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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: Chris Jericho is still the "Best in the World"
By The Doc
Jan 4, 2012 - 7:41:43 PM

Two nights ago, we saw the return of one of the greatest of all-time. He did not come back in the way that people expected, instead opting for a new direction that has sent fans spiraling into a tailspin. Chris Jericho taught us something about ourselves, as a group of fans. He taught us that, we may say we want to be surprised, but we really don’t. We just want things to go the way that we want them to go. And you know what? Chris Jericho knows this about us. He knows internet fans as well as any superstar alive. While he’s been gone, he’s taken to Twitter and been as active on that modality of social media as any media personality that I’ve ever seen, in terms of actual interaction. I’ve been a part of our little group for the better part of ten years now and, only now, am I really starting to understand how fickle we – as a whole – can be. So, think about the following for a minute, if you will…

The most popular sporting event on the planet is the World Cup. No other sporting event gives us more drama, more passion, or more lasting memories. Its inherent qualities make it difficult to achieve anything but one month of the best we can ever hope for in sport. What if, though, the World Cup was set up so that the first match of the tournament was the final? What fun would that be? We’d miss out on the storylines and excitement building up to the final match.

Well, Wrestlemania is the finals. It’s the payoff. What Chris Jericho did on Monday was give us the analogous first match of the WWE’s World Cup. There’s still a whole three months worth of drama to play out on television. Jericho gave us questions…not answers. People, for some reason, wanted a payoff on Monday and I cannot for the life of me figure out why they’d expect one. What he did was genius; it was the stuff that only a man of his knowledge and experience could muster up. From my standpoint, he simply made of a mockery of two things: 1) he mocked his debut and return from 1999 and 2007, respectively and 2) he mocked every goody-two-shoe good guy. If the rumors of a feud with Punk are true, I direct you to Punk’s recent trend of aiming the microphone at the crowd’s to milk their reactions a bit more. He plays to them, now, as much as any other top babyface in recent memory. If he weren’t so popular with those in the vocal minority, he might’ve earned boos for doing such things from the inconsistent fan base in which he is most popular.

I’ll tell you, though, that I can certainly understand why people felt let down. I don’t think anyone should’ve expected a payoff – as has been repeatedly suggested – but we expected more out of him. We expected him to say something. We were elated to see the return of an icon, but disappointed that he didn’t, at least, share a few words with us. Instead, he mocked us right to our faces and we are, subsequently, irritated by it. I would imagine that said reaction is probably what he was going for. If we felt any other way than we, collectively, seem to be feeling right now, then I’m not sure that whatever long-term angle he’s attempting to play would’ve worked. So, I have a hard time looking at his return as anything but a success, to this point. We’re but two days into a three month story, I would surmise, but night one has spawned two days and counting worth of emotional response. Any time that he can do that over the next few months, then the better off he will be, for make no mistake about it, Jericho is competing with the biggest match that we’ll likely see for another ten plus years. Just as he did during the Attitude era and just as he’d done from ’07 to ’10, Y2J is trying to steal the thunder from two of the biggest stars in history. Had he done anything less than something controversial – and, keep in mind, that calling out CM Punk would’ve generated a day’s worth of “Cool, Jericho vs. Punk” comments and little more – then his return doesn’t have the kind of impact that will make his Wrestlemania match matter quite as much as it potentially can.

Chris Jericho is one of the smartest men in the business. Name me one other superstar that has, during his career, had a more difficult time at Wrestlemania generating the kind of storyline that would help his match garner a reaction on par with the other top matches? Think back to 2002, the year of his first huge Mania match and, ultimately, main-event and you will recall that he took a backseat to Rock vs. Hogan and arguably Flair vs. Taker and Austin vs. Hall, as well. When the time came for his match, it garnered a lukewarm reaction and the match was solid, but forgettable. Then, came the chance to redeem himself in 2010, when he was again the champion heading into Mania. His story with Edge took a backseat to Batista vs. Cena, Bret Hart’s return, and Shawn Michaels’s retirement. Subsequently, his match struggled to get much of a crowd response despite the match being quite good. The only time that Jericho has excelled at Wrestlemania has been when his match is flying under the radar, with no title on the line and a simple, basic storyline.

Already in his path this year are Rock vs. Cena (on which we can say little more) and the potential for the final match in the history of the Streak. This will be the biggest challenge, yet, in his career of jockeying for position at the top and he’s already failed, in terms of getting heat for his matches, twice. He must do something different, he must present us with a new take on his character, and he must tell us a compelling story in order to keep up with the matches that will be billed ahead of his. Thus, I loved the foundation laid on Raw, for it showed me that he is not just coming back for a paycheck or to rest on his “Best in the World” character laurels or to satisfy the spot of third biggest match on the card. He wants to steal the show. He wants us thinking not about Rock or Taker or Cena turning heel, but about C-H-R-I-S J-E-R-I-C-H-O! Mission accomplished, thus far, Y2J.

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