There’s no disputing the fact that Chris Jericho is one of the very finest professional wrestlers of the modern era. Technically great, at times a high-flyer, a true master of in-ring psychology, legendary on the microphone, fantastic at playing a babyface or a heel, and aware enough to refresh his character every few years, Y2J is simply a phenomenal performer.
But one of the other things that makes Jericho such a stand-out of the industry is how he’s able to use his own skills and ability to establish other wrestlers as being true superstars. Not only does Jericho make himself look like a star, but he has regularly made others look like a star, too.
From the time he arrived in the then-WWF back in 1999, the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rollah has arguably done more than any performer of his generation to help get over other guys. Simply put, if somebody needs to look like a big time player or needs somebody to give them a great match, Jericho has so often been the man who Vince McMahon and his organisation have turned to.
Even to this day, after 17 years on-and-off in Vinny Mac’s WWE, it’s still Jericho who is looked at to help take younger talents to that next level, and so, now it’s time to take a look at 10 performers who Chris Jericho played a pivotal role in helping to establish in the WWE over the years.
10. AJ Styles
Obviously AJ Styles has only been in the WWE since this year’s Royal Rumble, but by being put up against Chris Jericho from the get-go it made the Phenomenal One look like a big deal.
Now AJ didn’t need to be tied to Jericho to be a big deal, but the concern amongst longtime Styles fans was that his arrival in the WWE would find him in the lower echelons on the card. Luckily, that awesome Rumble debut was followed up the next night by a win over a multi-time World Champion in Jericho.
The pair would go on to trade wins and even team, and establishing AJ Styles as somebody who can go toe-to-toe with Jericho helped the apparent “Redneck Rookie” no end in getting over with those wrestling fans who only watch the WWE product. As such, the former IWGP Champ is now challenging for the WWE Title.
Batista debuted in mid-2002 as Reverend D’Von’s muscle, but his Evolution days were just around the corner. The problem was, though, that most of 2003 was a write-off for Dave due to injury problems. Upon returning to action, a convoluted brawl with Goldberg and then some losses to Shawn Michaels followed, but it was during a feud with Chris Jericho that Batista’s potential as a singles star really started to show itself.
It was a controversial win over Jericho at Vengeance 2004 that allowed The Animal to showcase his impressive power and brute force as Jericho sold brilliantly for the still green Batista. Jericho and Batista would then challenge for Edge’s Intercontinental Title at SummerSlam, with Big Dave again looking great.
8. Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt is such a strange figure in how he’s used by WWE management, with a formula in place of ‘cryptic promo, reveal of who he’s targeting, more cryptic promos and attacks, lose the eventual PPV match, move on to a new target, lather, rinse, repeat’.
As a result, it’s often hard to take the Eater of Worlds seriously, with him regularly needing opponents to make him credible in between the spate of big match losses that he suffers. Step forward, Chris Jericho.
The 6-time World Champion returned in 2014 and immediately entered into a feud with Wyatt. The two would have 3 memorable matches, with Jericho defeating Wyatt at Battleground before Bray got his win back at SummerSlam and then bested Y2J in a steel cage match during an episode of Raw.
This was a prime example of the veteran Jericho returning to help out WWE’s younger talent.
7. Shelton Benjamin
After his pairing with Charlie Haas ended with the 2004 draft, Shelton Benjamin found himself as a singles star on Raw. He’d get three wins over Triple H – a roll up, a countout, and a DQ win – but it was only at Taboo Tuesday that he’d get his first really big clean singles win.
Voted in to challenge for Jericho’s Intercontinental Championship, The Gold Standard would capture his first WWE singles belt. Sure, his wins over Triple H were huge – y’know, because The Game lies down for absolutely nobody – but it was his win over Y2J that was the first big clean win for Shelton as he hit his T-Bone Suplex for the win.
It was this win that really put Shelton on the map as more than a fluke performer, and he’d hold the belt for a whopping 244 days, marking him as the longest-reigning IC Champ since The Rock.
There’s no disputing that Christian is one of the greatest tag team performers in WWE history, but after the eventual breakup of the Edge & Christian team, Captain Charisma’s singles career floundered.
