SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
News of the Week: The Christmas List of Jericho
Chris Jericho has made it official: you will not see Y2J at WrestleMania 34, but you can at Wrestle Kingdom 12.
“If you want to see Chris Jericho wrestle, the Tokyo Dome is where you’re going to see me,” said Jericho, who wrestles Bullet Club leader Kenny Omega in an “Alpha vs. Omega” dream encounter at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s signature show on Jan. 4. “If you watch one show this year, that’s the one to watch.”
Jericho’s band Fozzy will be on tour throughout 2018. Fozzy plays at a New Hampshire club on April 8, which is the same day as WrestleMania, effectively killing any rumors that Jericho will appear at ‘Mania.
“I could go back to the WWE, I love working for Vince McMahon,” said Jericho. “But if I showed up tomorrow, as of right now, I am not slotted for the main event of WrestleMania. I am in the main event at Wrestle Kingdom.”
New Japan is promoting a double main-event for Wrestle Kingdom, featuring Jericho vs. Omega along with the IWGP heavyweight championship match between Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito. That has caused a rift among some of the NJPW talent, especially Naito, who believes that Jericho is stepping on his turf.
“That’s like when people bi--- and complain when Brock Lesnar and The Rock wrestle at WrestleMania, saying, 'These part-timers come to steal our spots,’” said Jericho. “Part-timers, full-timers, single-timers, whatever the f--- you want to call it, they’re money-makers."
“I’m not the one calling this a double main event, it’s New Japan calling it that–and they’ve already sold more tickets this year, with three weeks before the show, than last year. I’d say it’s a smart move to bring Chris Jericho in and a smart move to make Alpha-Omega a double main event. If Naito doesn’t like that, then tough luck. That’s pro wrestling.”
The holiday season is one of giving, and Jericho was willing to give some words of advice to Naito.
“Naito, don’t worry about what I’m doing, just worry about what you’re doing,” offered Jericho. “You’re going on last, but just because you’re last doesn’t make you the main event. See WrestleMania 18 if you want to know more about that.
“I don’t give a sh-- who’s on last. If Naito is pissed off at me, then go out and prove it. It makes me want to work harder. Worldwide, and I’m just telling the facts, Alpha-Omega is the main event.”
In addition to generating headlines in WWE–his “Festival of Friendship” and feud with Kevin Owens was a highlight of 2017–Jericho continues to look out for wrestling fans hungry for more content.
“I started when I was 19, and I’m 47 now,” said Jericho. “I’m in this for life.”
Jericho’s book, No is a Four Letter Word, is an inside look at life inside WWE, and Fozzy is on tour with concert dates throughout 2018. He is also running his own cruise, Chris Jericho’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Rager at Sea, that sets sail in Oct. 2018.
“Fozzy played the KISS Kruise in 2015, and I called my manager the moment I got off the boat and said, ‘I want to do this,’” explained Jericho. “There is nobody out there that is known for what I’m known for, which is rock ‘n’ roll and wrestling.
“We have some great rock bands on the cruise. We have hilarious comedians and some great live podcasts. We have the Sea of Honor wrestling tournament with Ring of Honor talent on the deck of the ship. I had a team of engineers go on the ship deck to make sure that the ring could be secured because it had never been done before. It is ready and safe, and the cruise is on pace to sell out. I want this to be an annual destination vacation.”
The Jericho brand has continued to expand over the past five years, even during his time away from WWE, and he explained that is a direct result of his connection with wrestling fans.
“I feel a great responsibility to my fan base,” said Jericho. “I am a fan, and I don’t want to see the same thing over and over again. I refuse to settle and stay in the same box. I want to create excitement and that, to me, is what it’s all about.”
Even with his projects outside the ring, Jericho understands that he will need to be on his game to deliver a memorable match against Omega at the Tokyo Dome.
“There is no one in the world like Chris Jericho, but there is no one like Kenny Omega, either,” said Jericho. “That’s why this match really intrigued me: Kenny is the top guy in New Japan, and he is a best-bout machine with some of the best matches ever, but I think I’m better. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime match that you won’t see again, and it’s happening in Tokyo.”
