An Unlucky History of Chris Jericho at WrestleMania
Despite being one of WWE's best and long-lasting talents, Chris Jericho has never truly gotten his due at WrestleMania.
Sometimes in wrestling, there’s the question of how much is enough. When CM Punk stormed out of WWE, one of the big reasons was that he felt cheated out of being treated as a top guy. Yes, he got to be WWE Champion longer than anyone else in years, but he was always deemed less important than John Cena and his main goal, main-eventing WrestleMania, was pulled out from under him once Batista came back into the fold.
Some people side with him and feel that his anger was justified and that if he wasn’t going to reach the heights he intended to with his hard work, he had every right to leave them high and dry. Others will argue that he should have been happy with what he had. Hundreds of wrestlers would kill to be in that position. Should you feel unsatisfied with your inability to get the gold medal if you have a silver or bronze around your neck?
That sums up Chris Jericho’s WWE career pretty well. He’s a guy who has had a ton of success, but never felt like the company was truly behind him. He’s a performer who made his debut interrupting the Rock…but also ended the segment being reduced to frustrated tears. He defeated Triple H for the title to a massive reaction…only to have the decision reversed after the commercial break. He beat the Rock and Austin in one night to become the first Undisputed Champion…but spent the next several months being treated as the most worthless of champions in that era. He’s been in the Royal Rumble longer than anyone ever…but still never won it.
Now that Jericho has moved on from WWE to help start up the new promotion AEW, it’s interesting to look back at his WrestleMania career. Jericho’s had an impressive run, but was it ever truly enough? His “WrestleMania Moments” were based on either winning a mid-level championship or enduring some kind of humiliation and abuse. The man has taken part in THREE world title bouts and none painted him as championship material.
Did Chris Jericho deserve more or was it just enough? Let’s check it out.
Going back to the beginning of his WWF career, Jericho showed up in 1999 as the second wave of WWF/WCW roster trades. WCW was able to kick a ton of ass with WWF’s castaways and in return, WWF fought back by making the most of WCW’s castaways. Then when it came time for the second wave, WCW fumbled with the likes of Bret Hart and Sid while WWF did a pretty good job with Jericho, Big Show, and the Radicalz.
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Initially, the plan was for Jericho to appear in the WrestleMania 2000 main event against Rock, Triple H, and Big Show for the WWF Championship. Instead, that spot went to Mick Foley (having just been forced to retire weeks earlier) and Jericho was tossed into a less important but more interesting bout. He and Chris Benoit would take on Kurt Angle in two consecutive triple threat matches. The first would be for Angle’s Intercontinental Championship while the second was for his European Championship.
The way it played out, Jericho did come out of it with gold, but in a way that emphasized Angle instead. The first bout had Benoit take out Jericho with a diving headbutt and pinning him for the Intercontinental title. The second bout had Jericho take advantage of a missed diving headbutt by hitting a Lionsault on Benoit and getting the second pin, crowning him European Champ. The big story in all of this was that they were essentially removing the titles from Angle without having him truly lose so he could get pushed up the card with less baggage.
Jericho lost the European Championship the very next night to Eddie Guerrero.
A year later, Jericho took part in WrestleMania X-Seven, remembered as one of the top-to-bottom best PPVs in the company’s history. This time he came in as reigning Intercontinental Champion, defending it against William Regal. It was a great and heated feud that both involved Jericho attacking Regal while dressed as Doink the Clown and a segment where Jericho urinated in Regal’s tea.
A great show-opener indeed, with Jericho once again winning with a Lionsault. Unfortunately, he’d drop the title to Triple H a couple days later on SmackDown. Funny how that works out, considering what’s next.
The WWF vs. WCW angle was a bit of a disaster in the long run, but it did help Chris Jericho’s career quite a bit. The storyline pushed him up into the main event, or at least onto the cusp, and the final months turned him heel against the Rock. The aftermath had Jericho win a one-night tournament to unify the two world titles. He defeated the Rock through interference and cheating, then defeated Steve Austin through more interference and cheating.
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In the months that followed, he defended his title against Austin and Rock, again through lots of interference and cheating. It didn’t make him look strong in the slightest (he even went into an angry crying fit once because nobody took him seriously), but at least he was the champion. He was still the big bad and the target we were meant to root against.
