“The unitary executive theory is a theory of American constitutional law holding that the President possesses the power to control the entire executive branch. The doctrine is rooted in Article Two of the United States Constitution, which vests “the executive power” of the United States in the President.”
Chris Jericho has been a Thrillseeker, a Lionheart, an Ayatollah, a Listmaker, and a rockstar. In 2018, Chris Jericho finally gave in to the oldest of old, rich, white guy hobbies. Chris Jericho became an illegal game hunter; a poacher.
Chris Jericho wrestled for three different promotions this year. He started the year at Wrestle Kingdom 12. He then made a jaunt to Saudi Arabia for WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble. He then came back to New Japan Pro-Wrestling for Dominion. He attacked Kenny Omega at ALL IN in September. He then wrestled in international waters on his own cruise ship, before heading back to Japan for November’s Power Struggle event. He’s currently the IWGP Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion, and is also listed, as of publish, as an Active WWE Superstar on WWE.com. It begs the question, how is any of this legal?
The only word to accurately describe Chris Jericho’s 2018 is “illegal.” From the minute he called out Kenny Omega in November of 2017, everything about Chris Jericho’s excursions to Japan have felt criminal. He strikes without warning, acting out of a sick mix of bloodlust, boredom, and hunger, seemingly free of any form of authority. It’s as if the rules don’t apply to someone with Jericho’s status, and they probably don’t.
Jericho’s first match in New Japan Pro-Wrestling was a loss to Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12. The match was initially regarded as an anomaly, seemingly advertised as a one-and-done dream match. Could the WWE Superstar best the NJPW Wrestler?
Jericho put forth a valiant effort in the brutal No Disqualification Match. Showing off a hardcore, brawling style that felt equal parts an evolution and devolution of the usually crisp grappler, Jericho proved that he could keep pace with the then-IWGP United States Champion. When Omega delivered a One Winged Angel onto a steel chair, pinning Jericho, it seemed that the grand experiment was over, as quickly as it began, leaving many to wonder what could’ve been.
Then came Korakuen Hall.
At New Year’s Dash, Chris Jericho struck again. This time, he attacked Tetsuya Naito. Naito, also coming off a heartbreaking loss at Wrestle Kingdom 12, shrugged off the attack with his usual swagger. As quickly as Jericho struck, he then disappeared.
With questions about the Naito attack lingering, Jericho popped up for WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia. Making little more than a brief in-and-out appearance in the controversial event, Jericho’s appearance was ultimately overshadowed by Titus O’Neil’s slip-n-slide moment. It still left questions in the minds of fans. What was Jericho doing?
While fans were asking questions about Jericho, Naito was redeeming the hard start to his year. Having lost the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 12 to Kazuchika Okada, Naito was starved for redemption, and absolution. Naito targeted notorious badass Minoru Suzuki, with both men spending the springtime torturing each other. Eventually Naito’s goading led to a match with Suzuki for the IWGP Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship. Naito survived Suzuki’s onslaught of punishing kicks and torturous submissions to win the Big White Belt for the second time.
Not long after winning the belt, Naito teamed with the rest of Los Ingobernables de Japon to defeat Minoru Suzuki & Suzuki-gun in a 10-man tag team match at Wrestling Dontaku in Fukuoka. After the match, a masked assailant stormed from the crowd and attacked Naito. The attacker struck with the force and fury of an uncaged animal. It was a lawless attack, that left Naito bloody. The attacker took off his mask and revealed himself. It was Jericho.
Jericho spent the rest of May sending video messages to Tetsuya Naito. They were all the unhinged, unbalanced ramblings of a man that answers to no one. Walking down bike paths, yelling at turtles, calling Naito “a f**k,” Jericho had seemingly lost all grip with reality. Naito was the perfect foil for these deranged videos, shrugging them off like the New Year’s Dash attack, seemingly bemused at the active WWE Superstar’s attempts to get a rise out of the notoriously cool-headed wrestler. This was Jericho’s trap.
Jericho was attacking the number 2 champion in NJPW, despite having an NJPW record of 0-1. Yet, even with his losing record, and actions that would see any contracted NJPW wrestler suspended, Jericho was claiming that he deserved a shot at Naito and the IWGP Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship, and people seemed to buy into it. Why wouldn’t someone with the status and name-recognition of Chris Jericho not deserve a shot at the IWGP Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship?
