Ranking Chris Jericho's 10 Best Wrestling Moments 20 Years After WWE Debut

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2019

Ranking Chris Jericho's 10 Best Wrestling Moments 20 Years After WWE Debut

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    Credit: WWE.com

    10...9...8...7...6...

    The millennium clock ticked down, pyro exploded and Chris Jericho stood atop the Raw ramp on August 9, 1999, the savior of Vince McMahon's professional wrestling empire. At least in his own mind.

    The moment rocked wrestling landscape, as Jericho became the first young star to leave behind the guaranteed money and enormous contracts on offer in WCW to jump to WWE for creative and professional opportunity.

    The 20 years that followed featured unforgettable moments, historically significant matches and red-hot angles featuring a man who always managed to be one step ahead of trends. Adaptable, creative, enormously funny and deadly serious when the time called for it, Jericho has captivated and engaged fans in ways only the elite talents ever have been able to.

    Two decades after his memorable debut, relive the 10 moments that helped All Elite Wrestling's greatest villain the future Hall of Famer he is, ranked according to their significance to his growth, evolution and historical significance.

Honorable Mentions

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    hris Jericho has had such an enormously wild, fun, successful and momentous career that it would be irresponsible not to name a few of the unforgettable moments that failed to make the top 10.

                   

    Mr. Jericho Goes to Washington

    Facing what he considered unforgivable bias and conspiracy at the hands of WCW management in 1998, Jericho took his argument to the nation's capital, where he visited the Library of Congress, among other landmarks. The segment was the first hint of the special performer and hilarious character Jericho would turn out to be.

              

    A Shocking Punch

    Chris Jericho's 2008 heel run ranks among the best in the industry's long and illustrious history. His devotion to that character was unparalleled at the time, and it showed with every passing promo, match or angle. At SummerSlam 2008, he berated a Shawn Michaels on the brink of retirement. When things turned physical, he threw a punch at HBK that the future Hall of Famer ducked...and connected with his rival's wife.

    The remorseless look on his face and the gravity of the angle helped escalate the rising tensions between Jericho and Michaels, leading to a series of violent, hard-hitting battles between them.

                   

    World Champion

    At Unforgiven 2008, Jericho endured a hellish beating at the hands of Michaels and, by night's end, was a bruised and battered shell of the arrogant heel who entered the arena earlier in the evening. That still did not stop him from enraging fans with one last brazen act of heeldom.

    When CM Punk was unable to compete in the night's main event, a Championship Scramble match for the World Heavyweight Championship, Jericho took his place. Staying out of the way and surveying the damage inflicted on the other competitors, he created an opportunity to pick up the pieces and did just that.

    Jericho sneakily entered the fray in the closing moments, made the pinfall and won the world title by doing the least amount possible. The image of a smirking Jericho clutching the title, having gotten yet another one over on Michaels and the fans, was brilliant.

10. A Royal Rumble Return

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    Every once in a while, WWE manages to surprise its audience, even at the height of internet news leaks. Those moments always resonate with audiences, and Chris Jericho's unexpected return at the 2013 Royal Rumble was no exception.

    Y2J answered a promo by Dolph Ziggler by stepping through the curtain and making his way to the ring for the first time in months. What ensued was a spectacular Rumble performance that saw the veteran last 47 minutes and 53 seconds before being eliminated by The Showoff.

    The energy and excitement Jericho's unadvertised return sparked were a not-so-subtle reminder of the connection he has with audiences and the impression he had left on the audience in the 14 years prior.

9. ARMBAR

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    At the height of a rivalry with Dean Malenko over the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, Chris Jericho produced an enormous stack of printer paper and claimed to be The Man of 1,004 Holds, a play on Malenko's Man of 1,000 Holds moniker.

    That alone would have been humorous and entertaining.

    But then Jericho started naming off moves—many of which were simply "ARMBAR!"

    The delivery, the visual of this grown man with perforated printer paper unfurling at his feet as he named off move after move and the absurdity of his character came together to create a magical moment of humor and one of the highlights Jericho's otherwise up-and-down WCW run.

8. Debuting the List of Jericho

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    By 2016, Chris Jericho had done everything was to do in WWE. He was a multi-time world champion, one of the most decorated Superstars in the industry and a future Hall of Famer. Rather than settling for one of the most impressive resumes of any Superstar ever, he continued to reinvent himself in the hopes of creating more unforgettable moments.

    He did so on the September 19, 2016, episode of Raw when he introduced The List of Jericho.

    The clipboard gimmick would get Jericho over with a new generation of fans and create a new catchphrase Y2J could pull out to pop a crowd and sell some merch. It was a highly successful, hugely unexpected hit and served as more proof of his ability to get just about anything over through sheer determination.

7. A Ladder Match Classic

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The last chapter in Jericho and Shawn Michaels' epic 2008 rivalry was a ladder match in the main event of the No Mercy pay-per-view.

    A bout that sacrificed high spots for intensely physical, unabashedly violent action, it was the appropriate conclusion to the seeds they had planted many months earlier.

    Jericho won the match, outlasting Michaels in a tug-of-war for the World Heavyweight Championship, but it was Y2J who left missing teeth.

    The bout, an instant classic, gave fans a different perspective of what ladder matches could be and laid the groundwork for others to have more realistic, barbaric forms of the popular gimmick contest.

