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The Shakedown, WWF column by Cody Monk

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His popularity is beginning to rival the WWF's biggest stars. His entrance, like his in-ring skills, is one of the best in the business. He insults opponents with a quick, sharp personality that has put him in the WWF spotlight. His merchandise jumps off stands, and he has inspired an anonymous following among wrestling fans.

The son of former hockey player, Ted Irvine, the 29-year old WWF Intercontinental champion Chris Jericho (Chris Irvine) recently took The Shakedown hostage to discuss, among other things, his place in the WWF pecking order, hockey, WCW and rock bands. So, for at least one week, The Shakedown .... is Jericho.

Q: You are the son of a former hockey player and you played it growing up. How much do you still enjoy and follow the game?

JERICHO: I still follow it closely. I played hockey until I was 16. I did a lot of the training that the junior players today do. I liked playing, but I knew I wanted to wrestle. And when I decided to concentrate on wrestling training, I quit playing. I like the (Calgary) Flames and the (New York) Rangers, but the Rangers have always been my favorite team, especially when Gretzky was there. I go to (Tampa Bay) Lightning games. I get The Hockey News, but I don't really like the games on TV.

Q: Being from Canada, what are our thoughts on hockey expanding into the Sun Belt? And, does it make you tense that a city like Dallas won the Stanley Cup?

JERICHO: I wouldn't say that it makes me tense. Dallas winning or having a team doesn't bother me as much as, say, Florida. For a while, I didn't think we'd ever see teams in the South, but eventually you have to look at the money and there is a lot of money to be made for hockey in the South.

Q: Besides your dad, who were some of the players you followed growing up?

JERICHO: It's funny because my favorite players weren't always the best guys. I liked the guys Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, those kind of guys. I liked the guys who had cool names and looked cool on their hockey cards. I'm a huge Gretzky fan. He got to Edmonton in 1980 and I've liked him ever since. I also like (Avalanche goaltender) Patrick Roy.

Q: You also are into the music scene. Who are some of your favorite bands?

JERICHO: I like stuff that most people probably haven't heard of. I like a lot of stuff that isn't mainstream. I worked so much in Europe and Japan that I like a lot of music that is popular over there. I have more of a varied taste, but I like a lot of the metal stuff. My favorite band is Dream Theatre. I spent two nights with them not long ago and it was a blast.

Q: Did you jam with Dream Theatre?

JERICHO: No, I've never jammed with them because they are too good for me. I have my own band where I play bass and do some singing. It's called Fozzy Ozborne. We just have a lot of fun, doing mostly '80s metal cover tunes.

Q: With your musical interests, how much input did you have in creating your entrance package?

JERICHO: The WWF likes to use contemporary music and themes in their entrances so I couldn't have any of my favorite bands do my entrance. I didn't have any input on the rifts, but they came to me and asked me what I thought about it. I think it's perfect. People like it. It's a unique entrance. No one else has anything like it.

Q: How come you still use the Y2J countdown clock now that 2000 is in full swing?

JERICHO: I like the clock. It never was a countdown clock to 2000. It's a countdown to when Y2J arrives. That's why I still use it. It's a countdown to when I come to the stage.

Q: You are now entrenched in the WWF after coming over from WCW and you are one of the business's top stars. When you look around the WWF locker room and see some of the guys you worked with in WCW, do you ever think about what might have been?

JERICHO: It's a different deal down there. I can't believe those idiots let us go. I mean, Paul Wight, Chris (Benoit). (WCW) has no vision. I had to get away from it. I couldn't have existed there anymore. It just sucked the last few days I was there. I was so ready to get out.

Q: When you started negotiating with the WWF, did they promise you a certain push or a certain direction with the character?

JERICHO: We talked about it some, but at the time it didn't really matter. I was leaving. At that time, I would rather have come to the WWF and swept the floor than to have stayed there. I don't ever want to go back to that situation.

Q: Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Saturn and Malenko are recent WCW defections. Having worked with them before, how do you think they have adjusted?

JERICHO: The first few weeks they were just getting comfortable. They were just happy to be where they were. They didn't care what they were doing here. They just didn't want to be somewhere where they weren't wanted.
Q: You and Benoit are both smaller guys who are popular with the fans. It would seem the days of being a tall, muscular wrestler is all but gone.

