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The refurbished Gift of Jericho has been tremendous

After approaching the edge of a creative cliff, one of the greatest entertainers of our generation redefined his character, rebuilt his image, and doubled down on his legacy.

I have a story for you. There was this wrestler. He was extremely talented, but his act was stale. He relied on nothing but tired cliches and immature behavior. He occasionally called women unflattering names, and his entire persona could be boiled down to the basics of the Attitude Era. As intelligent as he was, as great a worker as he was, he had become a shell of himself. His body betrayed him a bit, as his physique had given way to father time, but that wasn't the issue. Even the hideous, growing tattoo on his left arm wasn't the issue, nor was the new haircut or the quantity of shirtless vests he was sporting.

All of a sudden, this wonderful performer was reduced to merely checking off the boxes, and even when he put a young wrestler over, it did nothing for that individual. Whether it was Bray Wyatt, Dolph Ziggler, AJ Styles, or Dean Ambrose, no one was better off for having engaged in a program with this guy. It wasn't that he didn't care. It's that he appeared uninspired, and though his heart might have been in the right place, he was going through the motions. It never felt intentional, but that was irrelevant to the larger argument of why he wasn't on tour with his rock band.

Following the Asylum Match, unquestionably one of the worst gimmicks WWE (or anyone) has dreamed up this side of TNA's King of the Mountain idea or the promotion's Bound For Glory scoring system, Chris Jericho was dead to me. On my radio show and podcast, I officially ceased using his name, only referring to him as "The Scarf." It was derogatory, and inspired by the horrific NBC dud, The Cape. All three of us on the program were done with The Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah, and all of us were huge fans of this man dating back to the Lionheart days.

When Jericho's music hit, we still bounced with the song, because it remains one of the truly outstanding themes of all time, and then we prepared to roll our eyes. I was still angry at the impact of the decision to have Styles do the favors for him at Wrestlemania, but I was far more irritated with how terrible the entire Ambrose program had been, Mitch or no Mitch. All of those segments sucked, and it was at a time where Dean was struggling to maintain credibility after the disappointing conclusion to the brief pairing with Brock Lesnar.

The matches weren't particularly good, and the Asylum Match was a 26 minute travesty, where both men in the ring had to be acutely aware of just how terrible their situation was at that moment in time. I was immediately praying for Jericho to decide to go back on the road, even though I couldn't consider myself a Fozzy fan. I wanted him to do something that made him happy, but also something that made me happy, namely not being on my television anymore.

Prior to the Ambrose program, one of my co-hosts, Brandon Haghany, described Chris Jericho as a wannabe Rock, who had long outlived his usefulness to US, even if the masses ate up everything he did. The Rock in Hollywood was a good thing, but The Rock slut shaming or just running down the list of one liners did nothing for us. At least Jericho was working matches, but he was dull, he was annoying, and it was time for him to head to his domicile.

I can't pinpoint the day it changed, but the first time Jericho entertained me was on the go-home RAW for Money in the Bank, when the opening segment put all competitors in the match on ladders. It looked ridiculous, but something about the guy during that 15 minutes resonated. He was funny, and it wasn't because of anything he did 18 years ago. He sat on the ladder, looking like a complete Summer's Eve sack, wearing the scarf, and it just clicked.

Maybe I'm alone, maybe you've always loved every second of Jericho, but I don't think it's presumptuous to think you've been far more interested in Y2J over the past three months than at any other time in the past three years. We didn't have to re-gift him. Instead, he sent himself away and returned in certified, inspected, refurbished form. He's now a good deal, rather than an overpriced last generation item.

A month before Kevin Owens entered the picture and those two became the most consistently clever portion of RAW, Chris Jericho stopped almost all of his old schtick. Gone were the anti-Stephanie tirades, gone was "shut the hell up," gone was "RAW is Jericho," gone was everything. What was left was the Gift of Jericho, which went from being a lump of coal in the fanbase's stocking to the brand new bike we've wanted for many years and finally received. Or, in my case, Chris became Castle Grayskull, Battle Armor He-Man, Battle Armor Skeletor, Moss Man, Orco, and Battlecat.

The best buddy stuff with Owens has been gold, but even when Chris goes it alone, he has the List of Jericho, which has been my favorite thing on the entire RAW show not named Bayley. What's amazing about it is it's basically just a new catchphrase, something he repeats multiple times a segment, and yet it feels so different. Y2J has always been the king of the list, dating back to the Malenko angle in WCW, and for some reason, the List of Jericho reminds us of "Arm Bar," while still creating its own unique identity.

I've gone from "go home" to "don't go" with Chris Jericho in record time. Monday's segment with The New Day was by far the best thing the Tag Team Champions have been associated with since they emerged from a giant box of cereal at Jerryworld six months ago. It was legitimately funny, it brought out the best in all five participants, and it was terrific television. Jericho's camera trick with Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson also worked well, even if the overall content of that portion of the program wasn't all that exciting.

Whether or not he can actually elevate anyone he's working, that's yet to be determined. I'm curious to see how well it plays when WWE breaks him away from Kevin Owens and feuds the two with one another. We're closer to the split than maybe anyone would like, but Jericho's plans outside the ring will certainly determine exactly how soon the company pulls the trigger on it. If you wanted to do that match, there would be no better place to do it than IN Canada at Survivor Series in November. But, is that too soon?

The big takeaway here is that Chris Jericho has done something in 2016 that I didn't see coming, and something that's incredibly rare in pro wrestling and sports entertainment. He's reinvented himself, and even if he's lost a step in the ring, he's now become as essential to the flow of the show as anyone else on the roster. So many veterans refuse to evolve, don't change, and end up on legend tours much faster than they would have otherwise. Very few have managed to be ahead of the curve, or at least fast enough to avoid the guillotine.

Sting in the nWo era, The Undertaker's willingness to expand everything about his character, and yes, Hollywood Hogan. Those are three examples. Chris Jericho's shift hasn't been anywhere near that drastic, and he's not "THE" guy, but mentioning him in this list shows just how well his summer has gone. Even if WWE is no longer Jericho's show, he's had a phenomenal three months.

He deserves credit (as do those who have assisted in tweaking the character) for not allowing himself to become a relic. When he does hang it up, because of this latest run, I feel we're all going to see his entire career differently. Sure, there was a prime, but he found a way to return to relevance within the framework of the "New Era." He didn't have to take it over to succeed, and what he's done has been remarkable.

Rather than becoming a relic or a dust-laden antique, Chris Jericho has become the finest of aged wines.

Drink it in, maaaaannnnnnnnn.

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