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Ask 411 Wrestling: Where Does Chris Jericho Rank Among All-Time Greats?

January 2, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Chris Jericho AEW Revolution Image Credit: AEW

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Ron is the latest in a string of several recent guys to write in with questions that seem to be backdoor efforts to put over Chris Jericho:

What are your thoughts on this? Is it time that we start mentioning Chris Jericho with the other names in that upper echelon of wrestling? He may not be on the Mount Rushmore and certainly one can point to the mythical “drawing power,” but when you look at his accomplishments, he has to go down as one of the greatest in wrestling history, doesn’t he? Wrestled competitively in Mexico, Japan, WCW, WWE and now AEW. Won major titles at every stop. has wrestled quality matches for over 30 years, had several prominent Wrestlemania matches, was the focal point of the AEW launch, dozens of memorable moments, constantly getting new characters over.

I’m not saying he is Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin, but is it time we put him on the top tier with them and guys like HHH, Roman Reigns, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, The Rock, John Cena? Where does he fall in wrestling history?

I’m a big Jericho fan and have been since I first saw him in WCW (followed by retroactively watching a lot of his Japanese stuff), but I cannot agree that he belongs among the top stars in professional wrestling history.

Back in 2020, a reader asked me where I ranked Bret Hart among the all-time greats, and my response was that, rather than individually ranking wrestlers, it was best to organize them into tiers because, once you create those tiers, where a wrestler falls within them really boils down to personal preference more than anything else.

In the tiers that I outlined, the absolute top tier consists of wrestlers who transcended the sport and became cultural icons independent of wrestling. This is the territory where guys like El Santo, Rikidozan, Hulk Hogan, the Rock, and Steve Austin belong.

The second tier was for wrestlers who headlined during hot periods and were among the biggest stars to wrestling fans without crossing over to the mainstream in the same way the top-tier wrestlers did. My examples of second tier wrestlers at the time included El Hijo Del Santo, Randy Savage, Kenta Kobashi, Dusty Rhodes, Triple H, and their ilk.

Then there was a third tier of greats who were extremely talented performers and may have been main eventers but were not as big as the stars in the second tier because any main eventing they did occurred during down periods for business or was secondary to bigger stars during the same era. In the original column, I slotted Eddie Guerrero, Yuji Nagata, Shawn Michaels, and Bret Hart into that third group.

I would also place Chris Jericho solidly in the middle of that third tier.

Why does he go into tier three and not tier one or even two?

It really comes down to his status as a draw. Ron referred to drawing power as “mythical” in his question, as though there was no such thing as drawing power. If that’s the claim, it totally ignores how the business side of wrestling has operated for the vast majority of the existence of the so-called sport. Wrestlers have drawing power when their involvement in a promotion causes people to spend money on that promotion. If a promotion’s live events sell more tickets when a wrestler is involved in a main event capacity than they do without that wrestler, then the wrestler is a draw. If a promotion’s television programs are higher rated when a wrestler is involved in a main event capacity than they are without that wrestler, then that wrestler is a draw. It’s really quite a simple concept, and I’m not sure why there appears to be a faction of current fans who don’t understand it, unless it’s because their favorite wrestlers never drew and the fans see that as a knock on their favorite’s legacy.

And really, that’s where Chris Jericho falls short. He has never really proven himself as an exceptional draw. When he has been in or near the main event, there have almost always been bigger stars involved in the promotion at the same time doing the heavier lifting in terms of bringing in eyeballs. Granted, he has been the single biggest star in AEW for most of its earlier years, but it is a second-tier promotion in terms of popularity and he has not been able to move it out of that status.

Again, that sounds like I’m knocking the guy, but, truly, I’m not. He’s still had a legendary career that most wrestlers would kill for, but when we’re trying to to distinguish between classes of greats, I think he falls short compared to those at the top of the heap.

Tyler from Winnipeg wants to talk shop:

How come I have to wait sometimes two weeks for your great column?

A delay of two full weeks is pretty rare, though I admit sometimes we’ll hit ten days.

When there is not a column at seven-day intervals, usually one of two explanations is applicable.

The first is that writing this column is not my career. It’s not even a side hustle. It’s a hobby. Because of that, factors like my day job, family life, or volunteer commitments might take priority sometimes and prevent me from cranking out a new Ask 411 every seven days like clockwork.

