I’ve made my fair share of lists over the years, but never anything quite like this. A list of my personal favorite opponents over the course of my career? That doesn’t really sound like me, does it?
That’s the beauty of the list, though — it can be whatever you want it to be. Groceries, children’s names, worst enemies. It can be long or short; formatted with numbers or bullet points. Anything goes.
So here you go, Jerichoholics. And listoholics. Listophiles. Whatever. This one’s for you. Enjoy.
Último Dragón (WAR, July 7, 1995)
I met Último in 1993, when we were both at CMLL — the largest wrestling promotion in Mexico at the time. As soon as we started working together, everyone could see that we had great chemistry in the ring. A couple years later we reunited in Japan, when we were both working for a company called WAR.
WAR didn’t have quite the exposure of New Japan Pro Wrestling, but the program between Último and me, starting with his beating me for the NWA Championship belt in 1994, was one of the most important of my career.
The two of us would trade wins and have some really great matches over the course of a year. We even headlined some shows as junior heavyweights, which gave us both a huge confidence boost, since junior heavyweights almost never appeared in the main event. Último has always had is own unique, acrobatic style, but for some reason the two of us just clicked from the beginning — it almost felt like it was impossible for us to have a bad match.
We wrestled at the WAR third anniversary show in July of 1995, and that was the match that got me into ECW and into WCW. Mick Foley was in attendance that night and convinced Paul Heyman to look at the tape of me and Último. Paul brought me in, and I eventually signed and started wrestling for ECW in 1996.
That same tape then went from Paul Heyman to the hands of Jimmy Hart, who gave it to Paul Orndorff, who gave it to the president of WCW, Eric Bischoff. It’s amazing what one good tape can do for a career.
Último would eventually come to WCW and we’d continue to have good matches, but I’ll always remember my best times with him working in Japan.
Dean Malenko (Slamboree, 1998)
Dean is a great friend. He’s one of the funniest, most laid-back guys in the world.
And then you wrestle him and it’s like he’s a totally different person.
On the technical side of wrestling, Dean has always been about as good as it gets. He’s just incredibly smooth and smart in the ring. But what made our run together in 1998 work so well was how different our personalities were on television.
After I won the cruiserweight championship from him, he took about a month off to heal up from an injury, and I was left giving promos in the ring by myself for a month. I’d carry a big poster of Dean out with me, challenge Dean to fight even though he wasn’t in the building, say mean things about Dean and his family — Really, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted, because at that point in my WCW career, nobody really gave a shit about me or what I was doing.
The run with Dean ultimately led to some of the lasting fan-favorite Jericho promos, including “Man of 1,004 holds,” “Conspiracy Victim” and several others. Once I brought out a prosthetic leg that I claimed to be Rey Mysterio’s. I have very fond memories of it all.
The best part of our program together came at Slamboree 1998, when I was slated to face the winner of a 14-man cruiserweight battle royal. When the match ended and masked luchador Ciclope was declared the winner, he unmasked in the middle of the ring and revealed himself to be Dean. For my money it was one of the best surprise returns — and one of the best calls by announcer Tony Schiavone — of all time.
At the end of the day, the feud never really elevated either of us in WCW, but it was integral to the development of my Jericho character. A few years later, when I got to WWE, I was ready to take it to the next level.
Shawn Michaels (No Mercy, 2008)
The intensity of this feud is what really sets it apart.
It was only supposed to be a one-off kind of match — a few-week program — but Shawn and I both knew that we had a lot more to give than that.
We had first worked together in 2003, and had both really enjoyed it, and ended up having a great match to cap things off at Wrestlemania XIX. But 2008 was an entirely different animal. It started after Shawn retired Ric Flair, and the story we told from there just sort of had a mind of its own.
Every time we went back and forth with ideas on where to take the program, things would evolve and we would manage to take it a step further on TV. It wasn’t the same Jericho that had become popular from my WCW days, but a much darker and more serious wrestler.
It was just a brutal, violent feud. We had a great match at The Great American Bash, and then for the following two months we continued to roll — there was a retirement announcement, Shawn’s wife got involved, and I even got so much momentum from the feud that when it all finally culminated in an epic ladder match at No Mercy, the world championship belt was on the line.
The whole program ended up lasting a little more than seven months.
A hundred years from now, Shawn will probably still be talked about as one of the greatest performers in the history of wrestling. Being able to work with him in such a big way in 2008 is something I will always be proud of.
I’m still waiting for WWE to release the two-disc, special edition Blu-ray featuring Shawn and me and the Undertaker-Edge feud that was happening on Smackdown around the same time. (WWE has never mentioned plans to release such a Blu-ray but, nevertheless, I’ll continue to wait for it.)
