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Friday, March 20, 2015

Jericho Stands Up For Reigns

When Chris Jericho isn't telling Bill DeMott's detractors to give up on wrestling if they can't handle allegedly having their concussion-riddled brains beaten like a tetherball, he's sticking up for Roman Reigns as a main eventer.

From a recent IGN interview:

"So let's see how it goes. I mean the match he had with Daniel Bryan at Fastlane was incredible. And you can't tell me that it was all because of Daniel Bryan. Really? Because I always heard in the business that it takes two. And I think I've proven myself to be a fairly decent worker, so if I'm telling you it takes two, I think every fan should shut the hell up and listen to what I'm saying. He did a great job of living up to his end of the bargain and he'll do the same thing at WrestleMania. They will leave no stone unturned to make that a great match. They will get all the benefits. All the bells and whistles. And as long as they can hold it together, I think it's going to be great."

I don't think that anyone's arguing against Reigns' capabilities as a performer. John Cena, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, and even Big Show have proven capable of having fair-consensus four-star matches with those 'bells and whistles', or sometimes on their own merit. The "you can't wrestle" chants directed at Cena are pretty absurd, given his big match capabilities. All of the men listed, however, received anywhere from icy silence to outright vitriol from fans because they didn't want to see them in the main event. It has little to do with wrestling ability; it's about presentation./

Nobody's saying Reigns is a bad person or can't have a great match; they just don't want Reigns, at this time, being the avatar of the company. Since the split of the Shield, Reigns as a character has given food poisoning to The Authority, cut some splinter-wooden satellite promos, followed those up with the now-infamous 'sufferin' succotash' speech, and had generally failed to win over the audience en route to winning the 2015 Royal Rumble.

The push is transparent, which is where the fan anger comes from. Reigns could have a ****1/2 match with Lesnar the same way that Cena has ****1/2 matches with Bryan, Batista has ****1/2 matches with Undertaker, or Triple H has ****1/2 matches with various guys. It doesn't mean the fans would cheer them on the merits of a great match; it's about connecting.

Jericho, pre-Paragon of Virtue, should know this. He was tearing up undercards of WCW shows with Benoit and Guerrero and Alex Wright, but it wasn't until he became the aloof asshole that fans really connected with him; he had a character that you could sink your teeth into, and any segment he was in was an oasis in the desert that was a declining WCW.

When Jericho was toiling away in WCW, would he have had the same argument? Suppose Hogan and Nash and the like kept him buried in the midcard in matches with Ciclope and El Dandy; if Hogan showed up every three months and had a **** match with Sting or whoever before vanishing again, and the fans shit on Hogan as an entity, and Hogan was cutting awful promos that didn't connect with the crowd, would Jericho still be saying, "Hey now, let's slow the roll a bit." I'm certain he'd be wondering why all of his hard work is taking a backseat to something wrapped in enough plastic to try and disguise the hollowness.

Fans rallied for Jericho in 1998 the way they rally for Bryan now, only the volume of disgust and entitlement is admittedly louder these days. But are the Bryan fans wrong? Transplant today's audience back to 1998 and listen to the chants for Jericho in matches involving the chosen-unwanteds.

Jericho's been awfully compelled lately to defend WWE in instances where criticism is quite loud. Maybe semi-retirement just has him seeking new challenges?

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