Since the day he debuted a quarter-century ago, Chris Jericho has ensured that the world of wrestling would never, eeeeever be the same again.
The self-proclaimed “Best in the World” celebrates his silver anniversary in the squared circle this October at Madison Square Garden, which is a long way from his debut at the Ponoka Moose Hall in Ponoka, Alberta, Canada.
“My days of being a full-time wrestler are long gone, but I still enjoy doing it,” said Jericho. “If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t do it.”
Performing for 25 years requires dedication, especially at the level in which Jericho still operates.
“I’ve gone far beyond having to do anything for any financial reasons, but it’s a good time to go out there in the ring and it’s very second nature to me,” said the 44-year-old Jericho. “Mentally, it’s still there, and you think about things a little differently after doing this for 25 years. Physically, I feel better than I felt ten years ago. I just started doing yoga five years ago, and it just changed everything around for me, as far as the soreness and the level I had of pain I’d feel during or after a match.
“But the most important reason I still do this is because I enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun, and I like working with the younger guys–it reinvigorates my desire to continue. Those guys work a lot like the gang of guys from my generation, and that gives me a kick, as well.”
Jericho returned to the squared circle this past June 12 for a series of dates that run through August 30. With the exception of the WWE’s “Beast in the East” special on the Fourth of July, all of Jericho’s work occurred during non-televised events.
“I do as many shows as I can to keep my foot in the WWE door, so I’m not gone for a year at a time,” explained Jericho. “I’ve been off TV for a year, but I’ve worked 50 shows in the interim just doing live events, which, to me, is a lot more fun. I’m also working with all of the younger guys–I worked with Kevin Owens two weeks ago when Cena broke his nose–and that’s fun, too. Anyway I can be involved, I enjoy it. When it comes time for me to be full time, we’ll figure out what I’m going to do and I’ll come back.”
Jericho enjoys his working relationship with the WWE, who are eager for him to return to weekly television.
“The invitation is there 365 days a year,” said Jericho. “It’s not like I’m auditioning for a job with the WWE. It’s the other way around, ‘Give us as many dates as you can. You want to just work weekends? Do it. You want to just work TV? That’s fine, too.’ They leave it up to me, and I like working the schedule I’m on now.
“I like working the weekends. I don’t have time to commit to doing TV. For example, I don’t work weekends when we have Fozzy shows. I’m working the ones that I’m choosing, but I have the invitation to work 300 days a year with WWE if I wanted.”
Jericho’s schedule is busier than ever. The wrestler-turned-singer-turned-actor, who also hosts his own “Talk is Jericho” podcast, recently generated some social media buzz from his role in the SyFy network’s “Sharknado 3.”
“That was the biggest thing I’ve done in a while as far as mainstream coverage,” said Jericho. “And it was one of those things that came out of the blue.
“I always love when people ask, ‘How come Jericho didn’t put a shark in the Walls of Jericho’ in Sharknado? Well, it’s because that wasn’t Chris Jericho–it was Bruce the Ride Attendant. Chris Jericho is the role I play in the world of WWE, but that’s where that character lives and exists.”
Jericho’s band, Fozzy, is also embarking on an international tour, headlining shows in Vienna, Berlin, Vaureal, and London.
“Any time you headline a tour, it’s always a lot of fun,” he said. “We always do extensive tours over there, and we’ve done Hamburg many times. You’re basically preaching to the choir–those are all your fans and friends that come to see you. We just played in front of 25,000 in Montreal and we’re about to go on the KISS cruise.”
Fozzy toured Australia with Metallica in 2012, and Jericho is quite proud of the evolution of the band.
“The opportunities we’re getting are bigger than anything we’ve done before, and that’s due to a lot of hard work,” said Jericho. “We’ve had to work twice as hard to get people’s respect because I’m in the band. You just need to go out there and show people that this is real and this is good and that it’s a killer band. Once you do that, the opportunities will come. Headlining in Europe and the UK is a pretty gratifying experience for us. We know how to engage the audience, and that’s one of the reasons the band has continued to grow.”
