Hey yo, welcome to another edition of Blown Spots. The trial run-albeit a few months ago-got a pretty good response from you guys, so what the Hell, let’s go round again. Last time’s chosen fuck-up was one near and dear to many a smark’s heart-the complete bungling of the Radical’s WWF push. This time I’m opting for a change of pace-rather than tackling a well-known issue, I’m going for a quieter blown spot, one that some might not remember. Which of wrestling’s myriad of past mistakes am I referring to? Read on and find out...
December 29th 1997; it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, actually, by this point WCW was starting to heavily lean towards the latter. Coming off of an incredibly depressing Starrcade which saw the once-hot Sting/Hogan program turned into a joke, and every major heel walk out with a win when the faces should have cleaned up, WCW began picking up the pieces. One of the few good guys to walk away with a victory on the 28th was Diamond Dallas Page, who claimed a win-and the US Title-by Diamond Cutting the craptacular Curt Hennig. The following night on Nitro, Hennig’s loss was quickly avenged with a cookie-cutter win over a man who would go on to rise to heights much greater than Hennig ever did. The man whom Hennig beat that night? “Lion Heart” Chris Jericho.
Whilst for Hennig it was little more than another simple win, for Jericho this match marked the beginning of the renaissance of his career. After staring at the lights for the former Mr. Perfect, bland babyface Jericho threw a childish, Christian-like temper tantrum, as the bemused announcers commented on his embarrassing behaviour. The following week the angle unfolded further, as Jericho jobbed to US Champ DDP. One more loss, one more tantrum. And, one week later, the final piece of the puzzle was put in place. After one more loss to Cruiserweight Champion Rey Misterio, Jr., Jericho finally snapped and jumped the face/heel fence, battering Misterio and slapping the Liontamer on him. The Ayatollah Of Rock And Roll-ah had arrived.
Jericho’s personality grew quickly as the weeks went by. At Souled Out two weeks after the turn, Jericho became a three-time Cruiserweight Champion by forcing Rey Rey into submission. More heel heat was gained when Jericho smashed Rey’s knee with a metal case post-match, giving Misterio much needed time off. In the months that followed, Jericho crafted an hilarious in-ring persona, becoming America’s Role Model, Icon and (finally) Conspiracy Victim. He was singlehandedly responsible for the unmasking of Juvi Guerrera at SuperBrawl, and went on to have one of the feuds of the year by “retiring” Dean Malenko at Uncensored. Through Jericho’s brilliant mic skills, Malenko was mega-over as a babyface by the time he returned to whup Jericho’s ass at Slamboree.
After kicking him around in the Cruiserweight division for another few months, WCW management FINALLY realised what they had with Jericho and pulled the trigger on a singles push: On August 10th, twenty-four hours removed from dropping his final cruiserweight title to Juvi Guerrera, Jericho defeated Stevie Ray to become WCW Television Champion. Heavyweight success had arrived. Or had it? Over the following weeks, Jericho saw off various lower-card jabronis such as Jim Neidhart and Chavo Guerrero, being kept busy whilst management paid him no attention whatsoever. Hardly a world-beating title reign, to say the least. He may have been in possession of a heavyweight title, but it seemed that the front office viewed Chris as just another no-name.
And so the story goes that Jericho, finding himself stuck in a rut with no foreseeable salvation, asked the men with the pen if he could start riffing on then-World Champion Goldberg, just for something to do. With no real plans for the mega-charismatic up-and-comer, the bookers greenlighted the angle, with the intention of building up to a super-hot Goldberg squash. And so it began: Jericho, now with his infamous Jericho Personal Security in tow, began working his promo magic on the champ, dropping insults here and there and generally being an annoying little shit. With no response from Billy Boy forthcoming, the campaign was stepped up, and at Fall Brawl ‘98 Jericho flattened Greenberg, a faux-Goldberg midget, to “unify the Television and World Titles”. A similar ruse was enough to drive Dean Malenko to actually, y’know, show some emotion, but Goldberg STILL refused to respond. And so the baiting continued, getting more and more ludicrous, until Jericho somehow found himself worming his way into the ongoing Goldberg-DDP feud...
On 28th September, the rivalry jumped out of Jericho’s mouth and into the ring, as, ready once again to despatch his erstwhile buddy Greenberg, Jericho was surprised by the appearance of Bill Almighty himself. On that occasion, Jericho escaped unscathed by utilising various members of his J.P.S as a human shield. Two weeks later, however, he was not so lucky: Whilst defending his TV belt against fellow Goldberg sparring partner DDP, Jericho was brutally speared by the world champ, resulting in a DQ win for the Ayatollah. The main purpose may have been to increase tensions between Goldberg and Page, but the secondary goal was clear: To keep on pushing the Jericho issue in preparation for it’s eventual centre-stage role. And, come November 9th, that centre stage seemed closer than ever. Goldberg, two weeks removed from retaining his title against DDP, had no clear enemy in sight-other than that pesky cruiserweight who’d been bugging him for two months straight. Meanwhile Jericho, a little too boisterous whilst celebrating his 28th birthday, turned his attention once again to boasting about his victories over “Greenberg”. For the big man, enough was enough: He charged the ring and speared the TV Champ in the aisle, to a thunderous ovation. Jericho Vs. Goldberg was officially here.
