The Man of 1,004 Holds – WCW, 1998
Chris Jericho was on a roll. He was the cruiserweight champion, had put Rey Misterio Jr. out with a knee injury, and had unmasked Juventud Guerrera. However, dark clouds were on the horizon. This became evident on the February 26th edition of Thunder, when Jericho teamed with Eddie Guerrero against Dean Malenko (the man Jericho would be defending against at Uncensored) and Booker T. Eddie won the match by pinning Booker, but Jericho was trapped in the Texas Cloverleaf. Things continued on a downward spiral on the following Nitro, as Jericho and Eddie lost the rematch. Once again, Jericho was trapped in the Cloverleaf and this time Eddie wasn’t able to make the save.
Jericho decided it was time to start with his own specialty – mind games. On the March 5th Thunder, Jericho was defending his cruiserweight title against Ciclope (AKA Halloween from Mexico’s Most Wanted). Jericho opened the match by boasting about the fact that Dean Malenko may be the “man of a thousand holds,” but Jericho knew 1,004! Jericho easily defeated Ciclope, only to be attacked by Malenko and put back in the Cloverleaf at the end of the match.
Things turned around at the next week’s Thunder. Malenko took on Jericho for the title. Oddly enough, Jericho wrestled wearing his “trophies” from previous victories – namely Juventud’s mask and a Rey Misterio t-shirt. Malenko finally trapped Jericho in the Cloverleaf once again for the victory, making Malenko the new cruiserweight champion. Unfortunately, Dean Malenko unmasked Jericho after the match – revealing Lenny Lane. The decision was reversed and Jericho kept his belt. Jericho was working hard to get under Malenko’s skin.
The next Sunday was Uncensored, where Jericho managed to defeat Malenko with the Liontamer. After the match, Gene Okerlund asked Malenko where he was going now. Malenko responded with just one word. “Home.”
Jericho was in rare form the next night on Nitro, where he was defending the title against Juventud Guerrera. He bragged about his trophies – Juvi’s mask, Rey’s knee, the belt itself, and Malenko’s dignity. He then said that he was taking the Texas Cloverleaf and renaming it the Jericho Maple Leaf, thereby making it hold 1,005. The match ended when Jericho leveled Juvi with the title belt (in front of the ref, drawing a DQ), and then slapped on the Maple Leaf. After it was over, he just said that this wouldn’t be 1,005 after all.
Jericho was able to pretty much put it on cruise control now. His next defenses were easy wins over Super Calo and Lenny Lane (who wanted his $1000 for taking Jericho’s place in the Malenko match; Jericho replied by accusing Lane of stealing his outfit and his Loverboy tapes). On the following Thunder, Jericho defeated Disco Inferno and took his headband to add to the trophy collection.
The fun continued on the March 30th Nitro. Jericho defeated Marty Jannetty (in a match he dedicated to Dean Malenko), and then pulled out a long roll of paper so he could read all his holds. At least, until, Prince Iaukea and Glacier interrupted him for the next match and Iaukea took his list away.
This brought about a mini-feud that began on the next episode of Nitro. Jericho had Juvi in the Liontamer, but Juvi wouldn’t tap (he was going with a real Never Surrender motto at the time) so Iaukea threw in the towel for Juvi. Jericho threw it back, which degenerated into a brawl between the two.
Jericho got a chance to move up on that week’s Thunder. He faced Booker T in a match for the television title. Unfortunately, he pulled the ref in front of him to defend against a Booker dropkick and wound up disqualified.
Jericho decided to turn things back in his favor on Nitro. He was defending against Super Calo, and accused Super Calo of being “Prince Makimaki” under the mask. While the ref checked this out, Jericho attacked and quickly won the match. Iaukea (to prove he wasn’t Calo?) ran in to try an attack after the match. He attacked again after Jericho defeated Chavo Guerrero Jr. on Thunder.
This came to a head at Spring Stampede. Jericho finally locked on the Liontamer, and Iaukea had nowhere to go. Jericho won, and took the prince’s skirt as another trophy to add to the collection.
Jericho opened his next match in an unusual way. He came out with a cardboard picture of Dean Malenko, and was wearing the prince’s skirt. After bragging about how the crowd was loving his “mahi mahi,” he informed them that Dean was definitely retired and had a job interview at Harry’s Burgers coming up. Jericho defeated Juvi when Juvi passed out, then channeled Stan from South Park by claiming “Oh my gosh, I’ve killed Juvi!”