Jericho noted that the allure of the Tokyo Dome will enhance the No DQ match against Omega.
“My goal is to steal the show,” said Jericho. “The match started as one thing and changed to another. This is going to be more of a fight.”
Jericho delivered a surprise attack that cut Omega open nine days ago in Japan, and Omega responded by assaulting Jericho during the Wrestle Kingdom press conference.
“It has an organic feel to it,” said Jericho. “After 27 years of doing this, I know that you have to follow the path of the match. The last time I had a match like this was against Shawn Michaels in 2008 with our unsanctioned match. This has the same feel to it. It’s the two best in the world, but it is going to be intense, angry, and violent.”
Rumors that New Japan officials touted that Wrestle Kingdom could sell 30,000 tickets at the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome left Jericho infuriated.
“If our goal is 30,000 people, then f--- that,” said Jericho. “My goal is 55,000. That’s why I was in Japan last week, to surprise attack Kenny Omega and have the press conference. I laughed that some people thought we’d make this match and I wouldn’t do anything to build it. I’m not that egotistical. I know that you got to beat the bushes. I was on the cover of Weekly Pro Wrestling in Japan, and that tells me we did something right. Yes, we have already out-sold last year’s Wrestle Kingdom, but I want to sell out. That should be the goal, always.”
Jericho never had plans to leave WWE, but felt this opportunity was right for himself, the business as a whole, and fans across the world.
“After 17 years of saying I would wrestle for no one other than Vince McMahon, I changed my mind,” said Jericho. “The match was huge from the moment it was announced.
“Will I work more for New Japan? Possibly. But for right now, the only match booked for Chris Jericho in all of 2018 is at the Tokyo Dome on Jan. 4, Alpha versus Omega. You don’t want to miss it.”
The Royal Rumble is known for its special surprise entrants.
Count UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier among those who would like to be one of the 30 men in the Rumble competing for a chance to headline WrestleMania 34.
“I wish I could be in the Royal Rumble this year,” said Cormier, who fights on pay per view one week before the Rumble in Boston at UFC 220 against Volkan Oezdemir. “I don’t think they will invite me, but fighting against Oezdemir in Boston works for me, timewise. My fight is in January, which opens up WrestleMania for me this New Orleans–not to compete, but to go.”
Cormier made news this past weekend by expressing his feelings of distaste toward a spot from the Young Bucks’ 6-man tag title match from this past Friday’s Final Battle pay per view, but it should not be a shock that Cormier, who is one of the toughest fighters on the planet, prefers a more realistic feel to pro wrestling.
Despite the small internet-driven controversy, Cormier remains a passionate wrestling fan. He envisions a scenario where Roman Reigns wins the WWE Universal title at WrestleMania 34, but not in the fashion many expect.
“Roman is the number-one star in the company right now, and I enjoy his work,” said Cormier. “A lot of people boo him because they think he’s pushed too hard, but WWE is smart. Now they’ve spun it–they’ve stuck Roman back with The Shield, and now people cheer him again.
“They’ll find a way to make him the good guy, and I believe that he will get the championship back in New Orleans, but not from Brock Lesnar. I think Braun Strowman will be carrying the belt by then.”
In other news…
• Stephanie McMahon’s announcement at the end of Raw that a women’s Royal Rumble will take place at the upcoming pay per view is newsworthy, but was it necessary for the women in the ring to break character during the announcement?
Would it have been more effective, especially considering there is a major ongoing feud between Paige’s Absolution and the rest of the women’s roster, to end the show by brawling instead of hugging?
Also, do two Rumble matches in one night dilute the product? Money in the Bank is still compelling even with multiple ladder matches, but a question worth asking is whether the women’s Rumble match would receive a better spotlight if it occurred at a different pay per view.
Nevertheless, it is a wonderful opportunity for the women to highlight their talent. Hopefully even more wrestlers are brought in for the match, like Tessa Blanchard, Mia Yim, and Santana Garrett, even if their appearances are only a one-off.
• Sports Illustrated has obtained the exclusive news that Will Ospreay is set to wrestle at EVOLVE on April 5 and the WWN Supershow on April 6 in New Orleans during WrestleMania weekend.
