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All Elite Wrestling has established itself as being a new, alternative major league to WWE’s market dominance in the professional wrestling world. The company has been built on younger, newer wrestlers and a new, modern approach to the business. So why is a 48 year old, former WWE star now the company’s first world champion? Because Chris Jericho, after all these years, is still the best man for the job.
The case for Jericho being the first champion in company history, and by association the defacto face of the company as AEW prepares to launch its weekly television series on TNT, is simple: He has the most mainstream name recognition out of anyone else in the company and the most cache with current WWE fans, as well as former fans who remember him as a big star when WWE as at its peak. Outside of perhaps The Undertaker, John Cena and Triple H, no semi-active professional wrestler is as widely recognized by the public as Jericho.
However, even if you were to take away the recognition Jericho brings to the company, he is still the best person to be the AEW’s first champion. Yes, Jericho brings memories and nostalgia from lapsed fans to AEW, but his role in the company also adds so much more. Jericho didn’t get the title because they needed a big name to kick-off weekly television with; Jericho got the title because they needed somebody great in that role, and even at 48, Jericho is still great.
Athletically he is past his prime, there is no denying that, but Jericho is still very capable in the ring. Considering he has wrestled an aggressive, bump-heavy style for so many years, Jericho still moves around the ring like an athlete and takes a lot of bumps. He hasn’t wrestled a ton of matches in 2019, which certainly helps, but the average time of his matches is just under 25 minutes, and they have all been strong, engaging matches.
While he can still cut it in the ring against younger opponents, the real value Jericho brings to the role is his understanding of his character, his ability to cut promos and his talent for getting seemingly anything (a potted plant, the word “it”, a fake list of enemies and most recently a glass of champagne) over with the audience.
There is tons of good talent in AEW, talent that the company should be interested in pushing into main event positions. Jericho though, is the only one that has been playing his character for almost 30 years and has constantly been tinkering with it. For that reason, Jericho understands his character and how he needs to perform it on weekly television better than anyone else in the company.
Maybe there are some better personas and talkers in wrestling history than Jericho, but I don’t think anyone has ever been more progressive when it came to his character. Over the years Jericho has evolved in a way that has allowed him to remain fresh and engaging to the viewer, but also true to his overall persona. Even when he comes out with a new gimmick, or a new outfit or a new catchphrase, it might be a new look for him, but it never feels like something that Chris Jericho the character wouldn’t do.
As he has gotten older, Jericho has altered his personality in a way that feels like the way a real person would change over 20+ years. In 2000, he was a confident guy that thrived on making fun of the more established talent, calling them boring and demanding that they step aside so Y2J can entertain the masses. In 2019 he is just as confident, but that arrogance is based off his assurance as a legend in wrestling, and his paranoia that younger wrestlers are desperate to take his place. He is still Chris Jericho, but as time has gone by he has shifted his personality enough that he remains fresh and marketable, and in turn he feels like a real person, as opposed to someone playing a TV character that never ages and never changes their approach.
All of that makes Jericho the guy you want everyone else in AEW to follow. If all of the great workers in AEW can follow Jericho’s path by tinkering with their own characters and become comfortable using that persona in storylines on television, the company is going to have a deep reservoir of main event talent that understands how to get over and stay over as they work weekly television.
After ALL OUT, in a post-match video Jericho casually mentioned that he was going to enjoy a “little bit of the bubbly,” referring to a glass of champagne he had to celebrate his championship victory. For whatever reason, that throw-away line resonated with some fans, who turned it into a meme. Like a cat pouncing on its prey, Jericho quickly retweeted some of the memes and encouraged fans to make more. Hours later, it was trending on Twitter and Jericho had a T-Shirt for sale.
That might seem like a quick blurb on social media, but it is indicative of who Jericho is as a performer. As soon as he saw that it might have legs, he went to work promoting it and got people talking about AEW, and started making money off of it. That kind of ingenuity is invaluable to a company like AEW, which is going to be built through word of mouth and on social media. For their 48 year old icon to understand how fast memes can spread and to be moving that quickly to thinking how to make money off it, it is the perfect example of why Jericho is so important to the company moving forward.
Jericho isn’t the AEW World Champion because the company needs his name; he is the champion because he is the perfect person to set the tone for what everyone else should strive to be. If someone wants to be the world champion, they will need to like Jericho; and I can’t think of a better person for a bunch of young, high-potential wrestlers to model themselves after.
ALL OUT Ratings
Jungle Boy, Luchasauras and Marko Stunt vs SCU: ***3/4
PAC vs Kenny Omega: ****1/2
Darby Allin vs Joey Janela vs Jimmy Havoc: ****
The Dark Order vs Best Friends: ***
Riho vs Hikaru Shida: ***1/2
Shawn Spears vs Cody Rhodes: ***3/4
The Lucha Brothers vs The Young Bucks: *****
Chris Jericho vs Adam Page: ****
– Jericho and Page were hindered coming after the crazy ladder match. After seeing the stunts in that match, it is hard for people to get that enthusiastic about a traditional wrestling match. In that regard, it feels counter-productive to have these two tag teams killing themselves for a tag titles that are not even apart of AEW, and then for the world title match to just be a standard wrestling match. That being said, the match was still good and Jericho has really gotten over his back elbow as a legit finisher, so chalk another win up for Y2J. Page looked fine but is still far away from being in Jericho’s league as an overall performer.
– The ladder match really couldn’t have been done any better. There were tons of high spots and crazy moves and all of the spectacular stuff that you expect to see in this kind of match. I thought Matt unmasking Pentagon Jr. was a smart trick that was timed well, which set up the Lucha Brothers taking things to the next level and finishing off The Young Bucks to win the match.
– As a wrestling match, Spears vs Cody was just okay, it was a typical walk-and-brawl. The match thrived on the fact that Cody is a big star to the crowd and Tully Blanchard was really good in his role as the heel manager. I don’t know what is next for Spears, but he did a lot of character work with this heel turn and I hope Tully sticks around to work with him because Spears should be a valuable heel moving forward.
– It felt strange that PAC and Omega went on second, but they had a hell of a match. Both guys are so athletic and understand pacing and timing to really build an explosive, athletic match. PAC going over signifies that he is going to be around AEW going forward, which is great. PAC has been a great heel since leaving WWE, but in Dragon Gate I don’t think a lot of fans in the US have really seen that side of him yet.
– The Dark Order need to have some more promo time if they are going to be around. The crowd doesn’t understand who they are or what the pair’s goals are or why they have all these minions. That has turned the gimmick into an anchor for the duo, because their work in the ring is pretty good.
– Luchasauras and Jungle Boy have really been the breakout stars of AEW so far, along with MJF. Both guys went from being SoCal indie guys to being one of the most over acts in AEW after only a few shows. The sky is the limit for both of them. AEW’s tag team division is really ridiculous when it comes to the depth of quality of teams; outside of The Dark Order debacle, you have The Young Bucks, The Luchas Bros., SCU, Santana and Ortiz, Best Friends, Jack Evans and Angelico; plus younger teams like Private Party and Luchasauras and Jungle Boy who you can invest in long term.
– While AEW has a lot of male talent that a lot of the fanbase already knows, they don’t have that with the women’s division and it is going to take some time to establish that. Nyla Rose and Riho were basically unknown wrestlers in the US before Double or Nothing, so it is a tall task for them to be in the first ever title match. So far I think they have done really well given where they are starting, but it is going to take some time until the whole division is established with different characters and storylines.