Rey Mysterio (The Bash, 2009)
It was just a very basic storyline — me trying to take Rey’s mask. A bully trying to take a kid’s lunch money.
Rey and I had known each other for many years, we had worked together in Mexico, in Japan, worked some in WCW — but we’d never really had an opportunity to work a long-term angle together. By the time we got a chance, we had both been around a while, and just wanted the feud to revolve around the wrestling matches and not too many superfluous gimmicks.
In Mexico, masks are a huge part of the lucha libre heritage, but it was all still pretty unfamiliar to an American audience. So Rey and I really didn’t invent anything new over the course of our feud, we just really tried to keep everything outside of the ring simple. Every week, every time we’d be on TV, I’d be trying to find ways to rip his mask off his face.
Starting with a fatal four-way match at Backlash, Rey and I would put together a string of four pay-per-view matches that just really told a great story. Finally, it was a mask vs. title match at The Bash 2009 that served as our grand finale.
On the surface, it probably wouldn’t seem as though our styles would mesh, but that’s just another component that made working with Rey so great. We both were constantly changing it up in the ring, and I think we both did some of our best wrestling during that four-month span.
Kevin Owens (Wrestlemania 33, 2017)
When all was said and done, it was like we went from a 1980s David Lee Roth video to the Game of Thrones Red Wedding.
This one really had it all — a goat, a donkey, a festival, Goldberg — all the ingredients of a classic. Despite it all happening barely a year ago, I definitely regard my most recent run with Kevin Owens to be one of the best of my career.
Kevin was relatively new to the WWE when we started working together, but he was one of the most — if not the most — recognizable guys on the independent scene before he arrived there. So when it came to actual wrestling, I knew the guy was good.
But it was more of a gut feeling than anything, I think, that made me want to work with him. We were in England tagging up together and after I won the match we celebrated on the ramp like we had just won the Super Bowl. He started yelling about me being the G.O.A.T. I said something about him being a donkey … and it was just funny. It worked. And we took it from there and ran with it.
It was almost the opposite of when I was working with Shawn Michaels. Not a gruesome, hate-filled battle where we were both out for blood. Just a couple of best friends beating guys up, making lists, and giving each other gifts. There was a point at which we held the top two belts on Raw and really felt like we were stealing the show every single week. The best thing about Kevin is his ability to adapt. He can be funny, he can be serious, he can be as intense as anybody out there, and that versatility really does make him a great and interesting champion.
When he finally turned on me, the moment had a great element of surprise — and more importantly, we had people watching who were emotionally invested. A lot of hearts were broken that night — but in a good way. There aren’t a whole lot of guys besides Kevin who would have been able to convincingly pull that off.
There were actually quite a few moments when we had to stand our ground when we told WWE what we wanted to go out and do every week. There was always some pushback, but ultimately I feel like we got to do everything we really wanted, and finished in a spectacular fashion.
Hey, you know what? I know this is supposed to be five guys, but I already said that lists have no rules. I’ve made more lists than any athlete on this site combined. So how about we add one more name while we’re all here.
Kenny Omega (Wrestle Kingdom 12, Jan. 4, 2018)
It doesn’t matter if it’s WWE, Mexico, Japan, or wherever else — sometimes guys are just so good that they transcend whatever company they work for. Some guys are just so brilliant inside and outside of the ring that you have to step back and say, “Wow”.
But enough about Último Dragón.
Kenny is currently the New Japan Pro Wrestling’s U.S. Champion. I was first introduced to him when he came on my podcast last year, and since then, I’ve watched him rise from one of the more popular New Japan guys to one of the most notable wrestlers in any promotion, including WWE. In the past couple of years he has put on some of the most incredible matches in wrestling.
So when the question gets asked What’s next for Chris Jericho? The answer is now clear to me:
It hasn’t even happened yet, but this is as exciting as it gets. It’s not the type of match that comes around every day. In fact, this is not really a match that ever happens. At all. Not since the days of territory wrestling, when one champ would enter another promotion and challenge a top guy for his title.
But here we are. And these aren’t the territories. This is Chris vs. Kenny — Alpha vs. Omega — Wrestle Kingdom 12 in the Tokyo Dome.
There’s a lot more I could say about Kenny, but I don’t think I need to. When we face off on Jan. 4, 2018, no matter what happens in the end, it’s going to be the biggest wrestling match of the year. Maybe the decade.
There will be plenty of time for talking later.
There you have it. Congratulations to everyone who made the list. To those who didn’t make it, better luck next time. Or hey — there’s always the enemies list.
Happy New Year everybody.