The word ‘legend’ has, in this humble writer’s opinion, been overused in recent years. From youngsters referring to anyone who has helped them “Thanks mate, you’re a legend”, or to describing anyone who was halfway good at their job and is still fondly remembered by those who were fans. Not to belittle those people who are liked by peers and invoke happy memories when recalled, but the use of the word ‘legend’ may not be appropriate.
The Collins English Dictionary describes the word ‘legend’ as many things, but for the purposes of this column and to keep things brief, let’s take number four in their list of seven; “a person whose fame or notoriety makes him or her a source of exaggerated or romanticized tales or exploits.”
WWE uses this term to describe their elite, their crème de la crème of former stars. People who are instantly recognisable to fans and the wrestling fraternity. A giant among men (and women). A person who broke new boundaries, set the bar higher and paved the way for others to tread the same path in the future before hopefully forging new ones of their own. All aspects I’d agree were legendary; someone who did the unthinkable in the time they lived. Someone who innovated and grew the business and themselves as a person.
Let’s get the Hall of Fame argument out the way first. The Hall of Fame is a popular tradition that carries over into other sports. It can be a very noble and appropriate way of honouring past alumni, and I largely agree with the idea. Although those in the WWE Hall of Fame are famous, not all could be classed as legends. To be classed as a legend should be the pinnacle, however the top pool of talent over recent years has become somewhat diluted by whom some consider as legends, akin to the Hall of Fame (Koko B Ware? Seriously?).
But what about Chris Jericho? I believe him to be of the elite. Of the top-most tier of wrestlers there’s ever been. Let me show you why I think that. I’ll measure him up against arguably the top three ‘legends’ of wrestling (Rock, Austin & Hogan) and see how he fares.
Let me stack up what I believe a WWE legend should be/have:
- Lengthy wrestling career (at least ten years).
- Have held multiple championships
- Have been successful outside of the ring (thereby promoting WWE)
- Be a first-timer at something WWE related or been involved in an iconic moment in time.
I’d like to start by saying I haven’t deliberately skewed the criteria to prove a point with Jericho, merely shown what I believe to be the hallmarks of a true WWE legend. You may disagree, and that’s fine. Like I said, this is just my take. Let’s rank where Chris Jericho stands up against the other icons on these points:
Lengthy Wrestling Career
- Rock – 10 years (1996-2004) (2011-2013 part time)
- Austin – 14 years (1989-2003)
- Hogan – 36 years (1977-2013)
- Jericho – 26 years (1990 – present)
- Rock – 17 titles (WWF/WWE)
- Austin – 19 titles (WWF/WWE)
- Hogan – 24 titles (probably more)
- Jericho – 31 titles (WCW, ECW, WWF/WWE)
Success outside of company
- Rock – Movie star, TV star, bankable actor
- Austin – Some movie work, TV host, podcaster
- Hogan – Movie parts, reality TV star,
- Jericho – Musician, best-selling author (3 books & counting), movie roles, TV spots, podcaster
- Rock – first African-American WWE champion
- Austin – Austin 3:16 speech
- Hogan – Andre slam, first wrestler to win consecutive Royal Rumbles (1990 & 1991)
- Jericho – first undisputed WWF Champion (he sometimes mentions this)
Yes, you can add many other stars to this list, but Jericho will always hold his own against all of them.
His career is still in motion, although in the twilight now. He could’ve retired years ago and still be held in high regard, but he hasn’t. He has a clear passion for the business and is one who was brought up in the old school and paid his dues. He is a steady hand in this industry; one who can be trusted to work with anyone. One who has transitioned from cocky heel to deserving underdog and back again. From returning superstar adored by the fans to the suited and booted heel again. He’s evolved across his career, all to keep it fresh but familiar at the same time. Small nuances, small changes to keep him interesting, but always Jericho. He arguably has the best entrance in wrestling too.
His title reigns speak for themselves. No matter the title, he’s elevated it and made it feel more special when taken from him. I love watching back when he became the undisputed champion. Nobody predicted that at the time. To beat Rock & Austin in the same night was amazing. He elevated the Intercontinental title every time he held it. His partnership with Big Show made the tag titles seem out of everyone’s grasp. He’s invaluable in that regard, something the company will always need.
Outside of WWE the guy could have two or three other careers and still be successful. He continues to surprise people with how good he is. His books are very real and you hear his voice when reading the words. The stories are superb and the struggles he’s dealt with are hard-hitting, but other parts always entertain (froot). I’ve read all three volumes of his and have enjoyed every one. I’ve read both Rock & Austin’s books, but to me, they come across as impersonal and too edited or ghost-written. They don’t speak from the heart of the star on the cover.
Jericho’s podcasts are on a level that I believe only Steve Austin is on. I wish he could be a bit more hard-hitting however as I’d love to hear an uncensored version on his thoughts on WWE. His (very valid) rant on the Hall of Fame chants let us see a different side to him that we’d like to hear more of. He wasn’t angry, just passionate. There’s a big difference.
His iconic moment is self-explanatory, and he may have mentioned it once or twice. I believe he’s underrated both as a performer and as a WWE mind. Let us not forget he came up with the idea for Money in the Bank. He could be considered as having a Midas touch, as almost everything he’s involved in turns to gold. There are slips along the way (Fandango at Wrestlemania 29), but that was hardly his fault, was it? He put himself out there on the biggest stage to help a younger guy get over. Not many others would’ve done that. Plus, Fandango was over as much as ever the next night on Raw.
All in all, he’s one of the most successful wrestlers of all time. His record matches and exceeds almost everyone who has come before. He’s transitioned incredibly well between face and heel. His popularity has never waned. Even now, his rub with Kevin Owens can only lead to good things. Yes he says silly things in interviews on TV, but that’s because he knows those comments will irk people, just like his scarf does. He gets and preaches the psychology of professional wrestling, much like Steve Austin does when he reviews WWE on his shows.
To consider Chris Jericho anything other than a legend would be madness. He belongs on the highest pillar. A certified Hall of Famer, a top draw and an over character – difficult when you consider he went toe to toe with the hottest stars in recent memory and came out on top. We’ll all miss Chris Jericho when he hangs his boots up for good. So enjoy him while he’s here. Love every moment we see him, because there’ll never eeeeeeeeeever be another like him again.