The legendary career of Chris Jericho almost defies being condensed into a single list. Over an incredible career spanning decades, Jericho has won almost everything there is to win in the world of pro wrestling, a laundry list of titles and accomplishments that will guarantee him easy entry into the WWE Hall of Fame. Along the way, he’s also been one of the most entertaining figures in the industry, constantly coming up with new ideas and new ways to evolve his character and keep himself in the spotlight, while wrestling fantastic matches and still being unselfish enough to be willing to put over almost anybody in an effort to make new stars and help the next generation. We’ve managed to pare down his career to some of the absolute biggest and best moments of his career, in an effort to help people understand just what it was that made Chris Jericho the very best in the world at what he does.
11. Man Of 1,004 Holds
Yes, Jericho actually had a fairly successful career in Mexico and Japan before he signed with WCW, but the moment that really thrust him into the public eye was his feud with Dean “Stinko” Malenko. It was quite literally a feud of opposites, as Malenko had phenomenal wrestling abilities and almost no charisma, while Jericho’s character has always been more about his mouth than his in-ring skills (although don’t get us wrong, he’s a really good wrestler, too). Malenko billed himself as “the Master of 1,001 Holds”, a reference to his encyclopedic knowledge of technical wrestling, and the flamboyant Jericho decided that the best way to upstage his opponent was to declare that he, in fact, knew 3 more holds than Malenko. For those who did not believe him, Jericho proceeded to pull out a massive roll of paper, and began reading a list that purported to contain all 1,004 holds that he knew, a reading which proceeded through a commercial break, and sadly, he was not allowed to finish. Also, he repeated “armbar” several times, throwing the veracity of his list into question, but in the process, creating a joke that lives among wrestling fans to this day.
10. The Non-Existent Feud With Goldberg
Eventually, Jericho crashed head-first into WCW’s glass ceiling realizing that he would never be seen as anything more than a cruiserweight in the company’s eyes. Never was it more apparent than when Jericho attempted to push for a feud with Goldberg, even going on TV for weeks and working hard to promote it, without any effort required by anyone but himself. In fact, it’s unlikely Goldberg even knew that Jericho was feuding with him. Finally, Jericho managed to talk those in charge into going along with it, even getting Goldberg to finally make an appearance and hit Jericho with a spear, seemingly building to a blow-off mauling at the next PPV. Except Goldberg decided not to show up, and the feud was ended without ever really getting that big payoff Jericho had envisioned. Realizing that he would never actually be allowed to work with the “top guys” in WCW, Jericho decided to take his talents to the competition, becoming one of the first huge jumps from WCW to the WWF, reversing the tide that had up to that point largely been flowing the other way.
9. Welcome To Raw Is Jericho
To say that the WWF and Jericho put a lot of effort into making him into a big deal for his debut would be an understatement. Jericho got everything he could ever ask for: a mysterious countdown, a flashy entrance video and fantastic theme, a prime position on Monday Night Raw opposite The Rock, and an open microphone. Jericho’s debut as Y2J, The Millenium Man, is still considered the greatest in the history of Monday Night Raw, an instantly memorable moment that has been re-played on WWE programming for years after the fact, and a massive shot across the bow of WCW that showed other wrestlers in that company who might have been disgruntled what they might expect if they, too, were willing to make the leap. An urban wrestling legend that is completely believable says that after WCW wrestler Raven watched Jericho’s Raw entrance, he said that if he’d had all that behind him, he’d be a big star too. He left the company shortly afterwards.
8. The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of All Time
All due respect to the Honky Tonk Man, but nobody has raised the profile of the Intercontinental Title quite like the man who has worn it more times than any other, and at an astonishing nine times, that honor belongs to Chris Jericho. More important than his litany of title reigns is the matches and feuds Jericho had while he held the title, putting on great matches with legendary competitors like Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, X-Pac, and Jeff Hardy. Jericho even went toe-to-toe with Chyna as an equal, including a reign as co-Champions that helped move the Ninth Wonder of the World from sideshow act to legitimate competitor. Jericho spent so long fighting for the Intercontinental title, however, that it began to feel to many fans like he was never going to get his chance at the big belt, and that was largely in part due to another guy who had recently established himself as part of the main event scene.
7. The Win That Never Happened
While Jericho was rising through the ranks, Triple H had finally achieved the pinnacle of sports entertainment, winning the WWF Championship multiple times and becoming the first heel to successfully defend the title at WrestleMania. Shortly after that win, Triple H found himself facing Jericho on an episode of Monday Night Raw, with the title on the line. Nobody really expected Jericho to win the title, but thanks to Triple H’s rampant abuse of referee Earl Hebner, a fast count saw Jericho pull off a shocking upset that had the fans on their feet. Unfortunately, it was never going to last, and Triple H used his influence to have Hebner not only reverse his decision and force Jericho to return the title, but to have the match itself stricken from the record, as if it had never happened. Still, that brief moment where Jericho was on top of the world only whetted the appetites of his growing fanbase, making an eventual legitimate title reign seem like an inevitability. And while it did take a little longer than expected, eventually, Jericho would get his World title…
6. First World Title
During the ill-fated WCW Invasion, seeds of distrust began to be sown amidst WWE Superstars as well, with The Rock beginning to question whether Chris Jericho had his head fully in the game. Quickly, things escalated to Jericho eyeballing Rock’s WCW Championship, while Rock reminded Jericho that in his career, he’d never managed to win “the big one”. In order to hopefully get things out of their system before the all-important “Winner Takes All” match at Survivor Series, Jericho faced Rock at No Mercy, and shocked the world by cleanly defeating the People’s Champion to win his very first World title. However, Jericho won that match through slightly nefarious use of a chair, and The Rock wouldn’t let him forget it, leading to a rematch a few weeks later on Raw, which saw Rock re-capture the title and further inflame the fires of hatred in Jericho. At Survivor Series, Jericho turned heel and attacked the Rock, nearly costing WWF the match in the process, but leading to even better days for Y2J in the very near future.
