The Main Event:
The first man to ever win the 'Undisputed Champion' title in the WWE, Chris Jericho has held a lot of belts over the years - twenty two in just the WWE alone, throw in his time in the smaller leagues and international leagues and that count probably goes well into thirties. On top of that, he's 'made it' outside the ring too. He's popped up in movies, on television, and fronts his own metal band, Fozzy (laugh if you want but he used to write for Metal Edge in the nineties and has a very sincere love of music), who released their fourth album earlier this year. The WWE's retrospective look at Jericho's life and times, Breaking The Code, sheds some welcome light on how he came to be the superstar that he is and what he managed to accomplish along the way.
The documentary starts from the beginning by showing us what it was like for Jericho, born Chris Irvine in Long Island before his family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where, under the eye of his father, a St. Louis Blues hockey player, he fell in love with sports. One thing lead to another and before you know it, a young Chris Irvine was training with the Hart family which lead to a solid tag team partnership with Lance Storm. From there the documentary traces his trips through the Mexican and Japanese leagues, though the Mexican years are really just brushed over and not given very much screen time. The Japanese years get a bit more detail (though they're still far from comprehensive), as we learn about his time spent in the east and his inevitable match with the world famous Ultimo Dragon.
Having done well overseas, Jericho's star would start to rise and he'd come to the attention of ECW and then WCW before moving on to the WWE. Now, those who know Jericho know that around this time he was paling around with Chris Benoit, but since his murder suicide, the WWE has shied away from even really mentioning Benoit so Jericho's relationship with him, which was an important aspect of his career, is also missing from this documentary. From there, we follow his WWE career from the early Goldberg feud through to the Conspiracy Theory storyline and into more modern times with bouts with China, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels and we learn how he became dubbed 'The Man of 1,004 holds.' The documentary closes by bringing us pretty much right up to the present by covering his feuds with Michaels, Rey Mysterio and Edge.
As the documentary plays out, we're treated to some great retrospective footage and photographs stemming all the way back to his childhood but also covering his time in the Hart's 'Dungeon' and his overseas career. Some of this is pretty interesting to see, as are most of the interviews and commentary bits from all of the participants, not the least of whom is Jericho himself. Alongside his input we're treated to comments from many of his friends and enemies from throughout his WWE career including Lance Storm, Eric Bischoff, Goldberg, Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Chavo Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Christian, Joey Styles, Dean Malenko, Arn Anderson, Edge, Matt Hardy, The Miz, Michael Hayes, John Morrison, Big Show, John Cena, Evan Bourne, as well as wrestling tycoons like Vince McMahon and even Pat Patterson. There's a really good collection of people onboard to talk about Chris, what he means to them, how he influenced them or how they worked with him on his climb to the top and this serves not only to flesh out his story but his character as well.
Now, as is often the case with any sort of biography be it wrestling or otherwise, if you've been following the subject's career for decades you probably already know most of what's covered here. Since it doesn't go into that much detail on the more obscure aspects of Jericho's career nor does it really go into his personal thoughts on the Benoit tragedy it's not as much of an eye-opener as some of his long time fans might have hoped it would be. The good does outweighs the bad though, as the documentary certainly makes a very valid case as to his rightful place in the history of sports entertainment, sometimes in his own words (amusingly enough), but more often from those who have worked with him and alongside him. His accomplishments in his field speak for themselves but this documentary serves as a pretty good crash course in 'Chris Jericho 101.'
-"Cowboy" Chris Jericho Vs. Lance T. Storm, Calgary, Alberta October 2, 1990
-The Thrill Seekers Vs. The Infernos from Smoky Mountain Wrestling March 12, 1994
-International Junior Heavyweight Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Ultimo Dragon from Japan July 7, 1995
-Chris Jericho Vs. Cactus Jack, Hardcore TV March 12, 1996
-WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Eddie Guerrero from The Fall Brawl, September 14, 1997
-Mask Vs. WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Juventud Guerrera from SuperBrawl VIII, February 22, 1998
-WCW Cruiserweight Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Dean Malenko from Nitro, July 27, 1998
-The Millennium Countdown Clock Expires From RAW, August 9, 1999
-Intercontinental Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Kurt Angle From No Way Out, February 27, 2000
-WWE Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Triple H From RAW, April 17, 2000
-WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. The Rock From No Mercy, October 21, 2001
-Undisputed Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin From Vengeance, December 9, 2001
Highlights from this disc, which starts after an intro from Jericho, obviously cover the first half of Jericho's career, include the early Canadian bouts where he's obviously still working on finding his wrestling persona, and the hardcore match with the great Cactus Jack. The WCW bouts are good as well, especially the Guerrera match, but this disc skips a lot and offers up only one of his Japanese matches and none of his Mexican matches which is definitely a strike against this set.
