WCW had no clue what they had with Chris Jericho. Had they not rested on their laurels to detrimental proportions, Jericho could have led the next class of WCW stars into a new era of Monday Night Wars. Instead, he reached his glass ceiling in Atlanta. Jericho was merely entertaining himself in addition to millions of WCW fans with his heel antics. Under more a more competent corporate structure, he could have entertained millions more.
Chris Jericho is the guy who gave us the "arm bar" promo and Jerichoholics. The one who intentionally mispronounced his opponent's names to hilarious proportions.
Prince Yakamakee. Ron Mysterio Jr. Stinko Malenko.
Jericho was a breath of fresh air in a division that depended on high-flying stunts to convey the personalities of its wrestlers.
In addition to a real personality that connected with fans, Jericho could wrestle with the best of them. He too was high-flying, technical and above all innovative.
Jericho's Lion Tamer was a unique take on one of wrestling's oldest holds, the Boston Crab. It was a microcosm of his character as a whole. A throwback to the likes of Shawn Michaels or The Ultimo Dragon with his own added twist.
After dominating the cruiserweight division as its breakout star, Jericho received an elusive chance to run with the elite.
He was positioned against Goldberg during a forgettable reign as the TV Champion. What could have been a career-making feud for The Lionheart was treated like a walking billboard for Bill Goldberg. It was as if Jericho's primary duty was to remind fans that Goldberg was a big star because Goldberg was unable to do so from the shower. Or in a promo.
Jericho's was not presented as a threat to WCW's undefeated one-man franchise and his talents were squandered with every segment.
Paired with Ralphus, a walking example of a wrestling fan gone wrong, Jericho's comedic exploits suddenly had no wrestling to back it up. He was closer to an FM DJ than a title contender.
Despite the silliness, Jericho's chain of irreverent challenges to Goldberg could have made Jericho a star by association if not for one match.
That match never came.
The Miz used the exact same strategy of barking up the Redwood Tree. Several barks later, he was finally answered by John Cena. And beaten handily on pay-per-view.
Miz built on that taste of the main event and propelled to a main event spot at WrestleMania XXVII as WWE Champion. His opponent? John Cena.
All this considering this era's Miz isn't half as talented as that era's Jericho.
Not even close.
The closest Chris Jericho came to working Goldberg was against a phony version. The angle did nothing for Jericho but rendered him a habitual ghost-chaser.
Since no match materialized from this storyline, Jericho was made to look like a fool who wasted valuable television time.
Less than one year later, Jericho jumped ship to the WWE.
Three years later. Well, you know.
Jericho leaving WCW was the equivalent to The Dodgers unloading 2013 phenom Yasiel Puig while asking for nothing in exchange. His skills could have anchored WCW's future. But for the Turner conglomerate, his departure helped ensure that there would be no such future.