Celebrating Thirty Years of Chris Jericho

Recently, WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, who I’d argue as the greatest in ring performer of all-time, was asked about the current landscape of wrestling. His answer?

“I’ve been watching Chris Jericho and wow! He’s still so good. I’m so jealous. He’s my age, and how he’s still able to go at this level like he’s doing right now, especially after 25-30 years in the ring, he’s phenomenal. He might go down in history as top five all time. He’s still as good as he ever was.”

Chris Jericho and AEW referee Aubrey Edwards. Photo: Scott Lesh.

Chris Jericho is one of the most successful professional wrestlers of all-time. He also has his own band Fozzy with Frank Fontsere and Rich Ward, formerly of Stuck Mojo, that’s released seven studio albums. He has his own cruise line, appeared on Dancing with the Stars, is a mult-time NY Times number one best selling author, has been in a number of movies (most recently the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot). He’s hosted his own Game Show on ABC and done a number of projects narrating a variety of different things. He has one of the biggest podcasts in the world.

Jericho, 49, is currently signed to year old promotion All Elite Wrestling, owned by Tony Khan. Many in AEW credit Jericho as the biggest key to their success as it was Jericho, a former WWE Champion, who was the possible name AEW could’ve gotten out of the gate. On Wednesday, October 7th, they will be celebrating 30 years of Jericho on AEW Dynamite.

Chris Jericho is a name synonymous with Professional Wrestling. He is in every way undisputed. A man of many personas. A conspiracy theorist, sexy beast, an assclown, the King of the World, The Paragon of Virtue, The Last Survivor of the Hart Dungeon, the Ayatollah of Rock’N’Rolla, The Painmaker, The Lionheart, The Demogod, Le Champion, the best in the world at everything that he does. He’s been a staple in every major company: WCW, ECW, New Japan Pro Wrestling, AEW, WWE. He’s been AEW Champion, WCW Champion and WWE Champion, the only superstar to hold all three. He’s been in the ring with every major wrestler to come through the pipe for the last 30 years: Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada, Jon Moxley, Kenny Omega, Adam Page.

He’s one of a long list of great Canadian wrestlers. Bret and Owen Hart, Edge, Christian, Trish Stratus, Rick Martel, Roddy Piper. Perhaps none, however, were as great for as long as Jericho has been. Jericho is one of the last true household names in professional wrestling, can work any style and has aged like a very fine bottle of the bubbly. The Son of New York Ranger Ted Irvine, Christopher Irvine looked to follow in his footsteps as an athlete, but had many goals in life. Two of them: becoming a professional wrestler and having his own band.

Inspired by Ricky Steamboat and Owen Hart, he was destined to fulfill his dream and trained with Ed Langley at the age of 19 in 1990. He met Lance Storm on his first day of training, and the two became best friends. Two months later, they had their first match when Lance Storm wrestled “Cowboy” Chris Jericho to a ten minute broadway. The name Jericho is derived from the Helloween album “Walls of Jericho,” also the name of the Boston Crab variation of Jericho’s Liontamer hold. His original moniker was “Jack Action” until somebody thought he was joking. The two then teamed and toured with a group of future wrestling stars: Adam Copeland and Jason Reso (both of whom he won tag gold with in WWE as Edge and Christian, respectively) as well as Terry Gerrin (who he wrestled at Summerslam 2001 as Rhyno).

Edge and Chris Jericho in a photo from Edge’s book “Adam Copeland on Edge.”

Early Career

In 1991, he traveled to Japan for the first time, working in FMAW, before going to Mexico a year later. In three years in Mexico, he worked under the name Leon D’oro (Golden Lion) and Corazon de Leon (Lionheart). He created an innovative, never done before hybrid style that consisted of the Canadian style, the Mexican style, the German style and the Japanese style. In 1994, he got an opportunity to come to the states and work hands on with one of the most legendary tag teams in wrestling: Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton.

The Thrillseekers.

He and Lance went to Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling under the name “The Thrillseekers” and Jericho started garnering eyes in the States.

In July of 1995, he had a tremendous bout with Ultimo Dragon, at which point Mick Foley gave the tape to ECW promoter Paul Heyman. After recommendations from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, Chris Benoit and Perry Saturn, he left for Philadelphia and the rest is history.

The Lionheart of ECW broke out in a major way and when WCW raided their talents to build the Cruiserweight division, it was Chris Jericho they wanted to build around. Alongside talents such as Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, “The Juice” Juventud Guerrera, Chris Benoit, Billy Kidman, Syxx and Alex Wright.