It worked. NJPW management made a match for June’s Dominion event. Beholden to no master, no code, Jericho attacked Naito before the bell, striking before Naito could even remove his trademark suit. The brutal brawl that followed saw a hungrier, angrier Jericho than the one seen at Wrestle Kingdom. In January, Jericho was wrestling for sport. In June, Jericho was wrestling to survive. Jericho beat Tetsuya Naito that night, taking the title like Donald Trump Jr. takes the tail from a freshly-killed lion. Then, like all chinless rich men inevitably do on their expensive hunting trips, Jericho fled the land with his trophy, leaving Naito’s carcass to rot.
Naito had a good-not-great G1 Climax run. His hopes for the finals were spoiled by Zack Sabre Jr., but as always the dude abides. Naito continued on with his usual confidence, much of which was substantiated by his unflappable popularity among Japanese fans, in what was very much a rebuilding year for the former-Stardust Genius.
Kenny Omega even seemed a bit jealous of Tetsuya Naito’s popularity. Omega was seemingly the biggest babyface in the world, post-Dominion, after finally capturing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Kazuchika Okada. In his first media call with the title, he singled out Naito, noting that he never sees him in the gym, and calling him lazy. It was the start of the anti-Japanese slide that brought Omega to his current war of words with Hiroshi Tanahashi.
September 1st, Chris Jericho completed his Wrestling Grand Slam. Having started the year at Wrestle Kingdom, shown up in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for WWE, Jericho showed up at ALL IN. This time, Jericho donned the mask and face paint of Pentagon Jr., in an attempt to attack Kenny Omega. Jericho had seemingly cut through endless ribbons of red tape, the kind that has bound and imprisoned the imaginations of countless bookers, real and fantasy alike. He then used the attack to promote his upcoming wrestling cruise. He then hopped on a private jet, still essentially wearing another man’s face, and flew to perform in a Fozzy concert. There was seemingly nothing that Chris Jericho couldn’t do.
Tetsuya Naito welcomed Shingo Takagi to Los Ingobernables de Japon at October’s King of Pro Wrestling event. The night was supposed to be a celebration. Takagi helped Naito & LIJ win an eight-man tag match against CHAOS, and then EVIL was set to face Zack Sabre Jr. The match never happened. Jericho, hidden among the cast of EVIL’s elaborate entrance, attacked EVIL, essentially calling his shot for his next challenger. New Japan Pro-Wrestling management named EVIL Jericho’s next challenger. Jericho celebrated being the master of his own destiny like anyone would, and took a bunch of wrestlers & wrestling fans on a cruise into International Waters, continuing to live the lawless life of a man of wealth and taste.
At November’s Power Struggle, essentially the one year anniversary of Jericho announcing his intention to compete in New Japan, Jericho locked EVIL in the Walls of Jericho, submitting The King of Darkness, and earning his first successful defense of the IWGP Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship, since winning the belt in June. The victory wasn’t enough, and he continued to assault EVIL, drawing the ire of Tetsuya Naito. Naito fought off Jericho, and then announced himself as Jericho’s next challenger. Jericho said no.
“No challenge for Naito,” was hill on which Jericho planted his flag. He’d been master of his own destiny all year, and was not about to let Naito just become the captain. New Japan Pro-Wrestling management sided with Naito, making the match for Wrestle Kingdom 13. Mutiny from all sides.
Chris Jericho was cornered. When someone amasses the kind of power that Chris Jericho accrued over the course of 2018, it can be hard to have the wheel yanked from your hands. He was no longer the unitary executive of his own fate. This led to Jericho going back to square one.
Jericho started his year by attacking Tetsuya Naito at Korakuen Hall. Chris Jericho ended his year by attacking Tetsuya Naito at Korakuen Hall. Dressed in black leather, the hunter struck. Jericho attacked all of Los Ingobernables de Japon with a chair, and then delivered a Codebreaker to Naito. He held the IWGP Intercontinental Championship high.
Now Jericho & Naito are heading to Tokyo Dome, hunting the same white whale. Naito wants to avenge a stop-start year that started on a very low note. Jericho wants to prove that he is the puppet master, and not the puppet. Jericho has less to lose.
If Naito loses, his momentum will continue to slide, and eventually the fans will not be able to believe in him the way they have now. He’ll have lost two big main events in a row. If Naito loses, his climb back to the top of New Japan becomes that much steeper.
If Jericho loses. He’s still an active WWE Superstar. He still has another cruise scheduled for the fall. He can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants. Win or lose, Jericho stays Jericho.
Naito has the people. Jericho has the power.
Wrestle Kingdom 13 will air on 1/4, 2am EST and will be broadcast LIVE on NJPWWorld.com.