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AS I SEE IT: Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Every wrestling fan not living in a cave over the last two months has seen the “Saveus222” promos on WWE television.Needless to say, it’s widely expected that if not at tonight’s (as of this writing) WWE’s Cyber Sunday PPV in Washington, DC, then on Monday night in Philadelphia, PA at RAW or Tuesday night on Long Island at Smackdown; Chris Jericho is returning to WWE.

It’s probably less than a coincidence that his book tour has two stops, in well, Philadelphia and Long Island this week.

Think fans aren’t anticipating Jericho’s return? Anyone remember the spontaneous Y2J chant breaking out during a live Vince McMahon promo on RAW two or three weeks ago, with a bemused (and presumably pleased) McMahon getting a twinkle in his eye before turning back into “Mister McMahon” and telling fans they “weren’t going to get that tonight”.

McMahon isn’t used to real, unprogrammed fan reactions and probably is a bit scared of them; since the last one he got was from Philadelphia fans almost rioting on the July 4, 2006 ECW telecast when the ECW belt was taken off of RVD and put on Big Show. The crowd wasn’t yelling at Paul Heyman for turning heel, as McMahon programmed them to.

Instead, they were chanting “F&#k you, Vince” when they weren’t throwing everything they could get their hands on; including direct hits of full sodas or beers on the camera, Paul White, and Paul Heyman’s bald head.

So for a change, McMahon was HAPPY about a reaction he couldn’t control. It was a good one.

In widely quoted remarks this past week, Jericho talked about his decision to step away from wrestling for two years.

“When I left wrestling, I never said I was retiring, and that wasn’t the intention,” Jericho said last week. “I just needed to take a break. I was very mentally burned out. Physically I was fine, but mentally I had burnout and didn’t really want to wrestle anymore. If you’re not 100 percent mentally committed to this sport, you better get out, because you’re going to hurt yourself or you’re going to hurt somebody else, and it’s not going to be good for anybody.”

He described his time off this way:

“It was very organic. I spent a lot of time going through this and remembering the old days when I was a kid and all the things I went through. When I was done, I first thought how cool it was to have had this dream and actually attain it, and second of all, I remembered how much I actually loved and enjoyed wrestling. I thought I could come back to this. When the time was right, I’d come back and be better than ever, and I’d do what I always did and do it at a higher level. Right now the landscape is wide open because the experience level is so much lower. The bar is so much lower. Experience is the one thing you can’t teach.”

Well, the Saveus222 promos are over with, or soon will be.

We get Chris Jericho back. I’m looking forward to seeing his promos, his ringwork, and damned near everything about his coming back.

It seems that over the last two years during the time he left, a lot of things happened in professional wrestling that have made it and the world a lot less fun.

There’s the effect upon wrestling fans and the business as a whole that the Chris Benoit tragedy had, something that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Even before that tragedy, there’s been what seems like a real creative void and a real void of excitement in much of pro wrestling. Mainstream wrestling hasn’t seen anyone with the appeal of a Steve Austin or The Rock. Wrestling TV ratings and North American PPV buy-rates are down over the last year. Congressional steroid investigations loom over WWE and TNA.

The real world hasn’t been that much fun this year, with even more battle deaths in Iraq, terrorism continuing to plague the world, and natural disasters scarring the western United States, in the same Southern California I was visiting on vacation only weeks ago.

So, Chris…it might be one of Vince McMahon’s marketing slogans… but even I’ll go ahead and say it:

Save us….even if for just a few minutes.

Let us escape.

Give us one of those delusionally goofy Chris Jericho promos tonight.

Make us smile.

Tell us how you’re single-handedly going to save WWE from itself (God knows I might claw out my eyes if I have to watch Big Daddy V one more time).

Let mainstream fans mark out like we haven’t in a while.

Hell, how can you NOT want to mark out, or at least smile at a guy who describes the way he got into wrestling in the first place this way:

“I was eight years old when I started watching wrestling with my grandma in her basement. I really had no choice because it was sandwiched in between Hockey Night in Canada and the Bugs Bunny-Roadrunner Hour. So, if I wanted to watch Bugs Bunny and I wanted to watch hockey, I had to watch wrestling.”

AWA, to be precise.

Until next time…

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