If I got asked on the spur of the moment “who are your 5 favorite wrestlers ever,” the list would likely look something along the lines of: Jake Roberts, Chris Jericho, Raven, Shawn Michaels, and Rick Rude. Some guys (Roberts and Rude) are sentimental choices carried over from my childhood. A guy like Raven reflects the sort of thing I was into in my teen years. Of the 5, only Jericho and Michaels have been a (more or less) constant part of my wrestling fandom. And of those 2, Michaels was the one who knew when exactly to get out of dodge.
When I look at Chris Jericho in 2014, I can’t help but wonder what exactly has changed. Sure Jericho himself has transformed over the years, shifting both the appearance and tone of his onscreen persona. Jericho in 1997 is different from Jericho in 2002, who’s different from Jericho in 2005, who’s different from Jericho in 2009. Some of the shifts were subtle; a change of hair style here, a switch from tights to trunks there. Chris was always a needler, never content to leave things exactly how they were.
Over fifteen years into his run, in 2008, Jericho reached arguably the height of his career from both a creative and promotional positioning standpoint when he completely dropped the Y2J trappings of old in favor of a darker “serious man” persona. Kayfabe wise, the shift was triggered by long festering tensions between Jericho and his childhood idol, Shawn Michaels. Shoot wise, Chris felt the move was necessary after his return from a three year hiatus was met with general indifference. He postulated that the fun loving, wise cracking Jericho of old had run its course. Like any other sport, in wrestling it’s “what have you done for me lately.” Nostalgia can only keep you afloat for so long if you expect to keep getting a reaction week in and week out.
That brings us to the Chris Jericho of today. Nearly 25 years in the business, Jericho is a lock for the hall of fame in the coming years. His wrestling appearances are sporadic these days. A few months here, a program or 2 there. He’s a guy who comes back because he bleeds the business, the paycheck is just a nice bonus. He’s hosted several television shows, appeared on Dancing with the Stars, written 2 autographies, toured the world both as a wrestler and as a front man for his rock band, Fozzy. And like a front man who’s been releasing albums and performing in front of thousands for 25 years, Jericho is just content playing the hits.
It makes sense really. It’s not like, at 43, there’s much sense in him taking the time to flesh out a whole new gimmick if his plan is to leave after just a few months in. On top of that, he’s one of those guys who’s built up so much good will with wrestling fans, it will be hard for him to draw a strong, negative reaction. But, just like in 2008, no one’s really interested in Y2J Chris Jericho. Sure, he’ll get a polite applause because, again, no one wants to boo him, but that’s really the extent of it. You see it a lot in Hollywood these days with sequels that come out 10-15 years after their previous installments. I still like the old movies, and I root for the new one to be good, but honestly, who wants to see a 60 year old Harrison Ford play Indiana Jones?
Chris Jericho’s still one of my favorites, that will never change. But it’s getting around that time where he should hang those boots up for good. I’d like to see him go out on the big stage, in that Mania spotlight, and take a page out of Shawn Michaels’ playbook. He came to the WWE to save_us from mediocrity; mission accomplished Chris, time to take a bow.