In the past two decades it is hard to think of many wrestlers in professional wrestling who have been more consistently good in everything they have done than Chris Jericho.
He became the first Undisputed WWE Champion, he is a nine-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, and he has had some of the best matches and programs with just about anyone the WWE has put him in the ring with.
Jericho started out his career being trained in a Hart family-affiliated wrestling school. He then proceeded to wrestler all over the world. Jericho has preformed in the NWA, Japan, Mexico, and even made a pit stop in a little company known as ECW. Then, in 1997, Jericho found a home in WCW’s Cruiserweight division, where he truly made a name for himself.
In 1999, Jericho had one of the most memorable debuts in WWE history interrupting one of The Rock’s infamous promos. His revered debut was only a sign of many other great things to come.
Now, over two decades after we first saw him on a WWE stage, Jericho has earned a well deserved elite status among the fans of sports entertainment. It was difficult to pick out the best matches of a man who has had so many brilliant encounters with some of the best wrestlers ever.
He is the King of the World. The Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rolla. He is – Chris Jericho.
CHRIS JERICHO VS. JUVENTUD GUERRERA (SUPERBRAWL VIII)
This match was one of the bright spots of Chris Jericho’s tenure in WCW’s Cruiserweight division. While a tad clunky and uneven in its pacing at first, seriously started to hit a wonderful stride after the first few awkward moments.
While the veteran now often makes jokes at WCW’s expense, he truly did get to work with some of the most talented in ring performers from all over the world while working in the troubled company, including a young Juventud Guerrera.
Jericho did a brilliant job, as he always does, of playing up the campy heel-like tendencies. He refused to take off the championship to wrestle, yelled at the camera, and repeatedly tried to get counted out.
Juventud his the 450 Splash on Jericho and seemingly won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship and retained the right to keep his mask. However, what was not seen, is Jericho’s grabbing of the rope a moment before the referee struck the mat for a third time.
The referee waved off the call as the bell continued to ring as Juventud demanded to be handed the Cruiserweight Championship. Jericho took advantage of a distracted Guerrera.
This is an instance when a false finish actually adds to a match. It was perfectly booked and gave the fans a sense of false hope that Guerrera had won the title and escaped without losing his mask.
After this the two young WCW talents created several beautifully flowing sequences of counters and near falls.
Jericho retained the title by the skin of his teeth after reversing a hurricanrana into his Lion Tamer, forcing Juventud to give up the match and his mask.
10. CHRIS JERICHO VS. CHRISTIAN (UNFORGIVEN 2004)
The only saving grace on one of the WWE’s most awful Pay-Per-View cards ever.
This match was the culmination of a several month long on-and-off feud between these two. Jericho and Christian had gone from being tag team partners to mortal enemies in the course of just a few months. After months of fighting, Jericho injured Christian’s back in a steal cage match on WWE Monday Night Raw.
While Christian was away an injured Edge, the reigning WWE Intercontinental Champion, promised “Y2J” a title match as soon as he, the future “Rated R Superstar,” was cleared to wrestle. However things soon changed and Edge was stripped of the title due to the fact he could not defend it.
As fate would have it Christian came around the same time demanding he be crowned the new champion. Jericho happily disagreed with the man who he had unfinished business with. So the result was simple. A Ladder match to decide the title’s fate.
The match took place on what was, in my mind, one of the worst Pay-Per-View events WWE has ever put on. It easily stole the show in my eyes.
“Captain Charisma” and Jericho had an amazing match in which they continued the honored tradition of having a Ladder match over the WWE’s Intercontinental Championship.
Jericho walked away the winner with his record setting seventh WWE Intercontinental Championship after a nearly 25 minute match. Christian and Jericho are both so good, and together they had several very underrated matches, including their match at WrestleMania XX. To me though, this is the pinnacle of their chemistry in the ring.
9. CHRIS JERICHO VS. THE ROCK (ROYAL RUMBLE 2002)
There are few performers who ooze more entertainment than Chris Jericho and The Rock.
