04 April 2012

Book 8 of 2012

My sixth period students watched Othello, and I managed to finish this book.

8) Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps by Chris Jericho
Top five wrestlers, go! My top five always has at least ten guys in it, like any good top five should. Number one is The Rock. A rotating cast takes up numbers two through four; currently that cast consists of Macho Man, Ric Flair and CM Punk. Other folks that could fill out those three slots include Edge, D'Lo Brown, Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Brock Lesnar, Bryan Danielson (a.k.a. Daniel Bryan), AJ Styles, Darren Drozdov, and Kurt Angle. Number five is always Chris Jericho. I guess that kind of makes Chris Jericho number two of my top five, but I like the idea of a pair of bookends for the list. He stood out enough in WCW, to the point that I would track down tapes (VHS tapes!) of him in ECW and Japan. I vividly remember the day he arrived in WWF after the Countdown to the New Millenium clock finally reached zero, and his involvement in a show is always something to watch closely because even when his storyline sucks, he's still the best aspect of it. The point is that I like Chris Jericho more than the average wrestler.

This is Jericho's second memoir; the first dealt with everything in his career through his run in WCW.  During the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWF, his decision to leave Atlanta for the greener pastures of McMahon's organization was huge news, and the first book culminates with his debut in the WWF, ending just before he took the stage to interrupt The Rock's promo. This one picks up with that promo and details his first WWF run, but it also splits time between the ups and downs of learning how to function in the new company with him starting his band Fozzy. It's not really a spoiler to say that this book ends with a sequel in mind, as the last page leads up to his return, which was his most successful run to date, both financially and creatively. Jericho has a deal in place for book three, but I imagine we won't see that until after he retires.

Jericho often writes in a juvenile fashion, thinking it funny to add "-ski" (loadski, dumpski, etc.) to words and make pop culture references that just a year after release already feel dated. His first book came across as a series of Livejournal posts that were collected and bound for publication, but that tone and style fit a guy telling the story of growing up in Canada, learning the pro wrestling trade, and finding success all over the world at a young age. Of course cracking wise in a similar vein as his character at the time makes sense because Jericho's character was a bombastic nerd who engaged in malapropisms to get under the skin of his enemies.

But this is the story of a guy realizing both of his dreams (working for the WWF/E and becoming a huge rock star) and reconciling those dreams with the realities of having to treat them as grown-up jobs with the political potholes and mistakes that accompany any place of employment. It's a story that requires a tone slightly more mature than the one he utilizes. There are definitely times when he drops the Jericho character and writes earnestly and times when said crude tone doesn't detract from what he's relating; however, the book could have used some more consistency and sophistication.

It is a book about guys dressing up in tights and acting like they're fighting each other or playing instruments on stage, though. There's plenty of amusing stories and Jericho's journey through the minefield that is the inner-workings of World Wrestling Entertainment is an enlightening one. He's both honest and guarded at the same time, offering insight into how he viewed certain situations but never saying too much that it might come back to bite him. The chapters dealing with Fozzy also shed some light on how a low-level band has to operate in order to get a modicum of success, and that's with the added bonus of having a group of individuals who were already semi-famous.

The book culminates with two milestones: his mother's death and the Benoit family tragedy. Jericho finds closure in the former, going so far as to contact the man he's always held responsible for her becoming a quadriplegic and suffering for the last decade and a half of her life. The chapters dealing with Chris Benoit offer insight into a man wound up tightly, who was able to compartmentalize so many aspects of his personality that his actions both continue to baffle his closest friends and family and yet also make a sort of morbid sense. Jericho presents the man he knew and relates his reaction to the murderous events of that weekend in June of 2007, but, deep down, his confusion surrounding what happened still haunts him. In effect, his efforts to make sense of what Benoit did leads into his comeback to WWE. Jericho gives the impression that he gained his motivation back for the wrestling industry in spite of one of his best friends almost destroying it in an attempt to help it recover.

Overall, Jericho offers a great sequel, but it's definitely dependent on having read the initial volume.


  1. Vinnie6:55 PM

    Great review, Mr. Talbot. I'm just surprised that you didn't include D'Lo Brown in your list of favorite wrestlers. :)

    1. Dude, reread it! He totally was and I didn't even modify this entry at all!