While it’s not his best work, this match and the lead up to it might be some of my favorite stuff from both AEW and Chris Jericho from 2019. As a bit of a side quest from his feud with Jon Moxley, Jericho spent a few weeks in December 2019 antagonizing the Jurassic Express and Jungle Boy in particular. This led to Le Champion boasting that the young Jungle Boy couldn’t last ten minutes in the ring with him thus giving us this match, a non-title affair with a ten minute time limit. Just the week before, Jungle Boy attacked Jericho with a hurricanrana which his stablemates counted down for a three count, so the story is can Jungle Boy potentially sneak a fast one on the champion.

The babyface shine starts incredibly well with Jungle Boy going for quick roll ups and even trying to set up the hurricanrana that got him a visual pinfall on TV. The wily champion snatches the advantage back however and his cronies sneak an attack on the outside. The little skirmish on the outside between the Jurassic Express and the Inner Circle did a lot of good to fill the time on what would have otherwise been a pretty dull Jericho control segment.

Jericho has the right idea to be a mean, cocky bully during this match but it never properly translates in execution. His slaps are soft, his movement is slow, he just doesn’t come across as nearly threatening or menacing enough for the role that he’s in. Thankfully the crowd does buy into Jungle Boy and his own babyface heat translates into decent heel heat for Jericho. They even stay hot for the near ninety second Walls of Jericho that wraps things up here. Jungle Boy survives in Jericho’s clutches as the time limit expires.

Jericho goes into a great little tantrum at this point, demanding another five minutes only for Jungle Boy to catch him with a series of near pinfalls. From there, the champ has had enough and bails on the overtime.

Although it’s definitely not perfect in the ring and everything wrong with Jericho as a worker still comes through, the booking behind this match is just too strong to deny. Jericho’s smarmy overconfidence, the simplicity of the ten minute stipulation, then Jericho’s reaction to put over Jungle Boy without having to eat a loss. It’s the perfect utilization of Jericho and a really excellent example of booking wrestling for TV.

For that, Jericho does end up closing the year with a win from me. Much as I did at the start of the project, I still enjoyed far more of Jericho’s run this year than I didn’t. A lot of that comes from the fact that he is a smart businessman and does know which of his strengths to highlight despite often being blind to his own weaknesses. The run with the World Title in AEW gave us a lot of really great promos and segments that do a good job of entertaining from week to week. He’s also been consistently generous in his approach to working programs with workers, highlighted best by his last two months in AEW–providing shine for both Scorpio Sky and Jungle Boy.

The real problem comes when the bell rings. Chris Jericho is older and he can’t keep up. Not once in any of the matches that I covered for this project was Chris Jericho ever the better performer in the match. He struggles to even be a good performer in match on most occasions. He’s someone who clearly understands what needs to be done but simply doesn’t have the chops to pull it off. It’s the kind of over-ambition you’d expect of a man who has crafted this idea of himself as the greatest of all time. At the end of the day, it’s all just an illusion and there’s very little material to back him up.

Chris Jericho is not the 2019 wrestler of the year. I knew that coming into this project and revisiting everything has only made it even clearer. You’d expect the Wrestler of the Year to be someone who can actually, you know, wrestle. You want someone who can lead a match and make clear positive contributions to the work in the ring. That’s not something Jericho can do anymore.

These days, Jericho’s just along for the ride.

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