By Mike Mooneyham

Dec. 16, 2007

The jury is still out on the return of Chris Jericho, but tonight’s Armageddon pay-per-view could play a big role in determining exactly where his push leads.

WWE brought back Jericho last month in a move the company hoped would help fill the void created when its top star, John Cena, was sidelined with an injury that is expected to keep him sidelined until after Wrestlemania. Jericho essentially has replaced Cena in his spot and has been heavily pushed as the No. 1 challenger to WWE champion Randy Orton.

While it’s still too early to judge Jericho on his impact since returning, WWE officials will be closely watching his title match with Orton at tonight’s pay-per-view. It will mark Jericho’s first major bout in more than two years and his first big test since returning to WWE. Jericho has had only two TV matches since his return, and his usually over-the-top interviews thus far have not lived up to the company’s lofty expectations.

The 37-year-old Jericho said before returning to WWE that wrestling was no longer a be-all, end-all proposition for him. He’s financially set, and he made it clear that wrestling’s not something he has to do.

“I’ve been very smart with everything that I’ve done,” he told The Post and Courier. “I saved money and my compensation ever since I got paid a hot dog and a glass of orange juice. I put a quarter of the hotdog in the bank. I came into the business on my own terms, and I left the first time on my own terms. I’ll come back the same way, and I’ll leave the same way.”

Jericho may also have to overcome a small but vocal faction that feels the Canadian-born wrestler doesn’t have “the look” (size) to be a top-tier fixture. Jericho fought similar sentiment during his tenure in WCW in the mid-’90s.

– The much-maligned Carlito (Carly Colon) has rescinded his notice to WWE. A meeting with Vince McMahon at the recent Raw taping in North Charleston brought the two sides back together, with a renewed push in store for the second-generation performer.

Carlito made his WWE debut in 2004 by defeating John Cena for the U.S. title. He also took the Intercontinental title from Shelton Benjamin in his first match on Raw.

Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho

But WWE officials have argued that Carlito, son of legendary Puerto Rican star Carlos Colon, has failed to reach his potential, and in recent weeks he was relegated to doing jobs to the likes of midget performer Hornwoggle.

Carlito was highly vocal about his omission from this year’s Wrestlemania, complaining in one interview, “Apparently, they had to make space for Kane vs. Khali and Melina vs. Ashley.”

Sources say the technically sound Carlito is out to prove the WWE brass wrong. He took a step in the right direction with a critically acclaimed performance in his ladder match with Jeff Hardy last Monday night on Raw.

– Pro wrestling may be coming under the radar again with last week’s findings of a report by former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell that chronicled steroid use among major league baseball players.

The Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing Jan. 23 when the U.S. House of Representatives reconvenes for the second session of the 110th Congress. The hearing will explore issues relating to steroid use in professional sports, and that will surely include pro wrestling.

The Committee on Energy and Commerce opened an investigation into steroid use in professional wrestling in August in the wake of the Chris Benoit tragedy.

– Karen Angle suffered a broken foot at last week’s TNA tapings. The wife of TNA star Kurt Angle suffered the injury when she awkwardly fell while leaving the ring.

– Outspoken WWE world champ Batista took some verbal shots at Great Khali during a recent interview.

“I didn’t think he deserved the world championship. I don’t want to say it made me sick to my stomach to see the title in his hands, but it really did make me sick to my stomach.”

Carolinas great Abe Jacobs will be among those inducted next June into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame at the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo, Iowa.

– Legendary wrestling manager Bobby Heenan was scheduled to undergo major surgery late last week.

Heenan’s jawbone was destroyed by radiation therapy to treat his throat cancer, and doctors planned to take bone from his shin and thigh to construct a new jaw.

– Former pro wrestling valet Nickla “Baby Doll” Roberts, the ex-sister-in-law of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, recently told Legends Championship Wrestling that Roberts has taken WWE up on its offer to pay for nine weeks of drug rehabilitation.

Roberts, who has a long and well-documented history of drug problems, last appeared in a WWE ring when he confronted Randy Orton prior to the 2005 Wrestlemania. He delivered a drunken promo at a TNA TV taping in 2006.

– Lines of the week come from Jim Ross, who was at the top of his game for Raw’s 15th anniversary show, while observing The Godfather and his entourage of ladies hit the ring: “Even (Pat) Patterson is smiling,” followed by “Hey King, I think I see your new ex-wife.”

– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Armageddon pay-per-view at 8 p.m. tonight. Cover charge is $7.