Monday night, Chris Jericho returned to WWE after 14 months away from the company. He came back without saying a word into the microphone. There were a lot of “YEAHS” and other exclamations, but he mainly just posed, preened, stalled and then left.
It was brilliant.
Without saying a word, Jericho established himself as just as big a villain as he was when Randy Orton punted him out of WWE. It was an amazing spectacle. He held the crowd in the palm of his hand, soaking in their adoration and using the tool of time to take that praise and turn it into rejection and jeering. It’s the mark of a master, especially considering the fact that his last two runs in WWE have been marked by getting people to hate him in vastly different ways. As the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n Rolla, he’d snark the crowd with biting sarcasm. As the Best in the World at What He Did, he’d berate them in monotone with the big ten cent words.
Then again, tt’s not even like he had to reinvent himself. He could have been the same character he was in 1998 for the rest of his career, and like other all-time greats, he could have been made for life. However, his philosophy is that he never wanted to do the same thing over again. That is a true artist’s mentality.
Just like in any other form of art (and no one should ever be fooled into thinking wrestling isn’t an art, because it totally is), there are people who do one thing really well their whole career and are happy doing it, making money and living on nostalgia. AC/DC is a great rock ‘n roll band, one of the all-time best. However, if someone wanted to accuse them of making Back in Black over and over and over again, I’m not sure a lot of people will complain.
Radiohead, conversely, got successful with OK Computer, and rather than make it again, they flipped the script and went in a whole other direction. Kid A was not as well-received by some fans of the previous record, but the fact that they went ambitious and tried something new is commendable. Much like Radiohead, there are people out there who really didn’t dig what Jericho did Monday, those who wanted him to do something more traditional. That’s okay, art doesn’t HAVE to reach everyone to be effective. That being said, I think enough people got it for it to be appreciated.
And the coolest thing about that is that we’ll never know what it is he’ll provide. We just know that it’ll be freakin’ sweet.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.