Chris Jericho and Rock have had several five star matches. Their matches from No Mercy and Vengeance 2001 both stick out in my mind, but this has to be their best encounter.
Jericho, during this time, was not being booked as strong as he should have, but this was his first title defense as the WWE Undisputed Champion after defeating both Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night.
I felt that, given the right opportunity, they both could have delivered a match that could have well ranked much higher on the Countdown.
However, I don’t want to make it seem like I dislike this match. This was a exemplary contest, but it is not without flaws.
The poor booking of Jericho as WWE Undisputed Champion and the run-ins from Christian and Lance Storm during this match made “The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla” look like he had no chance at defeating The Rock without some sort of dusty finish. While it is a plausible thing for a heel to do, I thought it hurt this match’s creditably.
It took a low blow, hitting The Rock’s head against an exposed turnbuckle, and rolling the challenger up while using the ropes for Chris Jericho to get the victory. To say that was overkill would have been an understatement.
During his reign as champions Chris Jericho got lost in the shuffle of the main event card. The Rock, Steve Austin, Ric Flair, Undertaker, nWo, and a returning Triple H.
Regardless of my qualms with this match, I had to include it. Jericho and Rock had great matches, and while this is not perfect, it belongs among his best contests. Jericho proved that he could hang among the top names in the WWE during his run as the champion even if he had to scratch and claw his way up the ladder to do it.
8. CHRIS JERICHO VS. EDDIE GUERRERO (FALL BRAWL 1997)
This was Eddie Guerrero’s rematch from a match he had with Chris Jericho from the final WCW Clash of the Champions event. The match was all about the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
I loved that Jericho was playing the babyface and Guerrero was playing the heel as both were so good at portrayingeither the hero or the villain. Jericho and Guerrero were just as versatile characters as they were athletes in the ring.
The entire match moves at a very fast pace as you can imagine a cruiserweight match might. However, you can always see shades of Jericho’s tutelage from the Hart’s as he often kept Guerrero on the mat.
Eddie spent much of the match trying to build an offense against Jericho’s mat based strategy. Every time Guerrero got out of a hold and began to get some offense in Jericho would ground him.
The two, at this point in their careers, represented the contrasting yet complimentary styles of different types of cruiserweight wrestlers.
In this match Chris Jericho primarily wrestled a mat based game and Guerrero used many high impact aerial moves as he tried to take Jericho’s championship. However, both men have been known to use both styles prominently throughout their careers.
The match really represented the potential that WCW had. They had access to great talent, but never managed to make their most talented performers stars. The Cruiserweight division in WCW is probably the greatest thing they ever accomplished. This division would go on to birth several future WWE World Champions like Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, and yes even “Y2J” Chris Jericho.
In the end Guerrero won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship with the Frog Splash in what is truly one of Chris Jericho’s best WCW outings. This was such an entertaining match.
Eddie Guerrero won the match and his victory set up the infamous Mask vs. Title match between himself and Rey Mysterio Jr. at Halloween Havoc a few months later.
Years have passed and both Jericho and Guerrero would go on to become World Champions in the WWE and two of wrestling’s most popular stars.
7. CHRIS JERICHO & CHRIS BENOIT VS. THE POWER TRIP (WWE RAW, JULY 2001)
Possibly the most acclaimed Tag Team matches the WWE has in its library; aside from the excellent Tag Team match from No Mercy 2002.
This may be the best example I could give someone of WWE talent making use of every available second to work a match. There is literally almost not down time in this match.
It is probably most remembered for being the contest in which Triple H tore his first quadriceps muscle. This injury would cost Triple H over eight months of his career. The only solace he could take was that he was spared any involvement in the WWE”s Invasion story arc.
Jericho, Benoit, Austin, and Triple H took the crowd on a ride and showed how to properly execute a successfully engaging television Tag Team match.
Huge kudos go to “The Game” for carrying on in the match and even taking a Walls of Jericho on the announce table after completely tearing the muscle off of the bone.
