Reliving Chris Jericho's Debut vs. The Rock and Early Days in WWE 19 Years Later

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2018

"Raw Is Jericho" was coined by Chris Jericho himself 19 years ago today.
"Raw Is Jericho" was coined by Chris Jericho himself 19 years ago today.Credit: WWE.com

Nearly two decades removed from his iconic confrontation with The Rock on the August 9, 1999, edition of Monday Night Raw, Chris Jericho's debut is still remembered as one of the greatest arrivals in WWE history, and for good reason.

Jericho is among the few elite competitors who have stood the test of time and found ways to reinvent themselves over and over again. Look no further than his long list of accomplishments that include countless championship reigns, and even today he continues to find success in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

However, it's unknown whether he would have made it this far within the realm of wrestling had his WWE debut 19 years ago not gone off without a hitch. That moment alone helped put Jericho on the map and cement his status as a star on the rise from the get-go.

For months, the WWE Universe looked forward to the countdown clock that appeared on the Titantron at random finally reaching zero. It wasn't uncommon for the company to hype something up and then not deliver in the end (remember The Gobbledy Gooker?), so fans kept their guard in case this turned out to be a disappointment.

Jericho emerging as the mystery man behind the clock was the surprise. As noted, he was far from main event status in WCW, but seeing him interrupt The Rock on his first night with WWE didn't feel forced in the slightest.

The Rock was on another level of superstardom at that time, yet Jericho managed to hold his own against him on the mic and introduce himself to viewers in grandiose fashion.

Although The Rock got the last word in their intense verbal exchange, Jericho benefited immensely from being associated with such a star upon his arrival on Raw. Then again, despite his unforgettable debut, most fans tend to forget Y2J still had to work his way up the ladder in the months that followed.

In fact, Jericho went on to lose his debut match in WWE later that month against Road Dogg. It hardly sent the message that he was to be taken seriously, especially since he was riding an incredible wave of momentum following his interaction with The Rock.

Jericho was then relegated to wrestling on Sunday Night Heat for a brief period and came close to fizzling out quickly, but a feud with Chyna for the Intercontinental Championship allowed him to redeem himself as a credible title contender.

Credit: WWE.com

While the matches with Chyna were nothing to write home about, they resulted in multiple IC title reigns for Jericho and gave him the opportunity to develop an actual character for himself. Their segments made for entertaining television before he became involved with Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit heading into WrestleMania 2000.

It was then that Jericho's wrestling skills were put to the test against two of the best in the world. Their Triple Threat match at 'Mania was among the few saving graces of the show and led to a stellar series of matches between Jericho and Benoit that spring season.

Shortly thereafter, Y2J got his first real break when he upset Triple H on an episode of Raw and seemingly captured the WWE Championship. The outcome was later overturned, and the title was returned to The Game, but the reaction was enough to convince officials that Jericho was more than a midcard act.

All things considered, Jericho's first year in WWE was nothing short of a roller coaster that featured its fair share of ups and down. Through the twists and turns, he prevailed and proved himself as a top-tier talent on what was a stacked roster at the height of the Attitude Era.

In late 2001, Jericho's career came full circle when he defeated The Rock (as well as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin) to become the inaugural Undisputed champion. That was a testament to how much the company believed in his ability to be a perennial main event player in the promotion, and he did not disappoint as he clinched nearly three dozen championships over the next two decades.

As we celebrate this remarkable milestone in the illustrious career of Jericho, it's important to recognize everything he has done to pave the way for others, dating back to his debut 19 years ago today that rocked Raw to its core and changed the landscape of WWE forever.

                

Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.

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