It’s no secret that most of my columns deal with unconscious psychological issues behind various aspects of professional wrestling. From Shawn Michaels? Born Again Christianity acting as a catalyst for drama and suspense in his storylines, to the media’s negative perception of professional wrestling stemming from a misunderstanding of the legitimacy of wrestling itself, one could say that a hallmark of The Sharp Shooter has become exploring these different psychological issues. As a wrestling fan, I?m less interested in whether or not something worked (be it a promo, a match, a gimmick, a storyline) and more interested in why it worked or did not work. That’s why, when I look at a guy like Chris Jericho, apart from praising his promos for their delivery style, stroke, intensity and conviction, I try to examine exactly why his promos work, why his ?honest man? character touches a raw nerve with the audience and fellow wrestlers. Above this, I want to try to get inside the mind of Chris Jericho to see why he says what he says in his promos, why he scowls the way he does, why he was on such a vehement quest to end Shawn Michaels? career, and why he continually spits in the collective faces of legends of the past..
In my estimation, Chris Jericho’s assertion that he is an honest man is only half true. Sure, he honestly and bluntly reminds various legends of the sad state of affairs so many of them toil in after burning out and wearing down. Sure, he was right in calling out Shawn Michaels for being a liar, a hypocrite; feigning a knee injury, sacrificing his dignity and integrity to score a pinfall. However, that’s only half of the truth. The other half, which Jericho keeps so cleverly hidden, is the answer to why exactly Jericho feels the need to serve as a reality check to the legends, why he felt the need to call Shawn Michaels? bluff and challenge him on his morals and ethics. The answer, I believe, is that Chris Jericho confronts the legends, and confronted Michaels in the past because deep down inside, or in the back of Jericho’s mind, he knows that he’s becoming just like the legends he berates every week. He went after Michaels because Michaels was Jericho’s wrestling idol, and to see his idol act deceptively, dishonestly, and perhaps cowardly, meant, to Jericho, that he too runs the risk of following the same path. Simply put, Chris Jericho reminds the legends of their abysmal existence, hanging onto the spotlight, sucking up every last cheer from the fans because Chris Jericho is slowly treading the same path. He won?t admit it, so the suppressed anger causes him to lash out at those who stand as a grim, prophetic image of what he is to become.
It’s a scary thing to be idolized by Chris Jericho because Jericho molds his career after his idols while simultaneously placing them under a microscope, watching for the slightest moral misstep then pouncing like a lion. This was evident in his most recent feud with Shawn Michaels when Michaels, a known idol of Chris Jericho, acted less than honorably by feigning a knee injury to win his match against Batista and subsequently proclaiming for weeks that he was in fact injured. From their feud in 2003 culminating in their brilliant match at Wrestlemania 19, we know that all Jericho ever wanted to do was to be the next Shawn Michaels until Jericho realized that he had the opportunity to surpass Shawn Michaels and cement his own legacy as the first Chris Jericho. Jericho was unsuccessful in his attempt to seize his own legacy on that night and derail Michaels of his, but the foundation was laid that night for a mutual respect that lasted several years. That is, at least until Jericho caught on to Shawn’s deceptive, dishonest tactics. Jericho waged a moral crusade against Michaels and began his ?honest man? personality at the onset of this feud because, in Jericho’s mind, if he idolizes you then you stand as an embodiment of Chris Jericho, therefore, if you do anything that he deems below him, he will set you on the path to righteousness, by force if necessary. For Jericho, this is his form of therapy; yet, instead of fixing himself, he fixes those around him who remind him of himself. Simply put, he can?t follow in his idols? tragic path if he carves a new one for them and forces them to walk it.
This is most evident in his issue with the various legends that he’s been trashing weekly. If you take a close look at his career to this point, you will see a lot of characteristics hanging over Jericho’s career that also haunt the careers of many of these legends that he puts down. Chris Jericho went into semi retirement in 2005, leaving the spotlight because he was mentally burnt out and because he had achieved everything he set out to do in the wrestling business. However, like the legends he belittles, less than two years later, at 37 years old (the age Michaels was when he returned, and was deemed washed up by Jericho) Chris Jericho returned to bask in the glow of the spotlight, playing to and appeasing the crowd like the legends he despises.
Furthermore, it was Michaels? feigning the knee injury that made Jericho wake up and take the slow turn into self loathing denial, it was the catalyst for Jericho’s moral crusade, his tirade of realization; realizing that even his dearest of idols have their pockmarks, that being a puppet who plays to the crowd is only good for the short term, and robs you of your dignity and respect. So one has to think, if Michaels had not acted as he had, Jericho may still be, as he puts it ?pandering to the sycophants?, being a puppet on a string and doing whatever the crowd asked of him. Luckily for Jericho, he received an awakening through his feud with Michaels and now views the legends as prophetic versions of himself, the version that never received the awakening, the reality check; the version that was never??Saved?.
Yet, as I stated above, Jericho isn?t completely saved, nor is he completely honest, because he has refused to admit that he’s waging this war to tackle the fears and insecurities that haunt him about his own future.. Shawn Michaels was his wrestling idol and Shawn is capable of lying and cheating to win a match, capable of returning to the ring after a lengthy absence to bask in the spotlight one more time. Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, another one of Jericho’s wrestling idols, is capable of selling out his nationality for money, a Kimono Dragon and fancy fire breathing parlor tricks; capable of returning to WWE to forever leach off the company that made him. Ric Flair, the man Chris Jericho hugged and shed a tear for a year ago, is capable of working local independents in high school gyms for a quick buck, he’s capable of staying immersed in the glow of wrestling stardom even now as he turns 60 years old. If these men, along with the other legends, are capable of such dishonesty, capable to shed dignity in need of a dollar, and Jericho used to idolize these men, what does it say about the man Chris Jericho is to become?
Inside the mind of Chris Jericho, he knows all of this is true. He uses this knowledge to serve as the venom behind the words in his promos, the scowl on his face when he looks at various legends is probably the same scowl he sees every morning when he looks in the mirror. His message strikes a chord with all of us because deep down we know he’s right, we know that although Ric Flair is a superstar, a legend, one of the greatest of all time, he’s also, in a way, a sad, pathetic shell of who he once was, trying to hold on to fame and fortune like a leach holds skin. Same goes for Snuka and the others Jericho has torn down. The message is heard loud and clear by the fans and Jericho’s peers, but I?m not sure if Jericho fully comprehends the meaning of his own message.
Logically, where can he go from here? As we found out on RAW, he’s probably going to fight Piper, Snuka and others at Wrestlemania, but after that? Jericho’s original qualm won?t be resolved by having the legends knock him around a bit. Maybe he?ll go on to terrorize another one of his idols, perhaps he?ll disappear for a while. Nevertheless, the one thing he won?t do is avoid the well-tread, beaten path of shame for momentary glory that the legends he criticizes paved before him unless he admits to himself that the problem doesn?t lie with the habits of his idols and other legends, the problem lies within himself.
Agree, disagree, like what you see, want to debate me? Send me an email ? Norty840@yahoo.com.