After the events of Summerslam and the actions of Chris Jericho to Shawn Michaels and his wife, I decided this would be an excellent time to reflect back on Chris Jericho's career since returning to WWE last December and his evolution from his self proclaimed Savior banner to the most hated heel in wrestling today.
When I first heard Chris Jericho was returning to wrestling, way back in the beginning of October 2007, I was excited to say the least. Jericho has been one of my favorites since the very first time I saw him wrestle on WCW's Monday Nitro in 1996. I was bummed when Jericho decided to take a break from wrestling in 2005. I was even more angry that the way it went down was for Jericho to loose to Cena at Summer Slam 05, and the following night the stipulation he must leave WWE if he lost a match. And lost he did. The following night on Raw, I watched with baited breathe hoping that maybe this was just another angle done for ratings and Jericho wasn't going anywhere. But I was wrong and by the end of the night then RAW’s GM Eric Bischoff had "fired" Jericho. As the show came to a close, there was poor Chris Jericho in tears, and disbelieve as Eric ordered security to escort the "former" employee from the building.
The reality of all of this of course was Chris Jericho wanted to take a break from wrestling, as I soon learned, from insiders. The wrestling sites jumped on the story and all claimed, he just wanted to take a break from wrestling and would be back by Jan of 2006. Well here we are, two years past Jan 2006, and one celebrity duet reality show, one book, and multiple VH1 appearances later and we are in the midst of Jericho's second coming.. As a Jericholic myself, I would check out his website and MySpace in the past two years during his hiatus, to see what he was up to. So when I saw that he was doing a book signing tour for his book and that he was going to make an appearance in my hometown of Philly last October, I knew I had to go.
Here it was October 29th 2007, an unseasonably chilly day in Philly and as soon as I heard Chris Jericho on the radio station WMMR stating he was signing his book at the Penn Bookstore in Philly, I knew I had to change all my plans for that day and head down there. After making at least 4 phone calls the plan was set. Along with me was my 11 year old step son Tyler. Just a few years ago he himself got into wrestling. Unfortunately after Jericho had left, so He had never seen him wrestle. All Tyler had was his action figures and a created version of him on his Raw vs. Smackdown video game. Even though he had never saw him wrestle, Tyler was excited about meeting Jericho after all the things I had told him about him. Plus he thought his action figure was cool, which for an 11 year old is as good as an approval you can get.
So there we were my step son and I, with a purchased book waiting for Chris Jericho to arrive. After we hear cheers, we knew he's there and from a distance can see he has entered. It's a Monday night around 5:40pm now. Ok I'll be honest, the real motivation besides meeting one of my favorite wrestlers, was that it was October 29th. Jericho was in Philly and Raw was at the Wachovia Center the same night. You be hard pressed to find anyone that didn't think he was returning that night. What's the coincidence that Chris Jericho would be doing a book signing in Philadelphia from 5:30 to 7pm and Monday Night Raw goes on the air live from the Wachovia Center in Philly at 9pm?
Yep, I was convinced I was going to be a part of history. So as we waited in line, I thought deeply about what I would say to one of my all time favorites. And even more important, how could I get him to admit without admitting he was about to make his return that very night. (Note to non wrestling fans, it’s considered taboo and unprofessional for a wrestler to break his code of silence and character and let a fan know any inside info)The time had come for my step son and I were up next to meet Jericho. First an employee gives him our book to get signed, and then we may approach him to sit and chat and have a picture taken. So of course like an idiot I go to shake his hand while he's signing, which makes him stop signing, to say hi and shake my hand. Realizing this I add "Sorry, I just realized how are you supposed to sign while I'm trying to shake your hand” Jericho is friendly and smiles. So then we sit down with him so they can take a picture.
Figuring the odds, I figure I have about 10-15 seconds maybe 30 seconds tops, to ask the questions I have. Mind you, I've been a fan of his since 1996. I put my best questions up, at least the most important ones to me, and then figure I'll end it with a subtle trick question to see if he'll be at Raw making his return that night.
First question to Chris Jericho...
”So Chris you still doing comedy?"
“Comedy... I'm not sure what you mean...”
“I heard you were doing comedy at an Improv place where Will Ferrell trained in California, The Younglings or something". Jericho laughs, "The Younglings, that's funny, their Jedi's or something, you mean the Groundlings.” Laughing, "No I haven’t done that for about a year."
"Sorry I mean Groundlings. I knew it was something with a lings' at the end" (note to readers, The Younglings is the name for child Jedi's in training in Star Wars Episode 2 and 3 for some reason I thought the Improv was called that. Maybe in a galaxy far far away Jedi’s are doing stand up and it's called The Younglings)
"No, No that's quite all right, that was very funny" Jericho responds
Next pressing question up.
