Jericho defeated Benoit at the following year’s Royal Rumble, becoming a four-time Intercontinental Champion as a result. This feud would eventually evolve into a partnership, as they won a tag team turmoil match at Judgment Day, in May, to challenge WWF Tag Team Champions Triple H and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. This match took place the following night on RAW; though Jericho and Benoit won, this match is perhaps better known for Triple H suffering a legitimate quad tear. Jericho and Benoit would lose the championship one month later, on SmackDown, to The Dudley Boyz.
It wasn’t long after that The Invasion angle, which featured not only WWF but WCW and ECW talent, took place. Jericho was one of the most interesting parts of the angle in question, since he was one of the few that competed in all three organizations. Ironically, despite the feud between the WWF and The Alliance, Jericho’s most notable program during this time was with The Rock. At No Mercy, in 2001, Jericho defeated The Rock to become the WCW Champion, winning his first world title. Jericho teased a heel turn during the aforementioned angle, which was solidified at Survivor Series, where Jericho would attack The Rock, nearly costing the WWF the match and its survival. Nonetheless, The Rock persevered and won the match for his company.
With The Alliance disbanded, the WWF was left with not only its own world championship but WCW’s as well. It was decided that at Vengeance, in December, an Undisputed WWF Champion would be crowned. On this night – and it would be an accolade he would tout throughout the years – Jericho defeated The Rock and Austin, back to back, to become the first-ever Undisputed Champion. In 2002, he would successfully defend the title against The Rock and Austin, ultimately losing it to Royal Rumble winner Triple H at WrestleMania X8. Though Jericho made history as the first Undisputed Champion, fans were critical of the title run in hindsight. He was depicted less like a champion and more like Stephanie’s lackey, performing errands like walking Triple H’s dog.
Following brief World Tag Team Championship run with Christian, Jericho kicked off his next big feud. He won an over-the-top challenge leading up to the 2003 Royal Rumble match, which allowed him to decide his spot in said, match. Jericho chose number two, as Michaels would enter the match at number one. After using Christian as a body double for his entrance, Jericho sneak attacked Michaels, quickly dumping him over the top rope. This feud would come to a head at WrestleMania XIX, where Michaels would defeat Jericho. Though the aftermath saw Jericho hitting Michaels with a low blow following a supposed show of respect, the match itself was highly regarded among fans and critics alike.
Jericho would go on to feud with Goldberg, in what fans saw as a call back to their animosity in WCW. This feud ended at Bad Blood, in June, where Goldberg would finally defeat Jericho. Near the end of 2003, Jericho and Christian expressed interest in Trish Stratus and Lita, respectively. Though this interest stemmed from a bet between the two male Superstars, to see who could sleep with which female Superstar first, Jericho started to develop real feelings for Stratus. Jericho and Christian faced off at 2004’s WrestleMania XX. Christian would win the match after Stratus turned on Jericho, aligning herself with the future Captain Charisma.
Jericho continued to work as a face, but would eventually return to heel status in 2005 after attacking John Cena. After failing to unseat Cena as WWE Champion, Jericho faced him on RAW in a “You’re Fired” match. Once again, Jericho lost to Cena, resulting in his dismissal by RAW General Manager Bischoff. According to Jericho, on the “Breaking the Code” DVD release in 2010, he left due to creative burnout. He had wrestled nonstop for 15 years, up until then, and needed a break. While Jericho was on tour with Fozzy, and involved in other outside endeavors, fans wondered when he would make his return to the ring.
It wasn’t until two years later that WWE began to air a series of mysterious vignettes, which featured binary code that fans spent ample time attempting to decode. Though the mindset was that these vignettes were leading to Jericho’s return, no one was certain until the November 19, 2007 edition of RAW. Sporting a new, shorter haircut and sparkly vest, Jericho interrupted an in-ring promo from Randy Orton. As a face, he would not only feud with Orton, but JBL in 2008 as well. Additionally, he defeated Jeff Hardy for his eighth Intercontinental Championship, a record up until then. Jericho renewed his rivalry with Michaels later that year. Jericho saw Michaels, who feigned an injury in a match with Batista at Backlash, as deceitful. On a particularly memorable episode of “The Highlight Reel,” Jericho attacked Michaels, sending him headfirst through the Jeritron 6000.
This heel turn of Jericho’s effectively changed every aspect of his character. Instead of being the loud, bombastic rock star fans knew him as for years, he was a low-speaking, suit-wearing persona who believed he was above reproach. According to Jericho, this character was influenced by Anton Chigurh, the main antagonist of the film “No Country for Old Men.” Jericho’s feud with Michaels became more heated, even to the point where Michael’s real-life wife, Rebecca, became involved. Jericho would go on to win the vacant World Heavyweight Championship in a Championship Scramble at Unforgiven.
After his time in the World Heavyweight Championship picture was done, in 2009, Jericho followed up with a feud involving Mickey Rourke. As the star of “The Wrestler,” which premiered in December the year prior, Rourke helped this feud receive attention outside of wrestling. At WrestleMania XXV, Jericho defeated Jimmy Snuka, Ricky Steamboat, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in an elimination match, before being knocked out by Rourke. From there, Jericho feuded with Rey Mysterio. During this feud, Jericho won his ninth Intercontinental Championship, unmasking the luchador in mid-619. Jericho would see success in the tag team scene as well, partnering with Edge and The Big Show. Following a feud with Randy Orton, in 2010, Jericho would take his second extended leave from WWE, mainly to focus on his musical endeavors with Fozzy.