The second is that there have been some instances in which I’ve gotten the column done in seven-day intervals but the powers that be at 411mania have decided not to run it right away. Several years ago, 411 had very hard deadlines for all its columns and wanted to make sure that every column was weekly and ran on the same day each week. These days, because there is so much professional wrestling content on various forms of television and streaming and because timely coverage of those shows takes precedence over columns (particularly columns like this one that don’t necessarily relate to current events), there might be times when Ask 411 has to be held in the system for a few days prior to getting posted to allow for television recaps to get the exposure they warrant.

That’s my take on it, anyway. I don’t talk much to the editors of the site, so they may have a different perspective.

Rex asked this question through a vocoder:

What would have happened with Kane if WWE had not split him and Tori up?

I imagine that, until Tori got released, she would be in Kane’s corner for his matches. That’s probably the extent of it.

It’s not as though Tori was a huge star or a big part of Kane’s act even when they were together. I cannot imagine her continued presence having much if any impact on his career trajectory.

Paul is a company man:

Did anyone internally or externally from the WWE predict the longevity of Sheamus, Kofi Kingston or Xavier Woods career wise? Also, do you believe that the rise of YouTube, Twitter and/or Instagram contributed greatly to their success as it allowed them to develop a personality outside the ring?

It’s been long reported that Sheamus is a Triple H guy, so I’m sure Trips saw potential in him as a long-term member of the roster. As to the other two, I would be surprised just given how they were pushed out of the gate if anybody saw them as anything other than wrestlers meant to fill out the roster. In some respects they’re comparable to a Billy Gunn or a Bob Holly in the sense that they are guys who started in the company in rather inauspicious roles but wound up clicking in the right ways and having runs that lasted over a decade. (Another current WWE wrestler who I think Paul could have added to the list with Sheamus, Kofi, and Woods is Dolph Ziggler.)

That being said, I have a hard time believing social media had much impact on their success. On television, they are viewed by in excess of a million unique viewers each and every week, and, at points during their careers, you could say that they were regularly viewed by millions (plural) of unique viewers each and every week. We have no indication that their social media feeds generate anywhere that number of unique viewers, meaning that it is probably only a minority of fans who even have an idea what these wrestlers are doing on an Instagram or a Twitch.

When it comes to making a star, television is still far and away king.

Night Wolf the Wise is asking the latest in a long, long line of questions about the WWE Hall of Fame:

There are a lot of wrestlers who haven’t been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame yet that should be. Other then Owen Hart and the guy whose name we won’t mention, who would be your top 10 list of wrestlers who will never get a Hall of Fame induction and why?

I actually disagree with the notion that there are ton of wrestlers out there who deserve a WWE Hall of Fame induction that haven’t received it. I actually don’t even think Owen Hart had a Hall of Fame level career if you’re running a legitimate HOF as opposed to the standard-less feel good ceremony that WWE hosts every year. He was an incredibly talented performer, but he was an upper midcarder at best for 90% of his career and his one true main event run (against Bret in 1994) was no great shakes at the box office. That does not make a Hall of Famer in my book.

Also, Chris Benoit doesn’t deserve a Hall of Fame induction because he murdered his wife and child. I cannot believe the number of times I have had to explain that in this column.

So, yeah. I don’t have a list for you because I don’t think the list exists.

I’ve spoken about my admiration for Triple H being able to reconcile bitter wrestlers and bring them back into the WWE for Hall of Fame induction. Other then Martha Hart who will hate WWE forever, is there anyone you think Triple H will never be able to reconcile and bring them back into the WWE?

I doubt he will be reaching out to reconcile with anybody, because there’s not anyone else out there who is a huge, glaring omission who is worth that sort of effort. Bruno Sammartino, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior . . . those were all guys who felt like huge gaps in a WWE HOF and worth working with to get them back into the fold. (Admittedly, Savage’s was posthumous.) I can think of names like Ole Anderson and Bill Eadie who have some hostility to the promotion who could arguably be inducted the way WWE runs things, but none of them are so crucial to the promotion’s history – or even professional wrestling history outside of WWE – that something feels wrong about their not being in the Hall of Fame.

Clyde thinks something stinks:

I do like the VICE series, “Tales from the Territories,” and do find most of the stories as well as the wrestlers portrayed as awesome.

However, it seems that every territory decides that it was the best or they had the best storyline. Then, officials with the company or past employees will tell stories of using weapons to subdue people or that they tore someone’s eye out.

I’m not a newbie, I’ve watched wrestling for over 40 years, but I find it hard to believe it’s all credible, except for an occasional Haku here or Sheepherders there.

