ViRTUE's RAGE: What Happened to Chris Jericho? Submitted by Virtue on 09/20/2020 at 02:59 PM
September 20, 2020
Disclaimer: It is no secret I have probably been the biggest Chris Jericho fan (MARK) since 1997. This article is based on what I have observed as a fan over the past year or so since he has been in AEW. Just because I have always been pro-Jericho, when I see what appears to be a change in the pattern that I am used to, I will spill my guts and tell you my observations of what might be happening from my point of view. Here we go…
On July 11th of this year, I Tweeted the following: “I suspect Chris Jericho will not be renewing or extending his AEW contract when it’s up. This publicly defending demo ratings thing has to be killing him in reality. But we’ll see…” Over the course of 2020, I have begun to get the feeling that Jericho is getting annoyed with certain things regarding AEW internally and where he currently is on the card. However, he is such a consummate professional, he is going to make it seem like part of the act and convince everyone that life is good, and perhaps it is good. Or, perhaps he is beginning to get a little disinterested in his current workplace. Does it even matter though, especially if Tony Khan is paying him a hefty contract? I will be patiently waiting to see if Jericho does indeed extend his contract with AEW when it’s time. He is about halfway through his current deal. As of this moment, I do not think he will extend it, which in all honesty is a typical Jericho move to keep his options open. He is approaching 50 years-old this year. There is nothing wrong with keeping options open.
I have stated that Jericho perhaps had one of the best two-year periods of his career prior to signing with AEW when he did the matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling with Kenny Omega and Naito. Jericho embodied the “aging rock star from the West” gimmick and made more people outside of Japan interested in the product, which was evident in the uptick in NJPW’s streaming service subscriptions. When he did sign with AEW in 2019, he convincingly became their first ever AEW World Champion by defeating Hangman Adam Page. This was the right move by AEW to help launch their company and Dynamite television show on TNT in October 2019. Jericho went on to have a solid run at the top as a heel, but AEW could not sustain the 1.4 million viewers it had for their first Dynamite. They were battling NXT each week for pretty much that same pool of viewers after the fact. Jericho would go on to lose the title to Moxley in February of this year and then began slipping down the card with feuds with Matt Hardy and the Elite and Orange Cassidy. In my opinion, a character like Jericho should have immediately wanted an opportunity to win the title back, but it did not happen.
Unfortunately, the pandemic did not help during this stretch and Jericho went on to focus on “demo ratings” and being the “Demo God” and turned to constantly defending AEW on social media and his podcast, especially the weeks NXT was higher than AEW in total viewers. I never thought I’d see the day where Jericho so blatantly publicly defended any criticisms about the company he currently works for, rather than just focus on his current angle and feud. Perhaps this was because he knew it was going to be a monumental task to try and get someone like Orange Cassidy over. I still wonder if OC got over beyond the diehard fans any further after his series of matches with Jericho. I do not really think he did. Also, recently Jericho has declared he and Jake Hagar are now going to start teaming up in the tag team division, where there is already a plethora of teams in AEW. The fall from main event to mid-card for Jericho in AEW has finally reared its ugly face. Because of all this, I want to reiterate my question of this: What happened to Chris Jericho?
My good buddy Mr. Tito has stated that he has noticed a deterioration in Jericho’s in-ring ability the past few years. I cannot disagree with that since Jericho is going to be 50 years-old this year. I think his current look, aging rock star gimmick I like to refer to, is fine for where he is at in his career. We know he has DDP’s number if he ever wants to get back into prime shape. However, what I really think answers the question of what has happened to Jericho is he is perhaps way too fixated on making the diehard fans who watch AEW no matter what believe WWE is an inferior product to AEW. Because of this, I feel it is opening the door for Jericho to look too much like one of them, griping and constantly worrying about demos and gaining the approval of said fans for him being the one responsible for getting independent wrestlers like Orange Cassidy or Jungle Boy over. I feel this turns potential casual fans away. That is not the Jericho I grew up watching for over twenty years. Again, his podcast breaks down too many walls these days that were not necessarily broken down say in 2008 when he had perhaps one of the greatest heel runs of all-time.
I used to always feel Jericho was out there performing for everyone regardless if they were diehard fans or casual fans. However, lately I feel he has only been trying to appease the diehard AEW fanbase, which unfortunately stunts the room for growth just like Triple H does with his baby NXT. It is fine to keep your current fanbase happy and satisfied, but let’s be honest, the goal for any wrestling company and any wrestler for that matter is to keep building their brand beyond who they already have hooked. The only way to do that is to pull in casuals and non-fans and make them become diehard fans, too. Sure, you can maximize how much money you get from each fan you already have, but if you can quantify the total number of fans to a higher number, business will pick up and the company will grow. Yes, AEW did a little over 1 million viewers recently, but it was unopposed. They were right back down to under 900K this past week up against NXT. The goal for this company and top talents like Jericho should be finding ways to get back closer to that 1.4 million Dynamite did on opening night. Increasing total viewers will also increase those precious demo numbers even further. That is basic mathematics.
I challenge Chris Jericho to these things going forward. If he believes in AEW so much, he should sign an extension now and commit to them even more so long term, to show he believes in what they are doing and why he is there. If not, I feel he will just let his current deal expire while dabbling in the mid-card and then take some time off before going back to NJPW or perhaps WWE again. For the most part, they always go back home to WWE, right? Also, I would like to see him worry less about beating WWE in specific categories and focus more on getting AEW to grow to an amount closer to where they were the night of Dynamite’s debut on TNT. He has to realize his likeness against wrestlers such as Orange Cassidy, Jungle Boy, etc is going to appeal to potential new fans less than if he feuded with Moxley, Cody, and even Omega again. Just let the EVPs be the ones to put over the next generation. In the meantime, Jericho should still be finding ways to put over the EVPs. Checkmate!
Thanks for reading Virtue’s Rage and I WILL BE BACK…