First of all, let’s state some facts. Chris Jericho is an undeniable legend in the world of professional wrestling. His contributions in the ring – matches with Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XIX and No Mercy 2008), Wild Pegasus (WAR Super J Cup 1995) and The Rock (No Mercy 2001), to name just three – speak for themselves. On the microphone, he has been as consistent a trash talker as any; able to get anything from a physical, paper list to almost any word over with an audience. Creatively, his mind has brought about such ideas as the Money in the Bank ladder match – a now yearly staple of the WWE event schedule. Despite all of his achievements and being a certain future headlining Hall of Fame inductee, currently, Chris Jericho feels like a negative aspect of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) programming. Throughout this article, we are going to assess the various suspected reasons as to why. But first, let’s recall the day of his signing with AEW and why it was, at the time, the company’s most crucial.
January 8th, 2019 – Chris Jericho Signs with All Elite Wrestling
Flashback to the beginning of 2019. The world was a year away from entering a pandemic; the United States government was to be shut down by the then-President and the WWE had a complete monopoly over the wrestling business. On January 8th of 2019, an upstart professional wrestling promotion – owned by billionaire heir Tony Khan and heavily promoted by wrestling execs The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson), Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega fresh off of the success of All In – was holding a public media event to set out its vision for the future. Though there were big names from the independent scene and New Japan Pro Wrestling (with Cody having also been a mid card performer on WWE television for a number of years), they were clearly missing that big marquee name to show that AEW meant business as a legitimate alternative to Vince McMahon‘s WWE – which had controlled the world of professional wrestling since World Championship Wrestling (WCW) closed its doors in 2001.
Out walks Chris Jericho, who revealed that he is “All Elite” and penned a three year contract to the clear delight of Khan and others in attendance. The signing of Jericho, a multi-time world champion in WWE during the hottest period in the company’s history; with three decades of ring experience, numerous best-selling books and a relatively successful rock band (with a monstrous hit with Jericho’s current entrance music, Judas) showed that AEW had clear plans to take the pro wrestling world by storm. With Jericho having notoriously gone on record to say in the past that he would never work for a non-Vince McMahon promotion on American soil, this showed that AEW was both serious and ambitious enough to convince Jericho to go back on his word.
From this moment on, with Jericho becoming the first AEW World Champion in the promotion’s history, the former Y2J turned Le Champion would found his stable The Inner Circle, alongside Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager and Santana & Ortiz to become the central focus of AEW’s weekly episodic TV show, AEW Dynamite. Despite all of the early success of Chris Jericho in AEW, he has gone on to feel almost counter-productive; his segments falling flat and his stardom having waned in the wake of more recent big name signings. In many ways, he feels almost out of place on AEW Dynamite and off the pace compared to many of his peers. A particular lengthy feud, also, clearly exposed him.
Chris Jericho and Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF)
Prior to this feud with Maxwell Jacob Friedman (MJF), which began in October of 2020, Chris Jericho in AEW still felt relatively fresh. There were criticisms, of course, but he did not yet feel as though he had ran his course. However, it had grown evident that certain stars within the company were surpassing him in terms of momentum. Then AEW World Champion, Jon Moxley; future AEW World Champion, Kenny Omega and current AEW World Champion, Adam Page, each felt as though they had surpassed Jericho as stars within the promotion. They were having more memorable moments; were more endearing to larger corners of the younger audience and were having better matches. For the first time in his AEW career, Jericho began to feel outdated – a problem he has largely avoided throughout his career with his profound ability to reinvent himself and become fresh once more. In feuding with MJF, Jericho would quickly become exposed – and overexposed.
There have been many criticisms of this feud since it concluded in September of last year. Yes, last year; September of 2021, to be exact – a full 11 months after the feud first began. When you consider that AEW first debuted on TNT in October of 2019, you quickly realize that the Jericho/MJF feud lasted for what was, at the time, more than half of AEW’s history. Longer feuds are a welcome aspect of AEW, particularly with the WWE’s tendency to have short, meaningless feuds – but a feud such as this one, which grew colder as it progressed, was not a good idea. As mentioned, it exposed Jericho; being in the ring with MJF, who is half of Jericho’s age, exposed him in the ring.
