“Y2J”, “the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla”, “the Painmaker”, “the King of the World”, and “Le Champion” are just some of the nicknames Chris Jericho has had over his career. However, there is one that he absolutely has the right to claim and that is “The GOAT”.
Over the past 30 years, Chris Jericho has built a stellar career that is on par with names such as Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, The Rock, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, John Cena and many more. Throughout his career, Jericho has continued to reinvent himself like no one else.
From his early days travelling around the world, learning his craft in Canada, Mexico, Japan and Europe, to spells in Smoky Mountain Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling, to making a name for himself in World Championship Wrestling before becoming a mainstay on World Wrestling Entertainment television. His recent work in New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling merely emphasises his ability to revitalise his career, staying relevant and important, where others have long been forgotten, living on former glories.
Throughout his career he has achieved a lot, both inside and outside the ring. He’s a multi-time Intercontinental Champion, and the first AEW World Champion. He beat Austin and The Rock on the same night to become the first WWE Undisputed Champion. He’s toured the world with his metal band, Fozzy. When he’s not wrestling or being a rock star, he’s interviewing guests on the ‘Talk is Jericho’ podcast, being a best selling author of four (soon to be five) books, hosting his own cruise, or making appearances on various film and TV shows. It’s safe to say that Jericho’s resumé is extensive.
Inside the ring, he’s crafted a host of memorable feuds, storylines, gimmicks, and matches. Whether he’s in Mexico as Corazon de Leon, being a Thrill Seeker with Lance Storm in Smoky Mountain, showcasing his Lion Heart in Japan, becoming a versatile Cruiserweight in ECW and WCW, or pissing off The Rock on his WWE debut, Jericho’s “early days,” put him on the path towards legendary status.
This only excelled once he arrived in WWE. Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Chris Benoit, Triple H, Chyna, Christian, Edge, Rey Mysterio, CM Punk, and Kevin Owens are just some of the feuds that have helped enhance and prolong Jericho’s status as one of the best. And let’s not forget his work on the mic.
When he has a mic in his hand, Jericho has the gift of the gab. From telling opponents to “please shut the hell up?!” or calling them “stupid idiots” or reminding folk he’s “the best in the world at what I do,” Jericho has had an answer for everything and everyone, so “Drink it in, maaaaaan”. Especially you Stinko Malenko, Kirk Angel, and Tony Skeevonie!
After 30 years, the gift of Jericho keeps on giving. His work and enthusiasm for everything he has been involved in solidifies that pro wrestling will never eeeeeever be the same again!
To mark three decades in the wrestling business, Steel Chair Wrestling Magazine’s most devoted Jericholics have picked out just some of Chris Jericho’s most outstanding moments.
Jericho in Japan
To start with Chris Jericho in Japan you really need to start at the end with his recent efforts in New Japan Pro Wrestling, which helped solidify his worldwide draw status, helped some stars move up the ladder, most specifically, EVIL and Tetsuya Naito, and rested on a relationship with Gedo that goes back nearly three decades. Which of course brings us back to the start.
Jericho’s first run in Japan bizarrely was in FMW. He was joined by Lance Storm, his training partner from the early days of his career and they concentrated on tag wrestling, he would be around long enough to make it to the FMW 3rd Anniversary show where he tagged Kevin Faule, a junior heavyweight who disappeared off the radar after this show. They looked like a solid babyface tag team in the mould of the Rockers. Exactly what FMW didn’t order. He stuck out like a sore thumb, however, his energy would flow through the early days of The Lionheart gimmick in CMLL and later the first year of his WCW run.
He would shift promotions to WAR, Genichiro Tenryu’s promotion and take up the name Lion Heart for the first time. Having beaten Último Dragón for the NWA World Middleweight title in CMLL, he defended the belt on arrival and it placed him well when the fledgeling promotion crowned its first Jnr Champion. He would lose to Gedo in the final of the WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship tournament. However, the young man was going places. Invited into that year’s Super J Cup, WAR hosted the tournament that year, he would lose to NJPW’s Wild Pegasus Chris Benoit in the Semi-Final. It was time for a drift into the wild side and he joined Fuyuki Gun, with future FMW booker Hiromichi Fuyuki, and a certain World Class Tag Team, Gedo and Jado. Their abrasive style had led them to dominate the Six-Man division and with Jericho by their side, they would win titles. Gedo would take Jericho as a partner when Jado was out injured and they won the WAR International Jnr Tag titles.
After 24 tours he signed with WCW, and his allegiance shifted in Japan to NJPW. Where his Japanese adventures took a turn for the worse. Having had a hit with the Tiger Mask/Black Tiger feud in the ’80s, Jushin Liger, then booking the division brought in Jericho as Super Liger, Jushin Liger’s arch-nemesis. It lasted exactly one match as Jericho couldn’t see and botched moves left, right and centre. Throw in a broken arm trying to learn a Shooting Star Press in a swimming pool, and the run was not as epoch-making as it could have been.
