The Anti-Antagonist: A Model Return

Adam Gorzelsky

Chris JerichoIt’s no secret that this year’s Road to Wrestlemania will be paved with dollar bills generated by part-time stars from yesteryear. This has been the case the past few years and undoubtedly appears to be the overwhelming focal-point this go-round.

John Cena and the Rock will headline, the Undertaker will add another notch to his Wrestlemania belt, and Brock Lesnar and HHH seem to be poised for a bit of an underwhelming rematch. I can argue until I’m blue in the face that these cash grabs continue to devalue the current and future product, but such an argument won’t change the reality of WWE’s current business vision…Frankly, I’m also becoming exhausted by that topic.

Despite my negative feelings toward the constant reliance on part-timers during the crunch time of the wrestling calendar, I have to state that the return of Chris Jericho and his reported deal through Wrestlemania is an overwhelming positive in my mind.

Hypocrisy at its finest!! Not quite…In my mind, Jericho embodies everything that a part-timer could and should bring to the table during an illustrious return.

As evidence of the buzz and excitement created by Jericho, one needs to looks no further than the deafening crowd reaction at Royal Rumble the second his music hit. Even after a short hiatus, fans were thrilled to witness this return. He’s over…He draws…He creates that tingle in the pit of your stomach that many would describe as a mark-out moment.

Fortunately though, this isn’t the end of the value that Jericho provides to the company and to the fans. While excitement, buzz, and drawing power are important, the benefits provided can be outweighed if the appearance ultimately amounts to nothing more than a publicity stunt. In the case of Jericho, his presence provides significantly more than a momentary shot in the arm during Wrestlemania season.

I’ve always said that Jericho is the type of individual who can rebound quickly from losses and downright embarrassing moments. His cocky/confident personality permits him to be driven to tears following a “termination” (ala 2005) only to make a triumphant return with the arrogance of a current champion. This ability has allowed him to build both himself and his opponents simultaneously throughout a career spanning three decades.

Although his 2012 run is viewed as a disappointment by many, think about what he accomplished from the standpoint of elevating the current roster….

He jumpstarted Sheamus’ title run at the Royal Rumble…He fell to Punk on the grandest stage and again supplied a marquee win for Punk at Night of Champions…He provided additional star-power to the World Title picture while again not taking the additional step of winning the strap…Finally, he gave Dolph Ziggler the rub in his last appearance on the way out the door.

In short, Jericho did not return simply to increase current ratings, draw short term revenue, and boost his personal stardom. Instead, he utilized his notoriety for the benefit of the current roster…as a means to provide current and budding stars with the extra momentum necessary to reach the next level.

I see this current run being no different.

If the rumors are true and Jericho will be facing Ryback at Wrestlemania, is there really any better method of regaining the momentum lost by Ryback since his initial emergence on the main event scene? A win over Jericho at Wrestlemania would do wonders for Ryback’s career and would represent the marquee win that many have requested.

This is Jericho…this ability and willingness is one of the hallmarks of his career. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing purely altruistic about this return, as Chris likely is being paid quite handsomely for his services. Nevertheless, his pride is swallowed consistently because he understands what is best for the business…what it means to utilize the past as a way to build the future.

If you’re looking for a perfect example of how to maximize the value provided by a star who stops by from time to time, look no further than Chris Jericho. As he’s done various times in the past, he’ll once again ride off into the sunset after a short period of time. Fortunately, those individuals directly influenced by his return will be left better off in his wake.

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