|Chris Jericho hypes WrestleMania X-8 in September 2001.
- photo by Greg Oliver
While Chris Jericho will be at Wrestlemania 23 at Ford Field in Detroit this Sunday, don't expect him to make a surprise appearance in the ring. After leaving the WWE in August 2005, Jericho has no plans of stepping between the ropes at the biggest event of the year.
"I don't think Wrestlemania is the place for guys to show up for one night and get an easy payoff. All of the guys on the show have been earning their stripes every single day for the past year, they deserve it and working their asses off to get there," Jericho told SLAM! Wrestling from his home in Tampa, Florida.
Jericho is making several appearances in the Detroit area, including a Fozzy concert Thursday Night at The Roxy Nightclub in Windsor. Come show time Jericho will take on the same role as that of the other 70,000 people in attendance.
"I will be there watching as a fan. When the time is right to come back I will be at Wrestlemania in the way I should be, in a big spot doing what I do best. In the meantime I will be on the sidelines watching and enjoying like everybody else."
It seems weird to have Wrestlemania without Chris Jericho. His six Wrestlemania appearances have frequently been highlights of the cards. He's won the European Title (from Kurt Angle in a three-way match including Chris Benoit at Wrestlemania 2000), defended the Intercontinental title (against William Regal at Wrestlemania X-7) and stolen the show against Shawn Michaels.
"Some Wrestlemania matches were obviously better than others, I could go through the list and rate them but the match I had with Shawn Michaels (at Wrestlemania XIX) is probably my best Mania match and one of my top three ever," he admitted. "The angle, storyline, buildup, position on the show and match itself were all great. The fact that Shawn and I can say we stole Wrestlemania XIX is quite an honour and a feather in my cap."
One year previously, Jericho became one of only 17 men to defend a World Title at a Wrestlemania. At Wrestlemania X-8 in 2002, Jericho defended the Undisputed Championship in Toronto at SkyDome, losing to Triple-H in the final match of the night.
Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels battle at WrestleMania 19.
- photo by Colin Vassallo, wrestling-online.com
"To be the World Champion at Wrestlemania is what it is all about and to wrestle in the main event slot was another feather in my cap. Unfortunately that was the night that had The Rock
versus Hulk Hogan
, which was like seeing Mike Tyson versus Muhammad Ali. Maybe they should have gone on last and that would have helped our match out. But growing up as a kid watching Wrestlemania on closed-circuit television in the Winnipeg Arena and then being in the main event at Wrestlemania 18 was a huge honor. There are only 22 Wrestlemanias where someone was wrestling as champion and I was one of them, which is pretty staggering when you think about it."
While Jericho has had a large in-ring role at Wrestlemania, his influence can be felt at this year's event with the Money in the Bank ladder match. He was one of the participants in the first one at Wrestlemania 21 but had input behind the scenes as well.
"I was one of the inventors of the concept. I came up with the original idea and Brian Gerwitz came up with the idea of the title shot gimmick. I deserve royalties from that. I need to make some calls to Jack Tunney who is in charge of the WWE and find out what is going on with my royalties," he quipped.
This year's Money in the Bank Ladder match features eight competitors including 2005 winner Edge as well as Finlay, Booker T, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Ken Kennedy and Matt and Jeff Hardy. Jericho is predicting a great match.
"This year they are expanding it to eight people, which is going to be crazy -- six is crazy enough! When you get that many guys in a match with ladders it definitely a bit more dangerous and there is a bigger margin for error. It seems like it is an annual tradition and the fact that I had a hand in that is something I take great pride in. I have always had a lot of great ideas for matches and the fact that that one is still going on now is great. It is going to be one of the show stealers I am sure."
Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels hug at WrestleMania 19.
- photo by Colin Vassallo, wrestling-online.com
The other match on the stacked card Jericho is looking forward too with great anticipation is the bout between his former rivals Shawn Michaels and John Cena
for the WWE Championship.
"I am a huge Shawn Michaels fan and think John Cena is a great performer as well. I think I was the first person that ever really drew something out of John that hadn't been seen before when we wrestled at SummerSlam 2005. That also started some of the cheers and boos thing that he got for awhile. Shawn Michaels is probably my all-time favorite wrestler. I think it is genius for them to do that match. As much as you hate to see somebody get hurt the fact that Triple-H did opened up that slot."
When asked who he thought would walk out of Wrestlemania 23 at champion, Jericho didn't hesitate before answering.
"Shawn Michaels is Mr. Wrestlemania man and a big-time, big-show player! He will be the new champion. You give him an inch he will take a mile and I am expecting him to put on another performance of a lifetime. He is a special breed of performer no doubt about it."
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Jason Clevett has seen four of Chris Jericho's Wrestlemania matches live. He considers his match with Shawn Michaels to be one of the best matches he has ever seen.