In January of 2012, Jericho returned to WWE, albeit in a unique way. Instead of returning with a charismatic promo, running down a wrestler standing in the ring, Jericho didn’t say a word. All smiles, he would leave the ring, with fans wanting some sort of verbal communication. On the January 23rd episode of RAW, he proclaimed that it would be “the end of the world” as we knew it. After failing to win the Royal Rumble, as the final competitor to be eliminated by eventual winner Sheamus, Jericho set his sights on WWE Champion CM Punk. While he accused Punk of imitating him, Jericho would go on to insult Punk personally, calling his father an alcoholic and his sister an addict. Despite his best efforts, Jericho would not only lose to Punk at WrestleMania XXVIII in April, but Extreme Rules only a few weeks later.
In July, Jericho feuded with Dolph Ziggler, turning face once more. Jericho defeated Ziggler at SummerSlam, but they would face each other again on RAW. However, as per the order of Raw General Manager AJ Lee, if Ziggler lost, he would no longer be the Money in the Bank contract holder. If Jericho lost, his WWE contract would be terminated. Jericho lost, taking this third break from the company. This sabbatical would be shorter, though, as he returned in 2013 at that year’s Royal Rumble event. This run in WWE involved him not only rekindling his feud with Ziggler, but starting new ones with such talents as Fandango, who he lost to at WrestleMania 29, and Ryback. Following the July 19 episode of SmackDown, where he failed to defeat Intercontinental Champion Curtis Axel, Jericho left WWE once more to tour with Fozzy.
Jericho would continue to appear for WWE periodically, such as feuding with The Wyatt Family in 2014 and encountering Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar in December that year. In 2015, he took part in The Beast in the East, a WWE Network event taking place in Tokyo, Japan, challenging Neville. Jericho defeated Neville in this rare encounter. It wasn’t until 2016 that Jericho would return to WWE on a full-time basis, his first major program being with AJ Styles. They exhibited mutual respect, even to the point where they would form the tag team known as Y2AJ. This tandem would be short-lived, though, with Jericho turning on Styles in March. At WrestleMania 32, Jericho defeated Styles in singles competition.
Jericho would soon enter a feud with Dean Ambrose, which included The Highlight Reel being replaced by Ambrose’s makeshift talk show, The Ambrose Asylum. The feud culminated with an Asylum Match, a cage match with weapons suspended high above, at Extreme Rules. Ambrose would win this encounter. In August, Jericho created a partnership with Kevin Owens, which eventually led to them becoming on-screen best friends. It was also during this time that Jericho’s character shifted. Along with wearing expensive scarves, he introduced “The List of Jericho,” both of which were influenced by then-WWE creative team member Jimmy Jacobs. “The List of Jericho” became especially popular, with fans in attendance cheering whenever someone new was added.
Along with helping Owens defend his Universal Championship, Jericho won his first United States Championship, defeating Roman Reigns in a handicap match to do so. Despite the close-knit bond Jericho and Owens formed on television, it wouldn’t last for much longer. In 2017, against Owens’ wishes, Jericho accepted Goldberg’s challenge for the Universal Championship on his behalf. This led to the “Festival of Friendship” segment in February, where Owens brutally attacked Jericho, keeping him out of action for a few weeks. Jericho would return at Fastlane, in March, distracting Owens in the main event, costing him the Universal Championship against Goldberg. Owens challenged Jericho for the U.S. Championship at WrestleMania 33, ending his former best friend’s title reign. Though Jericho would regain the title at Payback, he would lose it once more to Owens days later on SmackDown. This match would signal the end of Jericho’s full-time commitments with WWE.
Jericho would shock the wrestling world that November, appearing in a vignette for NJPW, which he hadn’t competed in since the late-90s. In said vignette, he challenged Kenny Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12, with Omega’s IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship on the line. Leading up to this Tokyo Dome show, Jericho attacked Omega at the World Tag League show on December 11, 2017. He would follow up by attacking anyone that attempted to intervene, including color commentator Don Callis. Jericho eventually faced Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in 2018, with their match being contested under no-disqualification rules. Omega would win this encounter.
From there, Jericho set his sights on Tetsuya Naito, who he defeated at Dominion 6.9 in June to become the IWGP Intercontinental Champion. After defeating EVIL at Power Struggle in November, Jericho was challenged by former champion Naito. After being odds with one another during the remainder of the year, they finally met at Wrestle Kingdom 13, with Jericho’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship on the line. After nearly 23 minutes, Naito unseated Jericho, reclaiming his title.
Following the announcement of All Elite Wrestling at the beginning of this year, fans wondered who would be signed. While it should have no come as no surprise that rising talents would be attracted to the promotion, arguably the most surprising signee was Jericho. One could argue that this signing was somewhat telegraphed at last year’s All In event, where Jericho made a surprise appearance, but an established talent like him signing with the new promotion understandably had the wrestling world buzzing.
In January, at the AEW rally in Jacksonville, Jericho made it clear that he wasn’t signing for any big payday. Instead, he desired to take part in something different. He would attach this brand, which he spent the last few decades cultivating, to a product that he didn’t believe in. One month later, at the AEW Double or Nothing press conference in Las Vegas, Jericho confronted Omega, who had just announced he had signed with the promotion. The two Wrestle Kingdom rivals soon engaged in fisticuffs, with various personnel having to keep them separated. They are scheduled to compete at Double or Nothing, on May 25, in a singles match that will surely bring more eyes to AEW.
One of the reasons Chris Jericho remains a relevant force in professional wrestling is his ability to change. From self-professed conspiracy victim to bombastic rock star to soft-spoken villain, and everything in between, Jericho has successfully reinvented himself over time. Where Jericho’s character will go next, now that he’s a full-time AEW talent, remains to be seen. If the past few decades are proof, though, it’s safe to say that fans will enjoy being taken along for the ride. It’s safe to say that AEW, and the wrestling world, will never, ever be the same again.
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