In pro wrestling, longevity in a career can be a rarity. As we know, it’s a rough business and although the outcomes may be predetermined, the in-ring action poses a big physical risk to performers, all of whom are trained for years before applying the craft. For those who have never tried their hand at wrestling, they may be taken by surprise to learn that something as simple as taking a bump can hurt. Even running the ropes for the first time can feel like lashes on the body a day after and leave marks that take time to heal.
To get past that aspect alone is a challenge, but how does a wrestler manage to have a career that spans decades while going through all the physical turmoil, inevitable injuries, highs, and lows, let alone constant maintenance of popularity. When looking at some of the all-time greats during certain eras such as ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock, it’s clear that their popularity through the years was helped by the nostalgia factor – one where they weren’t around long enough to be overexposed, nor did they have to go through the era where the changes would have been unfavorable towards their characters and subsequently, their popularity.
If you were to look at the current WWE locker room, all the old-timers have been gone for a while or at most, they appear on occasion and a part-time basis. There are very few of the old guard left in wrestling, but one who stands out is none other than the inaugural AEW World Champion – Chris Jericho.
For years, Y2J has been known as the master of reinvention. While his ventures outside of WWE only began a few years ago (discounting his pre-WWE days), it’s clear that he has been a step above the rest in the industry when it came to being relevant. Not that his entire career is perfect, but the day he announces his retirement is going to be one of the saddest in wrestling in many years. When it comes to old-timers in 2019, we often look at them, with examples such as The Undertaker where fans dread watching his matches and constantly ask themselves “Why doesn’t he just retire? He’s clearly far past his prime”.
That has never been the case with Jericho. Throughout the years, he has come up with various personas and has always managed to stay entertaining. It seems like a consensus that his 2008 “suit” persona was his greatest as he not only reached World Championship-level but he had some of the best character work that had been seen in years. It’s no surprise that 2008 was his year, but that’s only one example of the details and work that he put in to make it work.
It was every little aspect of the character that made it so good. From the way he presented himself, to the way he carried himself, to the way he talked (making sure to talk as softly as possible) and the wicked, evil side that fans simply loved to hate. Knowing that he couldn’t drag it on and make it lose its novelty, he moved on from that and never went back again. It’s incredible to think of just how many times he has come up with a different character and as to how many times it has clicked. Jericho calls himself the GOAT and many consider him among the great, but he’s often not considered in the upper echelon of legends when he should be.
No legend in the past has been able to reinvent themselves the way he has while also having the longevity that he’s had. The last few years of his career has shown that he isn’t winding down – he’s hardly getting started! Even if he only has a limited time left, his legacy will be looked upon years later as one of the very best, if not already. He has truly proved this way that reinvention is the most important quality that a pro wrestler needs for longevity.