As a kid growing up watching WWE throughout the Attitude Era, if you asked me who the greatest wrestler of all time was, I would undoubtedly have said Stone Cold Steve Austin. The man who defined the most popular era in wrestling history and the reason we tuned in every week. This was a time when all I cared for was the character, the edginess, the middle fingers. I didn’t understand the business or what it took to be a wrestler, a top guy, and an attraction. Fast forward 20 years and my answer is a very different one now.
Put 20 people in a room and ask them who the G.O.A.T is … you would likely get 20 different answers. Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, HBK, and The Undertaker are just a few of the names that are regularly mentioned, but what makes somebody the Greatest of All Time? Is it how much money they made the company? How many championships did they win? In-ring ability and technical prowess? Their character? Ability to entertain and captivate? In my eyes, it is a mixture of all of the above, and it’s exactly why I believe Chris Jericho should hold the mantle of being the G.O.A.T.
A little bit of history first. Jericho made his wrestling debut way back in 1990, making a name for himself around Europe and Mexico but it wasn’t until he joined ECW in 1995 that he started receiving widespread attention. It was during this time that he caught the eye of WCW where upon signing he developed into the brash, the whiny and cocky kid that we loved to hate … Europe and Mexico may be where he honed his craft, but WCW was where he truly became Chris Jericho.
WCW tended to not realize what they had until it was gone, and Jericho became their latest in a long list of missed opportunities when he signed with WWE in 1999. In what I will always see as the one debut to have the single biggest impact on the company, Jericho debuted on RAW by interrupting The Rock as he was cutting a promo on the Big Show. If you want to get noticed what better way to do it than by going toe to toe with the face of the company? He instantly became must-see TV, and that’s one of the best things about him, over 20 years in the business but still to this day he is just as relevant as that first night in 1999.
I’m going to take a look at some of the reasons why I firmly believe Chris Jericho is the G.O.A.T:
Always Reinventing And Evolving
One of the things that sticks out for me with Jericho is just how much time he has taken off, which you may think is a bad thing but its more the way he does it and what happens when he returns. Take John Cena and Brock Lesnar for example, when they take 6 months off they don’t bring anything new to the table after returning, they’re still just Cena and Lesnar. They go straight into the title picture and it’s just more of the same old rubbish that riles the fans up and has them complaining about part-timers. But when Jericho comes back, he isn’t labeled a part-timer because he consistently reinvents himself and keeps things fresh. Here are some examples:
· In 2007 after 2 years away, he came back with a new finisher – The Codebreaker – which he still uses to this day. It’s a move that has become synonymous with the name Chris Jericho.
· He then became even more brash and arrogant, patronizing the crowds more than ever before, always wearing a snazzy suit, talking slowly and quietly while constantly talking down to everybody. He was one of those heels who the crowd actually cared about hating.
His next return saw him go back to the Jericho of old, wearing the flashy jackets and being more of a rock star than ever before. The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla was back and better than ever.
· Arguably his finest creation and the standout highlight of his final WWE run – The List of Jericho. The fans loved it, it was something we could join in with and was funny literally 100% of the time. Also, calling somebody a ‘Stupid Idiot!‘ really isn’t that good is it? It’s hardly insulting at all. But Jericho? He somehow made it every bit as good as The Rock calling somebody a Jabroni, Goldberg telling you that ‘You’re Next! ‘, or Edge introducing the ‘You Suck‘ chants for Kurt Angle.
· The Scarf. I know what you’re thinking … ‘how is a scarf a reinvention?’ and to be honest at the start I was thinking the same thing. But it was because Jericho made it so. He made a simple scarf part of his character, not just his look. It became something he would back and forth with other wrestlers over and it was another wildly entertaining and funny quirk.
· Japan. After mastering North America, Jericho returned to Japan, where he became an out of control, disrespectful heel in the mold of another great gaijin, Stan Hansen. Not long after this, we saw Jericho introduce his Painmaker gimmick, a character who simply didn’t give a ****. The darkest and edgiest Jericho we have ever seen,
· AEW. What can I say about AEW? I’ll go into more detail soon, but to see Jericho competing at the level he is currently at, is nothing short of astounding. A little bit of the bubbly anyone?
