Alright, I think there’s a couple of things we need to get out of the way before we really dive into this review of “The Road Is Jericho: Epic Stories & Rare Matches from Y2J”…
1. Yes, the title of this release is pretty stupid.
2. The cover art does look like the cover do a direct-to-video action movie
On the plus side, though, we have another video focusing on Chris Jericho, who is a Top 5 all-timer for me. Jericho’s first DVD is one of my favorites, with some really great matches included as the extras. Jericho’s had such a long career though, I knew there wouldn’t be too much of a struggle to find more stuff to include. I also love the format WWE has been using for match compilations like this one, Shawn Michaels: Mr. WrestleMania, and Bret Hart: Dungeon Collection, in which we get short interviews before every match. It makes each match on the set feel important, something the superstar wanted to be included.
Given that Chris Jericho is great when talking about his career (which reminds me, I still need to read his third book…), I was looking forward to hearing his thoughts on these various matches. It turns out, we’re getting pretty much exactly what we would expect and want (assuming that you can ignore that dumb title).
“Codebreaker”: The Interview
Despite the goofy title, I actually enjoyed the gimmick behind this DVD quite a bit. Interviewing Jericho while he is in his limousine may seem like a goofy gimmick, but if nothing else, it gave us a different backdrop then we usually get for these interviews. No, it didn’t really add anything substantial to the interviews (although there were a few funny moments in which Jericho references things going on outside), but it helped make the DVD feel unique, which is welcome after so many home videos we’ve seen from WWE.
I’ve been continually going back and forth on how I feel about the interviews here. You definitely get some fun stories throughout. One thing Jericho continually mentions during the interview is that the majority of these matches he has never rewatched, and it actually can be fun to get his thoughts on matches from a long time ago. The stuff that he mentions is clearly what stood out to him, even if it doesn’t seem like the biggest moments of each match. That being said, we definitely get some better insight with the more recent matches, simply because they are fresher in Jericho’s mind. The interviews added a lot to some of those matches, particularly the ones from 2012 and onwards.
The only downside to the interviews stems from facts that can’t really be helped. Jericho has done so many interviews and told so many stories, it feels like we’ve heard a ton of his stories. With a 25 year career, he certainly has a ton of stories that he can tell, and it is good that nothing feels too familiar. However, this feels like a taste of information we can get in more detail in the form of another book or a podcast or something along those lines. The interviews are still solid, but they have been done better in other formats. It’s Jericho, so it can’t really be anything less than entertaining.
“Break Down The Walls”: The Matches
ECW TV Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Pit Bull #2 (ECW Hardcore Heaven, 6/22/96) – ***
I’m surprised that Jericho’s first major title win in the US was not included on his previous DVD, but I’m happy that we have it included here. Jericho takes on the underdog role in this match, and it suits him pretty well going up against a “beast” like Pit Bull #2. There are some moments that make this match really feel like ECW (such as the amount of outside involvement) but overall I don’t think it took away from the match too much.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Ultimo Dragon (Bash at the Beach, 7/13/97) – *** 1/4
The athleticism on display in this match in undeniable, but for the first 2/3 minutes or so, there was something missing. It may have been that neither man had a strong character, and there wasn’t much of a storyline reason for the match. In the end, they were able to pick up the action, which led to an entertaining finish. With a little more story, this could have been a classic.
WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Dean Malenko (Uncensored, 3/15/98) – *** 1/2
It’s interesting to compare this WCW match to the previous one with Ultimo Dragon, because this match relied much more heavily on storylines, and even if it didn’t have the athleticism of the previous match, I found it to be the stronger contest. This may be a little bit based on my own biases, but I always prefer a match with some storyline implications to one based purely around in-ring action. Of course, the action here is still great from Jericho and Malenko, which helps everything come together to make a great match.
Steel Cage Match: Chris Jericho vs. X-Pac (No Mercy, 10/22/00) – ** 3/4
This is the type of match I’m happy to see on this set: a PPV quality match that has largely been forgotten and has not been seen recently on home video. There are a number of creative spots to this match, and even if the story isn’t totally cohesive, the match is still a lot of fun because of the individual moments. Jericho’s story before the match helps make some of those moments seem like an even bigger deal.
Last Man Standing Match: Chris Jericho vs. Kane (Armageddon, 12/10/00) – ***
Long time readers of the site may remember my general disdain for Last Man Standing matches, but this is one of the better ones I remember seeing. There isn’t too much time wasted on the referee counting, and those moments are chosen pretty well. At first, it seems unbelievable that Jericho would be able to win based on the story they were telling, but over the course of the match the wrestlers do a great job teetering the line between believable and unbelievable. The ending is classic attitude era. Yes, it is completely ridiculous, but it is funny to look back on what was popular at the time.
