In the wake of his performance at Wrestle Kingdom 12 against Kenny Omega and the buildup to it in the weeks leading up to it, the question of how to assess Chris Jericho’s place in history is one that can be asked now. Even before that show Y2J had worked his way in to the top tier of guys who’ve worked in the business over the last 35 years. And when you start adding up the accomplishments and performances you end up seeing that he’s a lot higher than you may have thought at first. But where exactly do you slot him? There are guys with distinctly higher high points who didn’t last or remain relevant as long. Do we reward peaks or consistency and longevity? That’s the million dollar question of course, and how you answer will tell how you rank him.
There are a few obvious names you still have to put ahead of him, guys he won’t surpass. I’m talking Hogan, Flair, and Cena. Unless he becomes the top guy in a national promotion for 10 years and draws big money doing it, then that ship has sailed. You also have to put Rock and Austin ahead of him for the sheer amounts of money they drew and number of non wrestling fans they drew to the show even if their times at the top were so brief.
But after that anyone is fair game if you can make the case that he should be ahead of them. What I consider to be Jericho’s strengths are his in ring workrate, his creativity in coming with angles and matches, his mic work and his character reinventions. What he’s done in the past year with The List in WWE and last week in New Japan is pretty damn remarkable for a guy in his mid 40s with 20 years in the business.
What I hold agsinst him was that he was never the top guy in a company even as champion, and that’s something you can’t just chalk up to bad booking and call it a day. There were some missed opportunities yes, but he could have also played the politics better when the iron was hottest for him to get a turn. Like it or not politics are part of the business.
Savage’s peak in the business, WWF champion for a year and co-headliner with Hogan, is higher than Jericho’s. But once that run ended with him losing the title to Hogan at WrestleMania V he was never the same. He got a few more runs with both the WWF and WCW titles after that but never got out of Hogan’s shadow and his workrate fell off pretty quickly halfway through his WCW run. And I dare any one to name a great match of his after 1992. Jericho definitely beats him on longevity and being able to stay relevant; his last decade in the business trumps Savage’s by a mile.
This one is especially tricky because some of Shawn’s best late career matches were with Jericho, his ability to get good matches out of people is up there with even Flair, and his list of epic matches you can watch now holds up with anyone’s. Making a case for Jericho here really comes down to splitting hairs. Shawn had a run at the top, but it was during the worst financial run for the company of Vince’s ownership. Jericho never got that chance but the unknown does trump known failure. Still, the number of easy points HBK rings up here are hard to argue against.
Taker is one of two the greatest characters Vince created, Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase being the other. (By creation I mean that it was Vince’s doing and not an extension or hyped up version of what the wtestler was already doing). Taker also had The Streak. But beyond that what else? He was in some great matches but never was the reason a match was great. His promos were pretty rudimentary but never came under scrutiny because they fit his character so well. And he never had any kind of real run as champion or the top guy in the company. Jericho wins this one easy.
Dusty’s peak popularity, promo work, charisma and influence on so many people can’t be overlooked. But try to find a great Dusty Rhodes match that didn’t involve Ric Flair or another master like Arn Anderson or Tully Blanchard. Dusty was never a great wrestler, and was always the guy chasing the top guy even at his peak. Another cakewalk for Y2J here.
The irony of ironies here is that Hunter is the one pretty much stopped what could have been a coronation of Jericho as the top guy in the company when Y2J was really hot as a babyface from 2000 to 2001, and really crushed him in 2002 after he turned heel again. Hunter stayed at the top in the mid 2000s while Jericho got bumped back to the midcard, but even then he was always the guy who the top dog fought and not the top dog himself. HHH gets points for all he’s accomplished but you still have to look at his career as a triumph of positioning over all. Y2J wins here.
Not really, to be honest. Bret Hart was nowhere as good on promos or as entertaining a character, and was a box office dud as the top guy. Same with Randy Orton. CM Punk? Loses points on longevity, feuds, and overall relevance. Roddy Piper was more over at his peak but never held a major title and was a much bigger heat magnet than great worker. Sting is kinda in the same vein as Dusty, but was a better wrestler. Beyond that we’re talking guys with short runs or careers who never held a major title.
So in the grand scheme of things, I got him no lower than seventh and maybe sixth depending on how you argue HBK’s position. That’s a hell of a career given where he started and how he was viewed by WCW brass when he was there. His run in the business is the example everyone should look towards. Despite being smaller than Vince prefers he was not denied in forging an all time great career.