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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Chris Jericho is The Man


By T.J. MADIGAN -- Calgary Sun

 It looks like the WWF's glass ceiling has finally been shattered. Last Sunday at the inaugural Vengeance pay-per-view, both Steve Austin and the Rock stared at the rafters for Chris Jericho, allowing Y2J to become the first undisputed world champion. This is a milestone in Jericho's career, because the unification of the WWF and WCW straps, is more than just a money-spinning storyline. It symbolizes the start of a whole new era in professional wrestling.

 When Vince McMahon began buying out the old territories (including Calgary's own Stampede Wrestling) in the '80s, he took wrestling to a national platform and dominated it by forcing the competition out of business.

 Only one major territory eluded him -- the same one his father had broken away from years earlier. Jim Crockett's NWA, which later became WCW, thrived in spite of the WWF's monopoly of the mainstream spotlight. This left wrestling fans with two companies claiming to have the world champion in their ranks: The more visible and commercial WWF and the more critically acclaimed NWA/WCW.

 The unification of these two titles last weekend at Vengeance was historic because it meant the end of decades of dual world champs. Therefore, the man whose name entered the record books as the first undisputed champion would earn near-legendary status in a single night.

 As the biggest icons of modern pro wrestling, Rock and Austin were the stars most likely to be considered for the win, to add main-event credibility to the genesis of this new era. Even Kurt Angle was a strong possibility, yet the WWF writing team felt the darkhorse from Winnipeg was the one who deserved the shot at glory. In just 24 hours, Chris Jericho jumped from being a struggling semifinal grappler to the very top tier of the industry. Unlike previous near misses with Jericho's character, this time there was no question. He'd legitimately been elevated to the level of the big players.

 And it looks like Jericho isn't the only talent WWF management has suddenly found new faith in, seeing as Rob Van Dam is being positioned to be Y2J's first pay-per-view challenger. Federation honchos have been hot-and-cold about RVD over the last few months, giving him a mega-push one week and burying him the next. He's toned down his rough in-ring style lately, which may be part of the reason they're teasing his first substantial push since the ECW glory days. Either way, he must have earned the confidence of the McMahon camp somehow if he's being trusted to carry the Royal Rumble main event, although time will tell if they'll actually follow through with the angle or relegate Van Dam's pinfall win over Jericho on Smackdown to the 'meaningless' file.

 Overall, the Vengeance PPV was lacklustre, especially since the undercard was dominated by sub-standard filler matches. The five-star finale helped edge the show up a notch but it was overshadowed by complaints about the absence of Triple H.

 Granted, he's been absent for seven months now but when he failed to make a showing on Sunday (the tribute video set to U2's Beautiful Day doesn't count!), it gave serious credence to claims of false advertising.

 The Vengeance TV ad was made up entirely of footage of a furious-looking Triple H. "Have you forgotten about me?" he bellowed, as a voice-over encouraged us to call our pay-per-view operator and order the show. His image was plastered all over the posters, the T-shirts, the newspaper ads and the Web site. His presence was the central marketing tool for the event, to the degree even the crowd in the arena expected a run-in. A large percentage of the audience stood up after the ref bump in the main event, glaring at the curtain, waiting to catch a glimpse of the returning Triple H. The show ended and they were still waiting.

 While HHH was indeed healthy enough to at least do a run-in and throw a few chair shots, he had personally asked Vince McMahon to delay his return until January. The original plan for Vengeance was to have Triple H's interference cause the unification bout to end in a no-contest. This, in turn, would lead to McMahon and Ric Flair's characters disagreeing over the winner, resulting in the WWF split being executed.

 As usual, though, HHH gets his way. The decision was made on Saturday to cut his part, despite the fact a small fortune was spent promoting him as the principal reason to shell out $35 for the PPV. It speaks volumes of backstage stroke he truly has.

 You can still expect to see Triple H return before the year is out, almost definitely as a babyface, with his first big match at the 2002 Royal Rumble. In fact, he's already been advertised locally as Jericho's opponent at an untelevised house show on Jan. 12, although since the WWF failed to deliver him as promised to a worldwide TV audience of millions, I doubt they'll have any hesitation in not delivering him to a crowd of 9,000 in Lubbock, Tex.

 RATINGS GRABBER:

 This week's Raw drew an exceptionally high 4.7 rating, though the reason for the increase is unclear. Curiosity over the title unification is the most likely candidate, though if next week's number is around the same, it'll mean there's a definite upturn in viewership. TSN made the unusual decision to edit William Regal's brass knuckle assault on Kane from Monday's edition of the show. In a move usually reserved for man-on-woman violence or excessive T&A, they switched to pre-taped crowd shots instead of showing Regal's relatively tame blows to Canadian viewers.


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