5. First Undisputed Champion
Indeed, only weeks after winning his first World title, Jericho found himself in a position to do what nobody had ever done before, as one of four men with a chance to become the first Undisputed Champion at the Vengeance PPV. And in a feat never to be repeated, Jericho first beat The Rock to once again become World Champion, then defeated WWF Champion Steve Austin in that same evening to unite the titles and become the Undisputed Champion, an accomplishment few would have predicted for Jericho when the year began. Jericho would gain the ultimate bragging rights for the rest of his career, not only for the title win, but because no one else in history had defeated Rock and Austin in consecutive matches in a single evening. And while ultimately his reign was marred by terrible booking and ended poorly in a badly-planned WrestleMania match against (who else) Triple H, it still cemented his place in wrestling history, and more importantly, made him a true main event star.
4. No Respect For A Legend
Now that he’d had his first World title reign, what Jericho needed was that big moment at WrestleMania to really flesh out his resume. And Jericho doesn’t do things halfway, so he began stalking one of the greatest of all time, Shawn Michaels, who had just made his emotional return to wrestling after his career had been thought to be over, and still wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to keep going. Jericho was one of several wrestlers over the years who had at one point or another earned the tag of “the next Shawn Michaels”, and Jericho didn’t want to be compared to anybody. As a result, Michaels and Jericho went out at WrestleMania XIX and put on a spectacular match that showcased the fact that HBK was, in fact, “back” (and he would stick around for nearly another decade, earning himself a second Hall of Fame career in the process), and that Jericho could more than hang with the best wrestlers in the world. In an incredible bit of post-match character work, after losing to Michaels and being offered a handshake of respect, Jericho chose to kick HBK in the crotch, then hugged a collapsing Michaels while pretending to sob uncontrollably. That’s what you call dedication to a character.
The call of outside interests, including his band Fozzy and a few feelers from television and movie producers, saw Jericho make a somewhat surprising decision to end his career as a full-time WWE Superstar in mid-2005, losing a match to John Cena that saw him “fired’ and dragged out of the arena by security. While many figured he’d be back one day, Jericho tried his hardest to distance himself from wrestling, aside from a few teases that never led anywhere, and looked for all the world like he was settling into a post-wrestling career. But then, in late 2007, cryptic videos containing some sort of code began appearing on WWE programming, initially displaying the words “SAVE_US.222″, and slowly evolving over several weeks. After enough information was gathered, all signs pointed to the impending return of Y2J, and sure enough, Jericho re-appeared, challenging WWE Champion Randy Orton and claiming once again that he was here to “save us”. Unfortunately, Jericho’s big return didn’t come off as well as many had hoped, as it stumbled out of the blocks, leading to a feud with suddenly un-retired announcer JBL, and many saw Jericho’s career circling aimlessly. Fortunately, better days were ahead…
2. Feud of the Year
After WrestleMania, Jericho subtly began acting less like the good guy he’d been portraying since his return, and once again focused his attention on Shawn Michaels. At WrestleMania that year, Michaels had been forced to defeat Ric Flair and retire the legendary 16-time World Champion, a decision many of HBK’s peers took issue with. Jericho began stoking fires of dissension, first directing Flair protege Batista into a confrontation with Michaels, then actively questioning Shawn’s tactics when he faked an injury in order to defeat The Animal. Driven over the edge by Michaels continuing to be seen as a hero to the fans despite his questionable decisions, Jericho attacked HBK on an episode of The Highlight Reel, sending him through the obscenely expensive Jeritron 5000 in an incredible visual image. The two entered into a blood feud for most of the rest of the year, punctuated with brutal matches at every turn, another shocking moment when Jericho accidentally punched Michaels’ wife on television, and somehow culminated in Jericho winning the World Heavyweight Championship, then successfully defending it against HBK in an incredible ladder match. The battle between Jericho and Michaels was considered the Feud of the Year by pretty much everyone, and cemented both of them as legends of the sport.
1. Constant Evolution
Over the next few years, Jericho was in and out of WWE, becoming a true part-time performer. In that time, it seemed like Jericho was forced to re-invent himself a dozen times in order to freshen up his character, and while there were bumps along the way, inevitably his talent would shine through. There were more mysterious viral videos, surprise Rumble appearances, and a litany of great matches along the way. At one point, Jericho returned and spent weeks not saying a word, purposefully trolling the live audience until the cheers for his appearances turned to boos when fans realized he was only messing with them. That one also included an incredibly ostentatious ring jacket that included hundreds of lights, which he wore during his entrances. He feuded with actor Mickey Rourke over daring to make The Wrestler and pretending that he had any idea what it was like to be part of that world. He gave Ricky Steamboat the greatest comeback match that nobody could have ever predicted. And of course, there is his most recent run, which included a “life-long” friendship with Kevin Owens and the ridiculously awesome “List of Jericho”, a gimmick originally intended to contain the reasons why Mick Foley was a terrible GM, but which ended up being a list of everyone who had irritated Jericho at any particular moment, and which made Jericho, once again, one of the must-see parts of Monday Night Raw. One thing is certain, the day that Jericho finally hangs up his sparkly tights for good, the world of pro wrestling with never, eeeeeeever be the same again.