His ability to keep things fresh and still be relevant after such a long time should be a wake-up call for a lot of the newer guys on the roster half Jericho’s age. Humberto Carillo for example, who hasn’t even begun to find himself yet. If this guy can get a reaction to A SCARF, then what exactly is your excuse?
An Unparalleled CV
When you look at the names mentioned in the GOAT conversation, you start to see a trend emerging. They all had great singles runs and were great champions. Jericho has more than earned his spot alongside those names by winning a whole heap of championships down the years. During his time in WWE Jericho has been the Hardcore Champion, European Champion, 2 x U.S Champion, 9 x Intercontinental Champion, 3 x World Heavyweight Champion and who could forget when went down in history as the first ever Undisputed Champion by defeating The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in the same night. He was only the fourth ever Grand Slam Champion in history and the ninth triple crown champion.
During his WCW run he captured the Cruiserweight Championship 4 times and the WCW TV Championship. To this day Jericho is still hauling all of the gold, currently reigning as AEW Champion and has also been crowned IWGP Intercontinental Champion during his time in NJPW. You can certainly say he has been there, done that and got the championship belt to prove it.
He has also been a part of some very memorable and entertaining tag teams, winning the Tag Team Championships on 7 different occasions with Edge, Chris Benoit, Big Show, The Rock and Christian. It just goes to show Jericho’s versatility, not only was he was able to carve out many successful solo runs but continued to achieve at the highest level as part of a team, even if those teams did end up capitulating and feuding with each other!
The company clearly never lacked any faith in him despite his ventures outside of WWE sometimes taking precedent, his fantastic rock band Fozzy for example, and always recognised his passion, drive, commitment and ability to let him still be one of the top guys.
He’s All About The Future
There comes a time in every WWE superstars career where they have to make way for the next bright young talent to take their opportunity, and Jericho is no stranger to this. He is a company man; he will always go out of his way to put somebody over if it’s in the best interests of WWE or wherever he may be at the time. He has been instrumental in helping to put over the likes of Dolph Ziggler, Braun Strowman, Shelton Benjamin, John Cena, Owens and even Fandango in one of the biggest Wrestlemania upsets in history! More recently we’ve seen him putting over the likes of Jungle Boy, Marko Stunt and Darby Allin in AEW. All much younger talent with a lot to prove, Jericho knows the importance of building for the future.
The most impressive thing for me in all of this is that he is still putting on great matches to put the other talent over at the ripe old age of 49! We saw this quite recently at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 12 show, the first time in a very long time that Jericho had competed in another company’s ring, in an exhilarating match against Kenny Omega. Now strictly speaking, Omega doesn’t need Jericho to put him over as he’s already one of the best in the world, but what Jericho did do was put NJPW over. Sure, they’re a company with a huge following within Japan, but without many household names to speak of Jericho brings huge star power and helped to get a lot more eyes on the company than they ordinarily might have. If you haven’t seen this match or its build up yet do yourself a favour and find it online, Jericho was able to throw off the shackles of PG Era WWE and was able to be the non-conformist, potty mouthed, deceiving and cheating heel that we all knew he had in him.
A huge advantage that Jericho has over other veterans is that over the years he has come to understand that sometimes a loss can be instrumental to building bigger crowd reactions in the long run and be beneficial for everybody involved as it gets the fans more invested in the rivalry. He doesn’t feel the need to always be on top, to always win his feuds or to look like the stronger man if it comes at the expense of better talents. He brings with him a crafty, wily veteran instinct into every match and doesn’t just give the other guy the win, but actually teaches them during the match and essentially trains them while on the job. He is right up there with Kane as one of the most sought-after workers in WWE, as going face to face with him is an experience which makes everybody better in the long run.
One Of The Best Talkers Ever
Listen to any Jericho promo today and you would never think that it was once a very different story. There was a time when he was more Sycho Sid than Paul Heyman on the mic, but hard work, determination and the willingness to learn from those around him helped him to become one of the greatest talkers in wrestling history. Although he honed the majority his ability in WWE you have to give a lot of credit to WCW, where he had to cut a tonne of 30 second advertisements informing the viewers of events in the local area. If it wasn’t for these videos his personality may well have gone unnoticed.