WWE Championship Match (Guest Ref – Mick Foley): Chris Jericho vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Raw, 6/4/01) – ***
This match goes right from 0 to 100 at the start, and usually, I find that those matches can suffer from a lack of build-up. This match was put together perfectly though. It is the perfect length, and is paced well with a lot of exciting moments. The interference actually helped the match in that regard, because it kept things interesting even after the match had been so crazy in the beginning. I’m sure there are better Austin/Jericho matches out there, but this was a fun inclusion, and Foley’s involvement didn’t detract from the match at all.
WCW Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Booker T (Raw, 7/16/01) – **
Nothing too notable about this match, outside of the fact that it was at the start of the Invasion angle, at which point the whole angle was still very popular with the crowd. They help make this match seem a lot more meaningful than it truly is, given that there isn’t really anything that stands out about it. Yes, the ending is a bit wonky, but that’s to be expected for a match like this.
WCW Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle (Rebellion, 11/3/01) – *** 3/4
By this point in their careers, both Angle and Jericho were pretty well-adapted to the “WWE Style”. Of course, these two had had a great series of matches earlier in their careers, feuding over the IC and European titles, but by this point they were performing on another level, and it shows in this match. Again, there isn’t anything too “memorable” about this match. It’s simply two performers going out and giving us a great match, without the need of any big bells and whistles.
WWE Undisputed Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. The Rock (Royal Rumble, 1/20/02) – *** 1/2
This match, on the other hand, is filled with a ton of bells and whistles, and almost every form of cheating you can imagine. That makes it even more impressive that it works as well as it does. The Rock was pretty much at peak popularity, and Jericho was pretty well hated by the audience. This helps make all of the big moments work so well; the crowd is with them the entire time. They are also pretty well timed, which helps keep things entertaining throughout.
#1 Contender’s Match: Chris Jericho vs. Triple H (SmackDown, 4/25/02) – ** 1/4
I’m not quite sure why these matches never worked, but outside of the Hell-in-a-Cell match, I felt like there was always something missing from the Jericho/HHH series from 2002. As Jericho mentions in the interview, there was always a bit of animosity between the two, and maybe that’s why things never clicked perfectly. There’s nothing wrong with this match, but there’s an intensity that just isn’t there, which prevents them from really having great chemistry.
Chris Jericho vs. Jeff Hardy (Raw, 2/10/03) – ** 1/2
A solid TV match from the end of Hardy’s original WWE run. At this point, you could tell something was off with Hardy, and while it doesn’t interfere with the match too much, it is noticeable. While a good match, nothing too notable either.
Chris Jericho vs. Edge (Raw, 3/7/05) – *** 1/2
For a TV match, I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. The two were given a good deal of time, and put together a great match that felt like something you would see on NXT nowadays (I mean that in the best way possible). The storyline is pretty simple, but they keep you engaged throughout. It’s also interesting to note that this match occurred very soon after the Edge/Lita personal incident, and the crowd is all over Edge the entire match because of this.
Last Man Standing Match: Chris Jericho vs. Shawn Michaels (Raw, 11/10/08) – ** 1/4
Michaels and Jericho have had some incredible matches over the years, but for some reason, this match just did not work for me. It felt a bit like they were just going through the motions, especially after their classic ladder match about a month earlier. Even removing my Last Man Standing match bias, it still felt like the chemistry was just a bit off, which is odd for these two. There are some fun moments throughout the match, but they never really coalesce as well as I would have wanted.
World Heavyweight Championship Street Fight: Chris Jericho vs. John Cena (Dark Match, 12/29/08) – ** 1/2
It’s always cool to see dark matches included on these sets. They have a very different feel to them, and since they are usually fairly short, they are very uniquely paced. This one is no different, and the big spots start right at the beginning. I can’t say the match is anything out of the ordinary from an in-ring standpoint, but it still is fascinating to watch for the novelty of it. Of course, it is also presented without commentary, which adds to the unique viewing experience.
Mask vs. Intercontinental Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio (The Bash, 6/28/09) – **** 1/2
This match represents the culmination of what might be the best feud of 2009, and they went out with a bang. Everything about this match is put together beautifully, from the unique reversals to the great storytelling moments. It’s interesting that it took this long for us to get a Jericho/Mysterio feud, but in this case, the feud may have just grown better with age. The mask moments also worked really well; this gimmick could have felt very played out, but it really didn’t in this scenario.
