In The Beginning, There Was Bubbly…
Jericho’s entrance at AEW’s first-ever press conference in Jacksonville was perhaps one of the most significant wrestling debuts in the 21st century. As a veteran of the industry, Jericho gave the new company a reputable, well-respected name. AEW was clearly appreciative of his signing, as a few months later Jericho was crowned the first-ever AEW champion. He undoubtedly brought a lot of fans into AEW. His popularity is undeniable. His catchphrases were turned into best-selling shirts, and the debut of his faction, the Inner Circle, crashed Pro Wrestling Tees’ website. Now that we’ve seen about 10 months of Dynamite, though, is Jericho still as much of a positive for the company as he was a year ago?
Pineapples in Peril
One of AEW’s biggest strengths is its wide array of young, strong personalities, such as Jungle Boy, Orange Cassidy, Riho, Kris Statlander, Private Party, etc. You would think that, since these wrestlers are quite literally the future of the company, AEW would showcase them and build their star power. While Jericho did help to elevate Sammy Guevara, I think it’s interesting that whenever he builds Sammy, he builds himself; Sammy strikes a pose, Jericho jumps into the frame to get some of the attention back to himself. He’s essentially turned Guevara into his own “Latin lover” trope, and though Guevara has gotten over in AEW, you have to wonder how much of that is because of Jericho and how much is because of his natural charisma.
Suge Dunkerton, better known to AEW fans as Pineapple Pete, also got a lot of attention put on him by Jericho. While this was a great opportunity for Suge, the charm has faded from the joke. Jericho has no intention of building Suge or helping his career, despite the fact that Suge is an incredibly charismatic and intelligent individual who could be a big draw in the company. There’s no clearer example of this than the singles match between Jericho and Suge. Suge had a new theme and video package for the match, and it was building to something great. However, all potential was immediately squashed; the match lasted about 7 seconds, as Jericho ended things quickly with a Judas Effect.
This remains one of the most disappointing matches in AEW history to me.
Liberal Readings of Lucha Libre
In addition to this immense waste of a potentially amazing match, Jericho’s passed up other chances to build up the reputations of his fellow roster members. In fact, Jericho outright buries and disrespects other roster members (in shoot interviews, to be clear).
On the Keepin’ It 100 podcast, Jericho was asked about developments he doesn’t like in the contemporary wrestling scene. He replied that he hated “the lack of normal tag team wrestling psychology.” He then points out the Lucha Brothers as particular examples of this, as they sometimes don’t adhere to typical American-style tag team rules. Jericho says:
“They started making excuses for the Lucha Brothers— because I’ll be honest with you, they’re lazy, they don’t care, they just walk in and out whenever they want, do whatever they want, and it’s not right, it’s not how you do it. They would make up excuses where they would say ‘oh it’s Lucha Libre style. Huh. That’s funny, because I worked in Mexico for 2 years, and guess how you make a tag in a Lucha Libre match. You stand in the corner and you wait for a guy to touch you and you walk in. That’s Lucha Libre rules, A.K.A. tag team rules.”
First, what he says are “Lucha Libre rules” is blatantly false. Second, the fact that Jericho feels so confident in himself to know Mexican wrestling more than two Mexican wrestlers, all because of 2 years of work in Mexico, is offensive. To call the Lucha Brothers, one of the best tag teams in history, lazy, and to say that they don’t care, is incredibly insulting to them and the years of work they’ve put into this business.
Though Jericho did go on to compliment the Lucha Brothers, and offered them a lukewarm defense by saying “maybe they didn’t know” the rules of tag team wrestling, the damage was already done in my opinion. Jericho’s clearly inflated sense of self-importance prevents him from having a nuanced perspective. If this podcast was in kayfabe, perhaps you could argue Jericho simply beat FTR to their gimmick. But it wasn’t. It’s a clear example of Jericho disrespecting and attempting to bury younger talents. I don’t think I need to explain the harm that will do to AEW in the long term.
Another trend I’ve noticed with Jericho is that whenever he’s featured on Dynamite, he is almost always saved for the main event. This even goes for non-wrestling segments, such as promos, or weigh-ins, or confrontations. You could and likely would argue that this is because Jericho draws ratings, but I’d make the case that that’s not as true as you might think. The truth is, Jericho is less of a draw than a Sasha Banks and Bayley appearance on NXT.
Even if you disagreed with that point, I’d still argue that it’s not a good idea for AEW to make a habit of showcasing a 50 year old in the main event, especially not when there are numerous young stars who could greatly benefit from the main event spot. Many of these talents are in AEW’s severely neglected women’s division, the treatment of which has garnered a lot of criticism for the company. Wouldn’t it be a good idea for AEW to counter this criticism with screen time for women, particularly with a main event spot? (I’d argue this is especially true now that Hikaru Shida has issued an open challenge for her title.)
As many fans know, Jericho is the frontman of a rock band called Fozzy. Many fans also became aware of a series of concerts Fozzy held in North Dakota the weekend of August 7th. Pictures were spread on twitter of a crowded moshpit, with a complete disregard for social distancing, and with no masks in sight. Knowing that Jericho held 3 live concerts a few days before he was set to return to a live taping of Dynamite understandably made fans both frustrated and concerned. AEW took no action to quell these concerns, and carried on with Jericho’s match against Orange Cassidy that Wednesday.
Even if AEW felt that there was no danger in allowing Jericho to come to Dynamite, the company should have done something to give their audience that same peace of mind. Their lack of action, or even just an official statement on the matter, came across as incredibly tone deaf and neglectful. It was a huge hit to the audience’s trust in AEW’s ability to keep their roster safe.
I have no feelings of sentiment toward Jericho. The wrestling I started to watch when I was younger was all based in Japan. While some might call me out as unknowledgeable for this reason, I would argue instead that my judgment is clearer, as it is not clouded by feelings of nostalgia. When I look at Jericho, I don’t remember fond moments of my childhood. I see a man who’s taking advantage of a young company, and skating by on his name. If he meant well for AEW he’d help build younger talent, and he’d take time to genuinely reflect on how the business has evolved, rather than brushing everything off that he disagrees with as wrong. In my opinion, Jericho’s time in AEW has been masturbatory at best, and the company would be wise to take some of his spotlights away from him.
The Keepin’ It 100 podcast: https://youtu.be/z0gTiXbZ0xg
A brief article on Lucha style tag rules: