Chris Jericho may not be the biggest, strongest, or even flashiest wrestler to ever step between the ropes, but he’s certainly one of the most influential. Jericho’s training was as old-school as it comes, and he went on to earn his stripes wrestling all around the world. He was also a cutting edge “love to hate ’em” comedy heel, and arguably the first true Internet darling. Really, you can pretty much divide pro wrestling history into Before Jericho, and After Jericho periods.
Of course, being a pioneer isn’t easy, and Y2J wasn’t always considered a sure thing. Here’s a few facts about Y2J’s long climb to his first World Championship even Jerichoholics may not know…
Chris Jericho’s dad was an NHL veteran.
Chris Irvine was born November 9, 1970 in Nassau County, Long Island. One of the few successful pro wrestlers to come from a legit sports family, Chris’ dad was Ted Irvine, a hard-checking left winger who played 11 seasons in the NHL for the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues. Chris was never much of a hockey player, but his dad — who went by the nickname “The Baby-faced Assassin” — passed down plenty of toughness that came useful in schoolyard brawls (and Chris’ later career).
He didn’t know wrestling was fake until he was 18.
Poor baby Chris Jericho, more mullet than mind.
When Chris was around seven, his dad decided to hold onto his few remaining teeth, hang up the skates, and move the family back to his hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. The land of gray skies, frozen ears and chili fries doesn’t always have much going for it (trust me), but Winnipeg was a good wrestling town during the ’70s and ’80s, with the AWA and WWF making frequent visits.
Chris would go to all the shows, and once he got old enough to forge a driver’s license, he hung out at their favorite bars, meeting the likes of Hulk Hogan, André the Giant and Shawn Michaels. When not stalking the stars, Chris also worked ring crew for local shows and staged elaborate fantasy wrestling shows with his friends in his high school gym. Despite all this, it somehow, some way, remained real to young Chris. Finally, at age 18, Chris was smartened up by a journeyman wrestler named Catfish Charlie, and needless to say, he was aghast. Chris got over the shock soon enough – the embarrassment took a bit longer.
The Hart Family devoted less than half an hour to training him.
“So, is it too late to ask for a refund?”
One of Chris Jericho’s selling points has always been that he was one of the last men to train under the Hart Family in the infamous Dungeon, which isn’t entirely true. Jericho simply missed that boat, as Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling and The Dungeon were closed for business when he began training in 1990.
The Hart Brothers Wrestling Camp Jericho signed up for was owned by third-string Hart brother, Keith, and run out of a bowling alley. According to Jericho, Keith gave Jericho less than half an hour of hands-on training, which consisted of the 19-year-old Jericho being made to take a dangerous back body drop without any instruction, and a few minutes of painful “stretching.” After that, Keith was never seen again and all the training was done by a referee named Ed Langley, who read out of a manual supposedly written by Stu Hart. Eventually Jericho did get to do some training in the actual dank, dungeon-like basement of the Hart Family mansion, but all the teaching was done by Japanese wrestler Mr. Hito. Jericho still speaks highly of his training, and obviously it paid off, but none of it was thanks to any actual Harts.
A family tragedy almost ended his wrestling career before it began.
Chris and his mom in happier times.
Shortly after completing his wrestling training, Chris received a fateful call from his father: “You have to come home right now. Your mom has been in an accident.”
Chris’ parents had split up a couple years prior, and his mom Loretta was now dating another man. Unfortunately, during an argument with the new boyfriend, Chris’ mom fell on her head (the exact details of how are unclear) and was instantly paralyzed. She would never regain her mobility. A heartbroken Chris immediately began to make plans to move back to Winnipeg to be close to his mother, but as soon as she was strong enough to speak, she gave him this message…
“I don’t want you to change anything. I want you to continue what you’re doing. You have a dream and you’re so close to making it happen. I’m proud of you and I want you to do this and be the best that you can be.”
Chris returned to Calgary with a heavy heart, and had his first match a few weeks later. His mother lived as a quadriplegic for another 15 years, during which she absolutely did get to see her son be the best he could be.
Jericho has kept track of every match he’s ever had.
The Man of Over 2,000 Match Results.
Let’s be honest, Chris Jericho can be a bit of a dweeb. As evidence, I refer you to the fact that Chris claims to have recorded the results and details of every match he’s ever had. From his first battle against Lance Storm to his most recent SummerSlam bout with Enzo and Cass, it’s all been dutifully detailed. Hey, how can you expect the fans to obsess over your career if you’re not going to do it yourself?
He nearly got stuck with a He-Man gimmick in Mexico.
After completing his training, Jericho bounced around the Canadian independent scene with Lance Storm for a bit, but his career didn’t really take off until he went to Mexico in 1992. There Jericho became Leon D’Oro (“Golden Lion”) and began to build a resume for himself, but things almost went very differently for our fledgling sexy beast.