Pulse Wrestling’s Top 100 Wrestlers of The Modern Era: #16 – Chris Jericho
by Mark Allen on January 16, 2009

A performer like Chris Jericho is truly hard to come by, especially in this day and age.

16. CHRIS JERICHO

Real Name: Chris Irvine
Aliases: Corazon de Leon, Super Liger
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Debut: October 2, 1990
Titles Held: NWA World Middleweight; WAR International Junior Heavyweight; WAR International Junior Heavyweight Tag Team (with Gedo); ECW World Television; WCW Cruiserweight (4x); WCW World Television; WCW World Heavyweight (2x); WWF European; WWF Hardcore; WWF/WWE Intercontinental (8x); WWF Undisputed; WWF/WWE World Tag Team (1 each with Chris Benoit, the Rock, and Christian); WWE World Heavyweight (2x)
Other Accomplishments:: First WWF Undisputed Champion; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Readers’ Favorite Wrestler award in 1999; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Most Underrated Wrestler award in 1999 and 2000; Winner of PWI Most Hated Wrestler of the Year award in 2002; Ranked #2 on the PWI 500 in 2002; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Best on Interviews award in 2003; Ninth WWE Triple Crown winner; Third WWE Grand Slam winner; Winner of WWE’s Superstar of the Year Slammy award in 2008; Author of autobiography A Lion’s Tale; Lead singer for Fozzy; Hosted reality TV show Redemption Song on Fuse TV in 2008

Chris Jericho is one of a dying breed.

He is one of the last of a generation of touring journeymen who worked the territories and literally all across the world to hone his craft before he joined the bright lights of a major wrestling organization. Men like Guerrero and Benoit are dead, and others like Malenko and Storm are retired while Chris Jericho still stands tall. He is a true student of the game and is one of those natural athletes who both excel in the ring and on the microphone. A performer like Chris Jericho is truly hard to come by, especially in this day and age.

Jericho got his wrestling start at the tender age of 19 years old, enrolling in the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling. After his trainer Keith Hart revealed he had no idea how many matches he had, Jericho made it his personal mission to record every match and event he took part in. Born the son of famous hockey player Ted Irvine, he took the name “Jericho” and started out a legendary career.

As was still customary in the early ‘90s, Jericho hit the road and traveled the world to hone his skills and learn from the best of the industry. He worked the Canadian death tours in his home country. He traveled south of the border and became a sensation in Mexico, known as “El Corazon de Leon.” He then ended up in Japan battling other top junior heavyweights like Gedo, Jado, Ultimo Dragon and Chris Benoit.

He ended up back in America and reunited with his old training partner Lance Storm. They ended in Jim Cornette’s Smokey Mountain Wrestling as the pretty boy tag team The Thrillseekers. He really started to gain attention, however, in 1996 when he ended up in Extreme Championship Wrestling. He became a sensation in the Land of Extreme and won the Television Title in the process. As was common at this point, his success in ECW brought the attention of both WWE and WCW. And soon he found himself in the bright lights of WCW.

Jericho fit right in with the company’s cruiserweight division, which at the time was the greatest assembly of junior heavyweight talent under one roof. He stayed at the bottom of the card, battling other cruiserweights and making a name for himself. His first taste of success on a national spotlight was when he pinned Syxx for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship in June 1997. He traded the belt with Alex Wright through that summer before losing the belt to Eddie Guerrero in September.

It was late in ’97 when Jericho turned heel and finally gained some momentum. He beat Rey Mysterio, Jr. for his third Cruiserweight Title in January ’98 at Souled Out and embarked on a cruiserweight trophy tour. He unmasked Juventud Guerrera the next month after a successful title defense and went on to gain ring gear from other cruiserweights like Prince Iaukea, Kidman, Disco Inferno and others. Jericho then embarked on a great feud with Dean Malenko in battle of cockiness and charisma against pure wrestling skill. After Jericho beat Malenko at Uncensored, the “Ice Man” took a hiatus. Malenko returned at Slamboree under a “Ciclope” mask, won a cruiserweight battle royal and then beat Jericho for the belt. Jericho lobbied and was successful of getting Malenko stripped of the belt on the grounds that he wasn’t a legal participant in the battle royal. Jericho beat Malenko to win the vacant belt at Great American Bash when Malenko was disqualified and subsequently suspended. He dropped the belt to Rey Mysterio the next month thanks to Malenko’s interference. The long-standing feud was finally blown off when Juventud pinned Jericho for the Cruiserweight belt due to Malenko acting as guest referee.

The next week Jericho moved on and won the WCW Television Title from Stevie Ray. He began a one-sided feud with WCW World Champion Goldberg, calling him out at every turn but getting no response. The feud was ultimately dropped without Jericho ever meeting Goldberg one-on-one, and he became directionless again. He ended up dropping the Television Title to Konnan in November on Nitro.

