9/10/14 Wrestler of the Week – Chris Jericho

 

By now, we’re starting to understand the blueprint. Jericho shows up out of nowhere when he is able to find time between touring with his band, acting, hosting, and a few dozen other odd jobs in the entertainment world. He wrestles fantastic matches with some of the top stars of the newer generation. He has one or two real programs that always end with his younger opponent looking great. It’s not a complicated formula, and it is very easy to see the end result coming from a mile away. As with most storylines it wrestling, the execution is more important than the shock value. Therefore, when Jericho is on his game, he can make anyone in WWE look fantastic. In the blow-off match with Bray Wyatt on Raw this week, he did exactly that.

Before the memorable cage match on Raw, Jericho took part in a surprisingly good ten-man tag match. While matches that big are usually clusters- and HHH even hinted at the uninspired booking with his Teddy Long impersonation early in the show- the participants had enough time to develop a real match. Jericho teamed with John Cena, Roman Reigns, Big Show, and Mark Henry to take on the entire Wyatt Family, Seth Rollins, and Corporate Kane. The problem with giant tag matches is that every individual has so little time in the ring that he usually tags in, hits a couple of signature spots, and gets out without contributing to the match’s story in a meaningful way. Perhaps it was because so many of the faces are established enough that they have little to prove, but their team did not fall victim to that temptation. Henry and Reigns each took a turn getting beat up. Reigns finally reached Jericho for the hot tag and he got a great reaction. The faces won when Cena locked Rollins in the STF and the rest of the heels interfered to break the hold. It was not a great match or a thrilling finish, but Jericho was part of the equation that helped turn a garbage concept into a decent main event.

The thing that made Jericho stand out more than anything was his feud-ending cage match with Wyatt on Raw. They traded victories over the last two months and it would be fair to say that Jericho did not get Wyatt to the heights most of us envisioned when their program started. Fortunately, the rubber match changed that calculation in a big way. The lasting impression from the match will be Jericho’s cross-body on Wyatt from the top of the cage, which he did because he could not escape without falling into the arms of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Jericho hurt his knee in the fall and Wyatt targeted that body part for the duration of the match until he eventually won relatively cleanly when he climbed over Jericho to escape through the cage door. Prior to this match, the Jericho-Wyatt matches often seemed rote, Wyatt was not clearly portrayed as the heel he seems to be, and neither did anything to raise the stakes in the rivalry. This match was good enough to address all three of those problems and send Wyatt on to his next program in a better position than he started this one.

Jericho will conclude this WWE run with a match against old rival Randy Orton at Night of Champions. Jericho is a good foil for Orton because his creativity in the ring forces Orton to change up his sometimes predictable match sequencing. If the Jericho-Orton match lives up to expectations, it will conclude another successful run for Jericho. While I would like to see him do something a little different next time he comes back to WWE just to change up the script (perhaps even run with a title for a few weeks), it is hard to argue with the work he has done the last few times he has returned to wrestling. His physical and psychological skills in the ring are as strong as anyone from his generation, and he remains charismatic and loquacious enough to help carry rivalries. His program with Wyatt took some time to reach its maximum potential, but Jericho got it there in the eleventh hour.