6. Festival of Friendship

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    Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens' friendship spawned some of the best television WWE produced late in 2016 and early 2017. They were funny, sarcastic, witty and entertaining—something Raw could not always claim to be.

    When it came time for their breakup, kicking off a rivalry that culminated at WrestleMania 33, Jericho and Owens saved the best for last.

    During a Festival of Friendship, set up by Y2J to celebrate Owens, who had just recently lost the universal title to Goldberg at Fastlane, Y2J presented The Prizefighter with an elaborate display of his appreciation, complete with the most asinine piece of artwork ever.

    A clearly perturbed Owens presented Jericho with a gift of his own: a brand-new list...of KO. The only name on said list? Y2J's.

    Taking a page out of his tag team partner's playbook, Owens attacked Jericho and threw him face-first through the Jeritron 6000, putting an exclamation point on the extraordinary angle.

    Jericho's selling of the moment ("why is my name on it?") was outstanding and added to what could have otherwise been a massive disappointment. His continued excellence well into his 17th year with the company helped elevate this moment to its spot on the countdown.

5. A Close Call

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    The April 17, 2000, episode of Raw kicked off with Chris Jericho goading Triple H to put his WWE Championship on the line in an impromptu match. What unfolded was a brilliant bit of sport and entertainment as the APA, referee Earl Hebner and a title shot to the face by Y2J led The Game to seemingly lose his title, the victim of his own uncontrolled emotions.

    The crowd in State College, Pennsylvania, erupted at the idea of Jericho winning the gold—the pop was almost deafening.

    Jericho was soon forced to hand back the title because of less-than-honorable officiating, and his championship victory was erased from the record books. Still, it was the first indication that fans would embrace Y2J as a top babyface and champion and an indicator of Jericho's undeniable popularity.

4. A Heel Turn Worth of a Highlight Reel

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    Jericho had always admitted his adulation for Shawn Michaels, even producing video of him copying HBK's trademark offense early in his own career.

    It was for that reason that his disappointment in Michaels' actions during his rivalry with Batista led him to turn heel on his idol, brutally assaulting him during the greatest episode of the Highlight Reel in company history.

    He beat down Michaels and then, in a moment that would shape the competitors' immediate future and lead to the best rivalry of the decade, threw him face-first through the JeriTron, leaving the greatest in-ring performer of all time a bloodied, beaten mess.

    The heel turn sparked the most critically acclaimed run of Y2J's illustrious career and earned him the type of starring role he should have enjoyed much earlier.

3. A WrestleMania Classic

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Jericho had earned the reputation of one of the greatest in-ring performers in the industry but had yet to deliver that one WrestleMania performance that defines a career. That changed in 2003 at WrestleMania XIX when he battled the man who inspired him to be a wrestler, Shawn Michaels.

    The arrogant villain sought to legitimize himself on wrestling's grandest stage against the Superstar most synonymous with The Showcase of the Immortals, and he succeeded.

    Jericho took the fight to Michaels and looked every bit the best wrestler on the planet. He was smooth, his work was crisp and he controlled the pace. Even though he succumbed to a lightning-quick rollup that halted his quest for victory, Jericho still emerged a winner.

    When he embraced Michaels and then proceeded to kick him low, he only further established himself one of the greatest characters and heels in the industry.

    Jericho would have better matches in the years that followed, including many with Michaels himself, but it was that one performance that elevated him in the eyes of management and proved Jericho was of the most elite talents on the planet, making the contest hugely significant to his story.

2. Undisputed

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    Never before had a wrestler simultaneously held the WWE and WCW world heavyweight titles, but Vince McMahon's purchase of his competition in 2001 made that a distinct possibility by December's Vengeance pay-per-view.

    Eager to wash off the stink of the Invasion storyline, WWE opted to crown the first undisputed champion in company history. Jericho, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Kurt Angle and The Rock would vie for the title in three separate matches.

    Jericho defeated The Rock under undignified circumstances to win the World Heavyweight Championship, while Austin downed Angle with a Stone Cold Stunner for the WWE title, setting up one last battle for the gold.

    After 45-plus minutes of action, Jericho capitalized on interference from Booker T to pin Austin and etch his name in the history books as the first man to hold both titles at one time.

    It is an honor Jericho would lean on to garner heat over the course of his career, routinely reminding fans that he beat both The Rock and Austin in the same night. And rightfully so. Winning the titles was special enough. Beating the industry's greatest icons in less than one hour to do so is downright astonishing.

1. Break the Walls Down

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    Everyone and their mother knew that when the millennium clock ticked down, Chris Jericho would make his debut in WWE. Yet the fans in Chicago still erupted as he appeared, arms outstretched, cockily interrupting The Rock's promo and labeling himself the savior of a company that did not need one.

    Jericho proceeded to spar with Rock on the mic, announcing his intentions to change WWE for the better and turn Raw is Snore into Raw is Jericho!

    The Rock answered Jericho's long-winded and braggadocios promo with his explosive insults and catchphrases. Though he did not have the last laugh, Jericho established himself on Night 1 as one of the brightest stars of WWE's promising future and, more importantly, benefited from the rub of sharing the screen with The Rock on the first evening of his WWE run.

    Despite most people knowing Jericho was the payoff to the countdown, the moment is still discussed as one of the greatest in Raw history; it was a landmark for WWE's flagship show. That is a testament to the star power of Jericho and his ability to leave a lasting impression.

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