WWE started off its new year with a bang. And that bang was in the form of Chris Jericho, who made his return to Monday Night Raw after a year plus absence. Jericho is the only wrestler I’ve seen in my life who has debuted three times for the same promotion, yet still make it come across as a big deal every time.
Jericho first appeared in WWE in 1999. No wrestling fan of that era will likely ever forget his classic debut where he interrupted an interview from the Rock. Many people who follow wrestling consider it the greatest debut in the history of the sport. His return in 2007 came after a near three year absence and saw him complete what many critics considered as the best run of his entire career (and that’s saying a lot when you consider the awesome 20 year career he’s had). His return last night was just as monumental. He easily got the biggest ovation of the night and most shockingly was that he did so without barely saying a word on the microphone. He spent his entire time playing to the crowd, which will no doubt lead to something bigger next week.
Some have criticized his return by saying it was too much to have him return without cutting a traditional interview. Well, the one thing about Jericho is that he’s never been traditional. I felt the segment was a unique way to make an impact. In interviews he’s done over the last year, whenever he was asked about a potential return to WWE, Jericho always stated that he never wanted to do the same thing over again. In that regard, he meant he always wants his character to evolve. His last run saw him transform from the cocky long-haired rock star into someone with a crew cut who wore three-piece designer suits. Last night appeared to be a throwback to the old days, yet I’m positive that the direction of his character will be fleshed out over the coming weeks. The big talk is that he will likely face C.M. Punk at this year’s Wrestlemania.
Jericho is a breath of fresh air in the current wrestling landscape. At a time when it seems as if WWE and TNA Wrestling are doing their best to destroy the essence of pro wrestling, Jericho has come in to save the day. Jericho has always been one of my favorites. He’s inarguably one of the best all-around wrestlers of his generation and a real entertainer. He’s written two New York Times bestselling books, is front man of an extremely popular rock band, a game show host and even competed on Dancing with the Stars. More than anything, Jericho brings a sense of fun and unpredictability in everything he does; which is particularly noteworthy in this current era where it seems as if most WWE wrestlers are mindless drones regurgitating orders from Vince McMahon.
Jericho always said that he never wanted to be a guy who overstayed his welcome in wrestling. He’s the only major current star who takes lengthy sabbaticals away from the ring on his own accord (and not due to injuries). Despite being 41, he looks like he’s a good ten years younger and unlike many of his peers who reach that age, I’m pretty sure inside the ring, he will still be among the best performers in the game. My gut tells me this will be his final run. He’s accomplished all there is to do and he clearly has nothing left to prove to anyone. I’m almost certain that the focus of this run, as his entire career has been when you really think about it, will be to groom the current and next generation of young guys who will lead WWE into the future. For that reason alone, we should all be grateful he’s back for this final hurrah.