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Posted in: Just Business
Just Business presents #102: Chapter 3.2 ~ Saving Y2J and the Myth of Mediocrity
By Samuel 'Plan
Jul 2, 2017 - 5:41:47 PM




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Just Business presents #102: Chapter 3.2 ~ Saving Y2J and the Myth of Mediocrity


It has been presumed, including in my last instalment of this mini-series, that contemporary cynicism surrounding Chris Jericho’s decreasing returns over the years is a prevailing truth; that Chris Jericho’s work was, indeed, becoming increasingly disappointing prior to his total rejuvenation in 2016. What I discovered to my own humbling surprise, however, while researching this particular edition of my mini-series, was that this prevailing truth was nothing of the sort; only a prevailing memory.

When sitting down to watch the Cage Match with Wyatt that I mentioned last time, for instance, I was shocked to find myself absolutely riveted; totally immersed, with the work pulling me in so naturally, so effortlessly, that I failed to realise my own immersion until the moment the bout concluded. It really is a fiercely intelligent piece of work, with a wonderfully whimsical, scrappy finish that beautifully compliments the gritty, no-nonsense action. Chris Jericho wrestles with absolute seriousness in a granite-faced performance against a nemesis that, in reflection, watches as genuinely threatening. My opinion at the time of the match occurring was completely wrong, marred perhaps by my own predetermined belief. In truth, it is one of the better wrestled Cage Matches of recent years that enthusiastically serves the Bray Wyatt character in a manner few other veteran performers seem so willing to do.

I found myself similarly struck by the Neville match at The Beast in the East; psychologically, you couldn’t hope to find a more faultless outing from either man. The self-contained learning curve is subtle but utterly undeniable to an attentive eye. Right down to attaining victory via the Liontamer, it was a retro performance from Chris Jericho that recaptures the athletic achievements of his youth with incredible success.

Add these two reappraisals to the quality of the action-packed MSG Owens match, the opening AJ Styles match and the New Day show stealer all explored in the last instalment and suddenly you unearth a new truth: that Chris Jericho, despite folkloric opinion of the time and misleading memory now, never really lost a step in overall quality. Instead, I would venture, we simply became accustomed to his ability to churn out quality work. Though I have not done the research to support the supposition, I am nonetheless confident in predicting that any revisit of his work from earlier in the Bray Wyatt feud, and from throughout 2013, would reveal similar new truths.

Upon coming to this understanding, my entire view on the resurgence of Chris Jericho throughout 2016 shifted. This was not a smooth upward trajectory but a level line forward that actually, in direct contravention of popular sentiment, actually seemed to dip when Chris Jericho became comfortable with the popular consensus and a certain fellow Canadian.

Consider Jeri-KO vs. The Realest Guys in the Room at Summerslam 2016; a match that I believe demonstrates how comfortable this newly universally-praised Chris Jericho seemed to become. Despite the precedent of high quality, frenetic work from their time in NXT on the part of Enzo and Cass, and despite what Chris Jericho demonstrated earlier in the year in the confines of that stunning effort opposite New Day on Monday Night Raw, Summerslam 2016 opened with a disappointingly tepid, utterly static tag team affair that seemed more concerned in pursuing laughs than it did in crafting art. Unlike all of the aforementioned Jericho matches, that are remembered poorly, if at all, but watch back as far superior, the Summerslam curtain jerk is quite the opposite: a match that should be remembered poorly, if at all, that watches back as duller than you might recall.

This would become something of a trend, with the advent of the much loved “…IT!” punch line and the List of Jericho creating a library of trademarks for this newest iteration of the scarf wearing egomaniac, all of which seemed to become the focus of anything the character was involved in. Indeed, I think it no small coincidence that by the time you reach Hell in a Cell 2016, Chris Jericho has gone from show stealer to side show, playing a bit part in Kevin Owens’ match opposite Seth Rollins rather than being afforded an opportunity to compile more excellent work of his own. That status would then stall Chris Jericho’s ascent for the remainder of the year, and it remains my belief that the Monday Night Raw product suffered for it. Such revelations, alongside reappraisals of Jericho’s work in 2014 and 2015, further support my theory that there was no resurgence in early 2016, but rather a stumble in consistency in late 2016.

But this is where we come to the vital point that contextualises the whole conversation surrounding the quality of Chris Jericho’s work these last few years: even during that period where Chris Jericho pursued character-driven humour at the expense of more seriously engaging material, his ring work remained consistently great. This observation essentially reflects what I believe to be the real truth of this week’s issue, being the conflict between what we as fans see and what Chris Jericho as a performer pulls off between the ropes.

Chris Jericho vs. Seth Rollins at Roadblock: End of the Line takes this truth to the ring. The match suffers for lack of emotional investment on the part of the fans, and there are a hundred reasons as to why that is. More relevant to this discussion, however, is Chris Jericho’s status at this point in the year: as mentioned above, he is a bit-part player in somebody else’s feud. The result is a match that struggles to light up the live crowd, indicating on the surface a potential return to the mediocrity it was widely believed, by this point, Chris Jericho had relegated to the past.

Dig deeper, though, and you find another sublimely wrestled match. Both men put in an exhausting effort opposite one another in a back and forth competitive affair that watches as totally prototypical of the new latter day Chris Jericho; a saviour who deals only in the minor classic. That both men manage to wrestle against the tide of disinterest, successfully provoking the crowd into audible reactions and duelling chants between periods of detachment, is testament to the effort and talent on show.

You couldn’t ask for a more representative example of this entire issue, then. The Roadblock match spells out the rejuvenation of Chris Jericho in the simplest, most succinct terms. On the surface of it, you are given one impression – whether that is memories of a mediocrity that, frankly, in truth, never existed, or whether it is the idea in line with my revisionism that Jericho at the back end of 2016 was a Jericho in danger of becoming mediocre. Underneath that surface level, however, sits the revelatory truth – that Chris Jericho, while perhaps not as polished as he once was, never became a stranger to top quality ring work but instead continued to maintain a prolonged degree of consistency that, even in moments that cast doubt in our minds, proved he always has been and is still now one of the absolute best in the world at what he does.

That is no small feat, considering the amount of talent currently employed by WWE alone, and in the next instalments we will be looking at matches that feature a wide array of that talent as I take a look at one of the more obvious themes to have defined the product in recent years: the instigating of a second Brand Extension. So be sure join me next week, where I’ll be taking a look at the positives and pitfalls of WWE’s most recent, most radical decision.



This mini-series is a spin-off of my first book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, spawned from the acclaimed LOP column series of the same name. So for more of the same, click below to pick up your paperback or e-book copy today!


Click here to pick up your copy of 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die from Amazon.com








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