In 2016, I witnessed AJ Styles appearing at the Royal Rumble. Despite reading the reports, my jaw still dropped seeing it happen. Never in my life did I think it would happen. I thought that was the peak of surreal scenarios in pro wrestling. So far removed from the days of the Monday Night War, AJ Styles, the peak wrestler that was “not the WWE mold” in WWE felt like the last big “crossing between worlds” moment I would ever see in wrestling. This leads us into today’s topic of the surreal visual of Chris Jericho becoming the ROH World Champion.
All Elite Wrestling was created in 2018 because of the current nature of the wrestling market, Cody Rhodes returning to WWE, while shocking, impressive, and successful, wasn’t really something I could describe as surreal. Rather, it was “simply impossible.”
Chris Jericho as ROH World Champion
A Deeper Dive Into This Surreal Visual in Wrestling
I’ve been a wrestling fan since 1997 and have been able to see ample content from years prior. I’ve been able to see many surreal moments in this industry. From Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon hugging to the Monday Night Raw and Nitro “Simulcast” to a War Games Match scheduled for a main roster WWE event. However, none of them feel quite as surreal as seeing Chris Jericho hoist the Ring Of Honor World Championship and claim it as his own. To add to the surrealness, it’s the original design of the title.
To add some context, I realize there are bigger moments. Going back to the “Simulcast,” Ric Flair stepping into the WWF with the Big Gold Belt in 1991, then winning the Winged Eagle title a few months later is another example. However the idea of Chris Jericho, the once “WWE lifer”, holding the same title belt that Samoa Joe carried for nearly 2 years before Jericho even had the first of many career rebirths in 2008, is simply incredible to me. It’s a mind trip I still can’t wrap my head around.
The thing is, while Chris Jericho not only stepped into New Japan Pro-Wrestling, but also held the IWGP Intercontinental title, this is a title and a brand on an upswing. When it happened, New Japan was at the peak of the wrestling zeitgeist. And while Jericho has been a part of AEW since its inception, and their first world champion, I have a far easier time picturing him holding the TNT or All-Atlantic titles. After all, the man is a 9-time Intercontinental Champion and held another 11 midcard singles titles between Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, WWE, and NJPW.
However, while Ring Of Honor is now a part of AEW by virtue of Tony Khan’s purchase, the brand name has still retained the same essence of these titles being mainly for “great ring workers”. But not necessarily what you would call “sports entertainers”. Maybe this is the logic behind it, for the heat of the “sports entertainer” holding it, aside from the obvious star-power attached to Chris Jericho.
Up to this point, all the people AEW had presented as challengers or champions of the Ring Of Honor brand felt as believable representatives of the values of the brand such as FTR, Konosuke Takeshita, Wheeler Yuta, and Daniel Garcia. Alternatively, they already had a long-standing association like Samoa Joe, Jay Lethal, and Mercedes Martinez.
That’s not to say Jericho doesn’t represent those values. He does, when one considers his credentials and especially his roots in Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, Wrestle and Romance, and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. However, Jericho felt like someone that transcended those roots. A “superstar” type of performer since the day he uttered his 1004 holds on Nitro. I mean, it’s his gimmick: a “sports entertainer” that denounces the very traditions of his past and of ROH.
I’ve heard the comparison of Dolph Ziggler winning the NXT Championship, something that did indeed happen this year. Chris Jericho has been a consistent top star for AEW non-stop. Dolph? He was doing nothing for a long time before winning the NXT title and then went right back to doing nothing after. Sorry; Jericho isn’t caught in the AEW Dark trap.
The sensation and visual of Chris Jericho holding the original ROH World Championship belt, in my eyes, feels comparable to Jeff Hardy circa 2009 winning the ECW Championship and holding up the same design Shane Douglas held up after he tossed away the NWA title. Sure, Jeff would have that ‘extreme’ credibility and very much fit the vibe ECW represented in its heyday. But it’s at a time when he felt bigger than that brand. If such a reign were to have happened, it would’ve likely been to try and help ECW.
However, with all of those surreal descriptors aside, if the idea is to market ROH for a potential TV deal, it feels very difficult to say Chris Jericho holding the ROH world title is a bad way to do it. At the same time, the ROH World Television Champion, Samoa Joe, is about to co-star in the Twisted Metal TV show. So the rather sudden end of Claudio Castagnoli’s reign as champion and this bizarre visual of Chris Jericho holding this particular title may be a sign of plans of ROH landing on TV moving forward.
It’s certainly quite an accomplishment to see Chris Jericho adding this to his resume. As he’s mentioned, it’s his eighth world title. It’s his fifth different one between four different wrestling brands. Adding to the trivial, Jericho’s FIVE different world titles are all won from within just two companies. Winning the WCW, WWE, and World Heavyweight Championships while signed to WWE. Now the first-ever AEW World Champion and ROH World Champion while signed to AEW. Pity he didn’t win the IMPACT World Championship or AAA Megachampionship when those were defended in AEW. Nonetheless, Chris Jericho continues to re-invent and re-invent himself over and over. When you think he’s done, he does it again.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other wrestling stories worldwide as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the important news in the wrestling world and 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. In addition, AEW Rampage airs on TNT at 10 PM EST every Friday.