The slow-build was marvellously executed, and the fan reactions amazing. Jericho’s cocky demeanour and cowardly heel antics were the perfect foil for ‘Berg’s super-tough take-on-all-comers persona, and even the dimmest mark couldn’t help but be excited by the prospect of a protracted feud between the two. So imagine the backlash when, a mere week later, Jericho kicks off a feud with...Bobby Duncum, Jr. Yes, you read that right. Apparently forgotten in the space of seven short days, Jericho’s big program was no more; Goldberg had new arrival Bam Bam Bigelow to occupy his time, and Jericho’s half-hearted mocking of the absolutely atrocious cowboy gimmick that Duncum was sporting led to a TV Title feud.
And that, for all intents and purposes, was the beginning of the end for the Chris Jericho-WCW relationship. Three weeks after his moment with the world champion, Jericho lost the TV Title in an abysmal match with Konnan. A Starrcade rematch saw the hole Jericho was in get deeper, as he tapped out to Konnan’s Tequila Sunrise. And following that, possibly the low-point of Jericho’s career: the now-legendary three-month Jericho-Saturn feud, encompassing the pinnacle of awfulness that was the Loser Wears A Dress match. When WWF came a-knocking, it really was no surprise that Jericho took the first train out of Atlanta.
So why, exactly, did Jericho go from The Future Of WCW to Footnote Of WCW?
Exhibit A: Big, Sexy And Damn Annoying-A major player in many a man’s downfall, Nash and his hetero life-partner Scott Hall had a big part in Jericho’s burial-in more ways than one. According to sources, Goldberg was all for the proposed Jericho program, especially considering the suggested outcome; after the months of bickering, the two were set to take it to PPV, where Goldberg would get a decisive victory and send Jericho scurrying back to the mid-card. Unfortunately, that proved just a little too threatening to the wrong people. Scared by the prospect of the obviously talented Jericho getting ahead, Kevin Nash resolved to do something about it. Word has it that he and Hall had a little chat with Goldberg, convincing the overnight sensation that a run with the “comedy performer” Jericho would cheapen his value and lower his stock. The not-too-smart Goldberg then went to the powers-that-be and called off the feud, claiming he “didn’t do comedy”. Goldberg gets to see off another fatass instead of trying something new, Jericho gets put in his place, and Nash readies himself for his World Title win at Starrcade. It was all so easy.
Exhibit B: Big, Sexy Nepotism-Well, of a sort. Ya see, shortly after Jericho’s big shot came and went without a peep, everyone’s favourite politician was officially made booker of WCW, a title he’s pretty much held since his arrival two years previous. The results were instantaneous, and chaos reigned, including Nash ending ‘Berg’s undefeated streak at Starrcade. Further down the card, Jericho felt the repercussions of the change in power: Nash’s buddy Konnan was much smaller a threat to “Big Sexy’s” status, hence the out-of-nowhere TV Title change. Robbed of his gold and forced to look pathetic in even the most simple of situations, Jericho’s cred was all but gone by the time his feud with Saturn rolled around.
Exhibit C: Big, Big And Even Bigger-Let it never be said that Vince McMahon is the only boss who favours big men. Outside of long-established top guys Flair and Sting, there was nary a sub-250 pounder in the WCW Millionaire’s Club. Goldberg, Luger, Nash, Hogan, Giant...All of Bischoff’s golden boys weren’t what you would call vertically-challenged. And Easy E was not about to make Jericho an exception to the rule, no matter how over he got as a heel. The World Heavyweight Title was, is, and always will be the stomping ground of the “big boys”, and unfortunately Jericho isn’t one of ‘em. Simple as that.
What Could Have Been: In all likelihood, Jericho’s main event run would’ve lasted only a month, no more than six weeks at best. But the prospect was there, a genuinely rare case of a company listening to the fans and putting the right guy on top. And the prolonged hostilities between Jericho and Goldberg would’ve made for absolutely superb T.V, something sorely lacking in late ‘98 WCW. Who knows? Ratings may have gone up and the money men may have seen the light. Bottom line, things could’ve been different, for Jericho, for Goldberg, and for WCW.
In retrospect, we probably should be grateful that Jericho was cut off at the knees by WCW; it allowed him to jump ship and gave him the hottest two years of his professional career. Great matches, multiple title reigns, a world audience and a WWF Title reign all awaited him...and all because of WCW’s thick-headed stupidity. But maybe, just maybe, he’d have gotten there much sooner, maybe HE could’ve been the man to turn WCW’s fortunes around. We’ll never know.
Wow, nice article oldschool. Makes me wish I was watching wrestling back in '97.
Makes you wonder too ... Big Sexy signed with the WWE, and the next month WWE Champion Chris Jericho was carrying Stephenie McMahon's luggage in the most horribly botched build to a Wrestlemania main event I can imagine.
Cooincidence? Or the basis of a follow up Botched Spots?
Very good read anyhoo.
I don't take clothes that are hand-me-downs. I don't smile 'cause I wear a frown. Once I get started you can't hold me down. Once I get going then I go to town.
Hmmm...an intriguing proposition. It ceratinly could be seen that way. Especially considering that the eyes of the 'net are now diverted from Nash thanks to the rampant HHH hatred. Maybe I should look into this...