Chris Jericho: What’s next for the new IWGP Intercontinental Champion?

After another brilliant match in New Japan, it has to be asked where does Chris Jericho's wrestling career go from here?


(Photo credit: Miguel Discart)

Chris Jericho has long been considered one of the greatest talents in wrestling ever. From his unquestionable skill on the mic, to his ability to constantly reinvent himself and his impressive in-ring skills, he is the total package, and he has been doing it for some 26 years now.

2018 has seen yet another new version of Chris Jericho, except this time outside of WWE. With his Wrestle Kingdom 12 match against Kenny Omega and his recent Dominion bout with Tetsuya Naito, Jericho has unleashed a vicious, brutal new persona on the world.

The Alpha Chris Jericho has bloodied his opponents in both matches and ferocious attacks during the build. He has turned into a supreme brawler, and taken his stock in the wrestling world even further with his two NJPW matches. His win on Saturday surprised plenty of people, myself included. As the new IWGP Intercontinental champion, Jericho’s future in wrestling is somehow even more uncertain than it was before. So, what is next for the scarf-wearing genius?

Worldwide defenses

Chris Jericho is highly unlikely to be back in WWE any time soon since he is holding a title with their biggest rival, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t appear elsewhere. NJPW have working relationships with the likes of CMLL in Mexico, Ring of Honor in America, and Revolution Pro Wrestling in England.

While that may be more fantasy booking from myself than anything else, the Intercontinental championship has been defended, and lost, overseas before. Shinsuke Nakamura lost the title to La Sombra at a CMLL show in 2013, and there is nothing to say that Chris Jericho couldn’t defend it against Zack Sabre Jr in London or Dalton Castle in Chicago in the coming months.

One thing is almost certain though, which is that Jericho won’t be in the G1 Climax. New Japan’s heavyweight tournament usually includes the IC champion, but with Jericho’s role in NJPW being more like Brock Lesnar in WWE, I doubt he will be able to perform at such a high level for nine matches across a four-week period.

Missing that tournament means the usual string of title defenses before Wrestle Kingdom 13 against anyone who defeated the champion during the G1 is not possible. So if he really means what he says about taking the title seriously he does need to defend it, and relatively soon.

Wrestle Kingdom challenger?

With a title on his shoulder and near-universal praise for his performances in NJPW, there is no reason to think that Jericho won't have a headlining match at the next Wrestle Kingdom in January. The only question is against who.

I predict that his ultimate challenger will be Kazuchika Okada. The newly title-less Rain Maker is the undoubted star of New Japan, but he needs a true babyface title chase to come close to gaining the same sort of adoration as Hiroshi Tanahashi has. Saving the Intercontinental Championship from a villainous gaijin could certainly help Okada in that regard, as well as allow his character to evolve a little after a brilliant two-year run with the IWGP heavyweight championship.

Having already battled Omega and Naito, Okada would be a natural next step, especially if he were to conquer Tanahashi between now and January.

While some may dream of Jericho walking out on Monday Night Raw to kick off an invasion angle, or simply to battle Seth Rollins for the WWE Intercontinental title, it is far more likely that Jericho will be continuing his own path away from WWE now. How long he remains a serious player in New Japan is unknown, but for now we should all sit back and enjoy the latest evolution of Chris Jericho.

What do you think will be the next step for Chris Jericho? Let us know in the comments below!

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Toby Durant

Deputy Editor at RealSport. A life-long gamer, I have been with RealSport since 2016 and spent time covering the world of Formula 1, NFL, and football for the site before expanding into esports.

 

I lead the site's coverage of motorsport titles with a particular focus on Formula 1. I also lead RealSport's Madden content while occasionally dipping my toe into Football Manager and esports coverage of Gfinity Series events.

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