Chris Jericho

Chris Jericho Reflects On AEW’s First 5 Years, Working For Tony Khan & Vince McMahon, Wanting To Fight Brock Lesnar For Real

Chris Jericho (@iamjericho) is a professional wrestler with AEW and was previously in WWE. He is also a bestselling author, actor, podcaster and the frontman of the rock band Fozzy. He sits down with Chris Van Vliet in Hollywood, CA to talk about his legendary pro wrestling career that has spanned 34 years, his decision to sign with AEW in 2019, how much AEW has accomplished in its first 5 years, the differences and similarities of working with Tony Khan and Vince McMahon, his ability to reinvent himself, the popularity of his entrance theme “Judas”,  being the main event of WrestleMania 18 instead of The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, being in the ring when Triple H tore his quad, standing up to Brock Lesnar, whether he still thinks he will be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame, how much longer he wants to wrestle and much more!

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On 5 years in AEW:

“Well, I was gonna say I don’t think things could have gone better. Obviously, I think there’s always things that can go better. But I think overall, I think it’s far exceeded what most people expected. I don’t think it’s exceeded what Tony Khan expected, because I’m sure he was thinking big right out of the gate, which we know he was. And I can’t say that it’s exceeded what I’ve expected. But I can’t say that I’m not a little bit pleasantly surprised. It’s just, how big the company is after, like you said four years, five years now. It is unbelievable to think about that, you know, any company wrestling, or if you have a pharmacy, or if you’re a band, or whatever it may be if you’re a law firm to grow that big, in less than five years is inconceivable, but yet, here we are.”

On Chris Jericho adding value to AEW when it was first announced:

“The short answer to that is yes. I knew what the value that I had, which is one of the reasons why I really wanted to do it. Because you know, it’s been well documented that that my last run in WWE, even though it was super popular, and super over, was still, you know, not a main event programme, which in my opinion, it should have been, and it was, at least from the fan interest in the reactions and stuff. So I remember thinking, I could stay in WWE for as long as they want and just be a guy here, because that’s basically, I sort of feel like I did when I left WCW, where I had this great storyline with Goldberg, but I knew it was never going to get me any higher. So I got to go somewhere else, which was WWF at the time, same thing in WWF to where it was I can do more than this in WWE. I can do more than a second match on the show. So I went to New Japan and headlined the Tokyo Dome, you know, three years in a row. First Tokyo Dome was around the time when Tony started talking about AEW and I thought I can stay in WWE and be a guy or I can be the guy, which I’ve never been in WWE just it was never really worked that way. And not from like a fame and fortune standpoint, but from like really changing the business and adding like, a huge checkmark to my legacy. Because if you think about it, and you’re right, because besides Chris Jericho you had, Jim Ross, who everyone knew. And Cody Rhodes who some people knew, but he’d been gone out of the mainstream for a few years. And other than that, there was really nobody. I knew that if I signed up with AEW, it would help them which would help them get their deal with TBS and put the company on the map right away and my hunch pay was real. And that’s what happened.” 

On the similarities between Vince McMahon and Tony Khan:

“I mean, the passion is the similarities. You know, and you have to have it. The enthusiasm, for sure, the wrestling knowledge, even though Vince was in his 70s and Tony’s in his 30s. But I always think back to what was Vince like in 1982, when he took over WWF. And he was probably a lot like Tony, you know. The ways of running the companies are different. Vince has more of an iron hand and Tony is more of a people person when there’s pros and cons for both of those. But the two different people, and that’s never going to change. So the coolest thing about working for both of them is you almost become like a billionaire whisperer, you got to know how to talk to these guys. And when you can figure out how to talk and relate. You can have a great relationship. I had a great relationship with Vince, I have a great relationship with Tony. And I have a lot of respect for both of them. You know, Tony’s my boss, I have never once disrespected him. Not done what he’s asked of me, talked back to him caused any problems whatsoever because he’s my f*cking boss. And if we’re on set for a movie, and frickin Steven Spielberg goes, Hey, Chris, I want you to take this soda can and pour it over your head and I go, that’s f*cking stupid. He’s like, Okay, well, then they’ll hire some other dude to come in and pour the soda can over his head. This is show business and we played a role in a part in a show. And it doesn’t matter if you like it or not. You have to make it work. And you have to make it good. It’s what Pat Patterson taught me. He used to say what Vince said. You know, some days he likes chocolate, some days he likes strawberry, but it is his f*cking ice cream shop. You got to make the ice cream you’re doing he wants you to do. You don’t like the chocolate? Who gives a f*ck. You make the ice cream. And that’s my big thing, it’s Tony’s Ice Cream Stand. So whatever he wants me to do, I’ll do my best.”

