There is a strong argument that there is no greater wrestler than Chris Jericho in WWE history.
As the only man to hold the WWE, WCW and AEW Championship, he stands on the top of many fans and wrestlers “greatest of all time” list.
However, it was not just Jericho’s championships that make him great. Chris Jericho’s incredible returns from his various hiatus from the WWE have made him one of the most exciting superstars in history.
From his debut in WWE to his final match, two decades later, Chris Jericho has always shocked the fans in ways that nobody could ever have expected.
Chris Jericho WWE Debut
Chris Jericho‘s WWE debut if often remembered as one of the greatest wrestling debuts of al time. The former WWE, WCW and AEW Champion shocked the world when he interrupted The Rock on August 9, 1999 on an episode of WWE Raw is War.
It was the day that one of the most extravagant, entertaining and sometimes controversial wrestlers of all time made his debut for the biggest wrestling company in America, and made his infallible mark upon the wrestling world after a difficult time in WCW.
As the “Millennium Clock” struck zero during a promo by The Rock, the crowd erupted as the words “Jericho” appeared on the screen, and the Christ-like stance of Chris Jericho became available to see to the baying WWE audience.
Chris Jericho’s WWE debut started well, going toe-to-toe with one of the greats in wrestling history in the rock. He proclaimed he was here to save WWE from the likes of The Rock, remarking upon their boring characters and faltering ratings as one of the reasons that the newly Christened Y2J had come to WWE.
In his second book, Undisputed: How to Become World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, Chris Jericho opens the book by talking about his WWE debut. The book takes off where the previous entry left off, as he is about to walk out of the curtain and take on The Rock in a battle on the microphone in August 1999.
While it seemed like one of the best WWE debuts of all time, Chris Jericho reveals his WWE debut was anything but that.
In the first chapter of the book, Jericho writes:
“However, there were a few other reasons why I didn’t get into a program with The Rock right from the get-go. For one thing, I was coming from WCW, which, being enemy territory, automatically put me under a giant microscope. Another problem was that matches in the WWE were constructed in a totally different way than they were in WCW, a way that was completely foreign to me.”
“In WCW, we pretty much did whatever we wanted in the ring, but in the WWE the style was much more serious and structured. In WCW, I was able to keep my head above water by acting as ridiculous as I could and performing whatever comedy bits I could think of to get noticed. But now that my head was above water and the spotlight was on me, I still kept doing what I did best, and that wasn’t my role anymore.”
“It wasn’t what Vince wanted from me, even though nobody ever really told me what it was that he did want. On top of all that, I had this huge buildup coming into the company that left me with a target on my back bigger than Val Venis’s penis.”
“I found out very quickly that it didn’t matter what I had accomplished or what my reputation was outside of the WWE walls, I had to prove myself all over again from scratch. And I’d failed round one with my goofy reactions to Rocky’s words.”
He revealed that his reactions to The Rock’s promos, and the perceived burying and talking down of the current WWE roster put him in bad stead with the WWE management.
Vince McMahon was unhappy with Jericho for this promo and in the following weeks, but refused to elaborate to Jericho as to what he was doing wrong.
Chris Jericho WWE Return
Chris Jericho’s first big return to the WWE came following a two-year hiatus from the wrestling business.
He left the WWE in 2005, burnt out on the wrestling business and wanting to try his hand with making his rock band, Fozzy, a big success.
Jericho almost signed on to wrestle with Total Nonstop Action, but decided to return to the WWE with a huge shock reappearance during a 2007 episode of Raw.
At No Mercy 2007, John Cena was forced to vacate the WWE Championship, which was then awarded to Randy Orton. No Mercy title change nonsense aside, Orton walked out of No Mercy as WWE Champion, and his title reign began.
He feuded with Shawn Michaels next, losing to him at Cyber Sunday, but retaining the championship due to disqualification. He then defeated Michaels at Survivor Series, but so far his reign was perceived as being less than exciting.
So when Randy Orton had a “passing of the torch” ceremony on Monday Night Raw, someone had enough. Vignettes of a mystery man coming to “save us” had been running for weeks, and fans were on the edge of their seat trying to work out who it was.
