Chris Jericho Is All Elite And Always Evolving

James Musselwhite

Chirs Jericho is both a busy man and one who keeps his fans guessing. Since leaving WWE in 2017, he’s created another new gimmick, worked high profile matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling, spearheaded a successful cruise (or Rock N’ Wrestling Rager At Sea, if you will) that’s getting a sequel in January 2020, and signed with new company All Elite Wrestling – and that doesn’t even include his work with his band, Fozzy, and his podcast, Talk Is Jericho. On June 9 at Dominion, he’ll challenge for Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, on August 31 at All Out he’ll take on Hangman Page in a match to crown the inaugural AEW World Champion, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll slow down from there.

With Spandex spoke to Jericho about his upcoming projects, the evolution of his wrestling persona, and more. That conversation is below and has been edited for length and clarity.

With Spandex: You’re promoting the [second] Jericho Cruise. I’m wondering how quickly after the first Jericho Cruise did you realize you were going to do another one?

Chris Jericho: I think during the first one is when I was kind of hoping we could do another one. My overall goal from the start was always to create a franchise, a destination vacation that would… that people would want to go to every single year. That was kind of always the goal, and then once the first one was so successful… The word of mouth traveled around and the response from people who were there made me realize we really had something cool going on, I think once we docked, or after the cruise, it was only a matter of time… and here we are.

Pretty much all the entertainment for this one has been announced except for the wrestling. Can you tell us anything about it besides that it will be presented by AEW?

Well, I mean, like I said, I think the template was kind of established with the first Jericho Cruise. And before that, what I wanted it to be was an extension of all things that I enjoy and that I’m into. not just wrestling, but music and live podcasting and comedians and the paranormal element and that sort of a thing, and it really worked. I think part of why the cruise was so successful…

A rock n’ roll cruise you’ll find fifty bands or sixty bands. Here, we have, you know, ten, but we also have four or five great comedians and, like I said, the live podcasting… and live wrestling matches at sea, which at never been done before to the point that even setting up the ring and getting that kind of approved took something special. I had to have a team of engineers come on board the ship to figure out how would the ring be kind of secured to the deck. What if there’s, you know, hurricane winds and giant waves, and the ship is rocked back and forth? Is the ring stable? All of those things are things you don’t think about when you come up with a concept of a cruise that has wrestling at sea. Well, now we know all about that.

The talent roster that we’re bringing aboard will combine biggest names in wrestling from the past to the present to the future, which is another reason why it works. It’s not a nostalgia thing… It’s just got a combination of everything, and I think the amalgamation of all these different styles… is why it was such a success and why we’re very, very close to selling out with almost 8 months left to go. Last time we didn’t sell out until about 8 days left to go. It’s a completely different vibe…

And speaking of the podcasting, this week your podcast episode with Jon Moxley you tweeted was your highest rated episode ever. Did you expect the interview to get so much traction?

I don’t know. I suspected it would do well because Moxley going to AEW was a big surprise. He had left WWE less than a month ago. But, I mean, I woke up this morning and saw that not only was it the highest rated Talk Is Jericho of all time, but it had got double the listens of the previous number one ranked show in less than 18 hours…. Everybody wants to hear it, everyone wants to know about it, and the podcast is very successful. So to be able to say that it doubled this rating, you know, within a day and a half, it has the potential to be one of the biggest podcasts ratings maybe ever…

So I don’t know why how sometimes this happens, but I’m definitely not going to complain about it. There’s a lot of people who want to hear what he has to say and some of the stuff he’s saying is a real revelation for wrestling fans because now they know how things work behind the scenes in the WWE and in the wrestling business. He was definitely no holds barred… He’s not the most talkative of guys, but at that point, he was because he had some things he really wanted to get off his chest…

Obviously, you know a lot more about what goes on in the wrestling business than most people listening, but did anything about his story surprise you at all, or did you kind of know all of it in advance?

I mean, not to me… Obviously, he has some personal experiences that are not exactly the same as mine, but the vibe and the tone… I guess the biggest surprise to me was how open he was because, as I mentioned earlier, he’s not the most talkative of guys, but he really had things he wanted to say.

I think one of the reasons why my podcast is so popular is that people come on the show, whether it be a wrestler or a musician or you’re a paranormal expert or whatever it be… to get a fair take and someone who’s just going to sit back and let people talk. If the show was ninety minutes long; I probably talked for five minutes of that time and left the other 85 minutes for him to say what he wanted to say, and he felt very, very comfortable to do so. So to me, it was one of the best Talk Is Jericho episodes I’ve ever had, but a lot of it had to do with the timing as far as why it’s so popular. As we all know, in show business, timing is everything…

So we know in AEW you’re going to have a match with Hangman Page. It looks like you might have a match with Moxley. Is there anyone [else] in the company you really want to wrestle in the future who you haven’t worked with yet?

With AEW you have a roster full of guys who are all up and coming or established and I’ve wrestled hardly any of them… I think I had one match with Cody maybe ten years ago in WWE on a Saturday morning show. I think the Young Bucks, MJF, Jungle Boy, Hangman Page you mentioned — There’s so many guys that I’d like to work with — and Pentagon and Fenix – and that’s the exciting thing is that now when you have the stars, you have this roster of everybody…

What Double or Nothing was was a real kind of coming out party for AEW because it showed… what this company is all about. There’s a lot of guys on that show that I’d enjoy working with, and the best part is there’s no rush. it’s just getting going. It’s just getting started… There’s two or three years of storylines already and we’ve only had one show, so I’m really excited about all the options…

And before that, you’re wrestling Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. You’ve mentioned you wanted to wrestle Tanahashi in the past. If you were going to have defenses with that title, do you have kind of a lineup of people you would want to wrestle?