While this is not a technical marvel, which is why it did not rank any higher than this, it was wonderfully “WWE” pertaining to its entertainment value. This match is so much fun to watch despite it not having a large amount of ring psychology on display.
Jericho & Benoit as well as Austin & Triple H were all really singles competitors, but this tag team action is a great example of their ability to work in any situation. However, to be fair, very few tag team maneuvers are actually used in this match. It was mostly just a series of rapidly changing singles match.
Even so, there was a method to the madness of this match, and if you haven’t seen it, you should set aside 15 minutes to do so. These four just clicked.
6. CHRIS JERICHO VS. DEAN MALENKO (UNCENSORED 1998)
Its a shame Malenko’s career ended not long after he joined the WWE, because these two could have had some great matches outside of the constraints of WCW’s Cruiserweight division.
The long feud between Jericho and Malenko stemmed from Jericho claiming he was a better wrestler than the “Man of 1,000 Holds” but the kicker was that “Y2J” refused to have a match with Malenko. This finally lead to Jericho defending his title against him at the 1998 Pay-Per-View; WCW Uncensored.
This match is another one of Jericho’s hidden gems from his days in WCW’s Cruiserweight division. I say hidden gems, but in all reality I’m sure most fans who were watching WCW at the time would not consider this match hidden at all.
Jericho was wrestling the man I consider to be the greatest cruiserweight wrestlers of all time for what I consider the most prestigious titles in WCW history. Think about it, would want a belt held by David Arquette or one held by the likes of Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho?
The early going of the match saw each man trying to wear down the other with submission moves until about five minutes into the match when Jericho attempted to leave the arena and lose the match, but retain his title. Malenko broke the count as Jericho decided to come back to the ring to try and prove a point.
Jericho did a good job of out wrestling one of WCW’s top mat wrestlers at the time and continued to keep Malenko from gaining any momentum.
The pace of the match continued to increase as Jericho stayed in control for a majority of the contest until the final moments of the match were it looked like Malenko was going to sneak out a victory. Jericho caught the “Man of 1,000 Holds” in a hold of his own, The Lion Tamer, and retained his WCW Cruiserweight Championship in a brilliantly overlooked match.
5. CHRIS JERICHO VS. REY MYSTERIO (THE BASH 2009)
I’m sure that I will get comments saying that I ranked this match too high and that it is overrated because of all the praise it got a few years ago, but I think this match is truly brilliant and one of Chris’s most entertaining matches ever.
I’ve seen many of their matches from WCW, but for me this one is far better than anything the two have done before or since.
Instead of two up and coming former international stars trying to find their niche in WCW, at The Bash in 2009 we see two veterans crafting a match while at the penultimate of their profession. I think it has a lot to do with the story involved here in which Chris Jericho’s rage feud jealously caused him to target Mysterio and his symbolic mask.
Chris dominated most of the early going as most of Rey’s early high risk moves don’t pay off. The rest of the match was Rey trying almost every high risk move to keep Jericho from holding him to the mat in submission maneuvers. I think that is what makes this match so good to me.
I love the dynamic of submission based wrestling countering the high flying style, and vice versa.
Jericho and Mysterio clashed in their styles of wrestling and it made the match very interesting.
Chris Jericho really brought out the best in Rey Mysterio as every time they worked together in the ring Rey seems extremely motivated to preform at a level in which we rarely see anymore. He even brought in some old moves he had not used in the ring for some time due to his increasing laundry list of injuries. It seemed like he felt very comfortable and secure in the ring with Chris.
Jericho lost the match and his record setting 9th WWE Intercontinental Championship to Mysterio that night. The series of matches Rey had with Jericho made Mysterio relevant again in a lot of ways.
Rey had been battling injures over the past few years and always seemed to get hurt just as he started to build momentum. However this time Mysterio managed to keep it and went on to hold the World Heavyweight Champion on WWE Smackdown! the following year.
It is curious that one of “Y2J’s” greatest matches of all time is a match that did less for his career than it did for his opponent. When Jericho was drafted to WWE Smackdown! in 2009 he had his pick of people to work with and he chose Mysterio over other names like The Undertaker and Edge. Jericho and Mysterio had great matches in both WCW and WWE, but this is without a doubt their greatest encounter.
