When we last left our fearless scribe, Chris Jericho was heading to New York, more specifically, Vince McMahon’s then-WWE. Jericho’s first book,” A Lion’s Tale,” relates his recruitment to Vinnie Mac-Land. Undisputed picks up from there, detailing Jericho’s first run through WWE, from Summer of 1999 through 2005, and then some.
That “Then Some” may be a point of contention for many reading the book. The book actually chronicles Jericho through the moment of his 2007 return. Most wrestling fans know that Jericho took a two year hiatus from the sport of kings, and it is there that most people have their biggest gripe with the book. A good portion of it details Jericho’s foray into heavy metal music with his band Fozzy. Gauging from comments I have seen on this site and others, most fans are not too enthralled with this development. I urge them to read the book again, SPECIFICALLY the Fozzy chapters. They are among the most entertaining in the whole damn memoir. Late night cocktails with Axl Rose? The epic douchebaggery of ex-MLB pitcher Scott Erickson? A night of potential debauchery with Zakk Wylde? Sharon Osbourne calling Jericho a “twat?” These are truly great interludes that only help to add to the charm Jericho provides in his writings.
As for the meat and potatoes, what most people will be looking for. This book decodes Jericho’s journey through the land of a thousand idiots named McMahon. And it is damn entertaining. Understand this: Jericho wrote the book free from the grasps of the WWE, so his opinions are not muted or censored. He is particularly critical, in the early stages of the book, of one wrestler. Or so called wrestler. Or whatever you want to categorize HER as: Chyna.
Indeed, Chyna almost becomes the number one foil in this book. Almost. We’ll get to the TRUE foil a bit later. But Jericho and Chyna had quite the tumultuous relationship. Make no bones about it, Chyna was a revolutionary performer in that a woman competed with men. But hold no allusions…she sucked something horrible. And Jericho’s descriptions of her lend credence to the widely held fan thought. One of the best chapters of the book, entitled “Schitzo Deluxe,” describes Jericho’s late 1999-early 2000 feud with the so called “9th Wonder of the World.” You see, Jericho, an immensely talented wrestler with a wealth of experience on many continents, was, after his debut, buried into a feud with Chyna. While most people hold Jericho’s WWE debut in high regard, it wasn’t well accepted by the WWE “Brain” trust of the time. So for a while, Jericho was headlining WWE B-shows like Velocity and the such. Chyna was a made WWE performer, probably having something to do with being in DX and HHH being in her. Oh, I forgot to mention, ole Trips was Chyna’s better half in those days. So Jericho blesses Chyna with, IN-ARGUABLY, her two best WWE matches, at Survivor Series 1999 and Armageddon 1999. Vinnie Mac had told Jericho prior to these two matches to not take it easy with Chyna. So Jericho worked the matches like he would with a man, and it resulted in two pretty damn good matches considering Chyna’s (lack of) in ring talents. After the Armageddon match, in which Jericho achieved his life’s dream in winning the Intercontinental title, he was chewed out by Vince. Why? During the match, he had accidentally given Chyna a small shiner, and Chyna, at the height of her egomania and political( read: HHH) clout, had complained to the WWE higher ups. McMahon was merciless, declaring Jericho “green as grass” and “not worth the paper you signed on.” Gotta love WWE politics, don’t ya?
I could go into greater detail on the Chyna debacle, but this is a review intended for you, the reader, to go out and read the damn thing, so I will move on. You see, as much as Jericho tries to sugarcoat it, his entire first WWE run was hamstrung by the political machinations of one man, and the true great heel of this story: HHH.