World Championship Wrestling

At Fall Brawl 1996, Jericho wrestled Chris Benoit in his very first pay per view match. In June of 1997, he defeated Syxx to become Cruiserweight Champion for the very first time. He won his third Cruiserweight Championship at Souled Out 1998, turning heel after submitting Rey Mysterio to the Liontamer. His new character? A final boss of the Cruiserweights who would collect trophies of his victims. These trophies included different things such as Prince laukea’s dress, Disco Inferno’s headband and Juvi Guerrera’s mask. He entered a program with “the Iceman” Dean Malenko next, who had christened himself “The Man of 1000 Holds.” Leave it to Chris Jericho to take that inch and make it a mile in an attempt to prove that he’s a superior wrestler….ARMBAR!

Following a long program with Malenko, Jericho set his sights on new aspirations: the Television Championship. It was this that truly allowed Jericho to showoff his spunky personality in front of a worldwide audience. Now, he was a victim of the WCW Conspiracy against Chris Jericho.

When he (and his wacky hair) went into the Television Championship picture, he won the belt and then started challenging the undefeated Bill Goldberg. Due to backstage politics, the program didn’t happen, but Jericho did Jericho things. Due to Bill’s entrance with security, Jericho decided to hire security of his own: enter Ralphus, Jericho Personal Security. It was similar to Spinal Tap, and it was extremely over.

You can hear Eric Bischoff shoot on it below:

Following a lot of politics, he departed from WCW. In the final two years with WCW, he was working with New Japan Pro Wrestling as well. In 1999, the WWF kept being “interrupted” by the countdown to the millennium. This was the year 1999, the mass hysteria around Y2K was at an all-time high…enter Year 2000 Jericho. The WWF was never….e-e-ever the same agayn.

“JERICHO IS EXCELLENCE.”

WELCOME TO RAW….IS…JERICHO.

If there was any doubt as to whether Chris Jericho was a bonafide superstar or that the audience would know who he is, they were wiped away the moment the word “JERICHO” appeared on the titantron. “I am Chris Jericho, your new hero. Your party host. Most importantly, the most charismatic showman to ever enter your living room via a television screen.” There is no lie in that statement, Jericho oozes charisma. Perhaps, he is in fact the most charismatic professional wrestler of all-time and this segment is proof. He went up against the Rock in his first night and looked like an absolute star. The idea was entirely Jericho’s, as he was standing in a post office when he saw a clock countdown to 2000 and knew that had to be his entrance. The arm pose has become synonymous with Jericho. It is widely considered the greatest debut in wrestling history.

Unfortunately, Jericho wasn’t used very often following this and was booked extremely poorly. They then tried to put him with Mr. Hughes and it fell flat. But as usual, Jericho would do silly things like this and the cream would rise to the top.

Chris Jericho then feuded with Chyna, and he’s gone on the record, including a 2000 WWF Home Video release (in this video, he’s sitting by his pool and in the backgroud Edge and Christian are cleaning his pool) to say that he was frustrated by it. But much like Chris Jericho in his feud 13 years later with Fandango, Jericho is Jericho and decided “I’m going to make this mine and the absolute best it can be.” Boy, did he ever. It was not only a very quality program, but very unique. “Even the thought of you being a believable and credible champion is an idea even more ridiculously enhanced than your breasts are” is still an all-time great line. They then went the sexism route. “I would never ever hit a woman, but you are not a woman.” He regularly pointed out that she was beneath him, so when he got his comeuppance it meant a lot more. It was a very misogynistic character arc.

This is really good stuff. It’s dark, sadistic, it gave Jericho another layer and really shows how strong his acting is. In late 1999, they pinned each other on SmackDown to become co-holder of Intercontinental Champions, and thus allies. Jericho became undisputed Intercontinental Champion by defeating Chyna and Bob Holly at the 2000 Royal Rumble in a triple threat match. It was a second of a total of nine Intercontinental Championship reigns and he lost it to Kurt Angle at No Way Out. In a two-fall triple threat match, he made his WrestleMania debut against Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, becoming European Champion. He lost it the next night to Eddie Guerrero after Chyna turned her back on him.

Chris Jericho then became Chris Jericho in WWE when he worked with Stephanie McMahon as he stood up to the bosses daughter. She was the “filthiest, skankiest, dirtiest, brutal, most disgusting, bottom feeding trash bag hoe.” Jericho would constantly find different ways to call her a lady of the night, sort of speak. The original payoff (it continued for a long time after, well into 2001) was Jericho’s unofficial first WWE Championship win.

Chris even invented memes in the year 2000 during his program with Chris Benoit.

He truly broke through in 2001, however, WWE bought WCW and ran the invasion angle. During this angle, he won his first World Championship, the WCW Championship, from the Rock. While the two also became tag team champions (which Jericho had previously won with Benoit), their bread and butter was as opponents.