That took a turn once Triple H won the Royal Rumble. Suddenly, the feud became Triple H vs. Stephanie McMahon with Jericho as the third wheel. He became a lowly henchman who had to clean up dog shit and it certainly did a good deal of damage to his stature.
When it came time for the actual match, it was better than the story suggested it should be, but the crowd was too deflated from how exciting the Rock vs. Hogan bout was moments earlier. Triple H went over Jericho as expected. It was his lone WrestleMania main event and many would claim it shouldn’t have gone on last to begin with.
WrestleMania XIX was probably Jericho’s finest moment despite losing in the end. His feud with Shawn Michaels came to a head with arguably the match of the night in one of the most stacked WrestleManias ever. Michaels ended it with a roll-up pin and offered a handshake afterwards. Tearfully, Jericho accepted it and hugged Michaels…but also kicked him in the junk to keep the rivalry going.
For the next couple of years, Jericho’s stock dropped further and further. He had a friendship with Christian that led to their WrestleMania XX match. Jericho dated Trish Stratus as part of a bet, but in true teen movie fashion, truly fell for her despite it all. Christian ruined everything by telling Trish about the bet and therefore the match happened. Jericho ended up losing due to the swerve that Trish and Christian were secretly a thing.
By WrestleMania 21, Jericho really had nothing going on. The company was about painting over the old with new names like Cena, Batista, and Orton. Even Booker T was resigned to winning a dark match battle royal! Jericho would have been left off the main card as well if he hadn’t come up with the Money in the Bank concept. Just a cool idea for a match that he wouldn’t win to get him that sweet, sweet mega-PPV payday. Edge ended up winning and history was made.
Still, despite Forrest Gumping his way through wrestling history right there, Jericho’s initial time with the company was about up. He spent the next few months jobbing a lot, culminating into a SummerSlam title program with John Cena where Jericho was kayfabe fired the following night on Raw.
It didn’t help that Jericho hadn’t quite figured out the whole evolution concept yet. Despite changing from face to heel and back several times over, Jericho in 2005 didn’t seem too different from the Jericho of 1999. He needed a personality makeover badly.
Jericho left WWE for two years, though it certainly felt like a lot longer. When he returned in late 2007, he was spruced up with his Bon Jovi look and save.us.y2j style. He bounced out of an immediate stop in the main event and by the time they got to WrestleMania XXIV, he was relegated to another Money in the Bank match. Once again, he lost. Hell, he wasn’t even the second choice to win considering CM Punk came out on top because Jeff Hardy got suspended for drugs.
It wasn’t until after WrestleMania that he had his second feud with Shawn Michaels, which molded Jericho into his suit-wearing, humorless jerk persona and carried him to new heights.
Going into WrestleMania 25, Jericho was originally intended to have a match with Mickey Rourke based off of Rourke’s success in The Wrestler. Even though it would have meant Jericho eating a pin, it still had potential since Rourke had enough of an idea of what he was doing from making the movie. Hey, if Lawrence Taylor could be carried into a decent match, I’m sure Jericho could have pulled off some magic with Randy the Ram. Unfortunately, Rourke publicly spilled the beans too early on and his people told him to stand down from it or it would hurt his chances to win the Oscar (which he didn’t win anyway).
Instead, Jericho’s WrestleMania feud was a Frankenstein’s monster of an idea where he beat up some old wrestlers while ranting about Mickey Rourke and so they signed a handicap elimination match: Chris Jericho vs. Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, and Ricky Steamboat with Ric Flair in their corner and Mickey Rourke in the audience. Jericho vs. Flair would have been acceptable, but Flair recently had a very public retirement and was pretty adamant about never competing in a WWE ring ever again.
We ended up with a freak match where nobody got to look good. Either the good guys would have won via numbers advantage or Chris Jericho would beat up a bunch of old dudes. After cutting through the immobile Snuka and out-of-shape Piper, Jericho got some excitement out of Steamboat. Jericho won, beat up Flair, and then got punched out by a very disinterested Rourke.
