November 8, 2007

The Lion King of the World

I haven't been a fan of pro-wrestling since 2003, but I'll always dive into the biographies of wrestling personalities I've been familiar with during my fandom. One of my favorites is Chris Irvine, who has had many nicknames throughout his career. But they've always revolved around his most well known alias: Chris Jericho. A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex is the tome encasing a majority of Jericho's life that you have and haven't seen on television.

From his beginnings as the son of hockey legend Ted Irvine to becoming a legend in his own right, Chris Jericho's life is a success story where he set his goal to become a World Wrestling Federation superstar, and accomplished that and so much more along the way. He went on a world-wide tour through countries like Canada, Mexico, Germany, Japan, and various locations within the United States to build experience and reputation. And a lot of crazy stuff went down wherever he went, which Jericho is only too happy to recount for you.

Chris began training in the Hart Brothers Pro Wrestling Camp, despite the fact there was hardly a single Hart present. Even though it wasn't quite the infamous Hart Dungeon of legend, he did eventually find himself down there, too. He graduated the school along with another standout named Lance Storm and the two traveled to many shows around Canada together, usually paired as a tag team. The future Paragon of Virtue eventually found his way to Mexico where he adopted his Lion Heart moniker. It wasn't long before his face was plastered in magazines and TV... oh, and in the hearts of fans of course. He also went to Germany to participate in a tournament that was poorly organized. He spent some time in the now defunct US promotion Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Then it was off to the pro-wrestling paradise of Japan, competing in the WAR promotion. He participated in prestigious tournaments and even joined the heel (bad guy) group that inspired the nWo.

Feeling he was finally ready to make it big in America, Chris Jericho entered the original incarnation of Extreme Championship Wrestling and spends a brief time speaking of the chaotic atmosphere, provided by the fans and head honcho Paul Heyman. He lasted there for half a year before signing with the number two, although soon to be number one, wrestling company in the States, World Championship Wrestling. While there, Jericho was not only a conspiracy victim in a storyline, but real life as well. No matter how great his matches were or the fan reaction he was raising, the powers that be in WCW just did not want to get behind him, instead sticking with their guns and keeping Hogan and the New World Order in the spotlight. Much like most wrestlers who spent considerable time in Dubya Say Dubya, Jericho isn't too kind towards former boss Eric Bischoff.

Besides his wrestling career, Jericho takes time to discuss family and friend tragedies, meeting the love of his life, and his numerous forays into the music world. The latter cultivated when he joined the band Fozzy Osbourne, now shortened to just FOZZY. Originally, they only did covers, but now they create original pieces.

A Lion's Tale is a great and lengthy read, odd considering he hardly touches base with his World Wrestling Entertainment career. It's where he attained supreme stardom. Could this possibly mean a book chronicling Y2J's rise from the savior of the World Wrestling Federation to the King of World Wrestling Entertainment? After all, at the time of this writing (blogging) he is ready to set back in the squared circle with the WWE.

Chew on this for a while: Jericho has worked for Jim Cornette, Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, and Vince McMahon. How's that for a mind-fuck? If you had put those guys in the same room together in the late 90's, you'd have what's known in wrestling as a "shoot" fight. That means theatrics go out the window and the fists fly for real.

The book is loaded with Jericho's attitude, told in his own words. And I do mean own words, as he uses plenty that he's made up himself. As a writer who does that himself, I applaud him. Chris Jericho became a larger than life superstar and a greater rock and roll wrestler than Hulk Hogan. Everything Terry Bollea can do, Chris Irvine can do better. Hell, this book is worth reading just to find out what Hogan asked Jericho at the end of Owen Hart's funeral.

After turning the last page in this story, I gained a whole new outlook on the professional wrestling scene outside my own country. It also gave credibility to a phrase birthed after the boom period of wrestling's popularity ended. "Wrestling: In Canada, it's a tradition. In Japan, it's a sport. In Mexico, it's a religion. In America, it's a joke."

And that's just the way it is.

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