On Vince McMahon stepping away:

“I mean, once again, there’s the reasons why he was stepping aside, and I’m not talking about that side of things. I never thought he would step down. And then I think had those other issues not come up here, there’s no way that he would have. But also too, Vince is also smart. And I bet you he was like okay, I’m at the point now where this is not good for me to be here. So he trained, and groomed Triple H for 20 years, and probably felt confident enough that things are gonna continue without him. And I say this all the time in AEW, I think everybody could use six months working for Vince McMahon. Because that’s what you really understand what wrestling is, the wrestling business and how the business works. And I loved working for him and I loved going head to head with him and creating ideas and debating ideas and arguing ideas. But he always used to say I’m not here just to teach you wrestling lessons I’m here to teach you life lessons. And he did teach me a lot of life lessons, the guys really f*cking a cool guy. You know, from my experiences with him and not easy to deal with an asshole sometimes, but he’s your boss. You’re not supposed to be friends with your boss all the time. But then you can still get on the private jet and drink for four hours. [What does he drink?] I think it’s Dewars. He drinks whiskey, but I think it’s Dewars, it might be Macallan or something like that. [And you are a vodka guy?] Yeah. So he could never understand that. That actually was great. When I was hosting Tough Enough in Orlando. I had a press day in New York the next day, and he would always fly in and out of White Plains. That’s close to where he lives. And they said you can just jump in on the jet with Vince. It was me and Vince, Triple H and Kevin Dunn. And we’re flying back from Orlando and actually they oil-spotted me and left me at the venue. And then, [they say], where you at? We’re at the plane, where are you? [I say] You guys are supposed to give me a ride. [They respond] We weren’t supposed to give you a ride, haha. F*cking assholes. So then I get there and I get on the plane and we start to fly. And he and I are drinking and Triple H and Kevin decided to go to sleep. And so Vince and I are just kind of hanging out listening to The Stones and AC/DC because there his two favourite bands. And when we land he goes, Let’s go to the gym. I’m like, dude go to the gym? It’s like literally like 4:30 in the morning. Like, I gotta get up at seven. He goes I gotta get up at six. We’re f*cking drunk. He’s like, let’s go to the gym! I’m like you’re not going to the gym. I’m not going to the gym, I’m going to sleep. So I get to my room and go to sleep at 4:30 and wake up at 6:30 I got a text on my phone picture of Vince flexing in the gym. And he writes Vince one Jericho zero. He was probably 73 at the time. But he has that work ethic, he would always say, I don’t expect you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. And that rubs off. There’s a way that the WWE works where you don’t say no to anything. I mean, they asked you to do press you do it, they ask you to sign 1,000 action figures you do it because if you don’t, you know there’s gonna be consequences and big ones. And that’s just kind of I think everybody in AEW needs to understand that sometimes.”

