In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Nick Jackson of AEW’s the Young Bucks compared Chris Jericho to Hulk Hogan, explaining: “He’s done it all, and there is something about that. Even though he has been in the business for 30 years or so, he still wants to give back and get characters over. You never see that.”
While Nick’s reasoning seems at least in parts questionable – since Hogan was never particularly known for having given back to the younger generation or putting younger talent over – the comparison is actually quite fitting.
When Chris Jericho started in AEW and demanded that the company and its fans thank him for putting it on the map, it was only partially an act. Jericho was right, since he is, still, by far the company’s biggest name.
Sure, Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, and others have name value among hardcore wrestling fans. But none of them have the name recognition of Chris Jericho, who has been around America’s wrestling mainstream since 1996 when he jumped from Philadelphia-based ECW to the international stage of WCW. Jericho has been on television for almost twenty-five years, and during those twenty-five years he has not only been a dominant figure for two or three generations of fans – he’s also never changed his name.
None of this discredits his colleagues or their talent. But nobody on the AEW roster had or has the name recognition of Chris Jericho, and that’s where Hulk Hogan comes in.
Talk to any random person on the street today and chances are they have at least heard of Hulk Hogan. The name Hulk Hogan transcends wrestling. It is a cultural phenomenon – even thirty-five years after his hottest period. The reason? Hogan was around during wrestling’s two hottest periods: the mid-eighties and the late-nineties – and he was on top during both.
When Hogan jumped ship in 1994 from the WWE to WCW, he was immediately crowned champion – and it was the right move. Hogan elevated WCW from a southern wrestling promotion to a national promotion rivaling the WWE – at least in the eyes of advertisers and TV executives. This new perception eventually opened other doors, like a prime time Monday night time slot. Without Hogan’s signing in 1994, there would have arguably been no Monday Night Wars.
However, signing Hogan had its downsides for WCW. He not only brought in all his WWE friends, like Jim Duggan, Earthquake, Brutus Beefcake, and the Honky Tonk Man, but even worse, he demanded creative control, effectively blocking the main event and World Title picture for years to come. While Hogan’s on-camera performance and booking was not the main reason for WCW going under, his politics definitely hurt the company in the long run as other talent demanded (and got) similar salaries and contract clauses. All of those backstage politics also created resentment in the locker room, and this is where Nick Jackson’s comparison doesn’t fit.
While Jericho is a creative person and undoubtedly knows his worth, he is also a team player who is willing to work with (and put over) anybody. Crowning him the first AEW champion was simply the right move – just like it was with Hogan in 1994. It had nothing to do with ego and everything to do with name recognition, creating the largest possible audience for Dynamite’s debut show – and it worked like a charm. Jericho’s name lent immediate credibility to AEW. Once a fan base was established, Jericho dropped the belt – to Jon Moxley, another familiar face.
Once he hangs up his boots for good, Jericho will likely be remembered as one of the greatest of all time: not just for his achievements, but also because he has been around for so long. He has name recognition that might one day match Hulk Hogan’s. But his work ethic and outlook on the business is closer to another legend who has been around forever and was known to be a team player in his day, never afraid to put the younger generation over – that man was Terry Funk.
AEW will eventually crown its first home-grown champion. When that happens, it will take place on the foundation Jericho helped cement. Until then, it is pretty safe to say that Jericho will continue putting over a number of younger talents and elevating them into the main event position. Unlike Hogan, he has the record to prove it, brother.
(via Sports Illustrated)
The Young Bucks recently compared Chris Jericho to Hulk Hogan in an interview in an apt comparison of Jericho and Hogan's strengths.