Greetings boys and girls, I hope your all well and gearing up for the European Championships. I’m sure they’ll be a fair few surprises like Greece in 2004. For me personally though I’ve already had a surprise and that surprise (love the linkage) has been the one and only Chris Jericho. Thus this week I’ll be focusing on the man known as Y2J and telling you all why Jericho’s gone from being stale and dull to the most interesting man on Raw.
Now I’ve always been a Jericho fan ever since his days of pomp and idiocy in 1998 WCW, but over the last few years in his wrestling career (pre-sabbatical), and early days of his return late last year, he was probably one of the stalest performers out there. Now that is saying something considering the fact last week I pointed out how stagnant the WWE had become in general. However Jericho had become a caricature of himself. His humour was petty and dumb (unfortunately Cena and DX suffered the same fate) and came off as embarrassing and outdated rather than cutting edge and witty. He kept delivering catchphrases that could make a Justin Credible promo look like incredibly powerful, emotional dialogue. Even his in-ring work, while solid, had been increasingly formulaic, filled with tired routines and a move-set crying out for something new. All in all, the Jericho of a few years ago looked done. When he announced he would take some time away from wrestling, I, for one was glad. Yes the man is undoubtedly talented, but judging by his performance in all areas and his distinct lack of passion, it was an understandable decision.
So when we all saw Jericho return last November, as the saviour of WWE, we were all incredibly happy to have a fresh, reinvigorated Jericho back to spear the company on. Unfortunately we didn’t get that. While he may have had a different haircut and a different finisher, it was the same old Jericho. Within weeks, it felt tired. He was having good matches and certainly shook of the ring rust pretty easily, but nothing had really changed. It was the same old Jericho and the same old problems.
Which brings us to now, and the obvious question, which you’d ask. How come you’re surprised?
Well it all stems from one man. Ric Flair. You see a week after Jericho’s return, was the beginning of the Ric Flair retirement run. Little did Jericho know, that this might be the spark to ignite a new era of Y2J. Now I’ve been over Flair’s trip from Space Mountain to The Retirement Castle in a previous instalment and I’m sure everyone knows about it anyway. But Flair’s eventual last match and the following angles involving HBK and Batista somehow have got Jericho moving again.
Up to this point he was rather lost. Had a feud with Randy Orton cut off just as it got going, followed by a sloppy stint with the increasingly rubbish JBL (he’s still rusty…after 6 months!). Winning the IC Title from Jeff Hardy was about as good as it got and from there he just meandered around the mid-card area with nobody to feud with and virtually nothing to do. So what do they do? Well let’s stick him into this HBK/Batista feud.
Now at the time I remember thinking “why the hell is Jericho there, what’s the point?” and that was a sensible thing to say. Jericho wasn’t the on-screen friend like Batista was to Flair and HBK is Jericho’s idol so surely he has nothing in common with the theme of the feud. Yet somehow he’s become the integral cog.
I’m not going to try and explain the feud to you. Its not because it would take up too much unnecessary space no no, it’s more due to the fact that I haven’t a bloody clue what’s going on. But for some strange reason all this confusion has really helped Jericho. Think about it this way. We’ve always known Batista’s motivation. Flair was his friend; HBK didn’t do the right thing by Batista and then in their first match, later admitted, cheating to win. The morals are obvious and in a way that’s helped Batista too. He should be a focused beast intent on pounding the crap out of people who he feels is in the wrong. People who cheat and who break the rules to win, he wants to destroy. Not just beat, but also massacre. Judging by the response to his demolition of HBK, it’s seemingly what people want. With HBK, he’s ultimately been…HBK. The structure of this whole feud has been as confusing as why Bob Holly still has a job but when you look at the bigger picture, he’s just been HBK, bit of an arrogant arse, but we love him for it. He loves the attention, he’ll cheat to win like Flair does, he’ll do anything to get that win and the glory that comes with it. At the time when he admitted faking a knee injury I wondered why nobody booed him, but then I realised well that’s just Shawn Michaels down to a tee, so why should they? Will do anything to win, good or evil.
Thus we ultimately have 2 characters playing those roles to the hilt, 2 vastly opposing sides of morality, yet both being babyfaces. So who fills the big grey area in the middle? Jericho. He’s the conflicted character. It was he who apologised to HBK, in accusing him of faking an injury when after a tag match, he realised (in hindsight, just believed) that he was actually hurt. It was then he, whom HBK admitted he faked the injury, too, and was super-kicked for his troubles. Who does he trust, whom does he believe?
What I see happening now is similar to Jericho’s excellent heel turn in autumn 2001 but will hopefully be done a bit slower and with a lot of patience. Currently he’s portraying the fighting IC champion who’ll take on anyone. He’s the man who willed a virtually unconscious Shawn Michaels on to try and make that comeback once more and beat Batista, in their stretcher match.
Now this creates a great and torn scenario. Is Jericho trying to prove to both HBK and Batista and the world that he is this fighting champion and unlike them he doesn’t need to cheat or lie to be successful, he just needs to believe. Ha surely not you say! This is Chris Jericho, who weeks earlier was showing heel signs and an extra ruthlessness in the ring. Yet all of a sudden he isn’t showing that, he’s not sure whether to hit JBL with a chair, perhaps he doesn’t want to cheat? At One Night Stand though, was he trying to will HBK on because he believed in him to win or that he secretly wanted revenge and wanted Batista to batter him even more?
And that’s what’s surprised me. Out of one of the most confusing long angles in recent years has come a real goldmine. A character, which is playing with your ideas and your assumptions. You assume he’ll eventually turn bad and say he’s lying and wanted HBK hurt and didn’t hurt JBL to fool everyone, but will he? Or will we, the fans, want him to eventually teach HBK a lesson or batter JBL, because he should take his anger out on someone? In doing that would be then turn him heel because he’s gone over the edge? Would we be pushing him into becoming a cheat or somebody fuelled by violence? Or would we build him into a super-face because he’s dictated by what we want?
It’s just a really interesting time for this character development. I just hope that the WWE let it last a long time and see where it goes naturally. There’s no need to force it, let the crowd choose what they want Jericho to be. Then maybe he might just be a saviour to someone after all.