4. CHRIS JERICHO VS. TRIPLE H (FULLY LOADED 2000)
One of Chris Jericho’s first opportunities to dance in the main event was also only the second ever Last Man Standing match in WWE history.
The match, which took place in Dallas Texas, was supposed to be the big blow off from a feud that steamed from “Y2J’ mocking Triple H’s new wife Stephanie McMahon. The brash Jericho even called her a “bottom feeding hoe.” The match ended up being very, very brutal as I’m sure you can tell from the photo above.
“The Game” dominated almost the entire first half of the contest giving Jericho almost no offense at all due to the fact that he had walked into the match already injured. I think this was one of Chris Jericho’s first chances to wrestle with the elite of the WWE. They wanted to create the illusion that Jericho was a bit outmatched and made it seem like he had to struggle to get an upper hand. This helped the match tell a more thought out story. Jericho did a great job playing the underdog in this match.
While Triple H may have been in control in the beginning towards the half way point in the contest Jericho found his rhythm and began to create some offense.
He never got to stay in control of the match long as the entire match followed the pattern of Jericho struggling to keep up with “The Game.”
This was also during the time when Triple H was having some of the best matches that he would ever have. During this time it seemed that match after Pay-Per-View match would go on to be one of the classics of his career. This match with Jericho is not different, in my opinion.
In the end Jericho lost the match just barely after both men went through an announce table. While Triple H walked away with the win, Jericho would leave the match proving that he could indeed hang with the best WWE had to offer.
It would take McMahon and his team a while longer to realize this than it did the fans.
3. CHRIS JERICHO VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (WRESTLEMANIA XIX)
This is probably many wrestling fan’s favorite Chris Jericho match, and I contemplated making it, as well as the number two ranked match for that matter, the final match on this Countdown.
This edition really was the most difficult Pro Wrestling Countdown to nail down a definitive top match, but Jericho and Michaels show stealing match at WrestleMania XIX must settle for a comfortable, if not humble, number three spot.
I knew before even beginning that this match would make it somewhere on my Countdown. I have always enjoyed this match and after watching it again I was shocked when I realized that this match is now a decade old. It felt like it could have occurred just yesterday.
The early moments featured a wide array of back and forth wrestling. You could tell the two had similar wrestling psychologies. The match was really entertaining to watch as Jericho played off the WWE fan’s knowledge that Michaels had a surgically repaired back that was supposed to have ended his career almost five years earlier. He spent almost the entire time working on his back which made perfect sense from a story perspective.
The last half of the match was, as should always be the case, the more suspenseful and entertaining as the entire crowd at Safeco Field made this match feel like the true main event of WrestleMania.
The interesting thing is that the match happened because the storyline was that Chris Jericho wanted to step out of the “Heart Break Kids” shadow which set the seeds for an angle that would have implications years later in 2008. The fans already knew of Jericho’s dislike and hatred of Shawn as well of his jealously of Michaels career.
Jericho may have played the heel here, but after awhile you can tell the fans stopped caring about who was the heel and babyface and started to care more about the match itself. That is when you can tell a match is worth the time it is given.
In the end Jericho’s own frustration got the best of him and Michaels secured the victory with a roll-up to end what I consider his very best outing at a Wrestlemania to date. After the match we got the infamous hand shake and hug that turned into getting his heat back with a kick to the groin of “HBK.”
Of course the “The King of the World” had to have the last word.
A night that was supposed to be remembered for matches like McMahon vs. Hogan, Austin vs. Rock III, and Angle vs. Lesnar had their show stolen from them. While Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar’s match is still considered one of Wrestlemania’s best matches in recent memory, when you mention Wrestlemania XIX to someone the match between Jericho and Michaels might more often than not be the first match people want to talk about. I think that says a lot.
2. CHRIS JERICHO VS. CHRIS BENOIT (ROYAL RUMBLE 2001)
Chemistry is something that often is not afforded to everyone who steps in a ring with another performer.
