On Dec. 9, 2001, Chris Jericho became the first Undisputed Champion in WWE history when he defeated both The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on the same night to unify the WWE and WCW Championships.
Twelve years later, Randy Orton beat John Cena in an epic Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match to combine the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles and become the first-ever WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
To get a better perspective on what it means to be the only Superstar at the top of the mountain, WWE.com reached out to Y2J to get his opinion.
In between touring with Fozzy, creating the web series “But I’m Chris Jericho!” and launching his podcast “Talk Is Jericho,” The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla spoke to wwe news about his hectic schedule. The interview is revealing.
Q: What did it mean to you to be Undisputed Champion? What was it like the night you won?
Jericho: Winning is one of those things I look back on very fondly, even though I don’t remember a lot about it. The night itself is almost a blur, because it happened so fast. I remember more about afterwards, when I had to drive to Anaheim [Calif.]. By the time I got to my hotel, everything was closed. I had to order a pizza from Domino’s, but they wouldn’t deliver to my room. I had to go down to the lobby and I locked myself out of my room. I had to argue with the desk guy to let me back in the room, where my two titles were. It was a classic “dining with kings and queens, ending up in the gutter eating pork and beans” type of thing, all in one night.
Do you think there should only be one champion?
I thought it was a great idea to unify the championships in the first place back in 2001. Whether I wanted it or not, I thought it was diluting to have two champions. I didn’t really understand the reason. It’s like boxing; when you have the WBA champion and the WBC champion, there’s like 10 world champions. Who’s the real world champion?
Was one championship perceived to be more important than the other?
It always seemed like Raw’s championship had a little more steam than the SmackDown championship. So, why even have two? I was always confused by the names, too. Is it the World Championship? Is it the WWE World Championship? They’re almost the same. So when they put them together, I thought it was a smart move. Then, a couple years later, they switched back to having two championships, which I’ve never been a fan of. I think in WWE, the reason why you’re there is to become WWE Champion. It’s like having two Stanley Cup winners or two Super Bowl winners or two Best Band winners at the Grammys. You can’t do that, it’s like kissing your sister. When I heard they were going to unify the titles again, I thought it was the best idea for the company, because we know who the champion is.
What’s it like in the locker room when there’s only one champion?
When you’re the only champion, everybody’s your best friend until you turn your back. They’re all trying to stab you. When you’re on top of the mountain, everybody’s trying to push you off. I know that. I became Undisputed Champion and from the moment I won until the moment I lost it four months later, I was public enemy Number 1 in the ring and behind the scenes. Competition-wise and politically, everyone wanted to unseat me. I didn’t care. It was my time and I was going to do everything I could to hold onto that title for as long as I could.
How do you deal with the pressure of having that target on your back?
That’s what being a WWE Superstar is. It’s all about pressure. The advantage I had is that I was in the business 11 years before I won the title. When I finally won, I wasn’t letting it go for anybody.
Some people get the title and grow from it, and some collapse under the pressure. In my case, it wasn’t my best title run, not even close. But it was the first time. Once you get the first under your belt, you realize if you have what it takes to win it again. I think anybody can win the championship once, but can you win it twice? Can you win it three times?
How do you think Randy Orton will handle being WWE World Heavyweight Champion?
I think he’s going to handle it the way he should handle it, which is knowing that it wasn’t easy to get it. Anybody who’s going to take it away from him is going to do it at the expense of their own safety. There’s not a lot of guys in the company that have more experience than him or more championship runs. It’s going to be very hard to beat him. I expect him to react like he’s never reacted before. He’s going to be a whole new guy. If he doesn’t, he’s going to lose it quickly.
WrestleMania season is approaching. The WWE Universe wants to know — are you getting the itch to get back in the ring?
I don’t really have the itch. I’m super busy with all the stuff I’m doing, between Fozzy tours, we’re getting ready to record a new record, the podcast, “But I’m Chris Jericho,” which is another big hit. I’m also finishing my third book. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Having said that, I’d be open to it, but I haven’t had any conversations or anything like that. It’s WrestleMania. Anybody that’s been in WWE wants to be involved. If I’m there, it’ll be awesome and I’ll do everything I can to have the best match on the show. If I’m not, I’ll have a great time watching it, I’m sure