The main event of this Sunday’s TLC pay-per-view is scheduled to unify Randy Orton’s WWE title and John Cena’s World Heavyweight title. While one unified champion may emerge, they will not be the first. Twelve years earlier, Chris Jericho became the first undisputed champion at WWF’s year end event. There is a stark contrast, however, between Orton and Cena’s current status on the card and that of Jericho’s in 2001.
A one night tournament was set for Vengeance to crown an undisputed champion in order to clean up the last piece of business left over from the dreadful WCW Invasion angle. Stone Cold Steve Austin successfully defended the WWF title against Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho wrestled away the WCW title, later christened the World title, from The Rock. The finals were set and we all know what happened next. The shocker of all shockers occurred as Jericho walked out with all the gold.
Chris Jericho’s victory was a big deal because it was departure from the norm of wrestling storytelling. This landmark event was used to elevate and create a new star instead of sticking to the standard of historical milestones being reserved for only the biggest names. The internet wrestling community exploded with gleam because Jericho was the first wrestler to be anointed as “their guy” and he won the biggest title match in history. His win validated that they were right all along after years of being dammed with faint praise for representing the audiences’ lowest common denominator.
It’s no secret that WWE is not as popular as it used to be. The creative license to take chances and try new things is lost because their current business model handcuffs any original or imaginative thought. Playing it safe with what works good enough is the prime directive. I look at Sunday’s main event as a reboot of sorts since we are getting another world title unification match at a December pay-per-view. I will watch TLC with the hope that John Cena and Randy Orton can knock it out of the park and into the heavens. However, if it fails to deliver, I won’t cry over the generational split milk of this match being the new undisputed bookmark in history because I still have the original to go back to.