When Chris Jericho burst onto the scene in New Japan Pro Wrestling, fans felt like this could be a game-changing move from "the man of 1,004 holds". But when he went on to sign a multi-year deal with AEW over WWE, the entire wrestling business was upended. While Cody and The Bucks were known qualities, they didn't carry the main-event prestige that Jericho brought… and while Omega was a NJPW dynamo, he simply couldn't match Jericho's Attitude Era legacy and overall veteran status.
So Chris Jericho leading the charge for AEW - both as its first-ever World Champion AND as the proprietor of its first-ever stable - makes sense. He's the guy you want at the helm because he's seen it all, and done it all.
But more importantly, you want him there because he can cut killer, noise-making promos - the likes of which pro wrestling fans haven't seen on live TV in years. And what he said last week in debuting The Inner Circle? It says a lot about where AEW is today, and where they're heading.
1. Sammy Guevara is the future of AEW: "He's one of the greatest performers I've seen at his age in a long time. He's athletic, he's acrobatic, he is simply amazing." If you weren't convinced AEW has big plans for Guevara already, now you'd be a fool to think otherwise. Guevara's match against Cody Rhodes on the AEW Dyanmite debut was an incredible showcase for the young up-and-comer. But Jericho's short-and-sweet comments on the 26-year-old YouTube sensation sets Guevara up for superstardom. This dude is everything AEW wants from its audience - young, hip, charming, and connected - and I'd be shocked if he isn't AEW's mid-card champion by 2021.
2. Jake Hager is Brand Spankin' New: "'We the People' sucks and it's dead a buried! It was a stupid idea from bad creative and all of that's gone… (He's) the most feared MMA fighter on the planet today, and guess what - he's undefeated and THAT'S A SHOOT." If Sammy Guevara is the future, Jericho set up Hager to be one of the toughest dudes in the business TODAY. And while Jericho called out Hager for being a World Champion (a title he took from Jericho, for those keeping score at home), it's clear that AEW wants to keep his "Real American" WWE persona separate from his AEW tough-guy persona. Hager is going to be a big deal in AEW very soon, and he's probably going to get there by running through his "buddy" Chris Jericho.
3. The Inner Circle Isn't Your Typical Faction: When we think of pro wrestling factions, we generally think of a brand - i.e. NWO or DX t-shirts, Bullet Club hand gestures, or matching Hart Foundation boots and tights. But The Inner Circle feels a little more old school, almost Four Horseman-esque. That's because Jericho assembled a group of bad-ass dudes who are great at what they do individually, and who just happen to be hanging out together and taking AEW by storm. Sure, we might eventually get some Inner Circle merch, or a new high-five. But these guys are still themselves first-and-foremost. And that's going to let them all shine just a little bit brighter.
4. Chris Jericho Is Going to Have a Long Title Run: Yes, he's defending the title on AEW TV and at the upcoming Full Gear pay-per-view. But I'd be shocked if Cody thought now was the right time to put the strap on himself (when guys book themselves in their own wrestling promotions, that's ALWAYS the temptation). Also, Jericho is just getting started with The Inner Circle - they'd lose a ton of credibility if he dropped the title this soon. I wouldn't be surprised if dissension between Jericho and Hager starts in early 2020, culminating in him defending (and losing) the AEW Championship to his "muscle" at next-year's Double or Nothing.
5. NXT is still on AEW's Radar: "The five of us… we aren't next, we are NOW!" The current chorus from AEW's stars and owners is that AEW isn't concerned about what WWE is doing, or trying to compete with McMahon & co. - they're too busy doing their own thing. But unfortunately, they put HHH front-and-center before Cody's match at Double or Nothing, there's continued Twitter mud-slinging, and Jericho still felt the need to call out NXT again here. Listen - we all know you're competing, even if you say you're not. That's why you're both in the professional wrestling BUSINESS and not the professional wrestling nonprofit sector.