Chris Jericho has been a long respected name in professional wrestling, ever since he made an international mainstream name for himself in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) during the Monday Night Wars. His jump to the WWF in 1999 was one of the most anticipated debuts of the decade and for the next two decades, he remained one of the WWE’s most captivating characters, constantly reinventing his character so that while the essence of Chris Jericho remained intact, he was always a new incarnation of the Chris Jericho we all grew to love.
Chris Jericho’s worth to the WWE afforded him sabbaticals frequently, as his other passion, performing live music with his band Fozzy, began to take off, beginning with his first departure in the fall of 2005. By the time he left after a six year run with the WWE, he departed as the first ever Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, a 7x Intercontinental Champion, European Champion, Hardcore Champion and a 3x World Tag Team Champion. Combined with his WCW Television Championship and 5x WCW Cruiserweight Championships, Jericho left the WWE on top with an already Hall of Fame career.
He returned in late 2007 after two years away from wrestling for another three year stint, this time adding three reigns as World Heavyweight Champion, two more runs as Intercontinental Champion, and one more time as Tag Team Champion, before departing September of 2010. He returned for an eight month run in 2012, a seven month run in 2013, then returned in the summer of 2014 for a run that lasted until the past summer.
Since the end of the Festival of Friendship, one of Jericho’s best runs to date, Jericho departed the WWE in July of 2017 to begin another of his Fozzy induced sabbaticals. With the indie boom emerging from the bingo halls and nightclubs into larger venues, with New Japan Pro Wrestling turning their expansion plans to the United States, Chris Jericho remained true to a promise he’d been making for the past decade, an answer to every question he would get when he left the WWE previous. Would Chris Jericho ever work for another company outside of the WWE? Would he head to TNA, or Ring of Honor, or NJPW? And the answer was always a resounding no. Out of a loyalty to Vince McMahon and all he had done for Jericho’s career, he would forever remain a “WWE guy”. If the urge to hit the squared circle came back, he would return to the WWE for it.
But then a funny thing happened in 2017. Just months removed from his final WWE appearance, Chris Jericho began to argue with NJPW superstar Kenny Omega, arguably the best pro wrestler in the world today. It appeared slightly petty and at times on the verge of personal – with Jericho firmly entrenched in being only a “WWE guy”, the reality of the feud seemed to be genuine. But as the wrestling community debated “will he” or “won’t he”, the unthinkable happened. Chris Jericho appeared at a NJPW event in November, via video, to challenge Kenny Omega to a match to settle their online feud over who was the best of all time.
Fans were shocked, not just in attendance, but worldwide as well. Jericho was clearly breaking his own rule of being WWE only, at least internationally. To strike the point home, a month later, this time attacking Omega in person.
It lead to Kenny Omega defeating Chris Jericho in a classic match at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom 12. The following day, at NJPW New Year Dash, Jericho followed by attacking Tetsuya Naito, but then disappeared for months. In April, he returned briefly to the WWE for the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudia Arabia, but once again departed. He had already announced he was launching the Chris Jericho Rock N’ Rager Wrestling Cruise, with a tournament run by Ring of Honor. But since it was out at sea (and that essentially ROH was working for him), he wasn’t breaking his promise of working for someone other than Vince on US soil. “It’s not a matter of just going out and doing indies – and like I said – I always felt like the unwritten rule is I don’t want to go into the states,” Jericho said during a June interview with Inside the Ropes. “I felt like that would be a real slap in the face of Vince. Ya know if something ever went down with us, I probably would do a show in the states and we could probably fill the Cow Palace. Jericho and Kenny rematch, or whatever it may be. All In, I’d love to be a part of that, but ‘A’ it’s in Chicago and ‘B’, at the risk sounding like an ass, but I can’t lower my value by working one of these shows. It’s about picking my spots with the right guys at the right places for the overall contract I’m signing.”
During the past year, IMPACT Wrestling, the rebranded promotion that emerged from the ashes of TNA, gained a monstrous amount of momentum, winning back many older fans who had long since departed, as well as gaining a new legion of fans. Many fans began to wonder if perhaps Jericho would appear with IMPACT, especially considering he had been instrumental in getting the new management team of Scott D’Amore and Don Callis. But once again, Jericho seemed intent on abiding by his golden rule that in the US, he would remain a “WWE guy”. Or so we thought.
The first cracks in his golden rule appeared this past July, when a fan on Twitter inquired if Jericho would be interested in working with IMPACT Wrestling, now that the company had turned a corner. His answer was short, but it caught many off guard.
