If you did not see the Chris Jericho heel turn coming, may I ask what kind of rock you have been living under? Since Y2J made his return to WWE and since AJ Styles made his first appearance in the company – on the same night at the Royal Rumble – the program between the two has been reminiscent of a throwback to years gone by in a wrestling promotion that doesn’t exist anymore. A classic case of friendship turning sour, greed and jealousy becoming the root by which a final match at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas could blow the partial roof off AT&T Stadium.
It has all the makings of a classic, one that takes us back to the days of Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart or Tully Blanchard and Magnum TA. Wrestling, more so WWE, got it right with a chance for Styles to take the next step after Dallas and challenge for the Intercontinental Title or even better, take a swing at the WWE World Title should the company see fit. This feud isn’t as much about Styles and his arrival as it is about the brilliance of Jericho and how his heel persona is much more effective than his babyface character.
Ask Shawn Michaels which one looks better and performs better on camera. In a very unmotivated WWE, which is the case right now, Jericho is every bit the “Lionheart” he used to be, possessing the talent, experience and heat needed to be an effective heel. There is some irony in the fact both he and Triple H, the few throwbacks to the Attitude Era that remain, are still doing it and doing it well. Jericho’s ability to once again put a new superstar over remains one of his best character traits.
Bray Wyatt, Fandango, CM Punk and now Styles have all benefited from working with Jericho. A friend and I were talking the other day about how Jericho has evolved and does not get the credit such as other former WWE greats like The Rock, Steve Austin, Bret Hart and yes, Shawn Michaels. After thinking about it for a while, I wondered too if the six-time former world champion should be mentioned among the greats. He should and then some. If legends are built on championship pedigree, then take this into consideration.
Jericho has won 30 championships between WWE, WCW, and ECW – the three most prominent American wrestling promotions in the 1990s and early 2000s. He is credited as being the first Undisputed WWF Champion, having unified the World Championship (formerly the WCW Championship) and the WWF Championship by defeating The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin on the same night in 2001. He is also the ninth Triple Crown Champion, as well as the fourth Grand Slam Champion in WWE history. In addition, he was the 2008 Superstar of the Year Slammy Award winner and (along with Big Show as Jeri-Show) won the 2009 Tag Team of the Year Slammy Award – making him the only winner of both Superstar and Tag Team of the Year in WWE history.
Jericho is a six-time world champion, having won the WWF Championship once, the WCW/World Championship twice, and the World Heavyweight Championship three times. He is also a record nine-time Intercontinental Champion. OK, time for an intermission. When you talk about the greatest of the model era and the past 15 years in this company, how far do you go down a list before you name Jericho? When you talk about the best heels in wrestling history, how long do you list names before you come up with Jericho? He is as underrated as can be, which in the case of his present feud with Styles, plays right into his hands as the disrespected veteran, the man everyone forgets and no one praises. It makes for great theater and makes for a most interesting match.
Styles is the guy who will be compared to Jericho once he hangs up his boots. There may still be a few more years left for the former champion, show stopper and musician in his other life. But for now, we all should watch and learn and realize he is part of a dying breed. For now we should enjoy how great Jericho really is. It won’t be long before we all wish he was giving fans a show night after night. Savor the time now, because a WWE life without Jericho is a life without another true great of our generation.
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