How can the wrestlers from the past expect anyone to buy into all the old stories when some of them sound like your 90 year old Great Uncle telling you he pinned Andre the Giant?

Again, I do believe in some of the stories but I sometimes think they almost are believing what they’re trying to sell.

There are two things that I think you have to keep in mind here. First, these are professional wrestlers we’re talking about here. (And professional wrestling executives.) Though most wrestlers today have no hesitation to talk about wrestling as though it’s fake the second cameras stop rolling on their weekly television program, back in the time of the territories wrestlers were constantly attempting to sell themselves as being the biggest, toughest, professional athletes in existence. They weren’t just doing that during the course of shows. They were doing it 24/7, both in public and in private. When you live that sort of existence, it becomes difficult to turn the kayfabing off, even 30 or 40 years later. Whether they’re intentionally exaggerating reality at this point or whether they’ve worked themselves into a shoot and now believe it, chances are good that they are just giving in to their old habits.

The other thing to consider is that you are condensing decades of a territory’s history into a television show that is only forty-five minutes long once you account for commercials. If a territory lasted for thirty years, odds are that there were three or four absolutely buck wild stories that really did take place. They weren’t common, but they happened, and when you have a relatively brief TV episode that is going to focus on the fantastic, the uncommon stories will sound far more normal they they actually were.

Jon wants to celebrate celebrities:

My journey through mid 90’s WWE continues with WMX. Arguably the vanguard show for the Attitude Era no one knew was coming, but that’s not my issue. My issue is how shockingly bad the “celebrities” were for this event.

So what are the best and worst wrestling events in history for celebrities? Feel free to give bonus points to those who actually wrestled.

I did a fair amount of digging around for answers on this one, and I was actually surprised by how few wrestling shows involve multiple celebrity appearances. There are some outliers, but, for the most part, you’re looking at Wrestlemanias if you want to see more than one celeb on a card. Granted, there are some historically dreadful (Jenna Morasca) and historically amazing (Bob Barker) celebrity performances that are one-offs, but the question reads as though we are only talking about shows that had more than one famous person present.

If that’s the case, I actually don’t have near the problem with the Wrestlemania X celebrities that Jon does. Jennie Garth was on Beverly Hills 90210, probably one of the hottest television properties at the time, even if its demos might not have crossed over well with wrestling fans. Burt Reynolds probably isn’t well known to people much younger than me, but he would have been recognized as an icon in the 1990s. Rhonda Shear is obscure but would have at least been known to wrestling fans because ads for her Up All Night show on USA were all over WWF programming. Little Richard sang “America the Beautiful,” and his a bona fide rock legend. Sy Sperling seems like an odd choice but at least fit well for the small comedic bit he was given. The only real clunker to me seems to be Donnie Wahlberg, as New Kids on the Block had floundered by this point, but even then he was used in a limited guest ring announcer capacity.

All in all, I’d say Mania X wasn’t awful, even if there weren’t any memorable celebrity moments.

On the subject of worst shows for celebs, I would submit to you the first ever Clash of the Champions, put on by Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988. The main event pitted Ric Flair against Sting in a match that had a panel of judges on hand to decide the victor in the event the time limit expired. Two of the five judges, Gary Juster and Sandy Scott, were from the wrestling world, but the remaining three were odd celebrity selections to say the least.

They were: 1) Ken Osmund, the actor who played Eddie Haskell on Leave it to Beaver, a show that aired its last episode 25 years before the event (though admittedly a less popular sequel series was running at the time), 2) Jason Hervey, actor from The Wonder Years who at the time was sixteen years old and thus too young to have any business judgment a pro sports event, and 3) Patty Mullen, a woman whose greatest claim to fame was posing in a few issues of the girly magazine Penthouse.

I also have to list Wrestlemania XXV as a potential “worst celeb” show. Nicole Scherzinger was there for “America the Beautiful,” probably one of the least impressive musical acts to have that role aside from the DX Band. You also had Mickey Rourke, whose appearance was not necessarily bad in and of itself but was disappointing given the fact that there were efforts to get him in the ring for a full-blown match after his performance in The Wrestler. Finally and most egregiously, you have Kid Rock, who performed a mini-concert in the show that nobody asked for and, to my knowledge, nobody enjoyed.

On the side of best celebrity shows, it’s hard to beat the original Wrestlemania. Mr. T, Cyndi Lauper, Muhammad Ali, Liberace – these were all legitimate huge names in the era, and I’m not sure that there has been a wrestling show since that has had four such big names assembled together.

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.