I don’t, but, I mean, it’s not even about if I win the title or not. I’ve wanted to wrestle Okada for years… I think Tanahashi’s another one. I think Minoru Suzuki and Kota Ibushi and Will Ospreay – I mean, as far as guys I’d want to have matches with, I think we’d tear the house down.

I don’t know how many matches I will have in Japan once we get started on a weekly basis with AEW, but I think with what we’re doing right now, I’ll still have three, four, five months to go before the weekly television starts, and I think it gives me a chance to explore some of the options in Japan. I love Japan. I’ve been there sixty times. I love working with new opponents, especially ones that are considered to be the best in the world and the best ever like Okada is… I want to know, how good is he? Let me try and see what I can feel about him…

Obviously, AEW is my home team and that’s where my loyalty lies at this point, but if I can have a couple matches in Japan to expand my creativity and expand my knowledge of wrestling and expand this plethora of great opponents, great rivals that I’ve had, this is the perfect time to do so.

Okay, and with the TV show, wrestlers and management have been saying a lot of people are free to work for other companies until the TV show starts. Is that the case for you, or it sounds like you might also take other bookings after the TV show starts?

Nope. I mean, I’m not interested in taking other bookings. I work for AEW and that’s where the majority of my time will be and, you know, the only bookings I take will be something really interesting for me in Japan, but other than that I have enough work to do in AEW and enough great opponents there. Like I said, I think once we start doing the TV I doubt that I’ll be going anywhere else. Not that I wouldn’t go back to Japan for big shows, special shows, but there’s no – I’m not interested in doing 100 matches a year and working around the world because I’ve already done that. I’m interested in building AEW and making us into the biggest and best company that we can possibly me and continue all the momentum we have since we announced it in February and since we had our show this week, and continuing on to the TV show.

You’re one of the more veteran members of the AEW roster and I’m wondering is there a secret to getting a really good match with a less experienced wrestler?

No, there’s no secret. It’s just a matter of, you know, looking at somebody’s strengths and hiding their weaknesses and making the right decisions in how you do the match. It’s one of the strengths I think that I have, one of the reasons I’m still at the level I’m at 29 years in. I can really gauge somebody’s potential and I can see what they do great and what they do okay and what they need to do better and kind of work with what I’m given.

You debuted a new finishing move, the Judas Effect, at Double or Nothing, and I’m wondering why did you decide to get a new finisher right now?

Well, I’ve been doing a lot of MMA training to get in shape and keep your cardio up and kind of just a good way of training, which is just as important from a mental aspect as a physical aspect. And we were just kind of doing reverse elbows and I thought that would actually make a great finish, actually inspired by the Great Muta when he started using the Shining Wizard kind of later on in his career. It’s a move you can do to everybody. It’s not physically taxing like it would be if you had to do a moonsault or lift somebody up. A great finisher is something you can use on everybody, and I just thought it really fit.

It fits kind of the character that I have now, more of a brawling type of style. Plus, now with MMA being so prevalent, people know these moves, and I think it’s one of those moves that everybody can relate to because you might not know what it feels like to get moonsaulted or take a suplex from the top rope, but everyone knows what it’s like to get smacked in the face, and that’s why I wanted to start using it.

So I started training it down in Tampa with my MMA trainer and I gave it a cool name and was waiting for the right moment to do it and I did it to Kenny Omega and it worked… And another reason why is because it’s AEW. It’s the first time with the company… I wanted to do something people wouldn’t associate with WWE Chris Jericho. This is only something you’ve seen with AEW, so I liked that idea as well.

Your entrance on the show highlighted the different eras and looks of Chris Jericho. I’m wondering what was the inspiration for your current look that you have?

I don’t know. It’s weird because it’s just kind of naturally evolving. When I worked with Kenny in Japan last year, it was still sparkly jacket Jericho. The character, the style I was doing was much more of a brawling style and much more of a hard-hitting style. It just seemed more of a serial killer rather than, you know, a flashy, rock n’ roll type guy. And just one thing let to another. It just seemed a little more serious, and then I think a fan had made some kind of graphic where I looked like the Joker and I had liked the idea of the hat and the makeup kind of seemed like a cool concept, so I started wearing that…

I think that diversity and that versatility keeps you relevant and keeps people always guessing what you’re going to do. And, you know, I’m not a nostalgia act. I never wanted to be… And, you know, people come up to me and say “Y2J,” which is great, because I’m always going to be known to a certain extent by that nickname, but Y2J is so ten years ago. You know, even the list. One of the reasons why I didn’t go back to the WWE was I knew they’d expect me to put people on the list, and it just doesn’t seem right anymore three years down the road. Those days come and go for me as far as what I’m feeling.

And it’s great to know that people love Y2J and it’s great to know people love the list and that’s what they’re supposed to do. But for me to still be doing that here in 2019 just feels too retro, too much like resting on my laurels, and that’s never what I’ve been about, so the best way to do this is to continue to create new things, continue to great new looks, continue to create new catchphrases, and go on from there.