Reliving A Title Run #17 : Chris Jericho As WWF Undisputed Champion ’01 – ’02
Upon his arrival in the World Wrestling Federation in the summer of 1999, Chris Jericho wasted no time becoming a very popular act in the company. Jericho had been mishandled while in World Championship Wrestling, and it didn’t take long for Y2J to find his footing in the WWF.
Throughout 2000, Jericho would find himself involved in feuds with Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Triple H, X-Pac and Kane. Most of the time, the center of the feud was around the WWF Intercontinental Championship. His feud with Triple H included Jericho briefly winning the WWF World Championship on the April 17th edition of RAW. The decision was quickly reversed thanks to a threat made by Triple H to Earl Hebner. Thus, Jericho’s first reign would have to wait.
It was evident by 2001 that Jericho had asserted himself as top baby face for the company behind the likes of Steve Austin, The Rock, The Undertaker and Kane. For most of the half year, Jericho continued to chase or hold the WWF Intercontinental Championship. However, when the InVasion angle took place in the summer, Jericho’s role increased.
With a second heavyweight championship on WWF programming, it gave Jericho a greater chance to win the top prize in wrestling. Both the WWF and WCW World Championships were regularly defended on television by July 2001.
Chris Jericho would earn a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match against the Rock at WWF No Mercy on October 21st, 2001. It’s a hidden gem of a match as they put forth a great effort with ends with Jericho managing to win the championship after dropping Rock face first onto a steel chair. It was at this point that Jericho was starting to display a much more “bad guy” persona and was seemingly consumed with proving he was better than guys like Rock by any means necessary.
Jericho’s reign would last all of fifteen days as he would lose to Rock on the November 5th RAW. After losing, Jericho hit Rock with the championship and delivered a few chair shots to let out his frustrations. The issues between Rock and Jericho were far from over with, though.
Over the next several weeks, Jericho would continually attack Rock with a steel chair and hit Rock with his own versions of the People’s Elbow or Rock Bottom. After the Alliance lost the ten man tag match at Survivor Series, it was announced that at Vengeance Jericho, Kurt Angle, Steve Austin and the Rock would compete in a four man tournament to crown the first ever Undisputed champion.
After Austin pinned Angle in the first match, many experts figured that it would be a classic Austin vs. Rock final to crown the WWF Undisputed Champion. That didn’t happen thanks to Chris Jericho shocking the world and pinning Rock to earn himself the main event against Stone Cold. Jericho added salt to the wound by pinning Rock with the Rock Bottom.
Jericho finished off one of the most shocking nights in WWF history when he pinned Steve Austin, with outside interference from Booker T, to become the first ever WWF Undisputed Champion. The following night on RAW, Jericho would defend against Steve Austin inside a steel cage and with help from Booker T, would escape with the championship still in his possession.
The following week on RAW, Jericho nearly lost the championship to Rob Van Dam, but with the help of Vince McMahon, Jericho was able to retain thanks to a disqualification. On Christmas Eve in Miami, Jericho had another hurdle when he defended against Kurt Angle and hometown boy the Rock. Th match was no disqualification and no count outs. Somehow, Jericho snuck out with the championship after pinning Rock thanks to Angle hitting a DDT onto a steel chair moments prior.
Jericho needed a challenger for the Royal Rumble and on January 3rd edition of Smackdown, the Rock would earn that spot by defeating Booker T in a number one contenders match. For the past four months, Jericho and Rock had been at each others throats in a feud that had generated many great matches and helped catapult Jericho into the main event picture.
At the Royal Rumble their trend of great matches continued as after nearly twenty minutes of action Jericho was able to overcome the challenge of The Rock and won with the help of the ropes to successfully defend the WWF Undisputed Championship for the first time on pay per view.
On the January 28th edition of RAW, the next challenger for Jericho was declared with the winner of a Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle match getting a title shot at No Way Out. Austin won the bout and avoided a post match attack by Chris Jericho. The build for their match isn’t overly memorable and is rather paint by numbers for a WWF World Championship match going into WrestleMania.
At No Way Out, Jericho snuck away with the championship after the New World Order got involved and helped dismantle Austin featuring a stunner by Scott Hall. The victory didn’t help Jericho all that much, but he was at least rewarded with a heavyweight championship main event at WrestleMania.
Now it is time for the buildup to the WrestleMania X8 main event. Back at the Royal Rumble, Triple H had last eliminated Kurt Angle to earn the title shot at WrestleMania. However, Kurt Angle would get a match at No Way Out and defeated Triple H with the help of Stephanie McMahon to steal the main event spot away from Triple H. Well, that lasted all of twenty-four hours as the next night HHH got a rematch with Stephanie barred from ringside and defeated Angle to reclaim his main event spot against Chris Jericho.
In seemingly an act of desperation, Jericho recruited the services of his once hated rival, Stephanie McMahon. From 2000 to 2001, Jericho would often insult Stephanie calling her a whore or insulting her breast enhancement. Now with a change of attitude and with the WWE Undisputed Championships, Jericho would do whatever he had to do to keep it around his waist. Stephanie was now estranged from Triple H after it was revealed that she was trying to trick Triple H into renewing their vows on a RAW episode prior to No Way Out.
Jericho was the man responsible for Triple H tearing his quad, or he at least took credit for the injury. Triple H was on a path of revenge and redemption to claim the WWF Undisputed Championship was his only goal once he returned to action at the beginning of 2002. However, that backstory was not enough, apparently.
No, instead the WWF incorporated a ridiculous storyline where Jericho and Stephanie were responsible for Triple H’s dog Lucy getting ran over and suffered critical injuries. There is one thing you don’t do, and that’s mess with a man’s dog.
SkyDome, WrestleMania, Main Event, that’s what Jericho had wanted all along. After a long night of action and a classic match between Hogan/Rock, the crowd was rather deflated by the time Jericho and Triple H took the ring to settle their issues. It wasn’t shocking at all when Triple H ended the title reign of Jericho after hitting the Pedigree after nearly twenty-minutes of action.
Following the loss, Jericho would be pushed down the card and settled in mid card feuds for the remainder of the year. It wouldn’t take long for Jericho to get back in the main event scene and by next WrestleMania he had a classic match with Shawn Michaels in Seattle.
Perhaps I’m not the only one who thought that Jericho had an uneventful title reign. However, looking back at it, Jericho had a rather fun reign that had several good matches that seem to be overshadowed by the clunker he had with Triple H. Considering the crowd was deflated, it was virtually impossible to come close to what had been presented earlier in the show.
I feel like the Jericho/Rock portion of the reign is the best part of the feud. Rock essentially helped make Jericho a credible heel contender and eventual champion. Those two had great chemistry that doesn’t seem to get acknowledged as much as it probably should.
After looking back at the title reign, I think it was a successful reign and Jericho did the best he could all things considered.
What are your memories of Jericho’s title reign? Did you enjoy it or did you hate it?
Thanks for reading.