So far, AEW have had three men hold their World Championship. It has become one of the most prestigious championship in America, and each man to hold it is a huge star in wrestling. Chris Jericho was the first AEW Champion to hold the belt.
He was followed by Jon Moxley, who defeated him at AEW Revolution 2020. Moxley would hold it until later that year, when Kenny Omega would become the new AEW Champion. He won the belt off Moxley at AEW Winter is Coming, where Don Callis helped him cheat to win.
Almost a year later, and it looks like Adam Page is set to become the fourth champion of AEW. He is facing off against Kenny Omega at AEW Full Gear, and the Hangman is expected to beat his former tag team partner and win the title that is rightfully his.
But is Chris Jericho, the first AEW Champion, the best AEW Champion of all time?
Here, we will analyse his title run, looking at the title defences he made and how they looked in the grand scheme of AEW.
Chris Jericho is the best AEW World Champion?
Jericho as Champion
Chris Jericho was the inaugural AEW Champion, which while doesn’t affect whether he is the greatest, does require some note.
To put the company on your back during a time of uncertainty, when it wasn’t known whether the company would sink or swim, was a bold move and a risk for Chris Jericho.
If it didn’t work out AEW, and it went out of business, he had a lot to lose. Vince McMahon has been known to hold a grudge in the past (firing Jeff Jarrett live on the WWF/WCW Simulcast on the last ever WCW Nitro episode). Jericho could have been jeopardising his wrestling career on national TV, and even a well earned WWE hall of fame spot.
He is rightly considered one of the best WWE wrestlers of all time, and had absolutely nothing to prove to anyone ahead of his move to AEW.
Chris Jericho earned his spot in the first AEW Championship match by defeating Kenny Omega. Omega was at the top of his game, and the year prior had been IWGP Champion.
Jericho in AEW
To beat him was a huge statement of intent from Jericho. He was saying “I’m not here to be a legend to trot out on big shows. I’m here to be a champion, as I have been my whole career”. He showed that just because he was a veteran, that didn’t mean he couldn’t be the man in AEW.
Chris Jericho held the AEW World Championship for a total of 182 days. On August 31 2019, he defeated Hangman Adam Page to win the Championship at AEW All Out.
Adam Page was the winner of the Casino Battle Royale, and defeated 20 other men to win his spot in the match. Beating someone of Page’s calibre is less impressive than Omega, as Page had not been a world Champion anywhere in his career. Therefore, this adds a negative mark on Jericho’s reign.
Page was little more than a midcard act before joining AEW, so was not as impressive to beat as other stars.
Despite holding the championship for over six months, Jericho only managed 4 title defences.
First Defence – Chris Jericho vs Darby Allin
The first was against Darby Allin. Allin is now one of the biggest homegrown stars in AEW. However, at the time of the bout (16 October 2019), Darby Allin had only won two matches in AEW.
That match happened to be an AEW Championship number one contender match, against former AEW wrestler Jimmy Havoc. Allin was a surprise pick for the match, given that he had only won one match before that. That win was against Japanese legend CIMA, who he defeated on AEW Dynamite the week prior.
The match was contested under Philadelphia Street Fight rules. This was the same as a regular Street Fight, but it took place in Philadelphia, as per wrestling tradition.
In a match that favoured Darby Allin’s style of wrestling, Chris Jericho defeated the challenger via submission. However, Jericho required help from Inner Circle team mate Jake Hager to win the match, making his win much less impressive.
Second Defence – Chris Jericho vs Cody Rhodes
Jericho’s second title defence took place on the next AEW pay per view, Full Gear 2019. He faced Cody, who had made his way to the top of the AEW rankings to earn his shot against Chris Jericho.
Cody was undefeated in singles matches leading up the match. He had only lost one match in AEW, whilst teaming with his brother Dustin Rhodes against his Elite teammates The Young Bucks. Under his belt, Cody had wins over Dustin Rhodes, Shawn Spears and Sammy Guevara. He also had a time limit draw against Jericho’s first title challenger, Darby Allin.
Jericho won this match. AEW put judges at ringside to make sure that they had a fair finish to the match. They were to score the bout if it was to go to a time limit draw. The judges were three legends of the squared circle – Dean Malenko, Arn Anderson and Keiji Mutoh (AKA the Great Mutah).
These judges sat at ringside, but were not needed as Jericho won the match definitely. He won the bout by stoppage, as Cody’s second MJF threw in the towel, forfeiting the match on the Rhodes behalf. Jericho had Cody locked deep in the Lion Tamer, and he looked to have little chance of escape.
This was a legitimate way to win the bout, and was a huge win in legitimising Jericho as the All Elite Wrestling Champion.
Third Defence – Chris Jericho vs Scorpio Sky
This third title defence was against Scorpio Sky. Sky earned his match with Jericho not by rising up the rankings, but by pinning the man himself in a tag team match.
Chris Jericho and Inner Circle teammate Sammy Guevera were a team themselves, called “Le Sex Gods”. They went to top of the rankings in AEW, and earned a shot at the AEW Tag Team Championships.
These were held by the inaugural winners of the belts, SCU. The trio was comprised of Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky, although the titles were defended by Kazarian and Sky.
SCU defeated Jericho and Guevara, with Sky getting the pin fall on Jericho. This earned him a shot at the AEW Champion, which took place on the 27th November edition of AEW Dynamite.
The match was a classic title match. Scorpio Sky bounced around the ring, using his athleticism to try and beat the 50 year old Jericho. He moved at speed around the former WWE champion, jumping from the top rope and to the outside onto Jericho.
Scorpio Sky was made to look like a real star here. Jericho bumped around, getting taken down by big flashy moves. There were times when you really thought Sky was going to walk away with the championship.
Sadly, Jericho would retain his title. He locked in the Walls of Jericho, and Sky held out for as long as he could before tapping out.
It was a great match, and at points Sky looked like he was going to become the new AEW Champion.
The win showed that despite being behind athletically, his experience and savvy made the difference. However, Scorpio was nowhere near the top of the singles rankings, so the win didn’t really feel like a huge deal for Jericho.
This match was his to lose. He had everything to lose and nothing really to gain from winning this match. It was all about Scorpio Sky.
Final Defence – Chris Jericho vs Jon Moxley
Chris Jericho’s AEW World Championship run ended at AEW Revolution 2020. It was the first Revolution event, and went down as one of the best shows in AEW history.
It was main evented by Chris Jericho defending his AEW Championship against Jon Moxley. The pair had been feuding for months, with Jericho and his Inner Circle even blinding Moxley with a spike from Jericho’s jacket.
It was a fitting end to the first AEW Championship run. After a fantastic show, it ended on a high. Moxley removed his eyepatch, showing that his had healed and he was ready to beat Jericho.
After 22 minutes, Moxley hit his Paradigm Shift and pinned Jericho for the three count. The match elevated the AEW Championship, and made both Jericho and Moxley look like main event starts in the company.
Jericho did not immediately drop out of the spotlight after the match. He would go on to feud with the likes of Orange Cassidy and MJF. Moxley would go on an incredible AEW Championship run that was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crowds were not present for the majority of his run, which has sullied it a bit. However, everyone got to see Chris Jericho as the first, and most important, AEW Champion in the companies history.
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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.