With his very own rock track blaring, Chris Jericho stood proudly behind the pyro. To use his own words, Jericho was there to officially announce that he was now ‘all in with All Elite Wrestling.’ I suppose in some ways, the announcement could be deemed a surprise. Though Jericho had been somewhat distanced from WWE, it still felt rather surreal to see him align with the industry’s new US competition. In truth though, Jericho’s past tells a slightly different story as realistically, this couldn't possibly be more in line with his already decades-long legacy.
After all, it was Jericho that just last week walked the Tokyo Dome ramp with this very same song playing. The perfect soundtrack to Jericho’s latest villainous incarnation, ‘Judas’ accompanied the once again reinvented legend as he took center stage yet again. At 48 years old, Jericho had changed once more, now portraying an almost gothic antagonist, and receiving co-main event billing at wrestling’s biggest non-WWE event of the year. This wasn't Jericho’s first time in NJPW or even at WrestleKingdom but his performance was staggering nonetheless.
While not exactly identical to the Jericho that once so proudly presented his WCW Cruiserweight gold, Chris certainly proved that regardless of age, his in-ring ceiling hadn't diminished a bit. Instead, Jericho has simply adapted, now playing wild brawler in the body of an eccentric legend that at some point, has seemingly lost his mind. Stylistically, this has given Jericho’s matches a unique feel, a violent and unpredictable nature that sets them apart from his prior body of work. This is nothing new though, instead just the latest in a long line of career-altering directions.
I mean seriously, it takes a special kind of wrestling legend to at what seems like the twilight of his career, embark on a brand new chapter in just about every way imaginable. New scenery, new opponents and a new look too, Jericho’s refusal to follow an ordinary formula never ceases to amaze even his most ardent supporters. Remind yourself of this tale’s beginnings and all of the twists and turns along the way, could Jericho’s recent shift really be any less surprising?
Jericho was of course the character that once forced himself up the WCW totem pole, making people care about a potential Goldberg clash and in doing so, shattering his Cruiserweight ceiling. When that eventuality never arrived, Jericho’s mind was quickly made too, pointing him in WWE’s direction and frankly, the rest is history. Few wrestling ascensions are documented greater than Jericho’s but even still, his longevity can’t be overstated. The range of Jericho’s WWE career is virtually unmatched and it’s the man himself at the root of that success.
It’s easy to forget that over a decade ago, Jericho again found himself distanced from his WWE heights, stepping away from the industry and showing faith in himself one more time. Jericho’s eventual and inevitable return proved his absence the perfect move, yet another Jericho decision that history soon solidified. Refreshed and renewed, Jericho came back and begun a legacy-altering stint on top of WWE cards. Soon after his initial return, Jericho’s whole demeanor famously transformed and in fear of repeating myself, the rest is yet again, history.
More sporadic breaks from the spotlight kept Jericho relevant too, never falling victim to the almost unavoidable overexposure that comes with consistent WWE TV focus. Instead, Jericho was there when he wanted to be, appearing when it helped all involved while seldom limiting his impact along the way. At times, Jericho may have been too selfless but in his final lengthy WWE run for now, any questions in that vein were soon put to rest. In what’s quickly become an iconic main roster spell, Jericho produced arguably his greatest work yet, befriending and rivaling Kevin Owens in an absolute highlight of modern WWE programming.
That perfectly transitioned to Jericho’s latest exploits, a wonderfully successful stint that re-established a legacy, while smoothly positioning it for an expansion. Since then, Jericho has been New Japan’s wildcard and that returns us to his AEW arrival, the least surprising surprise imaginable. Of course he’d be there, it’s the perfect fit. Many things about Chris Jericho have changed over the last twenty-plus years but his knack of maintaining importance hasn't shifted an inch. Well over two decades deep into his mainstream wrestling career, Jericho now stands at the front a new movement, the latest chapter of a legacy almost without parallel in its uniqueness.
When it comes to the word ‘great,’ wrestling’s definition may be as broad as it gets. Ask a hundred fans to list their top 10 ‘greatest’ and you’ll come up with a range of names but at some point, a handful of performers become simply undeniable. It’s a level of achievement that almost eliminates individual taste or preference, a body of work so strong that it overcomes all of the critiques along the way. Only so many legends can reach that level of course but in my view, Jericho’s place among those names has become virtually undisputable.
You can split Jericho’s career into individual portions and even still, his brilliance shines through. Each chapter has its own highlights, its own memories and more importantly, its own legacy. In that sense, Chris Jericho’s lasting impact will likely prove rather special, entertaining generations of fans with multiple different acts along the way. All of this is stunning in its own right but the most incredible element still lies ahead. With All Elite Wrestling as his new official home, Jericho’s story still somehow has at least one more chapter to go.
The future of AEW is a total uncertainty and with it, Jericho’s next direction automatically becomes unclear too. However, there’s a genuine gravity to this move and the reason for that extends far beyond Jericho himself. All Elite Wrestling is founded by pivotal performers in the modern wrestling landscape but Jericho is something a little different. With his presence alone, Jericho lends real credibility to this movement and if he can help the industry by furthering its progression, that could prove the perfect finale to this storied career.
Either way, in a world shrouded in mystery, Jericho’s future feels hard to doubt. If there’s one performer that deserves his fans’ trust, it’s Jericho and his involvement in AEW is encouraging for all involved. In the grand scheme of things though, AEW’s fate is set to be nothing more than just a piece of Jericho’s already quite spectacular overall contribution. Considering that, it feels important to appreciate Jericho while quite literally, he still stands in the spotlight. His importance refuses to waver and in truth, we are all witnessing one of wrestling’s truly great careers.
Regardless of his age or the promotion he’s called home, whether he’s been a hero or a villain, a loudmouth or a lunatic, Chris Jericho has always mattered. There’s been twists and turns along the way but Jericho’s commitment to entertaining has been a real constant, one of the rare reliabilities of wrestling’s last 25 years. Wrestling greatness is subjective but all evidence ties Jericho to that very word. This a legend in the midst of somehow, someway, becoming even greater and while you still can, that feels like a story worth celebrating.