Sometimes two performers get into a ring and they just click right from the get go.
In other cases, chemistry develops in the ring after two men work extensively together. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit had matches together all over the world and serve as a prime example of this. In Japan, ECW, WCW, and finally the WWE.
The two Canadians spent the first five minutes or so wrestling with the help of no weapons. Ladder matches tend to start out with one opponent getting knocked out and the other bringing in a ladder. However, this match played a little differently than most Ladder matches.
Even though they play up the technical wrestling in the first few minutes of this match there are tons of brutal moments that are truly cringe inducing. In the middle of the match Jericho was on the outside and as Benoit flew through the ropes to attempt a suicide dive on “Y2J” he was greeted with a steel chair to the face before he even touched the ground. That was such an awesome moment and this match is full of spots like that.
It seems that it is very rare now days that we get a feud over the WWE Intercontinental Championship. We see feuds involving the WWE Intercontinental Championship, but it is rare we get a feud that is over the title itself.
At any rate this is one of the greatest matches of the 21st Century and certainly one of the better Ladder matches of all time.
The match ends with Jericho scaling the ladder after he hit Benoit in the back with a chair and knocking the champion off the ladder one final time. In doing so he won the WWE Intercontinental title for the fourth time and ended one of his greatest matches standing on top of a ladder.
1. CHRIS JERICHO VS. SHAWN MICHAELS (NO MERCY 2008)
This was the end to what might well have been the most well booked feud the WWE has ever produced.
If someone didn’t know any better they might assume that Chris Jericho was a Ladder match specialist much like maybe a Jeff Hardy is. I think that fact that Jericho has had many great Ladder matches is just an example of how versatile he is. The fact that a few of his best matches are Ladder matches just speaks volumes about how good he is.
Chris is much more than the mat wrestler that he is often made out to be. He is one of those special talents in the wrestling business that can have a five star match no matter what the conditions. Very much like his opponent in what I consider to be his greatest match of all time, Shawn Michaels.
Michaels and Jericho had been having what many called the feud of the decade with some of the best writing and promo work involving the two athletes in a long time. Jericho was on a mission to step out of the shadow of Shawn Michaels. Basically end his career and spit on his legacy.
After injuring Shawn’s eye at the Great American Bash and punching his wife at Summer Slam, Michaels became a different person. He then had a mission now as well. It was all about revenge. At Unforgiven the two had an “Unsanctioned Match” in which Shawn finally got a measure of revenge. However, the story didn’t end there. Later that night Jericho won the World Heavyweight Championship.
So after months and months of amazing action, promos, and writing we finally got the blow-off match to one of the greatest things to happen in the WWE for a very long time. Even better, it happened to be in a match the two men knew very well, a Ladder match.
It has been discussed that the Ladder match has been taken as far as it can go. Some people on the internet and elsewhere think that nothing more innovative can be done with the ladder. If this is true Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho sure did there damnedest to try and prove them wrong in Portland.
Many people talk about Ladder matches being “spot fests”. I assume they mean the match is nothing more than a showcase of high spots and has no thought or story. If that is so then this match is the smartest Ladder match I have ever seen.
I agree with them to some extent. The best Ladder matches are the ones were you forget about the ladder and are more worried about the actual story. Jericho and Michaels do this and also pulled off huge spots, but you never feel like you’re watching a “spot fest.” They use the ladder in an effective and logical manner every time the abuse each other with it.
When I was watching this match live, and even before, I knew it had potential to be one of Jericho’s best matches, but I didn’t think it would end up being the match of his career. To me that is exactly what it became. Not only that, but I believe his feud with Michaels will be the highlight of “Y2J’s” career.
I don’t think Jericho will be remembered simply as a great World Champion. However, I do think Jericho will be remembered as one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time and this match truly solidified that fact for me.
To me I think being remembered as one of the greatest performers of all time is much greater of a compliment than being remembered as one of the greatest champions.
Chris Jericho’s talent eclipses any and all of those accolades.