EVOLVE’s pursuit of Ospreay dates back to 2016, when Paul Heyman was brought in on behalf of the company to offer a contract to the British wrestling star. Ospreay instead opted to sign with New Japan, which also allowed him to work for Ring of Honor, but he is now no longer exclusive to ROH.
“I have to admit I was really disappointed when we lost out on Will Ospreay after Paul Heyman offered him the contract,” said WWN Vice President of Talent Relations Gabe Sapolsky. “I saw him as a pillar we could build the entire EVOLVE brand and WWN parent company around. I’m not talking about being a top guy or a champion, I’m talking about putting the entire promotion on his shoulders and giving him the stage to change the business.
“So being able to book him now, even as a special attraction, is a huge boost for EVOLVE and WWN. Most importantly, he is coming at a great time as we try to make the WWNLive Experience events during WrestleMania week stand out. I am very proud of the talent roster we are assembling for these events.”
A dream match in the EVOLVE ring is Ospreay vs. Matt Riddle. Sapolsky was asked if that is a possibility for WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans.
“I would say it is 90 percent going to happen at the WWN Supershow on April 6,” said Sapolsky. “It’s too early to set anything 100 percent, but I feel we need to deliver this match on the biggest weekend of the year. Matt Riddle is also a very special talent–I put him right there with others who I have been fortunate to book like Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, CM Punk, Johnny Gargano, Ricochet–he is that special. If you have an opportunity to book two business-transcending athletes like Riddle vs. Ospreay, sometimes it’s best to just pull the trigger and New Orleans is a special occasion.”
EVOLVE returns to live action on January 13 in Queens, New York, which includes Zack Sabre Jr. defending the EVOLVE title in Queens against Darby Allin.
• MLW's upcoming Jan. 11 show, Zero Hour, will be headlined with a main event of Penta vs. Rey Fenix.
Sports Illustrated learned that the match was signed after MLW CEO Court Bauer and former podcast partner Konnan reunited to work out the deal.
MLW’s Never Say Never show from two weeks ago captivated a live crowd at the Gilt Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
The night included many highlights, but there was literally no spot higher than Darby Allin’s coffin dive with a steel cage strapped to his back onto John Hennigan and Shane Strickland. “I didn’t know how high I climbed, and I didn’t care,” said Allin. “I’m not scared of heights, I’m only scared of failure. I wanted to win that match by any means necessary.”
Bauer made the entire Never Say Never card available free of charge for fans looking to learn more about the product.
• NXT’s Oney Lorcan returns to Beyond Wrestling for the Heavy Lies The Crown show on New Year’s Eve in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Lorcan, who wrestled prior to NXT as Biff Busick, starred for Beyond and delivered some of the promotion’s most memorable moments in a series of matches against Eddie Edwards.
“Biff Busick became synonymous with Beyond Wrestling,” said Beyond Wrestling owner Drew Cordeiro. “His series of matches against Eddie Edwards put Beyond Wrestling on the map.
“Biff’s impromptu match with Eddie Edwards at We Care A Lot in June 2013 was so good that we had no choice but to let them main-event the first ever Americanrana card the following month. Their 60-minute Iron Man Match at Tournament For Tomorrow II is still regarded as the best match in Beyond Wrestling history.”
Busick’s return to the promotion–especially as an NXT talent–at the upcoming New Year’s Eve show further legitimizes Beyond Wrestling.
“We have certainly carved our own unique path within the wrestling industry, but there is no denying our influence,” said Cordeiro. “That is one of the reasons that we’ve attracted so many of the best up-and-coming and overlooked wrestlers in the United States.”
• Dalton Castle and Silas Young both captured Ring of Honor gold this past Friday at Final Battle in New York City.
While I did not expect Castle to win the ROH title, I am very curious to see if the company gives him a long run as champ or whether Cody Rhodes quickly regains the belt. This is the second consecutive year the world title changed hands in the Final Battle main event, though last year’s winner, Kyle O’Reilly, ended up in a contract dispute and only wrestled one match as champion, which was a loss to Adam Cole at Wrestle Kingdom 11.