Of course! https://t.co/MfRvVkNgCK
— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) July 24, 2018
What had changed? Jericho didn’t mention much in the way of further details, but we did see the inclusion of IMPACT Wrestling to the Chris Jericho Cruise, as IMPACT stars like Sami Callihan, Brian Cage and Johnny IMPACT (aka John Morrison) were added to the line-up on board. Did Jericho simply mean he would work with IMPACT, as in on the cruise? The world of Jericho just got a little more intriguing.
But any questions whether Chris Jericho would work for someone other than Vincent Kennedy McMahon on US soil were completely blown wide open this past Saturday night at the indie super card All In, when what people assumed was a fallen Pentagon Jr. rising from the dark turned out to be a masked Chris Jericho, who once again attacked his old New Japan nemesis Kenny Omega. But instead of the attack happening in Japan, it happened in Chicago, Illinois. On US soil. So much for the golden rule.
So what changed? On the latest edition of Jericho’s podcast Talk is Jericho, he explained it.
“Month’s ago when ALL IN was announced, Cody called me and said, ‘Do you want to be involved?’
And I said, ‘No, I’m not really wanting to work any shows in the states that aren’t WWE shows. For various reasons. I just didn’t feel it was where I was at career-wise. So I told him I appreciated the offer, but I’m not gonna do it. I also got asked to do Long Beach and those New Japan and all that other stuff as well, so that was kind of the thing. But over the course of the last few months, my mindset’s kind of changed a bit to where I’m enjoying being a part of this kind-of new revolution of wrestling that’s going on… So I just thought, well, you know, I’ll consider it, but the idea has to be right.
So Cody called me again and originally asked me if I wanted to be Burnard the Bear. I guess sometimes people will take off the bear mask and… so the idea was maybe do something in the main event where The Bucks come down with Burnard the Bear or something and then I attack Kota Ibushi, obviously Kenny’s partner in The Golden Lovers. I was like, ‘Why don’t I attack Kenny?’ It was like, well, it’s not really an angle match and whatever – we just couldn’t figure it out, it’s like, ‘Nah, I’m not really interested in it.’
And then Cody called me again and I was like, started thinking, ‘I wonder if I could make this work?’ And we started kicking around some ideas and the idea was, ‘Well what if I can come in earlier in the show and attack Kenny?’ Cause that’s the idea of kind of keeping this angle alive from the Tokyo Dome to the cruise and maybe elsewhere. And I just thought, ‘What a great way of kind-of last minute promotion for the cruise?’”
Now that Chris Jericho has broken the seal about appearing for a promoter other than McMahon in the US, will the floodgates open? Jericho has made it clear he wouldn’t be signing anything long term with anyone – he’s having to much fun as a floating free agent working small contained stories and matches – but are the opportunities that we could see Chris Jericho in a Ring of Honor or IMPACT Wrestling ring now closer than ever? Absolutely. In fact, we may get our next glimpse of Jericho at IMPACT’s next marquee event, at October’s Bound For Glory, on October 14 in New York City.
— Kevin Sullivan (@KevinSullyTV) July 28, 2018
Following IMPACT content producer Kevin Sullivan announced their were hidden messages in the Bound For Glory teaser trailer back in July, rumours have run rampant that during one moment near the end, where scenes flash quickly, you can spot Jericho’s WWF entrance. Others point to the fact that “WALL” is scene flashing across the sign, seemingly alluding to the Walls of Jericho. While nothing has been confirmed, it’s definitely got the world buzzing that All In may not be the last time we see Jericho in a ring this year in the United States. With NJPW’s next US engagement slated for September 30, between that and Bound For Glory, Jericho has two more huge opportunities for a “kind of last minute promotion for the cruise.”
When asked in early July if he thought Jericho would appear at the NJPW G1 Special in San Francisco, Dave Meltzer replied with the following:
I don't expect it but he likes to do things I'm not expecting. https://t.co/FnrV6GzD2s
— Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) July 6, 2018
Which is exactly why the floodgates of opportunity are now wide open. A million scenarios, an infinite list of potential opponents or angles. But what will Jericho do? And when? For now, we’ll all now be waiting on baited breath at every IMPACT, ROH and NJPW event – and who knows where else – wondering if that will be the moment that the pro wrestling “Alpha” makes his return. Because that’s what Jericho does best – doing things that we’re not expecting. But always ending up loving.