Early in 1999 Jericho began harassing referee Scott Dickinson that led into a bizarre feud with Perry Saturn. Jericho beat Saturn in a “loser wears a dress” match at Souled Out ’99, but rather than humiliate Saturn he took to wearing the dress. Jericho beat him in another dress match at SuperBrawl before Saturn finally blew off the feud by beating Jericho in a “dog collar” match at Uncensored.

He floated aimlessly until his contract with WCW was up in the late spring of ’99.

A random millennium clock that would countdown on WWF TV started Jericho’s debut hype. The clocked ended up striking zero on August 9, 1999, live on RAW, in the middle of a promo from The Rock. Jericho instantly looked like a superstar with his pyro, entrance theme and video and was on equal footing with The Rock during their war of words. In one night Jericho became a bigger star in the WWF than he did in his entire time in WCW.

Despite his big entrance, he started out in the mid-card feuding with The Road Dogg, Ken Shamrock & X-Pac. He then embarked on a feud with Chyna over the Intercontinental Title. He won the belt from her at Armageddon in December ’99, which then led to a rematch between the two where both had their shoulders to the ground. That match led to Jericho and Chyna being named co-champions, until Jericho regained sole possession of the belt at Royal Rumble 2000. He dropped the belt to Kurt Angle the next month, who was also European Champion at the time. This led to a two-fall, triple threat at WrestleMania 2000 with Jericho, Angle and Chris Benoit. Jericho walked out as European Champion, only to drop the belt the next night to old rival Eddie Guerrero.

Two weeks later on RAW, Jericho pinned Triple H for the WWF World Championship but the result was reversed and the reign was never recognized. He then moved on to a feud with Benoit as they traded the Intercontinental Title through the spring. He dropped a Last Man Standing match to HHH in July and then resumed his feud with Benoit in August.

He spent the fall and winter feuding with X-Pac and then Kane (over a spilled cup of coffee!) before he regaining the Intercontinental Title from Benoit in an underrated ladder match at Royal Rumble 2001. Jericho battled against Benoit, Guerrero and X-Pac through the rest of the winter before embarking on a feud with William Regal. He defended the belt against Regal at WrestleMania X-7 only to lose to his old thorn-in-the-side Triple H at the next SmackDown! taping. In May he picked up the WWF World Tag Titles with Benoit as his partner and entered into a feud with Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Benoit and Jericho were both tapped to challenge Austin for the WWF Championship at King of the Ring, but neither man could take the strap. To add to the despair, days before the KOTR match the duo lost the tag belts to The Dudley Boyz.

When the WCW invasion began in full swing Jericho was a loyal soldier to the WWF camp. He was part of the 10-man tag main event at InVasion and then feuded with Alliance members Rob Van Dam and Rhyno. Things got interesting when Jericho and The Rock, both WWF loyalists, began feuding with each other over the WCW Championship. At No Mercy in October 2001, Jericho finally won the big one as he beat Rock for the WCW gold. The next night on RAW, the two WWF loyalists teamed up to beat The Dudley Boyz to win the WWF Tag Titles as well. A week later they dropped the belts to Test & Booker T, and a week after that The Rock beat Jericho live on RAW to win the WCW Title back. Jericho and Rock teamed with the other top WWF loyalists to mercifully end the InVasion at Survivor Series 2001, and then they were back at each other throats.

On December 9, 2001, Chris Jericho made history when he beat The Rock to win back the WCW Championship and then pinned Stone Cold just minutes later to win the WWF Championship, unifying both belts into the Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship. He successfully defended the unified belts against both men in high profile rematches; Rock at Royal Rumble 2002 and then against Stone Cold in February at No Way Out. He dropped the belts to the one guy he just could never get by, Triple H, in the main event at WrestleMania X8.

The first ever brand expansion draft put both Triple H and Jericho on the SmackDown! brand, where they continued their feud. It culminated at Judgment Day, where HHH once again beat Jericho, this time in Hell in a Cell. After dropping a match to a rookie John Cena at Vengeance in July, Jericho moved to the RAW brand and started a feud with everyone’s boyhood idol Ric Flair. Jericho picked up another Intercontinental Title along the way, this time beating Rob Van Dam. He lost the belt to Kane, but rebounded by teaming with Christian to beat Kane and his partner The Hurricane to win the World Tag Titles once again. He competed in the first ever Elimination Chamber at Survivor Series 2002 and then lost the Tag belts to Booker T and Goldust.

Jericho then embarked on his greatest rivalry ever, as he began taunting the recently returned Shawn Michaels. Jericho talked about how he idolized Michaels growing up and how he wanted to be just like him. The two met as the first two participants in Royal Rumble 2003, where Jericho eliminated Michaels quickly thanks to Christian’s interference. He then spent his time feuding with Michaels, Test and Jeff Hardy leading up to his big WrestleMania XIX match with Michaels. The two men stole the show in a forgotten classic that saw Michaels come out on top.