"You still talk to Ralphus?"
(note to readers, after reading Chris Jericho's book I realized Ralphus was a tool who actually was a truck driver working for WCW and Jericho gave him an opportunity to be his personal "on air" bodyguard/security guard as a joke mocking Bill Goldberg's ridiculous 20 man security entourage entrance, as a result Ralphus five minutes of fame went to his head according to Jericho in his book. So I'm sure Chris was ecstatic that someone actually asked the whereabouts of Ralphus"
"Ralphus ... No I haven’t seen him in a while, in about 10 years."
"So you don’t know how he's doing huh?”
“Is he dead or something?" I add
At this point Jericho must think, what the hell does this guy belong to the East Coast Chapter of The Ralphus Fan club? (Yes I do actually... JUST KIDDING)
Chris responds" Actually I don’t know where he is or anything."(At this point I thought I caught a slightly puzzled look on Chris' face. (Read between the lines he's really saying "I don’t know where the hell Ralphus is. I don’t care where he is. It’s been 10 years, he was a truck driver. The book isn’t about Ralphus, it's about me, why are you so obsessed with this guy?")
Which is all very true with the exception of the obsession part, but Jericho was too polite to actually say this.
In all honesty though if Ralphus ever decided to write a book about his very brief stint as a security/bodyguard to Chris Jericho and I get a chance to meet him, I will surely ask "So, do you still talk to Chris Jericho?" "What do you mean you haven’t talked to him in 10 years?" "You know he doesn't even know if you're dead or alive?" "You really should just call him and let him know your ok."
Then I will start a site called Wrestler/FormerSecurityGuardMatch.com
Anyway, back to me sitting next to Jericho asking him bizarre questions.
After the Ralphus fiasco is done, and Jericho is probably weary and tired of my questions, I go for the clincher. "So Chris, I know you can’t answer any questions and I don’t want to get you in trouble, but I heard that you were going to film VH1's I love the 60's in New York tonight. I know Raw is here in Philly, will you be in New York tonight or will you be down at the Wachovia Center?” (Notice I worded it, down at the Center) I never said "Will you be returning tonight?" Jericho smoothly answers "No I'll be right here.” pointing to the table. Then adds to drive the point home" I'll be here all night signings autographs"
Yes I thought but the ad says you'll be here until 7pm. That's well enough time to get down to the Wachovia center.
When I got home, watched Raw and the show ended from the Wachovia Center the reality hit that: Chris Jericho didn’t make his triumph return. I then knew when he was pointing at the table saying "I'll be right here" it wasn’t some inside code only a Youngling...errr I mean Groundling would know. It meant he really was going to be seated at that table signing his books all night and dealing with an occasional Ralphus fan (ok I'm probably the only one left.)
It was two months worth of SAVE_US.222 appearing on WWE television until Jericho actually returned. Since it first aired the internet was clamored with the rumors that this viral ad campaign was a promo for Chris Jericho's return, which they were right. Just off by a month. First Jericho was supposed to return at Unforgiven, then No Mercy, then Taboo Tuesday, each pay per view passed and there was still no sign of Jericho returning.
Chris Jericho returning had become a tease. Chris Jericho returning had become the high school girlfriend who promised to have sex with you for the first time, but kept saying “no, maybe soon, next week.” Chris Jericho returning became your high school girlfriend saying then the following week, "I'm just not ready to do it yet, how about we talk some more about our feelings".
Chris Jericho returning became your high school girlfriend then saying next week "we'll do it", but then next week came and she said "But I just want the moment to be perfect. Next week.
The following week…"I'm having my period" The following week... “I’m ready but I don’t want to go too fast because I really care about you”. In comparison an analogy to this in wrestling meant every pay per view and week of Raw that Jericho was supposed to return, Umaga wrestled instead
Depending on who you ask "Chris Jericho Returning = your high school girlfriend not putting out" was the fault of either Stephanie McMahon-Helmsy-Levesque or Chris Jericho himself.
According to some people in WWE , word got around on the net that Stephanie was pissed that Jericho returning was leaked onto the internet and she and the creative writing team were pissed and pushed his return date back to show the bloggers and internet sites that they don’t know everything.
Others sites claim Jericho himself kept postponing it, because he wanted his return to be "Just Perfect and just so." Sounds like the high school girlfriend doesn't it?
