For six weeks the WWE has posted cryptic videos promoting “the end of the beginning” which is to take place on January 2, 2012. Sports journalists and wrestling fans alike have been tossing out ideas, and while there is a myriad of potential identities just as to who the promos are behind, personalities whom you could twist the words and evidence as to what the boy, the girl, school setting, horror-theme, etc. represent, only one truly makes sense: Chris Jericho.
The evidence is too fitting. The polysyllabic vocabulary, the globe (“Best in the world”), cryptic messages, and most of all, a different setting. Chris Jericho is marked as a game-changer, who often reinvents himself throughout the years. Call him the Madonna of pro wrestling (although please don’t). It’s true that Jericho has arguably returned to his own playbook, seeking to capitalize on previous cultural anxieties concerning the end of the world, but the way he has is so refreshing. The turn of the millennium was characterized by the incoming threat of new technology and its possible catastrophe.
Now, in 2011, people are generally concerned as a community and for their own well-being. Whether it’s a crazy rapture, outrageous predictions, or a sinking morale indicated by occupational protest, people are scared now more than ever for their lives. And, like all anxieties, we seek solace in entertainment. And Jericho will return to shine a mirror on us once again.
Or will he?
“It Begins” could very well not be Chris Jericho. Although there are some tentative plans for Chris Jericho vs. CM Punk at WrestleMania 28, Jericho has denied any and all rumors thrown at him. He put his foot down on Twitter and has, in fact, trashed the WWE’s current product on several occasions. But again, that’s just Jericho. This was the same guy who photoshopped himself in front of a TNA logo after his first departure in 2005. He loves to play up the “smart” audiences. And I have to commend him for it.
I honestly don’t know for sure if Jericho is returning this January. This doubt I have seems to indicate something bigger than “It Begins,” or even Jericho himself (sorry, bro). What’s so special about “It Begins” is not the potential return of a revered WWE performer, but how to promote a product in the 21st century.
Viral marketing isn’t new, especially for movies and television. But professional wrestling, although TV entertainment, is allowed to play by different rules than other serial programs, which I think is something Vince McMahon should be appreciative of more. His choice of show is allowed this flexibility. I can’t imagine Terra Nova advertising a returning character in this manner. A returning character would be hinted at within the show’s plot, shadowed figures brooding in the background or artifacts that hint at a particular individual. Or something. But that’s the magic of pro wrestling. It doesn’t obey these conventions. Its larger-than-life atmosphere allows meta-marketing to exist that truly captures the audience.
I’m a huge Chris Jericho fan. He’s a big influence on my life and if he returns on January 2, I’m a very happy fan. But it doesn’t have to be Chris Jericho for me to appreciate the power of this promotion. This is how you promote in the 21st century. I haven’t been excited for a WWE broadcast like this in such a long time.
If the crowning of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Zack Ryder wasn’t enough, an exciting mystery being thrown into the current WWE landscape is much appreciated. For years I thought my opinion as a WWE fan didn’t matter. But now, that has all changed.
Kudos, WWE. This has been the year you’ve kept me guessing. From Money in the Bank to Zack Ryder’s petition, I actually feel appreciated. And I hope you don’t blame the wrong people for the sagging ratings. That’s your fault. But that’s another day.
For now, the only day that matters is January 2. I can’t wait.