Whereas Jericho remains a talented worker who can get through most matches on experience and ring-leadership alone, the matches with MJF were not aesthetically pleasing to look at on a professional wrestling program where some of the best matches of the year – in any company – take place on a near monthly basis. Many argued that the length of the feud held MJF back – with the MJF heel character being one of the more hotter in AEW and destined for superstardom. With Jericho ultimately winning the feud, it denied the younger talent the all-important, feud defining win, also. This feud held back MJF for 11 months and turned the AEW incarnation of the Chris Jericho character stale. Though the feud held MJF back, he has gone on to bigger and better things. The same cannot be said for an entire group of young talent who have been deemed as being held back by Jericho.
Problems with the Inner Circle
As we all know, the Inner Circle is Chris Jericho’s own, personal AEW stable. Jericho serves as the clear leader of the group, with Hager being the muscle, Sammy being the heir apparent and Santana & Ortiz being the tag team. It is, in many ways, a traditional stable of workers and was, for a time, a welcome part of AEW Dynamite. Alas, the Inner Circle has overstayed that same welcome – it no longer benefits its members and, instead, holds them back. When Sammy Guevara won the TNT Championship from “God’s Favorite Champion”, Miro, back in September of 2021, Sammy was on fire – one of the hotter young acts in the company who finally appeared ready to break away from the group and make it on his own. Within a few weeks, despite being champion, he was back to teaming with the Inner Circle (the group at this point hadn’t been around for a while, only rearing its ugly head once one of its members won gold) and instantly felt held back by Jericho and the group he fronts. Santana & Ortiz have been the unsung heroes of AEW since its incarnation; one of the best tag teams in the company (and the world) and yet, because of its ties to the stable and regularly being pulled back into the Inner Circle any time they get away, they have been unable to achieve their sole goal: the AEW World Tag team Championships.
On the most recent episode of AEW Dynamite, Santana & Ortiz even referenced this fact. Whereas this is clearly a new storyline direction for the tag team, you have to feel that there is some truth in what they were saying. Hopefully now they can break free from the group and become the stars they are destined to be – but there is a growing fear they will ultimately realign with Jericho and the Inner Circle will continue to on as a Jericho project which holds back its members; with Le Champion leeching onto the star power of the groups younger stars. The fact is, Santana & Ortiz deserve better than they have been given in AEW and with all due respect to Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus), Santana & Ortiz are far more worthy, prospective AEW World Tag Team Champions. Anyway, speaking of leeching on.
Chris Jericho and Eddie Kingston
Chris Jericho’s current storyline direction appears to be a collision course with one of the company’s hottest, most real stars, Eddie Kingston. Eddie is, as we all know, a growing star within the company; someone who perhaps, more than anybody else (which CM Punk found out during their brief feud last year), captures the feeling of the AEW audience – he is fully deserving of the distinction of being this generation’s “People’s Champion”. Just as he appeared to be gaining traction as a singles star, who does he enter into a feud with? Chris Jericho. There is a growing recognition of the fact that, as soon as a star grows in popularity, Jericho is there to feud with them or, in the Inner Circle’s case, become suddenly more closely attached on screen. Whereas it would be unfair to say with certainty that this is Jericho’s aim, it is easy to see the argument in favor of this accusation. Regardless, it is early into this feud and, in all fairness, a win for Eddie Kingston against Chris Jericho would still be one of the (if not the) biggest wins of his career so far. Despite this, there is still feeling that this feud cools off some of Eddie’s momentum as we go further into 2022. He is a potential big name player for the company, so he should be booked with caution during this feud.
Chris Jericho was initially a vital aspect of AEW. The company’s first marquee signing, Jericho gave the company a sense of legitimacy in its early days that not many other workers could have achieved. Over time, however, Jericho has grown to be, at least for this writer and fan (as well as many other fans), a negative force on the weekly television programs. The accusation that he is holding back younger talents (and cooling off their momentum); that he does not take his training seriously, leading to his in-ring ability declining considerably over the past three years and the fact that AEW has recently signed arguable bigger (ore more relevant) names in the current day of professional wrestling (CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley and Adam Cole) are all factors which have led to AEW’s initial most positive aspect becoming one of its more negative. If Chris Jericho cannot soon find a way to reinvent himself once more in AEW, as only he can, then it appears that, sooner rather than later, Le Champion may cross over into the realm of irrelevancy and, once you are there, it is difficult to find a way back.
More From LWOS Pro Wrestling
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. As well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite Wednesday nights at 8 PM ET on TBS and AEW Dark: Elevation (Monday nights) and AEW: Dark (Tuesday nights) at 7 PM ET on YouTube. AEW Rampage airs on TNT at 10 PM EST every Friday night.