Jericho the Cocky Cruiserweight
In the summer of 1996, Jericho would debut in WCW, quickly becoming a key component of the Cruiserweight division. At first, Jericho’s persona was a fiery straight up babyface, pandering to the crowd. Within 10 months of debuting, he would win the first of four WCW Cruiserweight Championships defeating Syxx at a house show in Los Angeles.
Throughout the remainder of 1997, the belt would hop around several Cruiserweights. Nevertheless, 1998 was the catalyst for Jericho’s career. At January’s Souled Out pay-per-view, the “Lionheart” would solidify a heel turn defeating Rey Mysterio Jr. to become Cruiserweight Champion for the third time. Afterwards, he would injure Mysterio with the use of a toolbox to the knee.
In the months that followed, Jericho’s persona would be a mix of a cocky heel with a tendency to be a crybaby. During this reign as Cruiserweight Champion, he would begin collecting “trophies” from competitors; Juventud Guerrera’s mask, Prince Iaukea’s Hawaiian dress, and Disco Inferno’s headband. After defeating Dean Malenko at Uncensored, Jericho would mock an absent Malenko including his classic ‘the man of 1,004 holds’ promo. Malenko (disguised as Ciclope) would return after winning a Battle Royale for Jericho’s Cruiserweight title at Slamboree. He would go on to defeat Jericho, with the former champion going on to play the victim in the weeks that followed. Jericho would take to the streets of Washington D.C. to protest he was a “conspiracy victim”. The feud would end in the summer with Jericho claiming the title for the fourth time. At Road Wild, Guerrera would defeat Jericho with Malenko as special guest referee.
In late 1998, he took aim at WCW World Heavyweight Champion Goldberg, or as Jericho called him – “Greenberg”. The leader of the “Jericholics” would provoke him continuously. With his personal security, Ralphus, by his side, Jericho would mock Goldberg’s entrance, despite getting lost in the arena, defeat a midget dressed as Goldberg and eventually claim to be 4-0 against the World Champion. However, Goldberg would abruptly end the non-existent feud with a spear in the aisle-way to Jericho with a match between them never taking place. The final months of Jericho’s WCW run would see him capture the WCW Television Championship before feuding with Perry Saturn, as he exited the company in early 1999.
Jericho’s character work in WCW allowed him to grow. Going from a bland babyface to a whiney heel that was thoroughly entertaining on the mic, and complimented stellar matches with some of the best workers in the company.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (2008):
There is no shortage of quality content when it comes to Chris Jericho’s career (hence this tribute piece), but Jericho arguably never hit greater heights than in his all-time classic feud with Shawn Michaels in 2008. The feud itself was a masterclass in storytelling, shifting from playful one-upmanship when Jericho awarded Michaels an award for faking a knee injury (which he did) to an emotionally charged feud four months later that saw HBK seeking vengeance after Jericho punched his wife in the mouth! In addition to tone change and stakes rising – the wrestling even shifted from a technical back and forth epic at Judgement Day 2008 to vicious unsanctioned matches, ladder matches, and last man standing matches. However, the biggest shift in this feud came from Y2J himself.
Although Shawn Michaels was exceptional in his role as the sympathetic babyface, what made this feud such a classic was Jericho’s desire for change. Going from Y2J to the suit-wearing, slow-talking, dastardly Jericho, whose ego was so big, he refused to allow his rival to retire in peace until he admitted Jericho forced him to retire. In many ways, this classic feud materialised because of Jericho’s metamorphoses (one of many), and we sure are thankful for it! This 2008 feud may still be the greatest storyline in wrestling history, showing all aspects of professional wrestling to the highest possible standard. Also, it may still rank as the greatest run and piece of ‘business’ Chris Jericho has ever done in his illustrious 30-year career.
Recommended viewing (just in case you need it!):
Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels promo – SummerSlam 2008.
Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels Ladder Match – No Mercy 2008.
Making the List
Beginning in the summer of 2016, Jericho began teaming with Kevin Owens. After defeating Enzo Amore and Big Cass at SummerSlam, a disgruntled Jericho would air his grievances against RAW General Manager Mick Foley, giving birth to the ‘List of Jericho’. The list would quickly grow full of “stupid idiots” as he supported his “best friend” and Universal Champion Kevin Owens for the remainder of 2016.
Fans would soon cheer whenever the scarf-wearing Jericho would appear with his clipboard and pen in hand, asking “you know what happens?” to those he was annoyed at. Despite this he firmly remained as heel, helping Owens retain his Universal title at every opportunity. He later refused to cater to fans’ desire to add people to the list.
