WWE Raw Preview: Is Jericho's New Gimmick Trying Too Hard or Filling a Void?

Marc MattalianoCorrespondent IIIJanuary 9, 2012

31 Jan 2002 : Wrestler Chris Jericho during the NHL Allstar Celebrity Game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Donald Miralle/Getty Images/NHLI
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Last week on Raw, Chris Jericho returned without a single word to say.

When the promos first began airing as YouTube videos that appeared through static over the Twitter graphics, I had said pretty much verbatim that Jericho would have to do more than just return to impress me. 

So far, despite Jericho being far too outspoken about wrestlers stealing his gimmicks and catchphrases and moves, I'm trying to stay on the fence.

He's returned.  Check.  Now he needs to impress me.  Still hasn't.

I don't believe his return segment last week was brilliant in the slightest, however I will say that it presented an interesting quandary to Jericho's most loyal fans...

If he comes out and says nothing, is he really worth rooting for anymore?

Believe me, I understand the dynamics of being a face and a heel, and how, as an intelligent member of the Internet Wrestling Community, to differentiate between being a fan of a heel and respecting a heel for his ability to entertain.  Though similar, they're not the same thing.

Most of us are wildly entertained by his ability to turn a phrase, but if he doesn't say a word, and is aging more by the day (limiting how impressive his wrestling abilities are), then will his most loyal, intelligent fans stay with him, knowing he's not delivering the same entertainment value he used to?

If he doesn't plan on saying anything, and it's never addressed by anyone, then I don't want any part of it.

And if that's the reason he stays quiet, perhaps we should surmise that he's ultimately trying to be the very best heel he can be.

In his book, Undisputed, he explains how being a heel for so long even affected his band's record sales during a feud with Ric Flair, and how manipulating the crowd to cheer, then boo, then cheer, then boo was becoming a difficulty.

So, which is really better?  Trying new and innovative ways to be a bigger and better and more aggravating heel, or just simply embracing that you're the rockstar you presented people with, and letting people love you no matter what?

Of course, we also have the issue that if WWE is too scared to turn any of their major stars (back) into heels (like Randy or Cena or Triple H or Big Show), then their only other option to find people to play those roles is to bring back well-known heels who can.  WWE has an abundance of very talented heels, but they're failing to do anything really huge or impactful.

Dolph Ziggler and Cody Rhodes, for example, are terrific at getting heat from crowds, but by themselves, they don't pose enough of a dramatic threat that fans desperately want to pay money to see them silenced in person. 

The Miz is another good example.  Along with Alex Riley he attempted to hold sway over the WWE Championship in the early part of last year and late 2009, but instead of making an impact, he just became a bigger heel after bullying A-Ry, losing to him, joining with R-Truth and attempting to undermine Triple H's authority.

When current heels do huge and impactful things lately, the faces seem to put them down way too quickly, thus completely obliterating any chance they have at guiding the company's "heroes" to accomplish anything of note outside of upholding clean, fair and honorable victories, standing up for the little guy, and anything else comic book characters defend.

Then again, could it be that Jericho is simply trying too hard?  It's obvious just by watching him the last few years worth of his wrestling appearances that he almost prefers being a heel, yet people come in droves to root for him and chant "Y2J."  I honestly thought that when he was in his "suited, slow-talking, big words" phase.

People wanted to root for him at the time, but he's kept playing villainous, irritating roles on Raw that prevent fans from doing that.

Many of us here criticize John Cena for being a watered down babyface for too long, but that's easy.  Cena's not only played the same exact character on-screen for years, but it hasn't made the same kind of massive impact it initially made in who knows how long.

Is it better to drive your babyface run into the ground, or constantly be a more creative heel that willfully does not allow fans to cheer, despite so many wanting to cheer out of respect?

When I think about it like that, Chris finding an innovative way to return to wrestling that almost ensures people will boo is no better or more compelling than John Cena constantly attempting to woo us into cheering, when so many refuse to.

Am I wrong to believe that wrestling fans want to feel like they're allowed the freedom to cheer or boo who they want, and not be swayed too strongly one way or the other?  Gosh, I feel like Cena's said that same thing a few times before.

WWE has tried hard to get us to cheer Cena, when many of us have been done with that for quite some time.  Manipulating us into changing our minds is part of the business, sure, it's part of what makes the entertainment aspect so entertaining. 

But taking way too much action to get a response that fewer people want to give is wrong, just like Jericho practically forcing us to boo is also wrong.

It's one thing to write a storyline twist that yields jeers, and it's another thing to force the issue so strongly in a direction that no one wants.

Ultimately, Cena and Jericho will both get booed now.  It's just a matter of which one ensures their boos are...the best?

Fans were booing in attendance last week live, yet how can we be so sure they'll be booing again this week, especially if 1) Jericho still hasn't said anything, and 2) he continues the same shtick?

He does the same as last week, for the same amount of time, I'd be willing to bet people will boo quicker this time than last time.  But that's the risk WWE takes with letting this new development burn slowly.

They either gain interest or turn it away.

Tonight, we should get at least a little bit of new insight into Jericho's return, or something else to give us more questions.

I just hope that Jericho's return, along with other swerves and storylines lately, don't suffer the same fate that ABC's LOST did.

Too many questions and not enough answers.  It's a balance that needs to be walked extremely carefully.  Too much mystery gets confusing.  Too many explanations becomes too easy.  It's a balance that needs to sway back and forth to be just right.

Honestly, look at this article turned out.  Too many questions, perhaps?  Hi there, fourth wall.

I will absolutely be watching Raw, and I'm hoping for some surprises.  Anyone expecting any?