On Aug. 9, 1999, The Rock paraded around the ring on Monday Night Raw, the attention of every person in the arena within his grasp. They were hanging on his every word, as fans generally do when The People's Champion speaks into a mic. To this day, cutting promos is the province of him and few others.
Suddenly, the "Countdown to the Millenium," something that had been appearing on the titantron sporadically for the preceding few weeks, ticked down to zero, and fans waited with bated breath to see what would happen. As pyros erupted and unfamiliar music became audible, one word was emblazoned in massive blue letters on the titantron.
The crowd erupted.
Chris Jericho, on his full WWE debut, then proceeded to go toe to toe with The Rock in a promo, something no one in WWE other than Stone Cold Steve Austin had ever been able to do. Suddenly, The Rock was not so alone in the territory of electrifying fans. That day, a star was born.
From that moment onward, Y2J never looked back. Something of a journeyman wrestler in the years of his career that preceded WWE, Jericho's supposed big break in WCW transpired to be a frustrating period in his career, as main event talents like Kevin Nash and Scott Hall strove to keep a stranglehold in their place at the top of the company, while Jericho and other talented performers like Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, were stranded in the obscurity of an uninspired, overlooked mid card.
In WWE, Jericho was finally given the opportunity to flourish. In a company that granted more artistic license to young talent, he took every chance that was thrown his way, and in the 10 years since, has firmly entrenched himself in the hearts and minds of wrestling fans around the world.
He was, as you should all know (he never hesitates to remind people), the first ever undisputed champion. He is a record nine-time Intercontinental Champion. A trailblazing, magnetic, in-ring general, Jericho is a legend.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is his Bucket List.
Each and every one of us wants to hear the pyros erupt again. We want to hear the familiar tune of Adam Moneroff's "Break the Walls Down." And when these events occur, we expect to be "ignited, excited and delighted." WWE, it may be time to input the code:
As one of the most charismatic superstars in history, Chris Jericho is one of those rare performers who can play both a face and heel with flawless believability; his portrayal of a babyface is magnetic and hilarious, while his heel roles have always been compelling.
Some, unfortunately, aren't so gifted.
Randy Orton is a good wrestler. Scratch that; he is a great wrestler. In terms of in-ring performances, he's perhaps been second to none this year, showing great consistency. Whatever you think of Orton, his dedication to improving and expanding his in-ring repertoire is worthy of respect and admiration.
The only problem he has is that he cannot realistically portray a face character. He couldn't do it in 2004 after breaking away from Evolution, and he certainly can't now after playing a sadistic, maniacal heel for the better part of two years. Yet WWE are determined to push him that way in the same way they do John Cena.
If common sense prevails, the creative staff will rectify this situation by reverting Orton to his more successful heel persona. They missed a golden opportunity to do that when Orton butchered Cody Rhodes on Smackdown two weeks ago, but it could still easily happen if Orton were to punt a fan favourite like John Morrison (which could be his exit).
But I digress.
If Orton were to ever again established himself as that despised heel, it would be ideal for Jericho to return and challenge him. See, Jericho can't exactly not feud with Orton; in kayfabe terms, the Apex Predator is the reason Jericho left WWE, punting Jericho on Raw last year.
WWE could try and bring back Jericho as the heel of the equation, but it would probably be an unmitigated disaster; the fans couldn't be compelled to boo Jericho immediately upon returning because he is massively popular, and Jericho is the natural face in this situation anyway, as the person who has been wronged.
This could be a fantastic angle if worked properly, and one WWE have likely contemplated since they obviously decided it should be Orton who takes out Jericho for a reason. Orton has become one of the best in the business, and Jericho has long been one of the best in the business. This angle could, should and most likely will be done whenever Y2J returns.
Cody Rhodes has vowed to restore pride and status to the Intercontinental Championship, a title that was rapidly and alarmingly becoming defunct. And most of us believe him. Why wouldn't we? He's done a great job so far, drawing attention to the title and, in a truly inspired move, bringing back the retro design with which the greatest period of the championship is associated.
The inescapable fact, though, is that Rhodes isn't yet main event calibre. As beneficial as he could be to the legacy of the Intercontinental Championship, he isn't yet esteemed enough to get fans fully invested in the title. Chris Jericho, on the other hand, is.
Perhaps more than any superstar in history, Jericho is synonymous with the Intercontinental Championship. A record nine-time holder, Jericho has had countless superb matches with that Championship on the line. Those that come to mind include:
Often time, the Intercontinental Championship has been associated with more technically sound wrestlers, while the WWE championship has almost always been the territory of more marketable stars. This becomes more apparent when you consider Jericho has held the Intercontinental Championship more than anyone else, while John Cena has held the WWE Championship more than anyone else.
Ideally, the championship could even be tied into Jericho's feud with Orton, since The Viper is purportedly becoming involved in a program with current champion Rhodes. That would kill two birds with one stone.
In my opinion, the Intercontinental Championship needs Jericho. Y2J wouldn't just give it credibility, he wouldn't just make it relevant again, he would make it exciting again. All three match examples given above are four stars at the very least, and Jericho is more than capable of matching if not surpassing them if given a 10th reign as Champion. It was once known as "The Workhorse Title", and no one could re-establish that reputation more effectively than Y2J.
This one is quite selfish, but then, after years of putting the business first, surely Jericho is entitled to be somewhat selfish at this point in his career?
So many performers owe Jericho a debt for elevating their careers, it's impossible to name them all. While Y2J has stood atop the mountain himself on a few occasions, there are countless more who have stood atop the mountain more regularly. The recurrent theme in their careers is, generally, that at some point, Chris Jericho will have humbly put them over.