On a possible WWE Hall of Fame induction:

“I always like going against the grain. Like I loved it when Axl Rose didn’t show up to the Hall of Fame and sent a note saying not only am I not showing up, but you’re not allowed to say my name. I love that sh*t. Like, that’s f*cking rock and roll, man. So I don’t really understand the point of a Hall of Fame. If you think I’m in it, that’s great, there’s no real Hall of Fame. It’s all kind of in WWE’s mind in their chambers of the mind. And, I mean, it doesn’t really matter if I’m in it or not. You go up there and give some approved speech where you have five minutes to f*cking encapsulate 33 years. Because I was at the Hall of Fames when you had, Hillbilly Jim talking for 45 minutes. F*cking hell, dude. You’re on Saturday Night’s Main Event once you don’t have a lot to say, nothing against Hillbilly Jim Yeah, he’s a cool guy. And he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. and then you get the frickin Undertaker. And he gets 15 minutes. I’m not interested in that at this point. And like I said, it’s not a disrespectful thing. It’s just like, I don’t really see the benefits of it. And I kind of like doing the opposite things.”

On being the greatest of all time:

“If I died tomorrow. Everyone would say I’m one of the greatest of all time. I think because I’m still here, still doing it at the highest of levels, there’s a lot of people online that just hate that. So you know if Chris Jericho says the sky is blue, I’m an asshole because this guy says it’s obviously red. So you deal with that. Like, there’s a lot of Chris Jericho haters right now. It’s kind of in vogue to hate Chris Jericho, for whatever reason. And once again, I’ve never cared. I mean, sometimes it gets to you, but I only judge myself. And, am I still able to have the best match on the show on any given night? Yes. Not every night. But on any given night. And am I still doing entertaining segments and having great matches and thinking of ideas and building the company and helping build others? Yes. When that starts disappearing, then I’ll, you know, reevaluate. But for now. I mean, dude, I don’t know. At the risk of not sounding humble. I don’t know who’s had a longer career than I’ve had with as much diversity, evolution reinvention. And actually, just the opponents that I’ve had. I mean, I don’t think there’s anybody in the history of the business, who has worked almost everybody. I worked Dick Murdoch. And I worked with Takeshita. I worked with just like anybody in between that kind of falls in there. You name somebody of top value from the last, let’s say the mid-80s till now, and I’ve worked with 99% of them.” 

On the popularity of Judas:

“I mean, yeah, it’s one of those things where, like I mentioned it’s part of the show, and we always try as professionals to get organic reactions. You want people to “If you smell what The Rock is cooking!” Or whatever it may be, whatever the catchphrase is, you want people to be able to say that, on their own. And to have them sing it is amazing because, I don’t know how these people knew the words, knew the lyrics or if they knew the song or they just heard a bunch of the, you know, Judas was a big hit for Fozzy, right out of the gate. I remember we did 3 million views on YouTube, in the first week or so it was just, I couldn’t believe it. But then when we started playing on TV, it went through the f*cking roof. We got a gold record for Judas now with Fozzy. And I’m sure you know, being on TV every week didn’t hurt, but it was already a hit. But what prompted people to sing along with it? I don’t know. I’m not sure. But you don’t mess with it. And then the crowning glory for that was when we were in Houston. When MJF and I were doing our feud, which was exactly 365 days, we were both very proud of that. It was a whole year that MJF Jericho story. And the story that night was that Max said, if I wanted to get the match with him, I had to come to the ring with no song. So for the whole week, we are kind of like what what are we going to do? How do we do this? Are we going to have the words on the screen and maybe not film it or people that will put lyrics under the chair and finally, Tony and I were just like, You know what? When you go to a concert, you know when to sing. You don’t pull up the lyrics or have a lyric sheet or like prompting you to do it. You just do it. So if they do it, then it’s just going to be one of the coolest moments ever. And if they don’t, then the evil heel’s plan worked. Which is always good, too. And I remember walking out just walking out wandering out into the stage and within I think two, two bars everybody was in sync and because of course at first it was a little bit off and then and then everybody was singing it was one of the coolest moments maybe ever in wrestling of these people just singing along the Judas with no music and no prompting. It was amazing.”

