DVDs - VGames - Books GUEST BOOK REVIEW: Chris Jericho's "Undisputed: How to become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps"
Feb 15, 2011 - 12:28:13 PM
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Guest Book Review
"Undisputed:" How to become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps" by Chris Jericho, 2011
Review by Alex Roberts, PWTorch contributor
During his latest run in WWE, Chris Jericho was fond of referring to himself as “The Best in the World at What I Do,” and a similar phrase could be used to describe his A Lion’s Tale book. Jericho’s first autobiography stands alongside the likes of Mick Foley’s Have A Nice Day and Bret Hart’s Hit Man as one of the essential reads in the sprawling ranks of wrestling biographies, with Jericho offering wit, brashness, and a great deal of personal and backstage insight as he tells his unique, often unbelievable story of wrestling all over the world.
Undisputed takes off right where his last tale ended, as the countdown clock interrupts The Rock on August 8, 1999, ushering in the era of Y2J in WWF/E that would last until 2005. After the years of toiling through independent and international promotions and breaking through to WCW, Jericho finally enters the company he has always dreamed of wrestling for and, it would appear, with a ready-made feud with one of wrestling’s biggest stars.
After his electrifying entrance into the company, though, things go awry from the start. Jericho’s debut match, a Nightstick On A Pole match in his hometown of Winnipeg, falls prey to The Jericho Curse (his self-deprecating way of justifying that his first match in any new company will be a bomb) as he and The Big Boss Man must improvise when the weapon falls off the pole and into the ring seconds into the match. Vince McMahon declares that he’s “green as grass” and not worth the paper his contract was printed on. Triple H tells Jericho upfront that he’s facing “scorching heat” from everyone in the locker room.
In short, any fears that Undisputed will lack some of the high drama and shocking situations of A Lion’s Tale because it takes place in the more professional, controlled environment of the WWE are quickly dashed. Jericho’s first years with the company feature moments as downright bizarre as any in his earlier career, and he relates these in his entertaining, insightful fashion.
The first months in the WWF are prime examples of McMahon’s tendency to break down new talent before building them up, as Jericho is put into an extended feud with Chyna (Joanie Laurer) that seems made solely to make him look ridiculous in the ring and garner further heat backstage. His fortunes in the company begin to turn around, though, when Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, and Dean Malenko - three of his closest friends in the business - leave WCW and join him in WWF. Not long after Wrestlemania 2000, Jericho begins to find himself in higher profile feuds and having matches with the likes of Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, and Benoit.
It is his frank description of these matches, the various situations surrounding them, and his feelings towards other wrestlers that Undisputed truly shines. Jericho never shies away from calling out those he feels deserve it - he recalls in detail situations when Vince McMahon appeared to treat him unfairly, and at one point outright called the NWO clique of Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash a “cancer” that he feared would wield too much power when they returned to the WWE in 2002. (Though, he also admits that Hogan would soon become one of his favorite guys to work with). He also goes into great - and hilarious - detail about his infamous backstage scuffle with Bill Goldberg.
Jericho speaks fondly of some of his favorite matches and fellow performers. One career highlight given wonderful detail is a 2002 Asian tour headlined by himself and The Rock. The book might be worth the price alone for a set of pictures of the two men attempting to outdo each other with goofy faces during a nightly spot where they would take turns snapping pictures of each other with ringside cameras.
However, it is in Jericho’s description of one man that Undisputed becomes a true must-read - that one man, of course, being Chris Benoit. Throughout the book, passages describing a great match he has had with Benoit end with the ominous, darkly humorous line that it’s a shame that such a great match has been “buried forever and technically doesn’t exist anymore.” Jericho finally dedicates an entire chapter to Benoit at the end of the book and it is, quite frankly, the most informed, complete, and devastating writing on the incident I have come across. No easy answers are offered for why Benoit committed the atrocity that he did - Jericho’s speculation that it could have been a combination of caffeine addiction, brain damage, and repressed emotional trauma are presented less as hard fact than as desperate attempts of a bewildered mourner and friend clawing for reasons where none can be found. He takes particular umbrage with those who attempted to cash in on the situation by offering easy, ignorant answers on cable news days after the tragedy. Readers may not come away with any facts about the event that they didn’t know of before, but they will come away with a tremendous sense of how impossible it is to this day for Jericho to reconcile the two faces of Benoit - the stoic, friendly, consummate professional who was his best friend; the other an irrational murderer.
One flaw I found with Undisputed is that it almost feels too much like a direct sequel to A Lion’s Tale. Those not introduced to Jericho and his life through his first book may have trouble adjusting to his views on the wrestling industry and his fast-paced, sometimes flippant writing style. That said, it’s a heck of a sequel - Jericho’s latest lives up to its predecessor in nearly every way. Together, they form a 1,000+ page odyssey through some of wrestling’s most turbulent, important recent history.
Alex Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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