This is definitely among the best third volumes of wrestling autobiography, alongside Adrian Street’s So Many Ways To Hurt You. Unfortunately that categorisation acts as faint praise for several perhaps-inevitable reasons.
Jericho’s new book, following on from the structural trick of his first two volumes, runs from his 2007 return to WWE until his surprise appearance at the 2013 Royal Rumble. It’s a period that covers some of his bigger wrestling successes, notably the Shawn Michaels feud in 2008 that earned him his spot in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame.
Two major problems limit the book’s potential. The first is simply the period it covers, one in which Jericho was firmly established in both wrestling and other entertainment activities. A Lion’s Tale had the story of a boyhood fan working his way around the world en route to achieving his dream job. Undisputed told the tale of a man struggling to overcome setbacks and disappointments with said dream job, as well as branching out into non-wrestling activities. This book has no such arc to speak of: while Jericho’s successes are great for him personally, there less cohesion or narrative here and it’s simply a set of anecdotes in which things are generally going well.
The second problem is that not only is so much of the period fresh in the reader’s mind, but so much of the behind-the-scenes stuff has already been revealed by Jericho in podcasts and interviews. The book has few major revelations and while, for example, it’s fun to be reminded of the Michaels feud or the silent promo on Jericho’s 2012 return, there’s not much to tell about the creative process. Even for those who haven’t heard the stories before, there’s no much said beyond, for example, the Michaels feud was meant to be a one-off match but they came up with ideas to extend it, and Jericho didn’t mean to punch Michaels’ wife for real, but it worked out for the best. The biggest insight is into the unique workings of Vince McMahon’s mind: it’s hard to imagine him even using e-mail or text messaging, so seeing such messages quoted is a genuine revelation.
That’s not to say there aren’t some fun stories here, be they the saga of trying to make it back to the US after the Icelandic volcano explosion, a backstage brawl between Big Show and Great Khali, or Batista’s failed attempts to disguise a banned bladejob as an accident. But most of these are over in a page or two, giving the book more the feel of a diary than a deeper autobiography.
It’s also important to stress that the book is an enjoyable read, written in Jericho’s established casual, engaging style. There are a few overdone devices (such as references to his first two volumes) but nothing that should put off anyone who was already considering picking up the book.
The Best In The World should by no means be considered a bad or even merely average book. It’s hard to imagine anyone who has enough interest to pick it up not enjoying the read or considering it a good use of their time. But the perhaps unavoidable shortcomings compared with the first two volumes mean that, unlike with those books, it’s neither something that’s an immediate must-read, nor something that you’ll be rushing to re-read later on.by