During his time with WCW, he cut one of the most infamous promos of all time which really put him on the map. He took to the microphone to mock the legendary Dean Malenko, whose superior technical knowledge had him dubbed as the ‘Man of 1,000 Holds ‘. Jericho referred to himself as the ‘Man of 1,004 Holds‘ while unravelling an impossibly long list in the middle of the ring. Although nearly every other hold of the 1,004 were variations of arm bars, he opened an awful lot of eyes with this promo, playing the role of an arrogant, delusional heel to perfection. Before long, Jericho’s reputation as one of wrestling’s best trash talkers was cemented and we have been treated to some fantastic verbal spars with The Rock and HBK, and hilarious moments with Booker T, Kevin Owens and Stephanie McMahon to name a few.
One Tough S.O.B
Jericho is known for being the same outside of the ring as he is inside of it – tough as nails and willing to stick up for what he believes in. He has had some well documented real-life issues with fellow WWE stars and once notoriously took on Goldberg in a backstage altercation. He and Sin Cara clashed while on tour in Europe for unknown reasons and not too long ago he went face to face with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, out of concern for his friend Randy Orton, and lived to tell the tale. So not only does he clearly have big brass balls but he’s also honourable to boot.
He has never backed down from a challenge, evident from his personal differences with other superstars, but also in terms of his career. He had a nice, cushy midcard place in WCW but gave that up to try and crack the big leagues in WWE. A massive gamble considering he had only been WCW TV Champion once before, and a Cruiserweight before that. What we’ve seen plenty of times in other sports is that moving up weight classes can be a terrible idea and have a huge dampening impact on a career. But nevertheless, Jericho stepped out of his comfort zone and made a break for it, and what a decision that turned out to be – it was a mere 2 years later that he was entrusted to become the first ever WWE Undisputed Champion.
Always one for innovation, Jericho was the man responsible for creating the Money in The Bank ladder match and has appeared in the match 5 times since its inception in 2005. A veteran of many TLC, Elimination Chamber, Cage and Ladder matches he is no stranger to high risk matches full of spots and bumps. For a guy approaching his 50’s he can still go in the ring with the absolute best, evident from his flying crossbody off of the top of a Steel Cage onto Bray Wyatt as recently as 2014 and allowing Dean Ambrose to slam him down onto hundreds of tacks in the Ambrose Asylum match. He has credited DDP Yoga as a primary reason for why he is still going after suffering a herniated disc injury in 2011 while competing on Dancing with The Stars and claims to feel better than ever. Hopefully with this kind of support he can keep going well into his 50’s, I just don’t want it to become desperate and embarrassing like when Ric Flair was still trying to wrestle in 2011/12. Jericho’s legacy is too great to tarnish, I hope he recognises once enough is enough and finally gets inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame.
What Does The Future Hold?
Well this is a huge question. 1 year ago, if you told me that Jericho would be the world champion of a major wrestling organisation that isn’t WWE, I would.ve taken you straight to the men in white jackets myself. When he was seemingly done in NJPW, I like many others assumed Jericho would make his way back to WWE on a legends contract and make sporadic appearances. But true to form, Jericho has one eye on the future of the business and has helped to establish AEW as a major player in the game. There are lots of flaws and teething problems with AEW at the moment, as you would expect from a fledgling company, but with someone like Y2J overseeing things as a shareholder it’s only a matter of time before the product is as smooth as WWE’s (most of the time).
Le Champion has found a new lease of life within his new surroundings and keeps putting on great match after great match. He is currently locked in a bitter feud with his old WWE rival Jon Moxley, but nothing about the program feels old or tired. Without the confines of WWE and Vince McMahon, Jericho and Mox are able to go out there and do whatever they want, something that both men thrive upon. It remains to be seen if Jericho’s status as champion is the long-term plan, but his championship reign has served the exact purpose that it set out to. It has brought eyes to the new product, both new ones and curious ones wanting to see what was next for this legend.
So, there you have it. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Chris Jericho is the Greatest ff All Time and will continue to add to his legacy. Do you disagree? Do you know what happens when you disagree that Chris Jericho is the G.O.A.T? You know what happens when you say somebody else is?
Non-believers …. YOU JUST MADE THE LIST!!!