“I’m gonna give you what you want. I’m gonna give you what you need. Sit back, as I give you, the gift of Jericho. Drink it in, man”. – Chris Jericho
As the award season has begun in Hollywood, it was only fitting, that on Monday Night Raw, WWE handed out their (unofficial) best superstar of 2016 award. The award came in the form of the United States Championship and the recipient was none other than the “sexy piñata” himself, Chris Jericho. This was the one championship that was missing off Chris Jericho’s list (no, not that list) of championships. It’s not hard to see, why Chris Jericho was given this honour, as his current WWE run has certainly been one to remember, and at the age of forty-six he has been the best superstar on WWE television.
Jericho’s current run has been one of the very best of his career, second only to his remarkable 2008-2010 run which saw him in perhaps, the greatest WWE storyline with the legendary Shawn Michaels. Prior to his return in 2016, Jericho’s runs in 2013, 2014 and 2015 whether, intentionally or unintentionally, focused on Jericho’s in-ring performances and him working with younger talents. Those years saw him wrestle great matches with the likes of Bray Wyatt, Neville, and Finn Balor (for those lucky enough to have seen their match on YouTube). In 2016 however, Jericho’s WWE run was the total package. In 2016 we were given great matches, great feuds and also great comedy (a lot of it).
Reinventing oneself is a key to a performer’s longevity and continued success. This can be said for an actor in Hollywood and also a WWE superstar. Jericho has been a prime example of a performer reinventing himself – from Y2J to the suit wearing, slow talking villain and then the bright, light jacket Chris Jericho. 2016 saw another character reinvention for Chris Jericho and to look at how Jericho reinvented himself and why he was the best performer of 2016, I will look at the three WWE shows I had the privilege of attending in 2016.
WWE Monday Night Raw (18th April 2016 – London 02 Arena)
The world saw Jericho’s performance on Raw as it was aired on televisions around the world; it was very simple but brilliant. This show was at the very beginning stages of Jericho using, what has now become a signature catchphrase of his “stupid idiot”. This new catchphrase, combined with his other legendary catchphrases (e.g. “best in the world at what I do”) helped create a very fun opening segment with the likes of Sami Zayn, Shane McMahon, and Dean Ambrose. Jericho and Zayn also competed in a very good singles match, which entertained the near twenty thousand in attendance. Although these segments were highly entertaining, it was what happened after the show and what the world didn’t see, that was the true highlight of this show. Once Raw was off the air, Jericho put on a show stealing performance. Jericho engaged in some highly entertaining improve-comedy with AJ Styles, his soon to be partner Kevin Owens and the fans. Jericho bragged about his incredible physique and claimed he had abs, but they were hidden by his big diaphragm and he also had a go at a fan who he believed spent far too much time on their I-pad and not enough time watching the actual show. Jericho’s off-air antics combined with his on-air performance made him the clear MVP of that night and his off-air antics gave the paying crowd something extra and made sure they went home happy.
WWE Live event (7th September 2016 – London 02 Arena)
Chris Jericho vs Roman Reigns – London
On this night, Chris Jericho wrestled Roman Reigns in the semi-main event, in what was one of the greatest matches I have had the privilege of seeing live. Jericho entered the building first and then proceeded to expertly draw in the crowd with a near five-minute promo, where he insulted England, individual members of the audience and gave the crowd all of his new catchphrases from “quiet”, “stupid idiots” and the “gift of Jericho”. All of this had the fans undivided attention and had them all cheering or booing, Jericho. Jericho then went on to have a brilliant match with Roman Reigns, which built to an incredible climax, full of twists and turns and brilliantly executed false finishes. Roman was ultimately victorious, but the key takeaway here was the crowd was loud and one-hundred percent invested from the first words that came out of Jericho’s mouth to the final bell of the match.
WWE Live event (4th November 2016 – Wembley Arena, London)
The final show I attended saw, Chris Jericho wrestle Sami Zayn. The match was not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact, it was not that great of a match, as the match I watched at Raw in April was a better wrestling match. However, if I were to compare crowd reactions this was far superior and what truly stood out was Jericho’s ability to do so little and have the crowd at a fever pitch. Jericho, once again began with a pre-match promo as he stood in the middle of the ring with “the list” (yes, that list) and the ten-thousand people in attendance wanted one thing. They (or should I say, we) wanted nothing more than to be put on “the list”. Jericho had the crowd on edge, anticipating the magical moment, only for him to then swerve us all and claim we were not good enough to go on “the list” (a trick he later used on Raw) and he even played on the old-age rivalry between Germany and England, by claiming Germany were good enough to go on “the list” which of course drew a sea of boos from the crowd. The match itself had Jericho demanding that the fans stop chanting “ole” and of course the chants only got louder and louder. Jericho even held the referee’s hands against his ears, so he could block out the “ole” chants and while the referee was trying to pull his hands away, ten-thousand people were laughing hysterically. Jericho’s new and famous piece of wardrobe was even used, as Zayn grabbed Jericho’s scarf and Jericho begged Zayn not to hurt his poor, defenceless scarf. It’s incredible to think that these were moments that stand out in my mind and these were the moments that had a sold out, Wembley Arena going crazy. This show was quite simply another master-class by the hall of fame bound, Chris Jericho.
These three, Chris Jericho performances show how he was able to reinvent himself by introducing new catchphrases, new props to entertain the fans and most importantly still wrestle at the highest level. Chris Jericho is a rare performer in today’s world of professional wrestling; he is brilliant on the microphone, brilliant in the ring and has over twenty years of experience. Jericho’s incredible performances in 2016 not only explain why he was the best superstar of 2016 but why he is an example for young wrestlers and veterans. Jericho’s run in 2016 has seen him reinvent himself and perform at the highest level at the age of forty-six, but he has also helped the future of WWE by working with likes of Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles and his best friend Kevin Owens, who along with Jericho have been the highlight of Monday Night Raw over the past four months.
Chris Jericho is the United States Champion and although this title victory may not be remembered as fondly as his Undisputed Championship victory when he defeated The Rock and Stone Cold on the same night. This Jericho title win seems to be, a reward from the WWE for being the best superstar of 2016. Chris Jericho certainly isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, but at the age of forty-six, it is clear he will not be around forever. If there is one piece of advice, wrestling fans should take on board, that is if you are given the gift of Jericho, just “drink it in, man”.
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