Jericho’s podcast is still as engaging as ever, and features an array of guests running the gamut from NXT women’s champion Sasha Banks, conspiracy theorist Greg Carlwood, and Dennis “Mr. Belding” Haskins. Some of his most heartfelt work was felt during his recent tribute to the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
“I didn’t really get to know Roddy too well until we started our buildup to WrestleMania ,” said Jericho. “That was when I got to see the real Roddy Piper. He had that one promo in Spokane, Washington where I said to him beforehand, ‘I want to see the Roddy Piper who was one of the architects of the original WrestleMania–the one who didn’t get the credit for the importance and success of that show like [Hulk] Hogan, or Mr. T, or anyone else.’”
An awestruck Jericho listened as Piper delivered his last great promo.
“Piper was a master at what he did,” said Jericho. “He made a lot of his own stuff up on the fly. That’s the exact opposite of how things are done now, so a guy like Piper might never come around again. He was a guy who did things his own way. At times, that may have hurt him a bit in the wrestling world, but he was always one-thousand percent Piper.
“If you’re looking at the WWE in the 80’s, then Hogan and Piper were the top two. I wouldn’t even put [Randy] Savage or the Warrior in there. If you look at how Piper ran his business at that point in time, he did things his own way and didn’t care what anybody else thought. I was really fortunate I had a chance to work with him, especially in the buildup to WrestleMania 25. We’ll never see anyone else with the personality or the ability to cut a promo like Roddy Piper.”
Jericho’s schedule also includes time for his role as host of the current season of WWE’s Tough Enough, which is still working on mastering the reality/live genre.
“We’ve never seen anything like this version of Tough Enough, where it’s half-reality and half-live,” explained Jericho. “When you start something new, there is a little bit of process to see how you’re going to make something work. So, as the weeks have gone by, I’ve increased my presence in the show. I was in the ring helping the competitors work out and book their match [last week], so being involved a little more in the reality portion of it balances out what I’m doing on the live part, as well.
“It’s been a lot of work, but the show has come into its own. People are always going to complain, ‘I wish it was that way,’ or ‘I wish that guy stayed,’ but it’s a whole new world for us that we’ve created. It kind of reminds me of when the Elimination Chamber happened. We’d never seen one before and there wasn’t anything to look back on, so you had to figure it out as you went along. And that’s what we’ve been doing, and it’s been working out–and it’s a great series so far.”
Tough Enough encountered an unforeseen change mid-season, as one of its judges – The “Immortal” Hulk Hogan – was seemingly erased from WWE history due to racist comments made on a leaked sex tape from 2007.
Jericho witnessed Hogan’s kindness on multiple different occasions, and while he said Hogan’s conduct was inexcusable, he also is a believer that you do not abandon your friends.
“I’m nobody to judge anybody,” said Jericho. “I’ve had just as many issues as anybody else. But you stand by your friends in good times and bad times, and Hulk’s my friend. That’s all I’m going to say about that.”
In regards to whether the WWE was justified in letting Hogan go, Jericho gave an honest answer.
“It’s not my call,” he explained. “It’s not my company.”
The company ultimately belongs to Vince McMahon, who–Jericho confirmed–is still very much in charge of the WWE.
“Until the day he leaves this earth, Vince McMahon is in charge of every aspect of the company,” confirmed Jericho. “It’s his company and it always will be. He’s giving out more responsibilities but, at the end of the day, anyone who was any responsibilities delegated by Vince still has to get final approval by Vince. He’s still the boss. I work with him very closely on Tough Enough every Tuesday in the direction meetings, and he still has a lot of great ideas. He still has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on. And it doesn’t matter what you hear other people say–everybody who works in the WWE knows who the boss is.”
Just like McMahon is always on the lookout for his next superstar, Jericho has often been referred to as the “Nostradamus of the WWE” for his ability to pinpoint future talents. Y2J speaks very highly of three newer talents in Neville, Finn Bálor, and Kevin Owens.
