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Six-time pro wrestling champ Chris Jericho leads Fozzy, a once-schlocky bar band out to conquer hard rock

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With Avenged Sevenfold, The Cult, Smile Empty Soul, Volbeat, Chevelle, Alter Bridge, Hellyeah and more. April 26, Metropolitan Park, Downtown, $59.50 (one day), $109.50 (April 26 & 27)

The hackneyed stereotype of pro wrestlers as big dumb jocks is turned on its head every time Chris Jericho opens his mouth. That's especially true when he's singing with his band Fozzy, who will be performing in Jacksonville on the first day of Welcome To Rockville. Fozzy — Jericho, guitarists Rich Ward and Billy Grey, bassist Paul Di Leo and drummer Frank Fontsere — has worked diligently to establish itself as a serious player in the hard-rock market since forming 15 years ago, and 2014 may well be its breakout year.

Rich Ward, best known as the leader of Stuck Mojo, founded "Fozzy Osbourne" as a bar band in the late-'90s. Jericho joined in 1999, around the time Stuck Mojo was ending. Fozzy's self-titled debut was released at the end of 2000, which was also Jericho's first full year in the WWE; Fozzy's second record, Happenstance, followed in 2002. The group was initially seen as a send-up of hard-rock clichés, with stage-names like "Duke LaRue" (Ward) and "Mongoose McQueen" (Jericho); the early albums featured credible covers of songs by Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, W.A.S.P., Dio and, of course, Ozzy. The band's first two albums, released on the infamous Megaforce label, sold fewer than 10,000 copies combined.

Initial hype was built around the singer's celebrity status, and audiences figured it was a just a side hustle to reinforce the character he played on TV. But no. All That Remains (Ash Records, 2005) marked the debut of a new Fozzy, rebooted without the covers and characters. The video for the lead single, "Enemy," was banned by MTV after one airing because it shows a disabled man committing suicide — being banned is a surefire way to boost sales. Chasing the Grail (2010) marked a step forward in the band's sound, but failed to follow up on the previous album's success.

It was not until the band's fifth album, 2012's Sin and Bones, that Fozzy finally found a place in the industry. Featuring appearances by Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell and M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold (also playing Rockville on Saturday), Sin and Bones debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, cementing Fozzy's status as a band on the rise.

Jericho the wrestler is probably an industry lifer, but he's as serious about his music as The Rock is about his movies. At 44, Jericho's had remarkably few serious injuries, despite working a very physical, high-impact style. Having performed on national TV since 1996, the only things he's lost are a few inches of hair from a majestic mane that once earned him the alias "Lionheart" in Mexico.

When Fozzy plays Metro Park, its singer won't be far from home. Jericho, a native Canadian, lives with his family in Tampa, home to more pro wrestlers than maybe any other American city, and where Fozzy will be playing Friday night.

Born Christopher Keith Irvine in Long Island, N.Y., the six-time former world champion majored in creative communications, and he's put that education to good use. His third book is due out Oct. 13; The Best In the World — At What I Have No Idea follows on the heels of bestsellers released in 2007 and 2011. Considered one of the best talkers in wrestling history, Jericho has adapted that skill to his new podcast, Talk Is Jericho; he's also started his own web series, But I'm Chris Jericho!, a satirical take on his own attempts to make it in the acting world.

With a new Fozzy album dropping just days after Welcome To Rockville and a busy touring schedule lined up through summer and fall, it seems unlikely Chris Jericho will return to the WWE any time soon. But his fans' loss is also his fans' gain. o

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