Jericho kept things rolling on the next Nitro. He brought the picture back out with him and interviewed it after making fun of Quasi Juice. The picture gave us the good news that Harry’s had indeed hired Dean as the new fry cook. To finish the night on a high note, Jericho defeated Chavo in another title defense.
The next night (yes, they had Nitro on Monday and Tuesday nights this week), Jericho came out to Malenko’s music. He introduced himself as Malenko and then started crying that he wanted to go home. Then he beat Psychosis to retain the cruiserweight title.
Jericho’s fun didn’t stop on the next Nitro. He interviewed the picture again, and informed everyone that Malenko was boring. So he called out a man with one more hold than Malenko – Bore-us Malenko, the man of one hold! Unfortunately, one hold didn’t fare too well against 1,004, and Jericho racked up another victory.
On the 11th, Jericho came out to do an interview. Along with his normal trophies, he brought along a picture of Dean he’d “improved” with such additions as a Van Dyke beard and a caption where Dean said “I’m a Jerichoholic.” Finally Joe Malenko, Dean’s brother, hopped the rail and demanded that Jericho give Dean some respect. To respond, Jericho nailed him with a prothestic leg (he had it to represent Rey’s injured knee).
Finally at Slamboree, a cruiserweight battle royal took place, where the winner would get an immediate title shot at Jericho. Jericho came out to do the ring introductions in his own special way (which included reminding Lenny Lane that he wanted his Loverboy tapes back). At the end of the match, it came down to Juvi and Ciclope. They stood, just staring at each other for a couple of minutes, and then Juvi turned and jumped over the top rope.
As Jericho made his way out, Ciclope unmasked, revealing… Dean Malenko. The crowd went nuts as Malenko took out months of frustration on Jericho, finally taking the win and the Cruiserweight title.
Jericho spent the next month doing something he excelled at – whining. He repeatedly pulled JJ Dillon out to complain about the fact that Malenko hadn’t been on the roster of the battle royal and demanded the decision be overturned. When this didn’t work, he found an NWA rulebook from 1934 that said that Malenko should return the belt because Jericho hadn’t agreed to wrestle him. When Malenko refused, Jericho said that he was dishonoring tradition and his father. Malenko responded by giving the belt to Jericho – right between the eyes.
Jericho’s next scheme came about while interviewing with Tony Schiavone. Jericho had gone to Ted Turner about this state of affairs. However, Turner also sided with Dillon and Malenko. The Conspiracy Victim was defeated again.
Finally Malenko had had enough. He surrendered the belt to make a match between him and Jericho at the Great American Bash. Just to sour Jericho’s victory, Jericho’s father, Ted Irvine, came out. Ted explained to Jericho that he would never be a true champion until he defeated Malenko.
At the Bash, Jericho’s mind games took an effect on Malenko. He snapped, nailing Jericho with a chair, which got him disqualified and the title awarded to Jericho. After the match, Malenko continued attacking, eventually running Jericho out of the building.
This showed both Jericho’s strengths in an incredible way. Even though Malenko was at home, Jericho was able to keep the feud going on his own, piling more and more fuel on the fire through his interviews and match dedications. When Dean Malenko finally returned, the crowd blew the roof off the arena, because they knew what was coming.
After losing the match, Jericho continued the feud as the whining heel, again, requiring little mic work from Malenko. Even when it did come down to a match, both men were skillful enough to put on incredible displays that thrilled the crowds.
Where are they now?
In mid-1999, Chris Jericho left WCW, upset about many things (including the fact that a proposed program against Goldberg that was already being built up was suddenly stopped by Eric Bischoff, who felt that Jericho was “too small”). Since then, Jericho has become an intercontinental champion, a European champion, and a three-time tag team champion (with Chris Benoit, the Rock, and Christian, respectively). The high point of his career came in December 2001, as Jericho defeated the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in the same night to unify the WCW and WWF world titles. He would hold the Unified title until Wrestlemania, when HHH defeated him. His website is at http://www.chrisjericho.com .
Dean Malenko left WCW in January of 2000 after Kevin Sullivan became the new head booker. Malenko, along with Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero, immediately entered the WWF as the Radicalz. Here, Malenko became a 2 time WWF Light Heavyweight champion. In 2001, Malenko decided to step away from the ring and accepted a position as a road agent with the WWF.