But he does have an interesting relationship with the community. In the late 90s, Jericho was one of the first wrestlers to really embrace the internet. Long before we could talk to Zack Ryder on Twitter, Jericho was interacting with fans through his personal website. He even cruised dirtsheet message boards... that was until King of the Ring 2002. Jericho wrestled RVD in the opening match of that PPV and when he checked the reviews later that night, he went off on the usual smarky nonsense that polluted the usual sites. I don't remember the specifics and I'm sure his rant has been lost to time, but Jericho basically swore off the IWC, claiming no matter how good the performance, they'll never be satisfied.
Of course, he was right, but eventually came back into the fold thanks to the rise of social media, but his relationship with internet fans (I kinda hate that term too) remained rocky. In 2010, he went on this rant after reneging on his promise to leave WWE if he lost a match:
"Hey Internet...Im a heel. Heels lie, therefore if I say something boastfully and reneg on it, it's not an official stipulation. Smarten up! Hello Internet experts. Allow me to explain something to u kiddies. Winning and losing means nothing if you do it properly. I would be happy to lose to every single one of you and watch your faces as I walk out of the arena with more heat than before. Watch and learn children. Sit back and let the real experts work our magic as we make u behave like the puppets that you are. Cheers!"
It's not that I think Jericho wants to "work" the internet, he just wants to be hated, because he's a bad guy and bad guys are supposed to be hated. He's not the nWo, he doesn't want to be the cool heel that all the "smart" fans cheer for, he wants to be hated, he likes being the villain. He said years ago he never wanted to be a good guy again and if I had to take a guess, I'd wager that's where he's going with his return. He comes in all smiles with that ridiculously awesome jacket and plays to the crowd, but then it becomes pandering, then it becomes obnoxious and we're all left scratching our heads. And all of us who marked out (bro), got a splash of ice cold water to the face, courtesy of Jericho, who has no interest in those of us who cheer for him, and maybe, just maybe, he wants us to play along.
Getting pissy about a "weak payoff" and "worst return ever" might not be the reaction Jericho was looking for, but it probably is the one he expected and that's an intriguing story to write. To everyone bitching about it without a single follow-up yet, you're proving him right.
Jericho's basically at a point in his career where he can do anything he wants creatively and he doesn't have to be in WWE. He's like a modern day Roddy Piper, he returns occasionally to tell the best stories in wrestling. And... just when you think you have all the answers, he changes the questions.
Another big thanks to Andrew Southern for the graphic work and Boss Lady Rae for sharing!