I listened to the New Japan Purocast with the wonderful Collin Miller and “Music” Damon McDonald a few weeks back, they mentioned Chris Jericho might be the “Switch Blade” character. It peeked my interest.
Over the course of the week, seeing Jericho bad mouth New Japan as not being the “big leagues” on Twitter (I unfollowed him), then his picture with Gedo wanting to wipe out Omega etc I felt this theory might have some legs. Especially with Omega getting the better of Jericho with his responses. Even with all these clues, never in my wildest dreams did I think a now WWE lifer would make the leap. It makes me nervous slightly. The vignette that played did make me pop to the point that my wife and kids came to see if I was OK. “ITS CHRIS JERICHO, JERICHO’S COMING TO NEW JAPAN. HE’S COMING TO THE DOME” I said to the stunned and worried family. My wife just went “oh, that’s nice dear”. YES, IT IS VERY NICE WIFE! You will be watching this with me on the 4th January. I will be filling the fridge with Japanese beer just to keep things authentic.
Jericho seems to be finding the fun in being independent and not having to report in to Grandpa Vince to be told what is cool. If you have ever read any of Jericho’s books, you will understand the frustration from an artistic point of view within the WWE. Outside of the Stamford offices, Y2J has been creating a podcasting dynasty, writing more books and having various tours with Fozzy. The only thing that hasn’t been done is wrestle outside of the WWE. Well, until a Jericho Cruise was announced for October 2018, rock n roll, comedy, wrestling hall of famers and Ring of Honor (should be Ring of Honour – THAT IS THE WAY ENGLISH WORKS AMERICA!). NXT didn’t fancy providing wrestling on a ship, after weeks of Jericho chasing. Perhaps this lit a fire underneath Jericho? Just give me a yes or a no, don’t play me for a fool? I know I would be frustrated, especially if I was hoping to wrestle on said cruise.
Jericho looks at things that are “cool” and does it. Dancing with the stars (I believe) is “cool”, also “Duets” which I guess isn’t too cool but it does feel more mainstream than professional wrestling…. Or Sports Entertainment. Jericho is a brand. A renaissance man that is working really hard at being a celebrity, why would he come to Japan to wrestle for NJPW? A favour for a friend? Creative fulfilment? Leverage on a higher value with Vinnie Mac? Maybe he just wants to be a wrestler again and put on a performance of a lifetime? Of course, we hope the latter, but you never can be sure until Wrestle Kingdom.
New Japan is my favourite wrestling promotion with Rev Pro a very close second. Judge me for being some sort of anti WWE guy if you want, but I know what I like! I really like athletic, competitive matches with long narratives that pay off. If you take the evolution of Naito for example, that is an incredible narrative of change, of character development mixed in a pro wrestling, competitive art form. That is just the first example I could think of – Okada, Omega, Tanahashi, Suzuki, even Shibata has a story (which unfortunately seems to have ended earlier this year in an incredible match against Okada). Does Jericho fit this mould? I am sure he believes he does. Maybe he can show these guys how it is done – don’t look directly into the camera, work that hard cam, no bumps on the ring apron etc. Is he going to come in thinking he can offer something, to have some creative freedom and be a part of something special or will he just use it for more ego driven means. “I main evented to Tokyo Dome and sold more tickets than anyone else on the roster” etc. That worries me. Is this a Jericho ego project or is this for the good of the promotion, Omega, the US title and Wrestle Kingdom as an event? Will he try and take credit for the spike in attendances from 2017 to 2018 dome shows? It has been looking like it is a more lucrative show attendance wise even before Chris Jericho graced NJPW with his presence. Is this a “Jericho showed that small promotion how it’s done in the big leagues” set up? Am I being worked? Well, to me this is a little bit personal and coming in with loads of hullaballoo and not to give Puro fans exactly what they pay their money for – Strong Style. Paying money for something that isn’t Sports Entertainment.
I have faith. I believe in Jericho and Omega. That being said, I DO NOT believe that Jim Ross’ “they should main event the dome” is the way to go. This is a potentially good match, it will drive up a lot of interest globally, but this is not a main event worthy match at the dome, but a quality attraction. Naito v Okada is THE main event and must deliver what most would consider impossible, just as Okada v Omega did, just as Tanahashi v Okada has done.
New Japan is now a global promotion. With the rise of the Bullet Club, the British wrestlers coming in as well as some New Zealand/Australian talent being looked at for big things sees a global presence not seen for a long time. NJPW World is a service that has improved greatly since it’s launch and can only get better. Fingers crossed that this coming Wrestle Kingdom and subsequent Long Beach show in March more people will get behind this promotion.
Things that could have improved the Jericho reveal? Him presenting himself out of a box. I CAN DO THE BOOKING TOO!
OK, I’m done. HERES TO WRESTLE KINGDOM!