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A lion’s last stand? What’s at stake for Chris Jericho at WWE Over the Limit?

A legendary lion

At the beginning of the year, the WWE Universe braced for the end of the world.

When Chris Jericho returned to WWE in January, he did so with much fanfare and a pointed, tantalizing promise: His enigmatic arrival would herald "the end of the world." Now, more than five months later, Jericho may be facing his final days in a WWE ring if he fails to capitalize on his fourth title opportunity in as many pay-per-view events at WWE Over the Limit this Sunday.

One of the most decorated champions in history, Jericho has already cemented his place in WWE lore. In a career that has been nothing short of legendary, the first-ever Undisputed WWE Champion has amassed an astounding number of titles and has found success all over the world. From his humble beginnings in Mexico to time spent honing his craft in Japan, from frustrating days in WCW to lengthy title reigns in WWE, the Superstar has made the most of every opportunity that’s come his way. ( WATCH CHRIS JERICHO’S GREATEST MOMENTS)

Still, while the walls of Jericho may be lined with championship gold, he has been anything but golden lately, failing to follow through on a number of bold predictions. Jericho’s string of losses has left the WWE Universe to wonder if the legendary lion may be facing extinction as he heads into a Fatal 4-Way title bout at WWE Over the Limit against World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio.

For the man who predicted the end of the world, will WWE Over the Limit prove to be an ironic ending to a legendary career? Or can Jericho shrug off his recent string of losses and make a heroic final stand in his pursuit of WWE championship gold? Perhaps more importantly, does Jericho need a win at WWE Over the Limit to save some face — and, quite possibly his career — after his latest comeback has seemingly misfired?

To even attempt to predict his future, we must first take a look back at what brought Jericho to such a precarious place in his career.

The end of the world, and other tall tales

Since his return in January, Jericho has squandered three championship opportunities tracing back to WWE Elimination Chamber. Add to that a second-place finish in the Royal Rumble Match, and the former Undisputed Champion has come up short on four consecutive pay-per-views, despite countless proclamations of greatness.

Most notable among Jericho’s many decrees was his promise on the Jan. 23 episode of Raw SuperShow that, "This Sunday at the Royal Rumble, it’s going to be the end of the world as you know it."

Perhaps Jericho should have been more specific as to precisely whose world would be coming to an end when he finally spoke to the WWE Universe that night, as the Superstar was about to embark on a months-long goose chase of the WWE Championship.

With a WrestleMania World Title opportunity on the line at the Rumble, any momentum Jericho built upon his return ran into a Great White brick wall. Despite entering the melee at the much-coveted 29th spot, Jericho failed to overcome the red-hot Celtic Warrior as Sheamus dumped his last remaining opponent over the ropes to earn a chance at the World Heavyweight Championship. ( MATCH PHOTOS)

While that very title is now a very real prospect in Jericho’s future, all that’s been left in his wake thus far this year have been loses on big stages — chief among them a demoralizing defeat at the hands of WWE Champion CM Punk on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

Best in the World?

After his disappointing showing in the Rumble Match, Jericho set his sights on Punk, telling The Second City Saint he was "The Best in the World at What He Does." Even with a loss at the Rumble, Jericho was granted the opportunity to challenge for Punk’s title, but the Superstar floundered at WrestleMania XXVIII, losing to Punk and failing to back up his tough talk for the second time since his return. ( WRESTLEMANIA DUELING DIARIES)

Looking to bounce back from his Show of Shows loss, Jericho once again faced off against Punk, this time at WWE Extreme Rules in a Chicago Street Fight Match in the champion’s backyard. Jericho sank to new lows during the build-up to that bout, making the fight personal by spewing scurrilous lies about Punk’s immediate family members. Jericho also attacked the champion’s Straight Edge lifestyle, mocking Punk’s philosophies and goading him with bottles of alcohol. When the time came to put up or shut up at Extreme Rules, however, it was The Voice of the Voiceless who silenced Jericho in the end. ( MATCH PHOTOS)

Now, World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio lie in wait for the self-proclaimed “Best in the World,” who will get yet another title opportunity at WWE Over the Limit. With his track record so far in 2012, there’s no telling to what depths Jericho might plunge to come away with a victory this time.

Desperate times, desperate measures?

What, then, is at stake for Chris Jericho come Sunday night?

In a word: everything.

And what might Y2J do to claim the World Heavyweight Championship?

In a word: anything.

Few competitors would even be allowed the opportunities afforded to Jericho so far this year, but there’s no denying the Superstar has earned the chances he’s gotten, if for no other reason than the simple fact that he is Chris Jericho — likely a future WWE Hall of Famer and one of the most decorated competitors in history.

His résumé speaks for itself and he’s earned the right to be at the top of the challenger list.

Still, the number of checkmarks he’s amassed in the loss column since January makes one wonder just how many championship chances Jericho has left in his illustrious career. If he loses Sunday night, will Jericho ever have another opportunity to add another piece of hardware to his collection? Or will the countdown clock run down on Y2J?

Further, if Jericho fails to come away with the gold, will Over the Limit be the last time the WWE Universe ever sees the “Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rollla” in the ring? Or can Jericho save his career with a huge win against three formidable opponents?

If this is to be his final stand, the smart money would be to bet on Jericho walking out of PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., with the title in hand. Jericho is a survivor, and like a cornered lion, he’ll be at his most dangerous with his back to the wall. Jericho will do anything — anything — to emerge from Over the Limit with the World Heavyweight Championship secured around his waist.

That said, will his match at WWE Over the Limit be his lingering legacy? And if Y2J does decide to walk off into the sunset, will he do so with the World Heavyweight Championship around his waist?

Be sure to tune in this Sunday night at 8 ET/5 PT on pay-per-view to find out!

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