Years ago in Winnipeg, Chris Jericho responded to an advertisement regarding a wrestling camp run by Stampede Wrestling’s famous Hart Brothers. Little did he know that the letter he wrote to them as an aspiring wrestler would begin a journey that would lead to a career in professional wrestling defined by consistent reinvention and a smorgasbord of iconic moments and matches that few others could ever hope to hold a candle to.
After training in the Hart Brothers Wresting School (run by non-Harts and based on a training book written by Stu), Jericho would take his talents to Canadian bars, and then to Mexico, Germany, Japan, and Memphis-based Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Each of these areas specialized in different aspects of professional wrestling that allowed the “Lion Heart” to construct a blue print that would set the tone for a Hall of Fame-worthy career.
Jericho’s incendiary performances as part of Japan’s WAR (Wrestling and Romance) promotion, specifically a July 1995 encounter with the great Ultimo Dragon, would soon catch the eye of Mick Foley. In turn, Foley would pass a copy of this match along to ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) promoter Paul Heyman. This exchange would lead to Jericho signing with ECW, and then a year later with World Championship Wrestling. As a member of WCW, Jericho was a member of an infamous midcard that consisted of himself, Dean Malenko, Juventud Guerrera, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr., among other savvy technicians, high-flyers, and Luchadores. This group of performers would serve as the backbone of a company that frequently featured main events stars of yesteryear. Despite putting on innovative, fast-paced, psychological performances, this midcard would go rather unappreciated. However, this lack of attention, accompanied by the self-awareness of what he was capable of, Jericho would soon embark on his ultimate destination: Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment}.
On August 9, 1999, the “Millennium Clock” would hit zero in the midst The Rock’s in-ring promo. Within moments, the WWE audience would be commanded to “break the walls down” for the first time. The Chicago crowd erupted as the “Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla” emerged. The fortitude shown by interrupting “The People’s Champion” would begin to circumscribe a career built on in-ring expertise, a lack of rhetorical filter, and the innate ability to be a key contributor to various iconic moments in the annals of World Wrestling Entertainment. These moments were and still are archetypal for all performers who would follow.
Jericho’s first stint with World Wrestling Entertainment lasted from 1999 to 2005. In that period of time, he would fulfill seven of his record nine Intercontinental Championship reigns and the World Tag Team Championships three times with three different opponents. He would also form an infamous rivalry with Stephanie McMahon, and he would also get to put on a spectacular performance with his wrestling idol Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 19. His biggest accomplishment during this first stint, however, would come at Vengeance 2001 when he was able to pin The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in the same night to become WWE’s first ever Undisputed Champion.
What would transpire after his return to the WWE in 2007 would allow Jericho to truly earn his self-prophesized moniker of being “the best in the world at what he does.” WWE fans would see him transform from the fan favorite, charismatic jokester, to a vicious, blood and title-thirsty, brooding villain. This would put on full display against a rejuvenated rivalry with Shawn Michaels that would result that were as iconic as they were disturbing. This same villainous side would be seen in rivalries with the likes of Rey Mysterio and Edge. The transformed Jericho would go on to win the World Heavyweight Championship three times during this second stint, which ended in September 2010.
Since then, Jericho has performed off-and-on for the WWE. He continues to perform at the top of his game both in the ring and on the microphone. Currently, Jericho is a key figurehead within WWE’s current renaissance called the New Era. Now, future world champions such as Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Cesaro get to share the ring with Jericho as they forge their own path in the hopes of completing a wrestling career with comparable longevity and accolades.