Champs and Chumps
Yeah, I know. It's been two weeks. Sue me, why don't you.
I REALLY SUCK AT PICKING THE RUMBLE: Me: 1 for 6. TNM: 3 for 6
LINE OF LAST WEEK: Jerry Lawler: "I know there's one thing I'd hate to be right now." Jim Ross: "What's that?" Lawler: "Next." (Royal Rumble, Jan. 20)
LINE OF THIS WEEK: Vince McMahon: "On the nWo killing fields, I'LL be the last man standing!" (Raw, Jan. 28) Well, THAT'S rather ominous.
Still your undisputed WWF Champion... Chris Jericho.
Oh, sure, he had the heel referee working with him at the Rumble, and Lance Storm and Christian ran in to beat on Rock as well. But in the end, he had to beat Rock by cheating all on his own. A low blow, an exposed turnbuckle, and putting his feet on the ropes for leverage? He's resourceful, if nothing else.
Let's run him through the machine, shall we?
Buildup? Oh, yeah. Three Intercontinental title reigns, several near-misses in WWF Title matches as a face against Triple H and Kurt Angle, and a Tag Team Title victory over HHH and Steve Austin. The main event push at that point was aborted due to a lack of dedication and an impending Invasion. Also, Chris Benoit was injured.
So remember all the clamoring for a Jericho heel turn and how everyone said that was the only way he was going to be a main eventer? Well, it happened in October when he got a chance to fight Rock for the WCW Title. He won the match rather heelishly with a Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley-delivered steel chair, but didn't turn fully until two weeks later when Rock rolled him up to win the title back (a move I wasn't completely sure about at the time, but in retrospect, needed to be done to make the turn logical.). The Survivor Series main was his third pay-per-view main event of the year, and he nearly cost the WWF the match when he attacked Rock near the end of the match.
His angle? Well, after Survivor Series, a re-heeled Vince gave Jericho another shot at Rock in the World Title Unification tournament at Vengeance, and he beat Rock and Austin with an assist from Booker T to become the first "undisputed" WWF Champion. So in his mind, he's a living legend. No one's done what he's done. He's insufferably arrogant, but also extremely insecure - witness his pre-Rumble rant towards Rock when the whole locker room was writing off the title match.
His opposition? Early on in his reign, he'd manage to keep the title via outside interference from people who had issues with his opponents, rather than any allegiance to Jericho (I'm thinking of the Austin cage match here, and you could count the RVD match as well.) But later on, as he acquired Storm, Christian, and to a lesser degree, Test as friends, they've had his back whenever he gets in trouble.
But let's not go making any "Canadian Horsemen" proclamations just yet, despite what looks like an obvious attempt to make Jericho into... well, heel Ric Flair.
You remember Flair in his prime, right? Or at least the stories you've heard? The dirtiest player in the game, they called him. He wasn't the biggest or strongest guy around, but he always found a way to win. That's kind of what they're doing with Jericho now - portraying him as the arrogant opportunist; the relentless cheater; the guy who'll just barely pull out a victory and then rub it in everyone's faces like he just squashed the Mulkey Brothers in 13 seconds.
There's one important difference: Flair's character had the self-confidence that came from knowing he could beat anyone cleanly, but simply chose not to. (I get this vibe from Angle now, actually.) I get the feeling with Jericho sometimes that he doesn't think he can win without cheating in some way, shape or form, which can be dangerous in the long run. At his current pace, though, if he makes it to You Know What, home country or not, those fans will want to see him killed damn dead.