SC Remembers: Chris Jericho and the Undisputed Championship
Vengeance 2001, it’s a PPV that defines Chris Jericho even till this day. However, before we jump to that fruitful night we must look at what made its defining moment so unlikely.
Chris Jericho is as improbable a wrestling success story as any. The son of a former NHLer, Jericho traveled all over the world on his quest to reach wrestling’s mountain top. Starting out in Canada, then making stops in Mexico and Germany, but in 1996 Jericho’s first breakthrough in America came.
Joining Paul Heyman's ECW, his debut match would face one of the company's biggest stars in Rob Van Dam. Jericho found modest success in the Philly based promotion, capturing the TV title in June at Hardcore Heaven, but months later WCW had the attention on the Manitoba native. By the fall of ‘96, Jericho would switch companies and go to Atlanta to wrestle in the red hot WCW.
There, Jericho would start to garner more mainstream appeal. He captured the Cruiserweight title 4 times and became a prominent member of the WCW mid card. However, it was his heel persona that blended his creative and arrogant personality perfectly. His “Man of 1004 Holds” promo is still one of the best moments in his career.
Despite the growing popularity, WCW brass and main eventers alike didn’t believe Y2J was qualified for a main event shot. After years of growth and opportunity were squandered away by backstage politics, Jericho decided to head North to the WWE. It was a debut that no one would soon forget.
The bar was set pretty high for Jericho after his debut. However, Jericho was having a hard time adjusting to the WWE’s style and had almost hit rock bottom within the promotion. But after feuds with X-Pac, Chyna, and HHH, Jericho managed to right the ship back to clearer waters.
After continuous success Jericho got to play a major role in the Invasion angle. Although he sided with the WWE, Jericho displayed his jealous side when it came to The Rock. It boiled over so much that the two would feud for the WCW World Heavyweight title despite being on the same side.
After months of back and forth between him and The Rock, Jericho had finally ascended to main event status. This leads us to Vengeance 2001!
At Vengeance, Austin would face Angle for the WWE world title while Jericho would face the Rock for the World Heavyweight title. The winner of each match would put their respective titles on the line and the winner would become the undisputed champion.
Rock comes out to a big ovation, Jericho comes out to a chorus of boos. The match starts slow, but would soon pick up the pace with Jericho gaining the upper hand. However, after his initial assault, Jericho would get a little too cocky allowing Rock back into the match. With a ruckus crowd on the edge of their seats the battle would go back and forth they would go until the fight would travel outside of the ring.
The war waged on stronger as the contest got more and more personal. Jericho would continue his antics mocking Rocky but it would allow for more openings. After a near fall, Rock delivers a Rock Bottom, but instead of going for the pin, Rock would be distracted by Mr. McMahon. To try and put a stamp on the match, Rock would thrust the People's Elbow into Jericho’s sternum, but again would be distracted. This would be all Jericho needed.
Y2J would deliver a low bow and then add insult to injury by finishing The Rock off with the Greats One's own finisher! Referee counts, 1,2,3….and just like that, Jericho moves on.
There would be little rest for Jericho as Austin would come storming down the ramp like a bat out of hell. However, this wouldn’t be as clean one would hope as Angle would join the fray and clobbers Austin with a chair. Don’t worry, things would even up as Jericho gets hit with The Rock Bottom by a furious Rock. As the match progressed and the dust settled, it would be back down to Austin and Jericho for the Undisputed Championship.
However, just like in Jericho's previous match, Vince McMahon once again decided to thrust himself into the picture. With JR going crazy, the spanish announce table getting love, an unconscious referee and the two men desperate to claim glory, Austin would gain the upper edge and seemingly be putting an end to Jericho's night. But like I said, with no ref in sight Austin's efforts would be all for not.
As Vince McMahon brings in a new ref Austin comes unhinged, attacking Vince. But even as the Rattlesnake turns his attention back to Jericho, a familiar face sneaks into the match as Booker T (who had not been seen on WWE tv) would bash Austin over the head with one of the belts. Lifeless, Jericho would roll on top of Austin, and as Vince shoves the a new ref in the ring the crowd could believe their eyes.
1,2,3...Chris Jericho is your new Undisputed Champion!
Who could've see that coming at the beginning of the night? Well, according to Jericho, he wasn't even in the know until the night of and didn't quite find out in ceremonious fashion. Saying that he overheard Vince (his boss), essentially noting how poor of a decision they were making by saying:
"Hey ‘Taker, how do you know the business is going down the toilet? Because we’re putting the belt on Jericho” and that’s how I found out I was going to be the champion.”
Not quite the way you'd want to find how your boss feels about your biggest achievement.
Jericho would main event Wrestlemania 18 alongside HHH a few months later, ending with the Cerebral Assassin ending Y2J's reign as champ. Regardless, at the age of 50, and now celebrating 30 years in the business, Jericho is still one of the top performers in the game. He became the first World Champion in AEW history and is a big staple in the company. Simple put, he's one of the greats