So finally, when the man carrying Orton’s torch finally entered the arena, he was greeted by a huge clothesline by the one and only returning Chris Jericho.
Jericho lamented Orton’s boring personality and ring work, before offering to save the WWE universe from having Randy Orton as WWE Champion.
Sadly, he would not defeat Orton for the belt, but the return itself was one of the best surprise returns in the history of the WWE.
Chris Jericho’s return to the WWE five years later, in 2012, was one of the times that really showcased the genius of Jericho.
After six weeks of disturbing and creepy vignettes (which some thought were originally meant for Sting), Chris Jericho returned from an extended hiatus to a huge pop from the WWE crowd.
He ran to the ring in excitement, imploring the crowd to cheer as much as they could. With a smile on his face, Jericho soaked in the adulation from the adoring fans.
He then…carried on doing that. He did nothing else apart from enjoying the crowds cheers. As the minutes wore on, the cheers flattened and smatterings of boos began to circle the arena.
After six minutes of this, a smug Jericho stood on the ramp as the crowd booed him off the stage. It was the perfect heel turn for the returning favourite, who found that sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing you can do.
The WWE fans in the arena had somehow worked out that Jericho was behind the vignettes, chanting for “Y2J” before he even appeared on-screen for the first time.
This annoyed the former WWE Champion, who made sure his return just one year later would be a total surprise for everyone.
Chris Jericho made a shock return to the WWE at the 2013 Royal Rumble. He had spent five months away from the company, touring the world with his band, Fozzy.
Dolph Ziggler was the first entrant in the Royal Rumble match. He grabbed a microphone and challenged whoever was number two to come to the ring and face him.
The lights went out, fireworks shot out, and the crowd erupted as “Break the Walls Down” blasted through the arena speakers.
His return was a total secret, with there being no hint that Jericho would be appearing in the match.
It was also fitting, as it was Dolph Ziggler who had got him fired by the WWE five months prior, so he had a score to settle with the former World Heavyweight Champion.
He failed to win the Royal Rumble, and went on to lose to Fandango at WrestleMania 29.
This was his last great return to the WWE. Chris Jericho made a number of surprise returns since then, attacking superstars like The New Day and The Miz, respectively.
His final match in the WWE was in the Greatest Royal Rumble match.
Chris Jericho’s last WWE match was the Greatest Royal Rumble match, in the 2018 WWE Pay-Per-View in Saudi Arabia, named “The Greatest Royal Rumble”. Chris Jericho was the final entrant in the match, making a surprise appearance as the number 50 entrant.
Chris Jericho was a surprise entrant and one of the biggest WWE Superstars in the match. It was his first appearance since his backstage segment with Elias at Raw 25th Anniversary.
Despite his stardom, he did not perform well in Chris Jericho’s last match. He only eliminated one man (Shelton Benjamin), and was eliminated by the eventual winner of the match, Braun Strowman.
Chris Jericho also appeared in a video package in June 2022, congratulating John Cena for his incredible twenty-year career in the WWE.
This was the last time we saw Chris Jericho in the WWE, with very little chance of seeing him return to the company any time soon.
He also appeared on “Broken Skull Sessions” in 2021, being interviewed by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin despite being signed to All Elite Wrestling at the time.
Chris Jericho made the surprise return into an art form.
Throughout WWE history, nobody else had put so much thought into their comeback to the company, with the amount of cryptic clues and secrets kept making his returns truly unique.
Nobody has ever managed to go from beloved hero to hated villain simply by doing nothing, just minutes into a return. The uniqueness and talent portrayed by Jericho will truly be his legacy in the WWE.
Whilst he is happy working for AEW and shows no signs of stopping, he will certainly return to the WWE one day to collect his WWE Hall of Fame ring.
When that day comes, you can be sure that Chris Jericho’s return to WWE will be a shock to everyone, and will probably involve a creepy little girl giving you a code to solve.
Which is your favourite return of Chris Jericho’s? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.