Chris Jericho comes home to Winnipeg
By JON WALDMAN -- For SLAM! Wrestling
After more than a decade in the squared-circle,
Winnipeg's Chris Jericho returns home with the
opportunity to win the World Wrestling Federation
Heavyweight Title from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, this
Sunday at the Winnipeg Arena.
For Jericho, the Wininpeg Arena holds a special place in his heart. He grew up watching several wrestling
events at the arena. "It's a very heart-warming
experience for me and hopefully for all the people of
Winnipeg," he said.
Chris Jericho fields a question today at a press conference in Winnipeg. -- Jon Waldman, For SLAM! Wrestling
"It must be kind of cool to see somebody who grew up
here, and paid the dues here, and then been around the
world ever since and then return [home]."
Jericho, real name Chris Irvine, began his wrestling
career in Winnipeg at the age of 17 as a part of the
ring crew for promoter Bob Holliday. Holliday recalls
that, "when he (Jericho) wasn't riding in the back of
the van, setting up or taking down the rings, he was
picking the brains of the legendary Baron Von
Jericho soon began wrestling for local promoter Tony
Condello, who was famous for his "death tours" up to
Northern Manitoba. "We'd go up in a van and travel for
12, 15 hours, one way over frozen lakes to
reservations and perform in front of 30 people,"
Jericho says, adding that the tours were, "a good way
to pay your dues."
Several WWF wrestlers took part in these tours,
including current Hardcore champion Rhyno, and
seven-time Tag-Team champions Edge and Christian.
Jericho, 31, feels that the tours were extremely
beneficial in his development. "It gave us respect for
what we have and discipline," he said, "and
appreciation for the wrestling business."
Ted Irvine, Jericho's dad and former player in the
National Hockey League, is proud of his son's ability
to make it through the early years of his career.
"Chris has paid his price and paid his dues," he said.
"I'm very proud of the fact that he stuck with it
through downtimes and uptimes."
Soon, Jericho began touring overseas, including runs
in Mexico and Japan. This led to contracts in the
United States, first in Extreme Championship Wrestling
in 1995, and later in World Championship Wrestling.
After being released from WCW in 1999, Jericho signed
with the WWF, fulfilling a life-long dream.
As Jericho readied himself for his debut, he came up
with the idea of being the WWF's "Millennium Man" while at a post
office. "I saw a 'countdown-to-the-Millennium' clock,
and I thought that would be a great for a guy coming
in," he said.
Jericho debuted in the WWF in August of 1999, and
quickly became a main attraction for the
Stamford-based organization. Soon after his debut,
Jericho found himself wrestling his first match at the
Winnipeg Arena on August 21. Jericho subbed for The
Rock, whose plane was delayed in Miami. Jericho was
originally supposed to do an interview, but was soon
informed that he would be in the main event. "I was a
bad guy at the time," he said. "I was going to cut a
heel (bad guy) promo on Wininpeg, but then I ended up
being the returning hometown hero."
Now Jericho re-enters the Winnipeg Arena, preparing
for a match for the Federation's biggest prize, the
WWF Heavyweight Title, already being one half of the
Tag-Team chamions with Edmonton native and long-time
friend Chris Benoit. He feels that this opportunity is
a monumental moment in his career. "It could be a
pinnacle for my career if I walk out of that arena
with the championship."
THE CARD (subject to change):
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin (champion) vs. "Y2J" Chris
Kane (champion) vs. William Regal
"Canadian Crippler" Chris Benoit vs. Rhyno
Three-team Tag Elimination
The Dudley Boyz vs. X-Pac/Justin Credible vs. The
Grand-Master Sexay/Steve Blackman vs. Dean
Test vs. Big Show
Raven vs. Hardcore Holly
Spike Dudley vs. Crash Holly
Molly vs. Ivory
Jerry Lynn vs. Funaki
Tickets are still available for the show. Card begins
at 6pm CST at the Winnipeg Arena