Chris Jericho. He came back to “save us” and in less than a year he claims the need to save himself. So what exactly does Y2J need saving from, the fans as he proclaims on TV each week, or in reality the writers? Jericho came back with a huge wave of momentum and was quickly booked in the WWE Championship feud. However this “saviour” was written out of this feud just as quickly as he was written into it, effectively making his claims to “Save Us” obsolete. Since this time it could be argued that Y2J has been dwindling in the mid-card without any great purpose, leaving us all asking if this was how it was really meant to be. It all would probably stem first from putting Y2J in the title scene simply too quickly (his very first feud since returning) so he couldn’t go anywhere but down, since it was unlikely to impossible they’d give any returning wrestler the title after a 2 year hiatus. Personally I was more than excited to see him return and in the short term I was glad he was going for the strap when he came back because of the attention it gave him. I hoped the existing momentum surrounding Y2J, in addition to WWE’s decision to let him main event from the off, would finally elevate him to a credible main event position which would be permanent. Well, at least longer than a single feud. He didn’t even get a rematch, remember? It could also be argued that there was no real reason to inject him into the title picture straight away, given it was pretty close to the build up for Mania, with plans probably already established. Having him not come out on top in a match which is whole gimmick revolved around, surely would only be detrimental. Given the much needed “buzz” that the viral videos and anticipation for Jericho’s return created, I can’t help but wonder what could have been had he been if he was used right from the beginning.
It’s of course not all bad. Chris Jericho has gone over fairly big names (albeit in less critical matches) such as Jeff Hardy twice, JBL, CM Punk and MVP. At the same time throughout his return to the WWE he was consistently made to look strong. This could also be said for his Armageddon match, as he was portrayed to have Orton moments from submission until the interference took place. Despite this list of major victories, these matches seem somewhat hollow, as they were not on a big stage and in the grand scheme of things didn’t give Y2J anything back. For instance when he beat CM Punk on RAW, this came after WrestleMania where he’d again been booked to come “close but not close enough” in the MITB match. This win amongst others cried out, “Sorry Chris, you aren’t taking the big one, but here’s another win at least”. As for PPVs, his victories have been next to non-existent! Speaking of the MITB match, I like many thought the MITB was a golden opportunity for the misuse to be made right, by letting him win it. The fans were behind him winning it, it would have given Y2J a way of getting back to the main event scene, so why not? This was combined with the fact Jericho was promoting the match on RAW/SD probably the best out of all of them. But hey, he was made to look strong in the match!
Moving on from his title feud on his return, came the Y2J/JBL feud. I don’t know whether it’s right to blame WWE for the shortcomings of this one, because on paper this should have been really decent. A feud that hadn’t happened before, between two veterans, involving two great talkers to boot. Since they went with the immediate title feud for Jericho, and he wasn’t going to win the belt, they needed a way to bring him out of the feud so in this respect it was a good move. It also aided in the transition of JBL back to wrestling once again. This feud just didn’t seem to “click” with me. We saw a more serious side to Jericho which I believe was played very well, but I’d guess some people were not ready for this so soon after he came back. Other than perhaps not getting them involved in more back-and-forth mic battles, the two had decent matches but nothing too special. The pair seemed to lack great chemistry I suppose. It was noticeable that WWE made Jericho look a lot stronger than JBL, judging by the matches they had and the win/loss. In the end it is about having a good feud and whilst it had some of these elements to it, such as when it got personal surrounding Jericho’s family, it just felt like something was missing. Still things were not going great.
A slight saviour was, or could have been, the Intercontinental Championship. Even this didn’t turn out as hoped however. Jericho was awarded the belt in the light of Jeff Hardy’s suspension from competition prior to WrestleMania but despite this the moment still felt special, not hollow, given he’s done a lot of great things whilst IC champion over the years and given Y2J sorely needed something to spark some interest given the buzz killer that was the Orton feud, and a lackluster JBL feud. It felt to many it would bring about a better situation not only for Jericho himself but for the mid-card title picture too. Not surprisingly however it soon became evident the title would only be defended on rare occasions, which gets frustrating to watch, as we’ve seen with various IC champions these days. Whether this was because the writers still attempted to use Jericho as above the mid-card, or simply followed the trend of rare title defences I don’t know.
I believe the real saving grace to Jericho’s comeback has been the current feud with HBK, including his heel turn. This feud was probably not in the works to begin with but given Jeff Hardy’s suspension plans no doubt had to be changed. It seems the WWE stumbled on a great opportunity as a result. If anything will get Y2J back on track it is probably this feud. This has been built over months and involved others such as Batista and Cade, with the transition to becoming the bad guy once again. Whilst he can play either face or heel very well, clearly he’s a natural heel. Not only this but his current heel turn is seemingly unlike any other runs he has had. He is “darker” in his approach, with almost a multi-platform character that gets you thinking. Once again he has reinvented himself and I think this feud is paying dividends. Not only do superb matches come as a result between the two (as usual) but the story unfolding each week is rather compelling. With the multi angled approach bringing in Cade as Jericho’s new protégé, the longevity of the feud is increased and interest is kept up. So WWE deserve some praise for this one. As long as Jericho leaves this feud in a better position it will probably be almost perfect. Given the events of the Great American Bash, where the “wicked was punished” and Shawn Michaels paid for his sins, few could argue against Y2J currently being the top heel on RAW.
So are we, as Internet wrestling fans, overly critical on the misuse of certain wrestlers, like Y2J? Maybe. If Jericho’s interviews are anything to go by he’s simply happy to go along with whatever WWE plans are. If he is happy, then why are we complaining? He’s been quoted to say he could be opening a show with Funaki and he’d still be happy to be out there, still be putting in 100%. So some of it may lie on the fact that he isn’t pushing to be main event, isn’t politicking and he’s basically out there to have some fun and tell a story. I can understand this and it seems believable given how long he has been in the wrestling business. I respect this, and it actually does work. I mean even when he’s in these predicaments where he is floating in the mid-card, I still find him almost always the most entertaining on the show. Ten minute Highlight Reel segments on RAW, barely any air time for Jericho, are still are amongst the most entertaining parts of the show. The fact that he isn’t pushed or used “correctly” frustrates me amongst others me since in my opinion he’s more than able to main event. To me he’s an all-rounder with a hell of a lot of experience. Still, I think he’s happy doing what he’s doing. Just like in 2004/5 before he took a break, it seems there’s a division between Jericho and the main event, which he just goes along with. With the success of the current HBK feud I will be hoping this division is lessened with Jericho coming out of this feud more credible as a main-eventer, back in the title picture with a seasoned heel character.
Hopefully the BEST is yet to come.