In many people’s eyes, Chris Jericho is the GOAT (hey Richard!) due to his in-ring ability, mic skills but mainly his ability to be a chameleon. He has constantly changed gimmicks to fit a new company or a new era, even as he’s gotten older, turning 50 later this year. Not only does his ability to change gimmick that easily benefits him and keep him relevant in the world, just look at his current run in AEW and how relevant he’s keeping himself, but he improves everyone around him. 30 years into his wrestling career and Jericho is still bringing everyone up and elevating them to his level. Jericho has had more gimmicks that those on this list but the ones I’ve chosen are his most significant and what he will be fondly remembered of once he retires from in-ring competition. A quick shoutout to his time as Super Liger in his original New Japan run, he only appeared in one match which is why it doesn’t make the cut.
The rookie years of Chris Jericho in Smokey Mountain Wrestling, all the way back in 1994 where he was involved in a tag team alongside fellow Canadian, Lance Storm. However, it wasn’t the first time they had teamed together, the trained together in 1990 and started off together but this was, at the time, their big break. In terms of historical significance for the pair is pretty limited, despite having a few matches with the likes of The Heavenly Bodies and The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, the time for the boys there just wasn’t that long and didn’t give them a huge amount of time to set the world on fire. The best thing we got from them is an absolutely phenomenal set of vignettes from the both as they were ‘Taking over America’, the duo would film themselves in the woods, down at the arcades and in various other fun scenarios to get themselves over as white meat babyfaces. If you haven’t seen it, go to Youtube now and find it.
One of Jericho’s more recent incarnation is that of the Painmaker which he primarily used in his New Japan run from 2017 until 2020 after he left WWE for the last time. The reason I would list this gimmick as low as I have is because of the frequency that we saw it and how downright weird it was. Jericho took some inspiration of face paint from Clockwork Orange and made him look like an aging clown still clinging onto his profession. And that isn’t Jericho at all, he could still go but you can see why he was changing gimmicks around. Being in WWE, he was watered down and couldn’t be the expressive and in your face character we see today, Japan allowed him that freedom of swearing and flipping the bird to everyone. He would be involved in a lot of high-profile feuds in the limited time of the gimmick, namely against Kenny Omega in Alpha vs Omega and against Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. We got to see some of the groundwork for the Jericho we have today but it was still in its infant form during the time of the Painmaker.
Again, another gimmick we didn’t’ really see much of as his time in ECW was so limited, only spending a year with the promotion and his work in Mexico wasn’t fully known to the US audience. However, it was given to him when he worked in Mexico, first working as Leon D’Oro (Golden Lion) but would transition to Corazon de Leon. He would work under the name, translating to Lionhart, between 1992 and 1995 for CMLL and other Mexican promotions, before bringing it to the US and ECW. During his time with the Philadelphia based promotion, he won the ECW World Television Championship and feuded with greats of the company like Taz, Sabu and Rob Van Dam. His time as Lionhart is what caught the attention of WCW and the massive break Jericho got from it. He would revive the gimmick once, for ECW One Night Stand in 2005 going one on one with his former partner, Lance Storm.
Possibly, Jericho’s most famous gimmick. We were introduced to the gimmick when he first arrived in WWF, on the August 9th 1999 episode of RAW after the millennium clock expired. He would debut interrupting The Rock and proclaimed ‘Raw is Jericho’ and he was here to safe the WWF. The large problem with Jericho’s initial run was he stayed in the midcard, when he ventured to the main event scene, it went wrong. When he was the Undisputed Champion, the whole reign was overshadowed by his alliance with Stephanie McMahon and her feud with Triple H. The gimmick succeeded, however, due to Jericho’s incredible abilities in the ring and on the mic, which allowed him to be expressive version of himself. Jericho would reignite his Y2J gimmick in 2007 when he returned to WWE, updating the millennium clock to a matrix style coding. Again, he bossed the midcard like he did in his first run but failed when it came to the main event scene. But it is Jericho and he is amazing no matter where on the card he is.
After Dean Malenko won a battle royal, dressed as Ciclope, with the winner facing Jericho for the WCW Cruiserweight Champion. Prior to this, Jericho had berated and insulted Malenko when he wasn’t there, including the infamous 1,004 holds segment. Once Jericho lost the title to Malenko, he claimed there was a conspiracy against him so WCW could get the title off of him. He blamed everyone from the locker room to J.J. Dillon before filming a vignette where he would walk the streets of Washington DC and accused President Bill Clinton of being involved. He held onto to the one thing in this gimmick, everyone was against him and he ran with it and made it into some of the best work in WCW’s history. Jericho eventually won the title back after Malenko vacated the title and got himself disqualified in the match against Jericho for the vacant belt. The end result made it look like Malenko was in on the conspiracy but you definitely didn’t hear Jericho complaining.
Jericho’s run in AEW has given him many names but Le Champion is the main one and the best one. He has used his position in the wrestling world to bolster the company and the talent as a whole to a new level and being the popular alternative to WWE. Jericho was the inaugural AEW World Champion, the reason he donned this name and gimmick. 2019 and 2020 has given us a new side to Jericho, we knew he was good at comedy but this just is next level. The skits, the catchphrases and the mannerisms make his new run fresh and different to what we’ve seen before. He is a meme and merchandise machine, coming up with new ideas constantly. ‘A little bit of the bubbly’ came out of nowhere, a table with some champagne on it. He made t shirts and his own champagne, alongside Stephen Amell’s Nocking Point. The Le Champion gimmick is a gift that keeps giving, even as Jericho nears his 50th birthday, where his in-ring abilities are declining, the rest is making up for it.
The first proper glimpse into Jericho’s extended comedy range and a gimmick that again, raised the profile of everyone he worked with. Especially, Kevin Owens. In 2016, Jericho was such a veteran in WWE, he began to be easily annoyed by any wrestler, beginning with General Manager, Mick Foley. Thus, the list was born and one of the most unthreatening acts began. Jericho would adorn himself with scarves and act like a pompous Rockstar, who was better than everyone, putting them on the list for the smallest things. His alliance with Owens was always entertaining, with two of the best comedy wrestlers on the planet today teaming up. We saw the bitter end of the duo at the Festival of Friendship, when Owens turned on Jericho, revealing a ‘List of KO’ before the pair had a few decent matches as Jericho departed to tour with Fozzy. This ranks so high because Jericho got over ‘You just made the list’ like it was John Cena getting over ‘You can’t see me’ in 2005. Easy, simple, effective and brilliant.
Best in the World
The best work of Jericho’s career. Period. The vicious and cold way he would talk, he was no longer the fun-loving Jericho we knew, even when he was a heel. It all began because of Shawn Michaels who feigned an injury to defeat Batista whilst Jericho was the guest referee. Jericho insisted Michaels cheated which resulted in him catching a Sweet Chin Music and Michaels agreeing with him. After the brutal attack on The Highlight Reel and at the 2008 Great American Bash, we saw the cold side of Jericho. Wearing suits, inspired by Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men and Nick Bockwinkel, it just gave a despicable edge to Jericho. He became a man so desperate to win, he’d do anything. He reverted from his long tights to trunks, with trunks usually being the traditional attire for wrestlers. He became World Champion and a nine-time Intercontinental Champion in this time, as well as disrespecting three legends at Wrestlemania 25. Very different from the Jericho we have today but by far, the best work of his entire career.
Whatever gimmick you believe to be his best might not even be on this list but all wrestling fans can unanimously agree that his ability to transition from gimmick to gimmick makes Chris Jericho one of the best wrestlers we have ever seen. 30 years of Jericho, 30 phenomenal years.