-No Disqualification Match For The WWE Undisputed Championship With Chris Jericho Vs. Hulk Hogan from SmackDown, May 2, 2002
-Chris Jericho Vs. Shawn Michaels From Wrestlemania XIX, March 30, 2003
-WWE Championship You're Fired Match With Chris Jericho Vs. John Cena From RAW, August 22, 2005
-Save_US.Y2J From RAW, November 19, 2007
-Intercontinental Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Jeff Hardy From RAW, March 10, 2008
-Ladder Match For The World Heavyweight Championship With Chris Jericho Vs. Shawn Michaels From No Mercy, October 5, 2008
-No Holds Barred Match For The Intercontinental Championship With Chris Jericho Vs. Rey Mysterio From Extreme Rules, June 7, 2009
- Chris Jericho Vs. Undertaker From SmackDown, November 13, 2009
-World Heavyweight Championship Match With Chris Jericho Vs. Edge From Wrestlemania XXVI, March 28, 2010
Again, this is a good selection of matches and here we meet a more confident and boastful wrestler who is well aware that he's on his way to the top of the heap. The matches with Hogan, Michaels and Mysterio are the three best on this disc, but with a career as long and as storied as Jericho's, it's hard not to gripe a bit that a few other later career matches weren't included here, like some of the great tag team matches with The Big Show.
The fullframe presentation, though interlaced, looks pretty decent. Some of the earlier matches are on the soft side and aren't quite as clean and colorful looking as the later day content is but this is generally quite a respectable looking presentation. There are times where the lights over the ring make skin tones look a bit off but this isn't a fault of the transfer or the authoring, it's simply the way the material has always looked (this is especially noticeable with some of the older video tape sourced clips that are used). Nothing here really looks worse than when it was broadcast on television, and to some eyes it might even look a little bit better, particularly the more recent matches which were shot in HD.
The same comments apply to the audio on this release - some of the earlier stuff sounds a bit flat, but most of the newer stuff sounds just fine. Everything comes at you by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track and aside from one or two instances where some of the archival clips have a small amount of audible distortion, there aren't any issues worth complaining about here. There are no subtitles or alternate language options provided.
The main attraction on the first disc is obviously the documentary, but disc one also includes a wealth of bonus scenes:
A Young Fanatic / Jack Action / Leon de Oro / The Thrillseekers Vignette #1 / The Thrillseekers Vignette #2 / Have you heard of Chris Jericho? / Paul Heyman's Roommate / Mister Salty / The Man of 1,004 Holds from Nitro, March 30, 1998 /Conspiracy Victim from Nitro, June 1, 1998 / Father Knows Best from Thunder, June 11, 1998 / Hello, Lexington! from Thunder, September 10, 1998 / Do You Smell What Y2J is Cookin'? from RAW, October 30, 2000 / Sharing A Beer with Stone Cold Steve Austin, RAW, August 25, 2003 / Jericho Vs. The Old Man from Smackdown, November 17, 2009 / Jericho's Junction
A lot of this footage is pretty good and it helps to flesh out a lot of what we learn about Jericho's early days from the featurette itself. One bit in particular bit with Christian talking about their early days together and Chris' infamy in the small town where they were living temporarily is pretty amusing, as is Jericho's take on Goldberg's entrance. It also serves as sort of a fun retrospective look at his career in its own way as it is presented in chronological order and there's material here from his early days up until late last year. Also included on the first disc is a music video from Jericho's band, Fozzy, for the track Let The Madness Begin.
Aside from the different matches contained on discs two and three, there are the following commentary tracks from Chris Jericho and Matt Striker:
Chris Jericho Vs. Lance Storm
Chris Jericho Vs. Ultimo Dragon
Chris Jericho Vs. Shawn Michaels
Generally the commentary tracks are pretty interesting. Jericho's memory is pretty sharp and it's interesting to get some input and analysis from him from a less pressurized environment. We all know what he's like in the ring and that he's going to play to that type whenever the cameras are on but here he's more laid back and able to provide some interesting stories about each of the three matches. Menus and chapter selection are included on all three discs in the set.
A fitting tribute to one of the best in the business these days, Breaking The Code may not be the definitive collection of matches but it does offer up a pretty great selection, duplicates or not, and the feature length documentary about Jericho's rise to superstardom is as interesting as it is entertaining. It leaves out a bit more than it probably should have, but it's still a strong feature that should please most wrestling fans. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.