Yeah, yeah, I know its been the “in” thing to do since about 2002. Blame everything on ole Trips. But, folks, he is the true antagonist in this story. Jericho does not paint him in a over the top negative light, but you can read between the margins here. Jericho’s earliest recollection of Mr. Stephanie involves HHH telling Jericho if he needs anything, call him. Jericho, unfamiliar with the locations of some of the WWE bookings, called his H-ness one day asking for directions to the arena. To which HHH replied “Yes, I do. Get a map.” Thus, a warm friendship was born. I hope the sarcasm of that statement reaches through your computer screen. When Jericho debuted, he got himself over with the fans to an incredible degree, and at that same time, HHH was struggling to become one of the top stars of the company. He didn’t want some WCW castoff (even if Trips himself was a WCW castoff) taking his shine. So a running theme of the book is Vince’s son-in-law thwarting Jericho’s advancement at every turn. Jericho, while politely dressing down the man, also pays homage to the man, especially his toughness. That trait is played up in the now infamous and legendary tag match of May 21, 2001: Triple H and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, as the villainous “Two Man Power Trip,” against young upstart Canadians Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. For the uninitiated, witness one of the greatest matches in RAW history:
Still fantastic after all these years. But here is where the real draw of the book comes. You see, Jericho really made himself through a series of matches against a man many (including myself) considered the best wrestler in the world, Chris Benoit. That name has become taboo around wrestling ever since the ignominious conclusion to the mans life in June of 2007. Jericho was as close as just about anyone was to Benoit, and his chapter on the man is the most eye opening of this memoir.
The Benoit chapter is a stark portrayal of the brilliant performer that, for years, provided unbridled joy to this fan. Jericho himself, in this book and his prior memoir, cited Benoit as a huge influence and the barometer for his own career. Jericho began having pangs for the competition in the squared circle again about midway through 2007, right after the Shawn Michaels-John Cena near broadway on Raw that year shortly after WrestleMania. ( And that is a fantastic match. A tad overrated, but none of us knew going into that TV match that the damn thing would go damn near an hour). One of the first people Jericho contacted with news of his comeback was said Chris Benoit, who texted Jericho that he would be stoked to help him get back into ring shape. There en-lies the problem. Text. And Jericho makes no bones about it. Benoit had become very distant ever since the death of his best friend Eddie Guerrero. Jericho’s description of Eddie’s funeral is, to this day, increasingly frightening, as he mentions Benoit as absolutely inconsolable, heaving with heavy tears at the death of his compadre. Added with the death of Benoit’s Japan mentor “Black Cat” Victor Mar and another close acquaintance, Johnny Grunge (of ECW Public Enemy fame) and it seemed Benoit was on the brink of disaster. And that is exactly what Benoit provided on the weekend of June 25, 2007. Jericho was in negotiations with the McMahons on his comeback, and a writer had actually contacted earlier that fateful Monday morning on some plans for the upcoming RAW show. You see, storyline wise, Vince McMahon had been killed in a car bombing, and the cast and crew of WWE had been instructed to dress for a mass funeral. It was a truly horrible angle, capped off by what sinister deeds Benoit had perpetrated over the weekend. The writer was supposed to inform Jericho that Bruce Campbell, the man who portrayed Ash in the Evil Dead movies, and Army of Darkness, was going to appear to eulogize Vinnie Mac. Jericho had named his kid Ash in homage to the movies. But Jericho missed the initial call, and when he called WWE back, he was greeted with the startling news: Benoit was dead, as were his son and wife. Listen, we all know the details at this point. A lot of us took it hard (myself especially, and, I am sure, Scott Keith). But Jericho was a PEER, a man who not only worked along side the man, but considered him his greatest business influence. I am not going to ruin the chapter for anyone who hasn’t yet, or wants, to read his book. But it is DAMNING. It is the best twenty pages on Benoit I have read, and I have read MIchael Randazzo V’s (Seriously dude, you need the “V”?) “Ring of Hell.” It is gut wrenching reading Jericho’s account, and for that alone, that reason alone, you should pick this book up.
“Undisputed” is in-arguably one of the best books ever written by a wrestler. I prefer his first tome, “A Lion’s Tale” solely because I enjoy the journey to the big time more than the experience of the big time. But Jericho is a gifted storyteller, and either book makes for fantastic reading. I, for one, cannot wait for his third book. I am anxiously awaiting it.