Chris Jericho is a five-time World Champion in World Wrestling Entertainment, one of the most gifted athletes on the entire company roster, and one of the best all around entertainers of this decade.
He's had success in television ("Redemption Song"), radio (XM Satellite's "The Rock of Jericho"), literature ("A Lion's Tale"), and music (Fozzy). His 2007 return to the world of professional wrestling was one of the most celebrated comebacks of the year, and the storylines he worked over his first year back in action were nothing short of stellar. Without a doubt, Jericho's "Superstar of the Year" award was well deserved. For nearly a full year, Raw was Jericho once again.
So why does it beginning to feel as though the RAW writing staff is beginning to let the Jericho ship slowly sink back into the mid-card?
John Cena came back.
In June of 2008, the Raw landscape seemed primed for a change that would rival the vision of President-elect Obama. Randy Orton was out of action with a broken collarbone. Triple H had been drafted to Smackdown, taking the WWE Championship with him. CM Punk had stunned the world by cashing in Money in the Bank and winning the World Heavyweight Championship from Edge on Raw. John Cena was out of the title picture, and Chris Jericho had started a program with Shawn Michaels that brought out the best in both competitors over the course of the summer.
With CM Punk on top of the Raw roster and Jericho quickly establishing himself as Raw's top heel, fans all across the internet were clamoring for what seemed like the inevitable Jericho/Punk title feud. Match of the Year awards were already being made up with their respective names on them. Fans were cooking their popcorn and readying their remotes for the moment the match was announced.
WWE was moving towards something new and incredibly exciting. The fans waited, collectively holding their breath for what was undoubtedly going to be something great.
Their wait was met with disappointment.
CM Punk's title reign was horribly mishandled by Raw's creative team, culminating in Punk not even competing in the Championship Scramble at Unforgiven (a disastrous idea in its own right) thanks to a well placed punt from Randy Orton.
What looked to be a train wreck in the making was salvaged when Jericho, fresh off the receiving end of an unsanctioned match with HBK, was entered into the Championship Scramble and won the World title in true heel fashion.
Not only did this open the door for a Jericho/Michaels title feud, but Jericho had truly elevated himself to a higher level as a performer and wrestler. Those who once claimed Jericho's Undisputed Title reign was a fluke now were forced to sit up and take notice of one of this decade's true greats.
After a very effective (albeit too short) title program with Shawn Michaels, WWE writers left many scratching their heads when Jericho lost the World title to Batista at Cyber Sunday, only to win it back eight days later on Raw's 800th episode.
By that time, the general fanbase was well aware of John Cena's upcoming return at Survivor Series, and when it was announced that Cena would be facing Jericho for the championship, many of those fans grew an uncomfortable knot in their stomachs.
As much as it pained them, they knew what was coming. WWE's biggest cash cow was back, and what better way to boost ratings than to simply hand him the title?
Since then, Jericho has lingered in the championship picture, but with the in-ring return of Randy Orton (Raw's other current cash cow), the man once known as "Y2J" is quickly being pushed out of the picture.
Indirectly making matters that much worse is JBL, whose heel credentials are that much more powerful considering the current state of the US economy. To stay anywhere near the top, Jericho will need to win the Fatal Four Way match and go on to challenge Cena for the title at the Royal Rumble next month. Otherwise, "Y2J" needs to be resurrected very quickly, because Jericho is fast apporaching a dead end as a heel.
He may be the 2008 Superstar of the Year, but the words that flash on his TitanTron video ring with a new truth heading into 2009.
Chris Jericho needs to be saved.
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