JERICHO: You still see those guys around and you always will, but no one cared about how big you are. Look at some of the towers. No one cares if I'm 5 feet or 7 feet tall. It doesn't matter (as long as) I'm entertaining and put a good show on in the ring.

Q: Who deserves the credit for starting that trend?

JERICHO: Sean Waltman (X-Pac) was the first really small guy to get really popular. (Shawn) Michaels deserves some. But I don't really think it's a recent trend. Look at (Ric) Flair. He's my size, 5-11 1/2, and look at what he's done.

Q: How do you like your current WWF position and do you think the time is coming soon where you will have an extended title reign?

JERICHO: I'm happy to be in the WWF right now. I really don't care as long as people are cheering me. I couldn't care less about the title as long as the fans like what I'm doing. If I keep along the right path, that time will come.


TAZZ OUT AT LEAST THREE MONTHS

At RAW Monday, Tazz tore his bicep muscle and will miss at least three months. The injury happened as Tazz and Saturn were brawling outside the ring. The injury is the same one former Rangers third basemen Dean Palmer suffered. Palmer suffered his injury in April, had surgery and missed the rest of the season. Tazz will require the same surgery Palmer had to reattach the muscle to the bone.

TAKE TWO

Give WCW production credit. They had a tough job editing Tuesday's Thunder tapings after the ending didn't go as planned. DDP and WCW champion David Arquette were supposed to fall through a rigged stage. Someone stepped through the stage early in the show and the on-site crew wasn't able to completely repair it. Thunder's ending was somewhat confusing and the world champion didn't appear on the show before a pay-per-view. Considering the circumstances, it could have been much worse without creative editing.

GETTING THERE

Despite the production problems, Wednesday's Thunder was one of WCW's best shows since Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo re-emerged. Macho Man Randy Savage returned to help Ric Flair get a title shot at June's Great American Bash and Bret Hart made a surprise appearance. The action was fast-paced and storylines actually made sense and seemed to be advancing. There is still substantial work to be done, but more shows like this week's Thunder will only help WCW.

YET ANOTHER RECORD

It just doesn't seem the WWF will ever stop outdoing itself. Monday's RAW is WAR drew a 7.4 rating (one ratings point equals 675,000 homes), the highest ever in the head-to-head Monday battles with WCW. Last week, RAW drew a 7.15, the third highest head-to-head rating. RAW's unopposed second hour drew an 8.0 with the main event overrun drawing a 9.1. The rating for the final hour was the highest-rated hour ever for a wrestling show.

"It's obvious that what we did at Backlash with The Rock winning the title and Stone Cold's return carried over to Monday night," said WWF CEO Linda McMahon.

ON THE STONE COLD TRAIL

At Backlash last Sunday, Stone Cold Steve Austin made his return to the ring - sort of. The Rattlesnake swung chairs and delivered several kicks, but it will be at least the end of July before Austin can return to the ring full-time.

He doesn't want to return until he is back in the ring-shape he was before he left, and that will be a while. Austin can work out his upper body, but not to the extent that he would like. He can do some cardiovascular work, but it normally is limited to long walks and little or no running.

IN BOX

Q: Ever since Vince Russo returned to WCW, he and other wrestlers have made several references to Jim Ross, Vince McMahon and the WWF. Is this a real, personal conflict or is it part of the storyline?

- Brian Garvin

A: Brian, some WCW personnel have a real, personal problem with Ross. Ross' official title, in addition to his broadcasting duties, is as the director of talent relations for the WWF. He is the one who helps call the shots on who is brought in and who is in line for a push. His day-to-day duties include contract negotiations and he is a go-between for wrestlers and Vince McMahon. Ross is in a difficult position and he often takes unnecessary shots from people who, obviously, believe business wasn't done the right way. Some of what is said is probably true and, on other occasions Ross, more than likely, was simply doing his job.

As far as mentioning the WWF on WCW television, that is a mistake. When the situation WCW is currently facing, improving the current product should be the main focus, not trying to run down the competition.