His true breakthrough was Vengeance in December, though, when he beat the Rock for the WCW Championship again via a Rock Bottom and then defeated Steve Austin with a stunner in back to back matches. He was the number one guy, the Undisputed WWE Champion. He was a cruiserweight, barely 6 ft, perhaps the smallest guy to ever win the WWE Championship up to that point. Without Chris Jericho breaking through, there is no CM Punk. There is no Daniel Bryan. Ther e is no Seth Rollins. There is no Kofi Kingston. Wrestling’s landscape would be vastly different.

In 2002, Stephanie wanted to become “more than friends” as the two became business associates when Triple H returned from his quadriceps injury heading into WrestleMania.

Chris Jericho was the main event of WrestleMania 18. It was in his home country of Canada, he was the Undisputed WWF Champion and followed Hulk Hogan vs The Rock. Triple H won the WWE Championship that night. Following a long program which includes a stellar Hell in a Cell match, he had an amazing feud with Edge on SmackDown. He was John Cena’s first pay per view match. Jericho moved to Raw exclusively in the summer of 2002.

He entered a program with Shawn Michaels, his idol, stating that Shawn is washed up and Jericho has become a better version of Shawn Michaels, even doing things such as entering the Royal Rumble at the very beginning to do what Shawn Michaels once did. At WrestleMania 19, Chris probably had his best match and it was against Shawn.

Following, he formed a comedic team with Christian. “The Kings of the World” regularly would find different ways to make fun of themselves. But in late 2003, they bet one Canadian dollar that they could woo Trish Stratus and Lita. This led to a Battle of the Sexes match at the 2003 Armageddon event. Jericho and Trish end up becoming an item, until Trish screws him in Christian’s favor at WrestleMania 20.

After a year and a half of foundering, Jericho needed time away. He entered a great championship program with John Cena, but it culminated in Chris Jericho getting fired on Raw and carried out by security.

Moongoose McQueen

During his time off, Chris Jericho did a number of projects, such as writing books, doing his own VH1 shows, radio shows, among other things. But, it was Fozzy who got most of his focus.

Formed in 1999 with Stuck Mojo members Frank Fontsere and Rich Ward, they began as Fozzy Osbourne, a cover band of all of their favorite music. The band had a gimmick, and in this gimmick was the eccentric frontman and Chris Jericho doppleganging superfan Moongoose McQueen.

Moongoose McQueen on a 2000 Chris Jericho documentary

They even had a mockumentary. You can watch part one below:

They’ve released seven studio albums, but their first big one was All That Remains, with the hit “Enemy” in early 2005. This featured other musicians such as Mark Tremonti, Zakk Wylde and Myles Kennedy. In 2012, they released Sin and Bones, which featured a single with M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold.

In 2017, Fozzy released Judas, which became a chart hit. It is now his AEW theme song and the audience sings him to the ring with it (during the pandemic, Sammy Guevara has filled the void in his own Sammy way).

Can You Break the Code?

Chris Jericho came back as “the second coming” to “save” the WWE in 2007. The character was essentially the same, but the presentation was different. Jericho had changed to trunky, the luscious blonde locks were a thing of the past and didn’t really fit the presentation. It’s as if Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora in the mid-2000s had tried to go back and do the Slippery When Wet/New Jersey phase from the mid-1980s. Then he feuded with Shawn Michaels as a bad guy.

No more was Chris Jericho purposely saying goofy words. No more was the pomp, the flash of a sparkling jacket. Now, it was a soft-spoken man in suit acting like something out of No Country For Old Men, trying to expose the hypocrisy of the WWE and that he was truly the best in the world at everything he did. It was Shawn Michaels who went to announce his retirement at Summerslam 2008 when Chris Jericho punched his wife in the face.

The two had one of the greatest brawls in WWE history in an unsanctioned match, which Jericho lost. Later in the night, an injury to World Champion CM Punk allowed Jericho to take an opening in the Championship Scramble match for the World Heavyweight Championship. The result?

Following a great World Heavyweight Championship reign, Jericho feuded with Rey Mysterio in 2009. This saw him becoming a 9x Intercontinental Champion, a record that still stands to this day. The feud was built around Rey’s mask, that he has to hide behind a mask due to his own insecurities.

Following an injury to his tag team championship partner Edge, he ended up having a great tag team title run with the Big Show before they lost the championships to DX. Edge returned in the 2010 Royal Rumble, with Jericho winning the World Championship back in the Elimination Chamber. At WrestleMania, he defeated Edge to retain the championship at wrestling’s flagship pay per view. The next Friday, he lost the championship to current Inner Circle ally Jack Swagger.