On being the main event of WrestleMania 18:

“Full disclosure, I didn’t think our match should have been the main event. How do you follow Rock and Hogan? I mean, there’s the buffer match, and then ours, right? The buffer match would be the match that was put in between the two main events of the show. But I was like, How can we compete with this? I mean, dude, this is huge. When Hogan came back. I don’t think anybody expected him to be as over as he was. Because Hulk in WCW and Hulk in WWF are two different fan bases and Hulk and WWF is f*cking Hulk Hogan, like dude, it’s all going against The Rock. Are you kidding me? And Rock kind of played heel, but nobody gave a sh*t. It was just basically like having the two biggest teams in the Superbowl and you don’t even care who wins, you just know it’s gonna be amazing. And if you watch that match with the sound off, it’s not so great. You watch it with the sound on it’s one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. And I was like, I remember talking to Triple H, and he had said something off the record that really pissed me off. And I remember confronting him about that beforehand. And it was kind of we were at odds already and I was like, f*ck, man, you really want to go on after? He’s goes, it’s the world title, the world title should go on last. And in theory, it should. But guess what? The world title match went on before Stadium Stampede in AEW. Because how do you follow Stadium Stampede? So I just knew they’d already been f*cking blown away by this because people are gonna go so crazy for it. And our angle had steam but it wasn’t like Hogan and Rock, this is Tyson and Ali if you’re playing a video game of wrestling. That’s probably the match you’re going to choose at the time. So yeah, I did not want to go on after. But we did. And I’ve never watched that match back. Never watched it back ever. I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel it. I thought it was not good. It probably was better than I remember. But I just was like, wow, for me, my main event match was versus Shawn at 19. Even though it wasn’t the main event, it was one of the main events.  So that was kind of my retribution to myself where we had this match. So that was the main event. And I still have the card at home, where it’s the main event of WrestleMania Triple H vs Chris Jericho.”

On when retirement will be:

“You know, it’s funny when people ask me that because I never think about stuff like that. I told you earlier kind of my criteria for Chris Jericho and how I would want to continue and why I would want to continue and like I said, still able to have the best match in any given night and still contributing and helping the company and helping grow whatever company I’m with and helping to grow the careers of other guys younger guys. So I don’t know, man, I feel great. I mean, I think when I got into the 2010s, I started feeling really sh*tty. And that’s when yoga came up. That helped me a lot, DDP Yoga. Yeah, helped me so much. In the 2020s, I lost a lot of weight which kind of gave me more momentum, I lost about 30 pounds a couple of years ago. So I just, you know, I don’t really lift weights anymore. I just do kickboxing and bike riding. Because weights started to bother me. And why am I sitting here doing three sets of eight, when I can barely get it up with my shoulders are f*cked, or whatever it is? So let’s just not do that. There’s other ways to stay in shape. So I kind of, I talked about reinventing myself in the ring. It’s also reinventing myself outside of the ring as well. AEW started, there’s no house shows. So there’s a limited schedule. You know what I mean? I mean, I think I’ve had 26 matches this year, which is probably a little bit more than usual. I think it was 22, 26. But f*ck. [In] WWE do you do in four days a week? 50 weeks a year? Are you doing 200 matches a year, right? Couldn’t do that now if I wanted to. So I think as long as you continue to keep going the way they’re going, there’s really no end in sight. I mean, look at Sting, he’s kind of the watermark of being 64 and still being awesome. I don’t know if I’ll be doing when I’m 64. But I’m 53 now. And I’m still having a great time and feel great. And think I’m doing some pretty good work.”

On CM Punk returning:

“I mean doesn’t surprise. I mean it’s the Vince attitude like if you can make money with somebody then you bring them back. He brought back the nWo, he brought Bischoff in. Yeah, and Vince isn’t in charge. But Triple H learned from Vince once again and the fans, keeping the fans entertained and happy man look, he came back and it was the highest viewed social media segment that they’ve ever had. So once right out of the gate, it was a benefit to them. So it didn’t surprise me.”

What is Chris Jericho grateful for?

“I took a chance at a young age and having this attitude of just going for it.”

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