So here we are in August of 2008 nearly 7 months since Chris Jericho made his return to WWE. Proclaimed he was here to say us, interrupted a befuddled Randy Orton and went on to loose his first world title match when JBl returned.
Then slowly but surely it started to happen. Jericho started gaining momentum.
At first by winning the Intercontinental Title. But something happened during the winter months. Maybe it was the fans warming up to him. Fans who weren't watching wrestling the last time Jericho was in WWE. Or maybe it was the beginning of the evolution of Chris Jericho.
Slowly but surely more fans were cheering for Jericho. But while this was happening something else was starting to happen. Just when it looked like the fans were starting to embrace Jericho as a fan favorite and he was over with the fans, Chris Jericho began his evolution. Chris Jericho as a fan favorite, began to unravel before our very eyes.
It was subtle, and was all built around the fact that the fans had always embraced Shawn Michaels. And for some reason or another Chris Jericho noticed this.
Chris Jericho realized that he was trying twice as hard to be embraced by the fans, while Shawn Michaels was admitting he was lying and faked an injury to defeat Batista and the fans still loved HBK.
Then Jericho realized something. That the fans didn't want to be saved.
It all made sense. Chris Jericho becoming a heel was cemented and a done deal the second the fans refused to embrace him at first.
Every injury Shawn Michaels receives and every accidental injury his wife receives isn't Chris Jericho's doing. It's the fans doing.
Because Chris Jericho was forced to take the role of heel.
He was forced to take the role of most hated man alive.
Because no matter what Shawn Michaels has done, no matter what wrong doing he admits, the fans will always side with HBK.
Shawn Michaels is the righteous man. But that doesnt necessarily mean he's the better man.
Just ask Bret Hart.
Doing wrong but admitting it doesn't make you great.
So this feud between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels is one of a moral story.
Hands down Shawn Michaels is the most accomplished wrestler alive today. Probably the most talented active wrestler. He's a lock for the WWE Hall Of Fame. He's accomplished more then Chris Jericho.
Shawn Michaels is great.
A great if not one of the greatest wrestlers ever.
But for Chris Jericho this eats away at his very being.
And the fact of the matter is it eats away at Jericho because HBK is right, He will never be Shawn Michaels. But Jericho is consumed by the fact HBK has accomplished greatness and yet no matter what wrong doings he has done or admitted the fans still love him.
Chris Jericho however has to jump through flaming circles just to get the fans to love him uncondtionally as a fan favorite
Chris Jericho doesn't have the luxury to be great but also lie, and fake injury and retire the greatest wrestler of our generation (Flair) and still come out to a full house of cheers.
So Jericho has realized if he cannot be, and the fans will not let him be on the pedestal that HBK sits atop, then Jericho will take HBK off that pedestal.
The Evolution of Chris Jericho is anything but subtle.
Jericho's evolution is flamed by the fact that he cannot and will never be Shawn Michaels.
Jericho's evolution is a product of Chris' jealousy and hatred of the stature Shawn Michaels has.
Jericho's new ring attire, Jericho talking with a calm almost monotone voice. ( One that he so often mocked over the years) Jericho coming out to suits and ties. Jericho effectively ending "The Highlight Reel"
Every single action is not only his evolution, but it's his tactical strategy that if you wont love him and love him as much as you love HBK he will get you to hate him more then anyone else EVER.
Or as Jericho used to say: "EEEEEVVVVERRRR"
How far will this all go you ask?
This feud will continue and when it is said and done Jericho will be humbled.
Jericho will realize he can not be Shawn Michaels.
This feud will only end when Jericho let's go of this and accepts it.
Jericho will never get the fans respect though by destroying and ending Shawn Michaels career.
How long will Jericho's evolution into the most hated man in wrestling go?
He can change his wrestling attire. Stop joking around. Even change his ring music. He can change his hair again even. But after 6-12 months as this character he will have to evolve into something else yet again.
Jericho said it himself. He see's himself as the Madonna of wrestling. He believes if he sees a picture of himself from three years ago and he looks the same then he is doing something wrong. The natural evolution is to distance himself so much from the Jericho that we all loved and remembered before he left in 2005 that we'll long for that Jericho to return.
Shawn Michaels had to go and find his smile.
When rule breaker and heel Jericho runs it's course Jericho is going to have to do the same. and by then we will be so sick and disgusted by this Jericho that we will welcome back the silver disco jacketed, long haired, quick witted , sharp tongued Ayatollah Of Rock N Rolla
By the time this happens, a lot of blood is going to be lost, a lot of feelings are going to be hurt, Shawn Michaels vision might never be the same and most of all Ralphus will still be missing.