Thirty years later, there is one thing that remains the same about the ever-changing Chris Jericho.
You are going to be entertained when he is on your screen.
It is that which has allowed the All Elite Wrestling star to stand the test of time across multiple promotions, countries and continents. Jericho has worked in places such as ECW, WCW, Mexico’s CMLL, WWE, New Japan and now AEW — which will celebrate his 30-year anniversary Wednesday with a special “Dynamite” (8 p.m., TNT).
Jericho’s constant reinvention leaves you watching to see what he will do or say next. He may be the only person in wrestling today who could show up in three different promotions and have three very different personas — “The List” guy in WWE, “The Pain Maker” in New Japan and “Le Champion” in AEW.
The 49-year-old Jericho has had plenty of memorable matches (2017 at Wrestle Kingdom vs. Kenny Omega, 2008 at No Mercy vs. Shawn Michaels and WrestleMania 19 and the 2001 Royal Rumble vs. Chris Benoit.) But it never mattered if he was in the ring or not, just that he was on your screen.
You looked forward to the end of the Y2J countdown and the words “Break the walls down!” hitting. Eventually, the light-up jacket appeared and Jericho turned confident and cocky toward the camera. It’s similar to the way things are now in AEW when fans wait for his “Judas” entrance song to turn down so they can belt out the chorus with all the power of their lungs. Jericho carried himself like a wrestling rock star even when he wasn’t — eventually becoming a real rock star along the way — and made you believe it.
In WWE, you waited each week to see who was going to make The List and what it would take for Jericho to finally unleash the signature words with a click of the pen. You previously wondered who was going to “Gonna get … it.” You knew what was coming, but you still watched and likely laughed, too.
Jericho, one of the greatest Intercontinental champions ever and the first WWE Undisputed champion, was the guy proclaiming to be the “the best in the world at what I do.” He was telling you and everyone else to “shut the hell up,” or trying to convince you he was the man of 1,004 holds (Arm bar!). He nearly talked his way into a match with Bill Goldberg at the height of his stardom in WCW with the help of his legendary and disheveled security guard Ralphus — a parody of Goldberg’s entrance security force.
Audience interaction and participation are one of the biggest keys to reaching the upper tier of pro wrestling, and Jericho is a master of them.
He brought out an emotion in the audience — whether it was good or bad it didn’t matter. You cared. You were invested in him and wanted to see his matches and the story play out. Maybe you even became a Jerichoholic.
Heck, after getting his AEW championship stolen at a Longhorn Steakhouse in September 2019, it took one hot tub promo to makes you wonder for a split second if it was all a work. He later made headlines after getting into it with Mike Tyson in May. When Chris Jericho is on your screen you stop, you listen, you watch and you may never, ever be the same again.
Jericho’s first match was Oct. 10, 1990, against Lance Storm in Alberta, Canada. They wrestled to a draw. From there he’s had 2,374 matches, winning 1,204 (50.7 percent), with 2.5 percent going to a draw, according to cagematch.net. His next match comes Wednesday on ‘Dynamite” as Jericho and fellow Inner Circle member Jake Hager take on Jericho’s real-life friend Luther and his partner Serpentico.
Jericho revealed on his most recent “Saturday Night Special” show that he contemplated retiring if AEW had not come around and now has no plans to stop. The current and next generation of wrestling has been better off for it.
Jericho has done some of his finest work during this stage of his career. Even before having his passion for wrestling reinvigorated in New Japan, Jericho left us with the Festival of Friendship on his way out the door of WWE in 2017.
Him being in AEW and becoming its first champion legitimized the promotion from the start and gave it a base to build on. His willingness to help others has allowed AEW’s lesser-known talent a platform to become viable stars to the audience. Jericho has had singles matches with Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, Scorpio Sky and rising star Orange Cassidy just to name a few.
His Inner Circle of Hager, Sammy Guevara, Santana and Ortiz have been prominent players since the first “Dynamite” last October and have all gotten the Jericho rub. During AEW’s shows at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, he became a must-listen on commentary — even bestowing indy wrestler Suge D his now more well-known name, Pineapple Pete. Oh, and he had a Dynamite match with him, too.
While Jericho’s in-ring abilities certainly aren’t what they were 30 or even 10 years ago — he’s become more of a brawler as many performers do later in their career — it hasn’t stopped him from having good matches and telling great stories. Just see the orange juice-drenched white jacket he wore week after week during his feud with Cassidy and the car keys that kept popping up during the his title program with Jon Moxley.
Jericho has been at so many key junctures in pro wrestling history, from the rise of ECW, to the influential WCW cruiserweight division, to his iconic WWE debut as the Monday Night Wars were starting to tip in WWE’s favor — also coming up with the idea for the Money in the Bank match. Now he’s a foundational piece for the successful AEW as it carves out its place in the wrestling landscape. What’s next?
As we wait and as he hits the 30-year mark of his legendary career, maybe pop a little bit of the bubbly out of respect and enjoy the gift of Jericho that keeps on giving. Drink it in man.