You read the headline, and you’re wondering who the heck is Action Andretti. Is he a famous wrestler from a different promotion using a new name? Is he a hot prospect on the independent wrestling scene? Is he related to the famous race car driver?
None of the above. So, how did we get here?
“Chris Jericho is in action” was the advertisement for Wednesday’s AEW Dynamite. Such a outing means it doesn’t matter who Jericho is wrestling. It’s an inconsequential showcase for the former world champion.
Jericho even dismissed his opponent, exclaiming he would beat some “jobber.” Such an inside reference making it on television should have been the first sign that something was up. However, it’s Jericho. He says outlandish things with such poise that no one ever thinks twice.
Following Chris Jericho’s grand entrance was ring announcer Justin Roberts’ muted introduction of Action Andretti. The unknown youngster’s lower-third production graphic mistakenly called him Chris Jericho instead of a fleeting flash of his name.
The bell rang, and it was all going according to plan. Jericho slapped Andretti around and even let him get a few shots in to make it look competitive. Something he can tell his grandkids.
Eventually, Jericho was done playing around and delivered the Code Breaker for 1-2…Wait a minute. He kicked out! What’s his name again? Andretti, yeah. Action Andretti. He kicked out of the Code Breaker.
No job guy kicks out of the Code Breaker. Everyone was shocked. Especially Chris Jericho. Man, Andretti was going to get it now.
Only he didn’t.
“Let’s go, jobber” chants emerged from the crowd as Andretti came back with several offensive maneuvers including a springboard moonsault.
The momentum would soon shift back to the veteran Jericho. He caught Andretti coming off another springboard attempt and went for the Walls of Jericho. The tap-out seemed inevitable until Andretti countered with a cradle and hit a standing shooting star press for the pin.
Action Andretti beat Chris Jericho, clean, in the middle of the ring. It wasn’t a fluke pin, either. Andretti hit a big move to score the biggest upset American wrestling has seen in 20 years.
The crowd inside the Curtis Culwell Center exploded. Jericho sold the shock of losing to an unknown as the now-known commodity Andretti got his hand raised in victory.
Andretti beating Jericho harkens back to 1993 when an unknown Minneapolis native going by the moniker of Lightning Kid shockingly pinned Razor Ramon on Monday Night Raw. Sean Waltman was rechristened the 1-2-3 Kid, and the rest is history.
Wrestling Observer reported on Thursday that Chris Jericho saw Andretti wrestle QT Marshall on the 10/7 taping of AEW Dark and was convinced that Andretti was going to be a star and decided to make him one.
An untrained eye probably didn’t notice the poise, maturity, and intensity Andretti displayed when he faced Marshall. The 24-year-old showed good timing and allowed spots and key moments to marinate instead of banging out move after move in rapid succession.
Also, he worked the crowd! Something a lot of indy wrestlers sadly don’t concern themselves with these days. Jericho noticed, and probably a lot more than what’s listed here.
AEW produced one of the greatest moments in its history. What made it click is that, just like Waltman 30 years ago, most were not familiar with Andretti. An independent wrestler with some hype around their name might have clued fans in that something was afoot.
It was refreshing not knowing. A friendly reminder of the old days where there was no internet or no backstage rumors to spoil the next big angle or a future match. AEW should be proud of themselves and Action Andretti is now has a full-time contract as a professional wrestler.