The feud between Edge and Christian should’ve been huge, yet for some reason the chemistry seemed a little off when these real-life BFFs battled. After a European Title run, Christian was again returned to the tag tanks as part of The Un-Americans. But it was only his feud with Y2J that the C from E&C would get some steam as a singles star.
Starting as partners, Christian would turn on Jericho and then get the surprise win when the pair faced off at WrestleMania XX. Following this and several other battles, including a fantastic Ladder Match at Unforgiven 2004, Christian was taken that seriously as a heel that he was soon challenging for John Cena’s WWE Title.
Sure, a Fandango appearance on TV is about as rare as a Mantaur one these days, but at one point his star was firmly on the rise.
Following WrestleMania XXIX, the former Johnny Curtis was over huge. A large reason for that was his entrance music, whilst his ‘Mania match with the legendary Y2J was another big factor in putting Fandango over as a big deal.
With Curtis having re-debuted under the Fandango moniker in the build up to that particular ‘Mania, he’d soon engage in a feud with Jericho. Fandango wouldn’t actually make his in-ring debut, however, until the Showcase of the Immortals against Jericho, in which he’d shockingly get the 1-2-3 over the 6-time World Champion.
The short feud with Jericho instantly put the Fandango gimmick on the map, even more-so given how Curtis got the huge ‘Mania win, but Fandango’s descent down the card soon arrived.
4. The Big Show
Thrust straight into the WWF main event scene upon his debut, the still very much (jolly) green giant just simply wasn’t ready to be a top level WWF superstar at that time. And unfortunately for Show, his deficiencies were soon there for all to see.
After years of heel-to-face and back again, 2008 was the first time in many a year that Big Show was again taken seriously. Having made impressive waves on ECW and Smackdown, it was his pairing with Jericho that put Show on a new level.
The slimmed-down Big Show acting as the muscle to the cocksure Canadian, who at that point was doing the best work of his career, made for one of the greatest tag teams of the past decade.
3. Daniel Bryan
Clearly D-Bry is a Hall of Fame talent who became one of the most popular superstars to be seen since the day of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. But that wasn’t always the case.
The smart fans were gushing at the news of the American Dragon being a part of the WWE’s inaugural NXT season, but certain casual fans were not all that familiar with the newly-named Daniel Bryan.
How do you help establish the Washington native as a star from the get-go? Why, you have him main event the first ever NXT show against then-World Heavyweight Champion, Chris Jericho.
This was only a short match, but Y2J made sure to make Bryan look like a million bucks in what time they had. A fast-paced, back-and-forth affair, this bout instantly put the former ROH Champion on the radar of many who weren’t all that familiar with Bryan.
2. Wade Barrett
Forget Bad News Barrett. Forget King Barrett. When Wade Barrett was at his most dominant, it was when The Nexus debuted and ran roughshod over the main WWE roster. Key to Barrett’s ascension, though, was Chris Jericho.
Now whilst Jericho and Barrett didn’t tangle all that much in actual in-ring battle, it’s the ‘out of the ring’ side with which the Best in the World at What He Does really helped out the Brit.
When Jericho was made Barrett’s NXT pro, he was the current World Heavyweight Champion and arguably the very best performer in the world at that particular time. The future Bad News couldn’t help but learn from being under the Canadian’s wing, with Wade having openly discussed how much Jericho helped him with his promo work, his character, and gave him plenty of advice on how to handle himself in the ring.
1. John Cena
We all remember John Cena’s Smackdown debut. Wearing colour-coordinated trunks and boots whilst spouting “ruthless aggression” through gritted teeth, he made a massive impression by confronting Kurt Angle.
Cena’s early days are best remembered for his initial battles with Angle and Chris Jericho. Both put him on the map, but it was tangling with the then-nefarious heel Jericho that really made Cena stand out.
Jericho would defeat Cena on an episode of Smackdown, before the rookie would pin the former Undisputed Champ in a tag match. Following this, Jericho would look to teach this newbie a lesson at Vengeance 2002. Only he didn’t, for Cena would sneak a roll-up victory after countering Y2J’s patented Walls of Jericho.
Years later, with Cena now a top star, Jericho would again lose against Big Match John at SummerSlam 2005 and was then fired for losing against Cena the following night.