Last night's edition of WWE Monday Night Raw featured another episode in the ongoing saga of Chris Jericho, who has returned to the world of professional wrestling for the sole purpose of trolling the fans.
Or at least that's what it seems he's doing. Really, we don't know.
And that's what makes it so great. But it's also what makes it so maddening. There's one side of me that watches him perform and by the time he's done, I can't help but sit back and say, "Jericho, you magnificent bastard."
The flip side of the coin is that I recognize the complaints of dissenters as valid ones. This man can't simply come out on TV each week and work the Internet just because it's not something anyone has really done before, not on a level like this. Maybe that's his goal and if that's the case, the angle is doomed to failure.
We've seen what happens when pro wrestlers try to get too smart. As much as we like to think of ourselves as smart marks and above it all, we really just want to be fans who enjoy the show. Jericho, at the moment, is making it difficult to do that.
Sure, what he's doing is performance art. He's playing a part, a deeper role we do not yet understand and long to figure out but the WWE has conditioned us not to put up with stories like this. The Crash TV Era never really went away. WCW found the balance between the long build and crash TV in 1997 with Sting challenging the nWo but WWE quickly snuffed it out with hardcore matches that saw guys like Jeff Hardy take extreme bumps that simply raised the bar too high.
So when Jericho walks out and attempts to do something entirely the opposite, it doesn't exactly sit well with a large segment of the fanbase who wants what they want and they want it now. There isn't anything wrong with being this particular type of consumer, it just makes enjoyment of what Jericho is doing far more difficult.
I've flipped from one side to the next. What he's doing is interesting and fresh. But it's also not something that will put butts in seats, as Tony Schiavone would say. No one in pro wrestling will pay money to watch a troll do his thing.
Another issue with this angle, and perhaps it's more of an indictment on the audience, is that the fans aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing. They're not booing him. Corpus Christi, Texas, last night couldn't have been any less interested in booing this man. They loved him and they showered him with affection. Either they were too ignorant to see what he was doing or they simply didn't care.
And that's yet another aspect of Jericho's act that makes us slightly uncomfortable. It's exposing the fanbase for what they are. In effect, everyone is turning on each other. If you liked it, you're just a smark who likes to be a rebel who goes against the mainstream. If you didn't, you're a mark who can never be pleased.
It's maddening. It's brilliant.
It's Chris Jericho at his finest.