There’s a reason why Chris Jericho can come and go as he pleases but still be welcomed back with open arms by the WWE and its fans. He’s one of the most beloved superstars in wrestling history.
Y2J has developed one of the biggest fanbases of any wrestler around because of a career that was defined by greatness.
Like so many others, Jericho gradually worked his way up the pro wrestling totem pole en route to becoming one of the most decorated stars in the history of pro wrestling. He first burst onto the national scene with ECW, before moving on to WCW and eventually the WWE, where he became the company’s first undisputed champion and a living legend.
As a former nine-time Intercontinental, seven-time tag team and six-time World champion, there may never be another WWE star who puts together the on-paper resume that Jericho has.
However, if there’s one current superstar who can be this generation’s version of Chris Jericho, it will be none other than Daniel Bryan.
Like Jericho, Bryan had quite the reputation before he made his WWE debut. While Jericho was viewed as one of the best and most underutilized talents in WCW, Bryan was considered by many to be the top talent on the independent wrestling scene.
Jericho, of course, had arguably the most memorable WWE debut of all-time. Bryan, on the other hand, was unfortunately put on the inaugural season of NXT when most thought he was more than ready to be a full-time member of the main roster.
From that point forward, however, the careers of Jericho and Bryan would mirror each other in a lot of ways.
Not long after his debut, Jericho won the Intercontinental title. For Bryan, it was the United States title, which he won by defeating The Miz within his first year in the WWE.
Within two years of making their WWE debuts, both Bryan and Jericho accomplished something that even some of the greats never did.
That is, win a World title.
In 2001, Jericho won the World championship before defeating both The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on the same night to become the first undisputed champion in WWE history. Bryan won the Money in the Bank match in 2011 before cashing in at WWE TLC to become the World heavyweight champion.
Despite quickly accomplishing a lot in the WWE, it’s never really been about winning titles or racking up accomplishments for either Bryan or Jericho.
While Jericho obviously has a really impressive resume and Bryan is well on his way to having one as well, both of these superstars will be known less for their title wins and more for their nearly unmatched abilities in the ring.
Y2J is widely considered to be one of the best in-ring performers of his generation. Even to this day, despite the fact that he’s in his early 40s, he has the uncanny ability to consistently put on great matches with just about anyone he steps into the ring with and stay over no matter how he’s booked.
The same can be said about Bryan.
When Bryan was a focal point in the World title scene in the first half of 2012, he always put on great matches with the likes of CM Punk, Kane and Sheamus. Since dropping down the card, he’s done the same as a member of the tag team division.
Despite not getting the major push he was receiving just a year ago, Bryan has, in true Jericho-like fashion, made the absolute most of it. Although he’s essentially a comedy character who loses about as much as he wins these days, Bryan has made it work.
Why? Because, like Jericho, he stays over no matter what his role in the WWE is.
For almost a year now, Bryan has consistently generated a bigger reaction than just about anyone in the WWE. What’s even more impressive, however, are the reactions he’s still able to generate even when he loses.
That’s what Jericho was and still is known for. Especially over the course of his two most recent WWE runs, Jericho has been able to come across as a top star even though he loses big match after big match.
It’s a true testament to Y2J’s incredible talents as a performer that he’s able to lose so much and remain so over. Bryan has only been in the WWE for a few years now, yet it’s becoming clear that he will be able to do the same.
At just 31 years old, Bryan is already one of the—if not the—best in-ring performers in the WWE. He’s shown the ability to perform well in a wide variety of roles while somehow managing to stay ridiculously over with the crowd.
That sure sounds a lot like Y2J, and if this trend continues like most think it will, then Bryan will come as close to being “the next Chris Jericho” as anyone ever will.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!