Chris Jericho & Big Show vs. John Cena & The Undertaker vs. D-Generation X (Raw, 11/16/09) – ** 1/4
This is a match that lives off of its star power, and I do find that those are always fun for DVD sets. This match is a little bit longer, and does include a few neat multi-man spots, so it is enjoyable. I also can understand the desire to want to include a Jeri-Show match, which was a pretty fun tag team. While this certainly isn’t one of Jericho’s greatest matches (and we’ve definitely seen it before), it’s a decent inclusion.
WWE Championship Chicago Street Fight: Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk (Extreme Rules, 4/29/12) – **** 1/2
Following up their WrestleMania classic was no easy feat for Jericho and Punk, but they do it here in this Chicago classic. I go back and forth about how I feel in regards to the abstinence storyline, but if nothing else, it added an intensity to this feud that makes the match something you can’t take your eyes off of. The hatred between the two doesn’t feel manufactured (especially from Punk), and it makes the messy nature of this match work very well.
Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam (Raw, 7/15/13) – *** 3/4
A Jericho vs. RVD match probably shouldn’t have been this good in 2013, but the audience was in for quite a surprise when we got this one on RAW. As Jericho explains in the interview, they were given a lot of time, and were able to put together an interesting match with very little prep. This match also shows that you can put together a compelling match when there isn’t much of a storyline outside of friendly competition, which can be a challenge. We were also given all the commercial break WWE App footage on the DVD, which makes the match feel more complete.
Steel Cage Match: Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt (Raw, 9/8/14) – *** 1/4
The Jericho/Wyatt feud was one of my bigger disappointments of 2014 (I’m still not really sure why this didn’t work as well as I expected it would), but this cage match was clearly the high point of the feud. There are a number of great spots throughout, and even if there isn’t much to really hold them together, they still keep the match interesting.
Chris Jericho vs. Randy Orton (Night of Champions, 9/21/14) – **** 1/4
Much like the 2013 RVD match, this is another one that was way better than I expected it to be. In the interview before the match, Jericho compares this to a song like Stairway to Heaven, that starts slow and then crescendos to something great. I think that is the perfect way to describe this match. It starts off a bit slow, but all of that is necessary to build to the awesome moments throughout the second half of the match. In the end, this ended up being one of the best matches of 2014.
Blu-ray Exclusive Matches
Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Chris Jericho vs. Christian (Unforgiven, 9/12/04) – ** 3/4
A perfectly decent ladder match, but there was nothing about this that made it really stand out. I felt like the Jericho and Christian had some better singles matches earlier in the year, and by this point I think some of the spark may have been gone. Regardless, it’s still an entertaining match.
Intercontinental Championship Match: Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio (Raw, 6/15/09) – ** 3/4
As I discussed above, this was a great feud, and while this match was basically a stepping stone on the way to The Bash classic, it still is a very well put together match. The ending was very well done to help build to the PPV match as well.
Chris Jericho vs. Evan Bourne (Fatal 4-Way, 6/20/10) – *** 1/2
From my recollection, this was probably Bourne’s best singles match during his WWE run. Jericho brought out the best in him, and made him seem like a big deal, especially after the win. It’s interesting to hear Jericho speak about Bourne before the match; he is very candid, and explains why it was difficult for Bourne to try to follow up a feud with Jericho. It’s pretty easy to see why after this match.
Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk (Payback, 6/16/13) – **** 1/4
Punk AND Jericho seem to be incapable of putting on bad matches, and this is no exception. This match doesn’t have the storyline propulsion that their 2012 matches had, so it may be even more impressive that the match is as successful as it is. Because of the Chicago crowd, Jericho was able to switch into full bad guy mode pretty easily, and helped give the match some throughline.
“The Best In The World At What I Do”: Closing Thoughts
It’s a Jericho Blu-ray; of course this was pretty great. The format is solid, and the match choices all make a lot of sense. There is a nice balance between some little seen matches (even if they may be PPV matches), and few matches we’ve seen many times, but are classics (such as the Rey Mask vs. Title match). I felt that the interviews did add enough to the matches to help make this release stand out from just finding all the matches on the Network. As you can see from the breakdown above, most of the matches were above average, with a few being even better than that.
Because so much of the footage is HD, I would recommend the Blu-ray here. Most of those matches are ones that have been released in some form already, but they are all pretty good, and you also get some fun interviews on the Blu-ray as well. Jericho’s original proposal for his feud with Punk is one of the most interesting stories on the Blu-ray, and that is mentioned in the extras.
Overall, this set is an easy recommendation, but I’m guessing you assumed that based on the subject matter.