Shortly after Goldberg arrived in WWE and Jericho finally got his one-on-one match with him, where he promptly jobbed. He then spent the summer and fall feuding with Kevin Nash and Rob Van Dam while keeping up his alliance with Christian. Jericho and Christian then put on a “gentleman’s bet” on who could score first – Jericho with Trish Stratus or Christian with Lita. The bet led to an inter-gender tag match at Armageddon 2003 that the men won. But along the way Jericho began to develop real feelings for Trish, which drove apart his friendship with Christian. It culminated in a great WrestleMania XX match between Jericho and Christian, where Trish turned on Jericho and joined up with Christian and became 100 times hotter as “evil Trish.” Jericho spent the summer and fall of 2004 feuding with Christian, Trish and their “Problem Solver” Tyson Tomko. They finally blew off their long-standing feud in a ladder match at Unforgiven where Jericho won his seventh Intercontinental Title. He dropped the belt a month later to Shelton Benjamin at the inaugural Taboo Tuesday.

He then spent the first half of 2005 as an upper mid-card babyface, working in his third Elimination Chamber and the first Money in the Bank among other things. In the summer of 2005 he turned evil once again and found himself in the WWE Championship hunt once again, battling an all-grown up John Cena. Cena beat Jericho in the main event of SummerSlam 2005, and then once again in a rematch the next night on RAW. As per match stipulation, Jericho was fired from WWE following the loss.

Jericho took some well-deserved time away from the wrestling business after his departure from WWE. He worked with his band Fozzy, did some acting, become a pop culture talking head and wrote a book. He was still always on the forefront of wrestling fans’ minds as he hinted that he would return to pro wrestling at some point.

Just like his debut in WWE, his return was done with wonderful viral messages that got the wrestling community buzzing. His “Save.Us” viral campaign was the most talked about thing during the fall of 2007, and when he finally debuted on the live November 19, 2007, RAW to confront Randy Orton he was a welcome sight. He challenged Orton for the WWE Championship at Armageddon in December 2007. He promptly lost the match thanks to then-announcer JBL and fell back into the same upper mid-card spot before he left. His big special return lasted all of about two weeks before he was just another guy.

As 2008 dawned, he embarked on a feud with JBL, competed in his fourth Elimination Chamber and his second Money in the Bank. Along the way he picked up his record-breaking eight Intercontinental Championship by beating Jeff Hardy, who was on his way out thanks to a Wellness violation.

It looked as if Jericho would just drift aimlessly through the mid-card until he interjected himself in the Batista-Shawn Michaels story over the retirement of Ric Flair. Jericho acted as the sh!t disturber between the two men before he finally turned full-fledged heel by destroying Michaels on the set of his Highlight Reel. Jericho continued to change his image, adopting short trunks and wearing only suits to the ring when not in wrestling gear.

Jericho and Michaels renewed their rivalry with a singles match at Judgment Day in May 2008, which Michaels won. Jericho responded by picking up Michaels’ old trainee Lance Cade as his new protégé. Michaels then responded back by causing Jericho to drop the I-C belt to Kofi Kingston at Night of Champions. In their next meeting at The Great American Bash, Jericho beat Michaels due to ref stoppage. At SummerSlam, during Michaels’ “retirement speech” Jericho interrupted and ended up punching Shawn’s wife in the mouth. This brought a whole new level of hatred to their blood feud. In their third bout, an “unsanctioned” match at Unforgiven, Michaels came out victorious thanks to another ref stoppage. Jericho got the last laugh as at the end of the night he entered the World Championship Scramble as replacement for defending champion CM Punk and walked out as the new World Heavyweight Champion. He defeated Michaels in a World Championship ladder match the next month at No Mercy, in what Vince McMahon calls the best ladder match he’s ever seen. Three weeks later Jericho dropped his World Title to Batista at Cyber Sunday, only to regain the belt a week later on RAW. He then finally blew off his long-standing feud with Michaels by beating him in a Last Man Standing match on RAW.

Jericho then renewed his feud with John Cena for the third time, and ended up dropping the belt to Cena at Survivor Series. He won the 2008 Slammy for Superstar of the Year, effectively naming him the company’s man of the year.

As I write this, Jericho has been “fired” from WWE thanks to mouthing off to Stephanie McMahon live on RAW.

Jericho is a man who truly loves the wrestling industry and has given himself to it. He’s worked his way to the top the old fashioned way, by working through the territories and across the globe before working his way as high up in WCW as he was allowed to go. He then became one of WWE’s most entertaining and talented, but underutilized, entertainers in company history. He has a good look, has more charisma than three-quarters of the roster, is a better athlete than the other quarter of the roster and has managed to keep himself out of any real-life trouble. To anyone who is counting he is the ideal employee and ideal professional wrestler. The only thing that is keeping from Triple H-levels is about three inches of height.

To say the man has earned everything he has gotten in this industry would be an understatement. It was only in 2008 that Chris Jericho finally got all the recognition he deserved. He has been a bright spot on any wrestling broadcast that he is apart of.

When Jericho arrived to “save us” in December 2007, he didn’t just save us from Randy Orton’s boring speeches or his bad wrestling. He saved from everyone’s boring speeches and bad wrestling, and reminded us all how much we all missed Chris Jericho on our screen. He continues to do so each and every week, and makes it look easy while doing so.

The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.



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