Step forward, John Cena.
Undoubtedly the most prominent example of Jericho's ability to legitimise a competitor, it was at the 2002 Vengeance PPV that Jericho lost clean to Cena in what was Cena's first PPV. Bear in mind that at the same PPV one year prior, Jericho became the first even undisputed champion. To go happily from that to enhancing an untried young talent in Cena speaks volumes about Jericho's dedication to the business.
Ever since, Jericho has endorsed Cena despite the IWC's preoccupation with demonising him, even during the epic Punk/Cena angle a few months ago, Jericho rightly drew attention to Cena's role in things when Punk was receiving all the praise:
@IAmJericho As great as Punk was and is during the whole angle, don't discount Cenas work in all this. Contrary to what some say Cena is a GREAT worker
Now, according to reports, Jericho is willing to return to WWE if Vince McMahon can guarantee him certain gratuities, one of which is supposedly a three-month reign as WWE champion. After a career of putting business first, Jerichoholics should be pleased with their idol's demands. Though he has been a World Champion before, it's never been the highlight of his resume because he's always been booked as a transitional champion.
This is Jericho's chance to rectify that black mark. Three months equals three to five PPV's in WWE, so Jericho should be booked strong and defeat Cena cleanly in at least one of them. Now, as we're all aware, Vince McMahon would rather employ Vince Russo than have Cena lose clean, but if there's anyone they should make an exception for, it's Y2J.
Even more than Cena though, Jericho deserves to earn a victory against Triple H. Both men have faced off numerous times, but Jericho has never beaten Triple H cleanly. Worse than that, though, Triple H has beaten Jericho in situations that didn't require it. Jobbing to Cena in order to enhance his reputation was understandable and admirable, but the majority of times Jericho jobbed to The Game, it did nothing for either men's careers, except maybe detract from them.
Letting Jericho go over against superstars of such prestige would also do wonders for the WWE championship, which is rapidly becoming as irrelevant as all the other titles in WWE. With the amount of times it has changed hands in such a short space of time, the championship needs a strong reign to restore it's value. That reign could be Jericho's.
Who doesn't want this to happen?
This concept is as popular as any circulating the vast realms of the internet. Perhaps the only booking idea more popular than this one is an angle between CM Punk and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but this is certainly the more likely of the two. Whose to say both couldn't occur?
The purported idea for Austin and CM Punk is for a Wrestlemania showdown, whereas if Jericho returns full time, an angle between him and Punk could happen at any time. Can you imagine?
One believes he is the "Best in the World at What I Do" and the other claims simply to be "The Best in the World."
Both men are among the elite echelons of promo cutters in wrestling history, coupling intensity and passion with panache and charisma. The two are the greatest in-ring performers in recent memory, similar performers who excel in all areas of wrestling rather than just one. For the Codebreaker, you have the GTS. For the Walls of Jericho, you have the Anaconda Vice. It's almost perfect.
Considering their acumen, it has to be admitted these two have clashed before in matches that were good, but didn't exactly send the wrestling community into a frenzy of sensational praise the way they're capable of. In these instances though, their was no storyline to hype their match. They were simply one-off performances. If Jericho were to return, they could enjoy an imaginative, compelling gripping feud that could easily result in some all-time classic matches.
Punk, having been announced as the biggest merchandise seller of anyone in WWE, is reportedly set for a massive push; without doubt, he is the hottest commodity in Pro Wrestling today. This push, while great news on its own, would be even sweeter if it somehow involved Jericho. Interestingly, there have been allusions to the possibility of a future angle between the two. Twitter, which can always be relied on to set tongues wagging, offered the WWE universe this tease:
Y2J tweeted this after Punk named him, along with Batista and Brock Lesnar, as talented performers WWE had squandered and let escape their clutches. Reports suggested this was a work to begin their angle, and people became majorly excited by the prospect. Even now, they still are.
If these two men, masters of their craft, were allowed to perform an angle together, it would be simply electric, on the mic and in the ring. Fans would be divided in their loyalties, no matter which superstar was playing the face and which was playing the heel. These two are extremely popular. They are extremely talented. And they are well known for giving the people what they want.
Keep on giving us what we want, guys.
Well, this particular Bucket List was probably the most difficult to write, but equally, it was the most rewarding. Chris Jericho is simply so talented that it was difficult to choose what objectives were truly worthy of inclusion in his list. He has so much to offer, even at this point, in the twilight of his career, and to see his curtain call squandered would be very difficult to tolerate.
Other ideas that I considered that didn't make the cut were:
- Win the Royal Rumble
- Share a promo with The Rock one more time
- End the "Anonymous Raw GM" angle
Now these were all decent concepts, in my opinion, but in my estimation, they weren't as essential to Jericho's legacy as the others were. You may argue the Royal Rumble is the one major thing missing from his legacy, but in my opinion, the Royal Rumble is the province of younger stars who are ready for a major push, and I imagine Jericho agrees with me.
The other two are also not crucial to Jericho's legacy, although him sharing the ring with Rock again would be the epitome of Miz's favourite catchphrase. As for the Raw GM, I concluded it would be a waste of Jericho's time to involve himself in such a redundant angle.
This was absolutely my favourite article of the Bucket List series so far, so I sincerely hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. For the record, the video you're probably watching right now rather than reading this sentence is something else I considered including in the list. There are few things as hilarious as Jericho insulting Mrs. Hunter Helmsley.
Until next time, I'll be seeing you all.
The Bucket List Series