“I’d never worked with Neville before [the Beast of the East Special in Tokyo], never even been in the ring with him,” said Jericho. “I watched a couple of his matches to familiarize myself with what he does, but that match was just two pros going at it in there. I worked the night before with Bálor, and it was the same thing. I’d never worked with Bálor ever, and we tore the house down, as well. I like getting in the ring with guys like that. They work like I do–anything goes, and let’s just put on a great match. They both have such great offense and defense, so there are so many things you can do with them. Plus my 25 years of experience doesn’t hurt, either.
“I really enjoyed that tour, especially Japan. That’s kind of where I grew up, and it’s more of a hard-hitting style, more of a serious style, and I love that. I thought Neville and I would only have a 10-minute match like we would on Raw, but instead they gave us over 20 minutes, so we were able to put on the match I wanted with a guy I knew would be great to work with, and we tore up. It was cool that it was on [the Network] because it gave people a taste of Chris Jericho. I love when I hear, ‘Oh my gosh, Jericho was able to keep up with Neville at 44 years old!’ Well, who do you think took care of the match? And who do you think dictated the pace? It wasn’t Neville, I’ll tell you that.”
Bálor, the NXT champion, headlines the NXT Takeover show this Saturday in Brooklyn, New York in a ladder match. Jericho was questioned who would–Bálor or Owens–be the bigger star in the WWE.
“Owens’ personality might be better suited for WWE, whereas Bálor’s athleticism and look might be a little more WWE,” said Jericho. “Bálor’s ring entrance is second to none right now–I can’t wait for people to see that, it’s such a spectacle. So they both bring their own things to the table, so you cannot say this one is going to be a bigger star than the other one. There is room for both at the top, and they’re both going to make it there because they are excellent performers. I can say that from first-hand experience.
“Any time that somebody comes into the company that’s been a star elsewhere, they’re going to be a star in the WWE. Once you learn how to get over in a high school gym or in a stadium or anywhere in-between, getting over is getting over. If you figure out how to do it, you’re going to continue to do it. You hear about how good both those guys are, but I like to find out for myself. Working with both Owens and Bálor showed me they’re both tremendous, incredible performers.”
Jericho is also looking forward to this Sunday’s SummerSlam, featuring a main event between the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. There is only one way, Jericho explained, to end this highly anticipated rematch.
“Undertaker has to win,” said Jericho. “There is no way he loses twice.”
As for the match itself, Jericho would prefer to see the “Beast Incarnate” and the “Phenom” engage in a knockdown, drag-out.
“Brock is at his best when he’s there to just fight,” said Jericho. “That’s why his match with Reigns at WrestleMania was so good, and that’s something Lesnar and Undertaker didn’t do as much as they could have in their match at WrestleMania . That pull-apart we saw a couple weeks ago on Raw between Lesnar and Undertaker will be the type of match we’ll see. It will be a rough fight. I’m sure they’ll exchange many false finishers, and each one will do the other’s finishing move, but it will be more violent and more hard-hitting. Any time Undertaker is on the show, you know it’s going to be a great show.”
While Jericho will not be performing at SummerSlam, he is ready to embark on a new tour this fall. The future WWE Hall of Famer will be working 13 house shows, including his 25th anniversary on October 3 in New York City.
“Sometimes I’m in the last match, sometimes I’m in the first match, sometimes I’m somewhere in-between, but it doesn’t matter,” said Jericho, whose excitement for performing in the ring is still very genuine. “When Chris Jericho is out there, people are watching and excited and interested and into it. When the day comes when I feel like I’m not performing at the highest of levels I’ve set for myself, when I feel like I’m not having the best match of the show, or one of the top two, then I’ll stop.
“I don’t have to make that choice right now, but that choice will be made for me by life itself. I’ll get in there and I’ll know, this just isn’t happening any more. As of right now, it’s still a blast, it’s still fun, and people still want to see me. As long as I can continue to work at the highest of levels I’ve set for myself years and years ago, then there is no reason to stop doing it.”