Later WWE Years

It’s during this time that Chris Jericho became the ultimate locker room leader, willing to put over anybody and everybody while critiquing anything and everything and giving them advice. He was a pro for Wade Barrett on NXT. Following a great program with Punk citing Punk’s alcoholic family members and forcing the Straight Edge Savior to drink, which saw him challenge Punk for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 28, he never really saw the WWE Championship picture again. But, he didn’t really need to. For the next five years, Chris Jericho got over anything and everything. At WrestleMania 29, Fandango finally made his appearance, with the most one dimensional gimmick of all-time. The next night? Everybody loved Fandango, he was a sensational hit out of the gate, because of Chris Jericho.

When he worked with Dean Ambrose, he got a potted plant named “Mitch” over.

He elevated the Wyatt Family. He elevated AJ Styles. He elevated Roman Reigns. He had a great match with Adrian Neville (now AEW’s PAC) at Beast in the East. He got a variety of things over, such as the word “it” and a scarf that he’d wear.

His true bread and butter for the final chapter of Jericho in WWE was him being best friends with Kevin Owens and putting people on a list.

Following this was the Festival of Friendship, Jericho’s last true hurrah in WWE and a scintillating piece of television.

New Japan and All Elite Wrestling

I want to preface this section with this: you can found out why he left WWE after his program with Owens, as well as many other things in this great interview from Sirius XM Busted Open. He explains the Painmaker character to perfection, why it worked in Japan. This is about a year and a half old so it doesn’t have anything from his AEW run.

In 2017, NJPW hyped the Alpha vs The Omega, as Chris Jericho made a shocking return to New Japan Pro Wrestling to work with Kenny the Cleaner at WrestleKingdom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0h5Js0Jabc

You can see the highlights of an unbelievable match here.

The next night, Jericho attacked Tetsuya Naito. He defeated him for the IWGP Intercontinental Champion at Dominion 6.9 at Osaka Jo Hall as the Painmaker. If you’ve never seen the full match, you’re in for a treat.

At Dominion the next year, he’d lose to Kazuchika Okada in an absolutely mesmerizing battle. This past year at WrestleKingdom, he had a very fun match with Hiroshi Tanahashi.

In January 2019, Chris Jericho signed a three year contract with AEW as the first member of their roster. His mark on their product is indelible, as he’s put on clinics with younger guys and taken them under his wing behind the scenes, such as Jungle Boy, Orange Cassidy, Scorpio Sky, among others. He was the very first AEW World Champion after an excellent match with Adam Page. Then, he went viral.

He has since formed the Inner Circle with Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz. When he was champion, he was Le Champion. Now, he is the Demogod, king of the demos, during the Wednesday Night Wars head to head with NXT. During the pandemic, he’s even done commentary. Independent wrestler Suge D was in the audience to make some noise, and Jericho screamed “PINEAPPLE PETE? I HATE THAT GUY.” Now the dude’s known to pretty much every avid wrestling fan and on WWE’s radar. He got a drone over. Let’s just look at some of the stuff he’s done in AEW, entertainment wise:

As you can see, Chris Jericho is doing new things every week. The shtick is never the same. He could be resting on his laurels asking people to shut the hell up and putting them on a list, but he isn’t. He’s doing new things every week, constantly evolving.

Tony Khan recently said the following in an interview:

“We had been talking and I had kicked around this name about doing a mimosa thing, and Chris loved it. But what it was, we had never said. It was just an idea that we kicked around, the idea of doing a mimosa thing because you’ve got orange and of course ‘A Little Bit of the Bubbly’, which was a great promotional opportunity. As for what we could do with it, I don’t know, and then Chris called me one day and I missed it. Then he texted me and was like, ‘I got a great idea. Call me back.’ And I called him, and right away, he’s like, ‘I got a great idea.’ I was like, ‘I bet it’s a Mimosa Mahyem’. He was like, ‘that is exactly what it is’, because Chris and I have a great working relationship. I didn’t know what a Mimosa Mayhem Match was, and that’s where Chris’ genius came in.”

AEWs Tony Khan

Chris Jericho at 50 is still a full time performer working for two of the biggest promotions in the world at a world class level. He epitomizes everything it means to be a professional wrestler. He is, in a sense, wrestling. There is nobody with better showmanship or a better mind for evolving his persona than Chris Jericho. Combine this with how cool he is, the fact he’s the best in ring performer in most, if not every, locker room he steps into and how every little detail in each match has a purpose. Chris Jericho is the ultimate storyteller. He knows how to not only get himself over in anything, but whoever he’s working with and even inanimate objects. Chris Jericho has a quality that makes you feel anything that Chris Jericho wants to make you feel. Chris Jericho very well might be the greatest to ever do it. Do the kayfabe accolades account for that? I’d argue so. He’s won 42 championships worldwide, including World Championships for both AEW and WWE. He’s done literally everything there is to do. It’s hard to find a better resume top to bottom than Chris Jericho. I personally cannot wait for the celebration of the Demogod on October 7th on AEW Dynamite.

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