels.
He is one of greatest to ever take up a microphone from his time in the WCW cruiser weight division to his last days in the WWE.
This is a man who can do anything and create stars. He is not afraid to lay down for anyone. He has put over stars as "low" as Evan Bourne and John Morrison even giving JTG a pin fall victory.
He has shown the WWE Universe that hard work and dedication can get you anywhere and that it means something to be a part of the WWE. He reminds every fan that we are judging far too often and not giving the company and its wrestler a chance to succeed.
If we could take the time to support those who deserve their shot more than we take the time bashing the men who have already made it, the WWE might finally realize who deserves a shot and who just needs the WWE's confidence.
When he returns, Jericho will take charge and give us great entertainment but don't push him too fast. Let the man arrive when he is ready as he will be great when he does.
Jericho may not be the "best in the world at what he does", but he is pretty close and shows a respect and honesty that deserves to be front and center in how the WWE is portrayed and how we in the IWC portray the WWE.
A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else. -- George Savile