SIGN OF THE WEEK

The winner this week wasn't a sign, but rather a sign of support from two loyal Memphis residents toward one of its more popular citizens. At the WCW Thunder tapings, two fans seated toward the front were wearing "Vote For Lawler" t-shirts. The shirts were in reference to WWF broadcaster Jerry "The King" Lawler, who unsuccessfully ran for Memphis mayor last year.

PINPOINTS

WCW's "Slamboree" pay-per-view is Sunday at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, the same arena where Owen Hart died last year at a WWF pay-per-view. Hart's brother, Bret, is not expected to make an appearance at the show, but he will remain in the area to attend to the on-going family lawsuit. The main event will be a triple threat cage match featuring DDP, Jeff Jarrett and WCW champion David Arquette....The Big Show's parody of Hulk Hogan at last Sunday's Backlash pay-per-view was somewhat surprising.

Hogan was the one who discovered Wight in a bar and arranged Wight's first meeting with WCW....In yet another display of wrestling's popularity, the Lennox Lewis-Michael Grant heavyweight fight on pay-per-view had almost 300,000 buys. WWF's Backlash had almost 700,000...The Rock, who turned 28 Tuesday, will be in Paris and Morocco next week to film the rest of his scenes for "Mummy 2." He will miss the upcoming RAW and Smackdown tapings.....WWF Smackdown finished 64th among network programs last week tied with "Sabrina The Teenage Witch" and "48 Hours."....Mick Foley will be on the season-finale of CBS's "Now and Again" Friday at 8 p.m. CST. ... The Rock, Terri Runnels, Jerry "The King" Lawler, Michael Cole, The Kat and Pat Patterson will participate in the first annual Sgt. Slaughter Celebrity Golf Invitational in Miami June 2-4.

The event benefits St. Jude Children's Hospital. Former major leaguer Wade Boggs is among the celebrities already committed. ... WCW has released Maestro and The Barbarian. ... The WWF's UK-only "Insurrextion" pay-per-view is Saturday. The main event is a triple threat match for the WWF title with HHH, The Rock and Shane McMahon....The NWA Southwest show on Ch. 55 will air Saturday at 8 p.m. ... NWA Southwest promoter Ken Taylor said the Texas Indoor Arena will undergo some renovations in preparation for the May 26 show.


Monk's Top 10

Rankings based on charisma, fan appeal and in-ring ability.

1. The Rock - WWF: Surely his movies will be better than Hogan's.
2. HHH - WWF: No belt, no problem. Still getting tons of heel heat. But, for how long?
3. Chris Jericho - WWF: Has one belt. Shouldn't be long before he's wearing the big one.
4. Chris Benoit - WWF: No better in-ring worker.
5. Kurt Angle- WWF: Gets to picket in UK this weekend.
6. Rikishi Phatu- WWF: Back that butt up the rankings.
7. Eddy Guerrero- WWF: How does Eddy always end up with a cool car?
8. Jeff Jarrett WCW: Hopefully, title will be back on The Chosen One soon.
9. Kidman- WCW: Can even drag good matches out of bad wrestlers.
10. Big Show - WWF: Sneaks into The "Show" down rankings.

Dropped Out: Tazz (10)
NOTE: Bill Goldberg is out with an injury.

Monk's Bottom 5
Rankings based on charisma, fan appeal and in-ring ability - or lack thereof.

1. Sid - WCW: Had surgery. Out for extended period. WCW can only get better.
2. David Arquette - WCW: Can someone, anyone, please explain this move.
3. The Wall - WCW: What is the gimmick?
4. Lex Luger - WCW: Maybe the most ridiculous finisher in the biz.
5. Norman Smiley - WCW: Needs to wiggle his way out of town.

Dropped out: Scott Steiner (2), Mideon (3), 3 Count (5)

Monk's Top 5 Tag Teams
Ranking based on charisma, fan appeal and in-ring ability.

1. The Dudleys - WWF: It doesn't matter who you are. You're going through table.
2. The Acolytes - WWF: Is English beer really served warm?
3. Edge and Christian - WWF: Moving up or they might do a "run-in" and "shoot" on The Shakedown.
4. The Hardys - WWF: High-flyers' hardcore matches just another place for potential injury.
5. Too Cool - WWF: Sexay back in business.

Dropped out: None
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