Welcome to Jaywalks is Jericho! It’s none other than ‘Y2J’ Chris Jericho up next in our tussle with WWF superstars, no doubt to save the series from the boring wannabes who have come before him.
That would be just as he arrived to save the WWF in late 1999, after several years presumably propping up WCW, and before that ECW. Jericho’s debut was much hyped, teased with a series of clocks gradually counting down to the ‘millennium’. When the timer appeared and finally hit zero, our new hero and party host arrived! Not only that, he had the gumption to interrupt The Rock, and next week, The Undertaker and Paul Bearer were on the receiving end of Jericho’s sass. ‘Y2J’ may have been cocky, but he was at least seen to have guts in cutting off two of the WWF’s biggest and most intimidating figures.
The reaction to his debut was so vocal, and his microphone work so fantastically entertaining, that it really wasn’t long before fans were cheering him. In fact, they had to put him in a feud with Chyna to try and stop fans from cheering him so soon. When it didn’t work, they put the two together and kick-started his run as a good guy. Over the next couple of years, Chris would elevate to the point where, really, there was only The Rock above him in terms of popularity. On one occasion, he even beat Triple H for the World Championship, but sadly ‘The Game’ used his backstage sway to have the decision immediately reversed, much to the crowd’s dismay. The two would go onto have a cracker of a feud, culminating in a brutal Last Man Standing match where, even in loss, Chris Jericho was with great success shown to be far, far more than a comedy character or runt.
Having notched up a glut of title reigns by December 2001, Jericho was credibly entered into a tournament to unify the now-defunct WCW Championship with the WWF Championship. Y2J had lost the love of a lot of fans by this point, clashing with The Rock over the former belt for a few months prior. But at Vengeance, Jericho was able to worm his way past both Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, pinning both on the same night to become the first ever Undisputed Champion. Sadly, Jericho’s run here was less than brilliant, for, as soon as HHH returned, we all knew what was going to happen, and their rivalry paled in comparison to their 2000 battle.
After losing the title to Helmsley at WrestleMania 18, Jericho seemed to flounder somewhat. It seemed that he was a victim of a very bloated roster. But he’d go one to have a great feud with Shawn Michaels, his own boyhood hero, culminating in a fondly-remembered tussle at WrestleMania 19. He would drift in and out of the title picture for the next couple of years, ultimately notching up a record nine Intercontinental championships before leaving WWE in 2005. He’d return in 2008, though, and I’m pleased to read that he had another stellar feud with Michaels and has bagged a handful of World Title reigns. He still competes to this day, juggling wrestling with acting, music with his band Fozzy, and television presenting.
We’re surely not supposed to believe that Jericho arrived to save the WWF, but in a way, he did. Looking back, there’s a definite sense of shift when Chris arrives on Raw – the product becomes inherently better for him being a part of it, and furthermore, his debut beckons the imminent coming of several young performers utterly wasted in WCW – Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, among others. Throw olympian Kurt Angle into the mix, together with a fantastic tag team division, and you had a batch of excellent wrestlers who were stealing the show in the mid-card. It made each event so much more exciting, for it was not just the main event that you cared about, but every match. WCW simply could not compete, just as few can compete with Jericho when it comes to performing – how heartening indeed to observe his success in the WWF, ‘breaking down the walls’ to become the star he knew he could be.