WWE Week: Y2J’s Debut Electrified Chicago, Surprised The Rock

With two huge WWE shows hitting the city (well, Rosemont), this week we feel inclined at WARR to look back on eventful moments from the past involving the premier wrestling promotion and its storied history in Chicago. Each day this week catch a classic wrestling Sports Entertainment video with a little of our commentary.

Chris Jericho is an unlikely candidate for the Greatest Wrestler of All Time debate, but he has a place in it nonetheless.

By the looks of him Jericho doesn’t size up as an imposing figure, but he can do just about anything asked of him in a wrestling ring, and he has, including beating Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock both in one evening.

Jericho wasn’t born into a tradition-rich wrestling family like the Harts (though he did graduate from Stu Hart’s infamous Dungeon, as cited in our last piece), his dad was a NHL player.

Still, the once named Y2J took to sports entertainment like a fish to water, standing out and making himself essential in every promotion he’s entered, from Stampede Wrestling to ECW to WCW to, currently, New Japan Pro Wrestling.

But Jericho is most associated with the WWE. The majority of his over quarter of a century in the business has been spent there and he’s bridged the end of the Attitude Era clear through the PG Era of the promotion up to present with an amazing range of talents both in ring and out of ring. From the days of his pre-theme music countdown to his days instilling fear with his infamous “List,” Jericho has broke the walls down between belief and non-belief for wrestling fans, existing on a plan of almost constant delirium that constantly elevated his character and those he’s come in contact with.

To this end, it was only natural that Jericho began his WWE career interrupting The Rock in front of a typically raucous crowd in the recently named Allstate Arena back on August 9, 1999.

Even though it was months earlier than the date the world was looking to at the time, 8/9/99 became a long-awaited date on the WWE schedule that year, with promos alerting audiences to the coming day for weeks preceding it on “Monday Night Raw” and other programming. Some were in the dark about it exactly, but those in the know knew that would be the date Jericho would make his debut on WWE TV after leaving unceremoniously from WCW.

Jericho became a notable talent in WCW, winning cruiser-weight titles and exhibiting comedic muscle in some memorable bits, but he was obviously limited in his role there and that wasn’t changing in a dysfunctional place like WCW, which was filled to the brim with big egos with no one really to answer to and no one with vision to properly use a talent like Jericho’s.

For Jericho, WWE was a clear refuge from mediocrity and luckily for him Vince McMahon and his creative team saw him as a star who could immediately have a place in a WWE that was filled with great talents already, maybe more than at any other time in its history.

To put Jericho face to face with Rock in his debut showed how much WWE believed in him — in 1999 short of getting a win over Stone Cold there was probably no better way to paint a performer as legit on Monday Night Raw than to have him successfully jab verbally with The Rock and that indeed is what the “Ayatollah of Rock-n-rollah” did.

Jericho also did it to a big roar in front of an Allstate Arena Horizon crowd that was really defining itself as one of the favorite places for a generation of WWE performers to play before. Stone Cold is on record as calling Allstate his favorite place to wrestle (for a big reason why, check his match at Wrestlemania 13), during the Attitude Era there were few places where the crowd rose up to the insanity presented before them in ring and in some ways hoped to out-do that insanity.

But Jericho is hard to top, and as the Rock learned on the unofficial first night of the new millennium, Y2J was there to stay and some 19 years later we, as he said that night would never be the same a-gain.

Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under “Regal Radio”

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