At the start of 2017, Owens and Jericho were feuding with US Champion Roman Reigns. After both failed to defeat Reigns separately, a handicap match led to Jericho to becoming US Champion for the first time. At January’s Royal Rumble, he was placed in a shark’s cage above the ring as Owens retained his Universal Championship before Jericho lasted over an hour in the men’s Royal Rumble match.
The partnership would soon come to an end. Jericho accepted a challenge from Goldberg for Owens’ title, which added tension to the pair. However, Jericho would look to rectify this by hosting the “Festival of Friendship”. Taking place in Las Vegas, Jericho would shower Owens with elaborate gifts; the “Art of Jericho” sculpture and the “Creation of Kevin” painting. While a magician and an appearance of Duane “Gillberg” Gill failed to impress Owens. Jericho told Owens he’s had one of the best years of his career because of him, saying he would “always had his back”. In return, Owens gifted his fellow Canadian with a new clipboard. An elated Jericho soon realised his name was on the list, as Owens then beat him down.
Their feud would escalate as Y2J distracted Owens at Fastlane, causing him to lose the Universal title. As expected, they would face off for the US Championship at WrestleMania 33. Despite it being a back and forth contest, Owens would defeat his former partner after a powerbomb on the apron. The pair would trade wins at Payback and on the May 2nd episode of SmackDown with Owens coming out on top, writing Jericho off TV after the match.
Admittedly, the ‘List of Jericho’ does overshadow the feud with Owens yet it’s just another example of how capable he is of reinventing himself, changing his character to be fresh and entertaining. Jericho somehow managed to get a phrase like “stupid idiot” and the use of a pen and clipboard over with fans. Ignoring his fleeting cameo appearances, Jericho’s final spell (for now) in WWE is fondly remembered.
Return of the Prodigal Son
Jericho’s second NJPW was a much happier event, twenty years after his first attempt, he was a heavyweight, a legend and he thought he had the perfect opponent. While still under contract to WWE, apparently he had that much clout Vince McMahon was happy to let him go, he would attack Kenny Omega and set up a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12. Looking back on three years, that match was truly an era-defining brawl. It moved the story of the world wrestling scene. NJPW was the hot property largely because of Jericho, it opened up possibilities that would eventually lead to AEW and NJPW’s much larger US expansion and it rebuilt the relationship between Jericho and Gedo, as he was used time and again. Beating Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental title, wrestling EVIL while Naito was out injured. Having a match with two legends who could still go in Hiroshi Tanahashi, and giving Kazuchika Okada’s fifth rein some serious sizzle after the momentum picked up at the G1 Supercard in New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Jericho in Japan wasn’t always a pretty story, but twenty years after it nearly beat him, he came back and took control and he learned to adapt. Truly a story of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Leading The Inner Circle
After venturing into New Japan Pro Wrestling, Jericho would surprise many by joining a fresh US-based startup called All Elite Wrestling. While their roster was fronted by names such as Cody, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, some felt Jericho legitimised AEW as a viable mainstream alternative to WWE.
After becoming the very first AEW World Champion at September 2019’s All Out, the premiere episode of AEW Dynamite would see him join forces with Jake Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz to form The Inner Circle. As leader of the heel faction, Jericho would present himself as an arrogant rock star with his own band, Fozzy, providing his theme song (‘Judas’), referring himself as “Le Champion” and becoming an internet viral sensation celebrating his Championship with “a little bit of the bubbly”.
Jericho would soon be reacquainted with a former enemy in the form of Jon Moxley (FKA WWE’s Dean Ambrose). After fooling The Inner Circle by joining the group, Jericho and company would beat Moxley down, stabbing him in the eye. The intense feud would climax with Jericho’s title reign ending after 182 days as Moxley won at Revolution.
As the Covid-19 pandemic took over the world, The Inner Circle would target The Elite (Omega, the Bucks and ‘Hangman’ Adam Page). However, with Cody focusing on Lance Archer and the TNT Championship, The Elite bought in Matt Hardy to even the odds. The stable rivalry would conclude with a spectacular cinematic match at Double or Nothing as both teams took over the Jacksonville Jaguars’ TIAA Bank Field for a Stadium Stampede match. Again, Jericho and co would be unsuccessful.
Over the past 12 months, Jericho has shown a willingness to put the spotlight on up-and-coming names such as Darby Allin and Scorpio Sky, with Orange Cassidy benefitting the most from working with the “Demo God” in recent months.
Whether he’s cutting a promo, wrestling, or taking over the commentary desk, it’s clear Jericho has freedom to be creative, and is eager to help grow AEW in anyway necessary. In return, it’s allowed him to be revitalised and bring “lesser known” names up to a higher level, creating future main event stars.
Article written by;
Sêan Reid, Humza Hussain and James Truepenny