It's been a challenging time for everyone, many of us quarantined at home in the midst of uncertainty and chaos. The wrestling promotions we love are no different. For weeks, the wrestlers and behind-the-scenes-personnel at both AEW and WWE risk significant harm in an attempt to entertain wrestling fans around the world.
And, weekly, they manage to amaze with their creativity and willingness to push themselves to new heights, testing limits and comfort zones in the name of putting on a great show.
AEW, in particular, manages to run a weekly "empty arena" show that somehow feels different each time out. Sometimes, it's the venue that has changed. Other times, they've recruited a loud contingent of wrestlers to take the place of fans and add an energy to the room that might otherwise be lacking.
This week, it was Chris Jericho filling in on color commentary—making what might have felt like a lifeless display of wrestling-by-the-numbers feel very vibrant and alive.
It shouldn't really come as any surprise that Jericho sat down, sipped a bit of the bubbly and totally owned the broadcast booth. He's been owning everything he does in a wrestling ring for almost 30 years now.
Interviews, matches, skits, merchandise—he does it all at the very top level, always managing to stay current and remain relevant even as the wrestling industry has gone through several seismic shifts during his tenure on top. In his day, he's seen Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena all rule the roost. And he's seen them all fade from glory. The only constant, year after year, decade after decade, has been Jericho himself—one of the few survivors of his generation.
But for all his success, even on the microphone, color commentary is a notoriously difficult gig. Plenty of wrestlers, cocky because they had no trouble delivering a five-minute promo, have flamed out dramatically when given a live mic for two or three hours at a time.
Not so Chris Jericho. He didn't just fill time or manage to get by without embarrassing himself. He actively added to the show throughout, a complete and utter delight in a time when we all could use a smile or two.
It's not just that he was funny throughout—though he was. What took his appearance to the next level was the way he managed to get the talent over in the ring while also delivering line after funny line.
Heel commentary is a tricky act—most people attempting it today just cartoonishly root for the bad guys. When done poorly, it's just some guy insulting the babyfaces and defending the heels, often in a completely off-putting, intelligence-insulting and predictable way. It becomes, very quickly, all about the announcer.
Jericho, believe it or not, was more subtle. One of the great things about Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura was the way they made you laugh when you knew they were being a little tasteless and you probably shouldn't. But you did anyway because you had to acknowledge that, like it or not, they were just plain funny. Jericho has that gift too.
I busted out laughing when he dropped the Cody Exotic line, one of several times I couldn't stifle a guffaw. Best of all was his infectious enthusiasm. He wasn't in pure heel mode. He was the obnoxious Chris Jericho we love to hate, sure, but the version of Chris Jericho who didn't try to hide that, in his heart, he's a wrestling fan just like us.
In the Kenny Omega and Michael Nakazawa vs. Best Friends match, Jericho couldn't hide just how amused he was by all the shenanigans. He was similarly impressed with Hikaru Shida and Dr. Britt Baker. Match after match, while doing his best to entertain, he made it a point to put over the wrestlers in the ring. It may sound like a simple thing, but it's something too often forgotten in contemporary wrestling.
It was a strong enough performance to make me think immediately of Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who stepped off the playing field and immediately into the lead color commentary gig at CBS Sports. Romo was a natural, a gifted communicator with an intuitive grasp of the rhythms and nuances of the game. Jericho was that good—so add announcing to a list that includes wrestling, singing, writing and podcasting.
It's unclear how long wrestling fans will have the 49-year-old Jericho in our lives. While he's still performing at an amazingly strong level in the ring, we all know that nothing is forever. But Wednesday night was good news for Jerichoholics—he showed enough to demonstrate he has the talent to be around for as long as he wants to be.
Jonathan Snowden covers combat sports for Bleacher Report.