Jericho’s storyline in the following year was also a bit of a mess even though it should have been a bigger deal. Jericho and Edge had a heel tag team alliance going very briefly until Edge got injured. Jericho planted the seeds early on by cutting angry promos on Edge being useless. Then Edge appeared at the Royal Rumble to make a surprise return, eliminate Jericho, and win the match.
Jericho won the World Heavyweight Championship in the Elimination Chamber, mainly because of Michaels interfering to piss off the Undertaker. Jericho became the target of Edge’s Rumble title shot, but it didn’t work as well as it reads on paper. Edge was not only in less-than-fantastic shape due to coming back from his injury way too early, but his face turn wasn’t exactly catching on.
Jericho won via cheating and in the post-match, Edge speared him through a table, which was pretty rad. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much more to the story than that. Jericho lost the World Heavyweight Championship a couple days later to Jack Swagger (solidifying that world title as the secondary one more than ever) and after a blow-off cage match at Extreme Rules, Edge went back to being heel.
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By the fall, Jericho was written off TV yet again and wouldn’t reappear until early 2012. Once again, it would be to build up a title program at WrestleMania. Once again, they mucked it up and made it seem less important than it should have been. Partially because they built up Jericho as an excitedly enigmatic harbinger of “the end of the world as you know it,” but decided at the last minute to have him lose the Royal Rumble, thereby killing his mystique and the easy ticket to the title picture.
Jericho’s WrestleMania XXVIII match against WWE Champion CM Punk was kind of thrown together with some lectures from Jericho calling Punk a straight edge hypocrite and pouring liquor on him. It didn’t land and while the resulting match was okay, it didn’t live up to the promise of having these two go at it.
Then again, it did give us the adorable moment where Jericho broke character by mussing Punk’s hair during the pin as if to say, “You did good, kid.”
Jericho’s WrestleMania low point came one year later at WrestleMania 29. A year after challenging for the title, Jericho took on a debuting (sort of) Fandango. Fandango sloppily rolled up Jericho in the end, which was supposed to be a huge rub, but despite fans being ironically behind the character the next night on Raw, Fandango’s career never took off in any meaningful way.
The stars didn’t align for Jericho to appear at WrestleMania again until WrestleMania 32. There, he faced AJ Styles. WrestleMania 32 was known for the really awkward booking decisions and this match wasn’t different. The overall storyline was pretty good, it had some good heat going for it, and the matches were fantastic. It just happened to be structured weird and after Styles won the previous matches, Jericho – the heel in all of this – got the WrestleMania blow-off win against the new star who really needed it.
Jericho’s last WrestleMania run was one of the bigger gut-punches. Ever since the summer before it, Jericho had become best friends with Kevin Owens and regularly helped him retain his Universal Championship. Over time, Jericho’s persona based on threatening people by putting their names on his “list” got him massively over despite being a heel. The writing was very much on the wall: Jericho was going to win the Royal Rumble, have a falling out with Owens, then compete for the title at WrestleMania.
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Jericho even went on record to later say that he was penciled in to win said title. Then…Brock Lesnar happened, sad to say. Brock offered to let himself look weaker in his Goldberg feud in return for having Goldberg win the Universal Championship and dropping it to Brock at WrestleMania 33. Jericho lasted an hour in that Rumble, but the winner ended up being the underwhelming Randy Orton, who challenged for the WWE Championship.
The detour into Owens vs. Goldberg caused the Jericho/Owens alliance to break apart and the long-awaited WrestleMania match was for Jericho’s United States Championship. Owens not only won the match against Jericho, but it was such a letdown of a performance that Owens would later go on to describe how tense and dismissive Vince McMahon was backstage over it.
While Brock Lesnar has continued to remain WWE’s elusive secret end boss, Jericho finished up his storyline with Owens and made only sporadic appearances. Showing up here and there, Jericho soon stopped showing up completely and instead moved on to New Japan Pro Wrestling.
These days, he is contracted to the upcoming All Elite Wrestling. We’ll see how that pans out for him over time, but it looks like his days of being disrespected on the WrestleMania card are over. Jericho is essentially a bridesmaid in the WrestleMania wedding. It’s nice to get nominated, but it’s too bad he never truly got to win.
Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and wrote this while wearing his 1999 Jerichoholic t-shirt. It’s as worn out as you’d expect. Read more of his articles here and follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L