• In other news surrounding the world of wrestling, WWE Hall of Famer Edge makes his debut on History’s Vikings tonight, playing the role of Kjetill Flatnose. Here is a sneak peek:
• Ever wonder what Daniel Bryan wanted for Christmas when he was a child?
The answer should come as no surprise.
Bryan did not wish to receive expensive, battery-operated items or the most popular toy. He was perfect content making up his own storylines with the gift of his choice.
“I loved those little green army men,” said Bryan. “We had a tree outside my house, a Douglas fir tree, and it had all these knots in it. I could hide my little army men, strategize, and really use my imagination.”
• Santa Claus is always expected to meet expectations of adoring children from across the world. So are pro wrestlers.
Mick Foley is a rare combination of WWE Hall of Famer and a member of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas. From his experience, the only two wrestlers who eternally lived up to the claim of “always on” in the ring were Ric Flair and Terry Funk.
“Just like with being a Santa, there are days in the ring when you couldn’t claim you were ‘on’ every night,” explained Foley. “The only people throughout my entire career I’ve seen ‘on’ every night were Ric Flair and Terry Funk. They were absolutely, positively in the moment every time they went out there. They made me so caught up in the moment that I believed they were who they said they were.”
• The addition of Hulk Hogan to Pro Wrestling Tees is particularly noteworthy, considering what the significance of Hogan’s presence means to PWT and the backstory behind the partnership.
“This is a deal that has taken almost four years to close,” said PWT owner Ryan Barkan. “We have been talking with Hogan since February of 2014 and the deal finally came together because Hogan’s Beach Shop is now interested in carrying some of our licenses in their stores. We worked with 10 different artists to produce about 60 designs and narrowed it down to the top 14.”
The array of shirts, which captures Hogan’s career from his red-and-yellow days to the “Hollywood” Hogan era, as well as a Japanese design to signify Hogan’s success in Japan, are meticulously well-designed.
“Almost all of our 30-plus staff members at Pro Wrestling Tees are life-long wrestling fans, so being able to work with them every day and say, ‘Which designs would you buy?’ is an advantage that most companies don’t have,” said Barkan. “Our design process is much different than it was four years ago. If you were to look into the ‘PWT Vault’ at the designs that we made for Hogan in 2014, you would notice how much time went into designing these new shirts for Hulk.”
Hogan’s arrival cements PWT’s place as the top wrestling t-shirt business in the world.
“Hogan is the most recognized wrestler of all-time,” said Barkan. “The majority of our staff grew up Hulk Hogan fans, so being able to produce shirts that fans have actually said may be his best designed shirts of all-time, is actually a great feeling.”
• Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard returns this Friday at noon ET with co-host Conrad Thompson to detail and examine the career of Goldust.
“You can make the argument that the Goldust character is one of the top-five WWE creations of all-time,” said Thompson. “Goldust is on a short list with The Undertaker and Kane.”
Thompson marveled at the longevity of the Goldust character, which first debuted in WWF vignettes 22 years ago in 1995.
“I don’t know that anybody would have been able to do it the way Dustin Runnels did it,” said Thompson. “It’s interesting to see how Dustin started as ‘The Natural’ and what he became as Goldust. We’ll look at the initial concept, when it got really weird during the ‘Attitude Era’, and the totally different character that exists today. There has been an amazing evolution of the character.”
The Goldust character stood out to Dustin Runnels as his chance to break away from the legendary shadow that was cast from his father, wrestling icon Dusty Rhodes. Despite taking a bizarre route, the versatile Dustin Runnels carved out his own place in wrestling lore as Goldust.
“That Goldust character is a lightning rod for controversy,” said Thompson. “Goldust is the wrestling version of Lady Gaga, and Dustin has always been willing to embrace the controversy. It’s a cool story because it’s a success story from a second-generation wrestler who did not piggyback off his father.
“Dustin needed to break away from being Dusty Rhodes’ son. He couldn’t do it the same way his dad did it. Dustin felt like he was paying for his father’s sins with the way he was being booked. Goldust allowed Dustin to carve out his own niche, even better than Dusty did, in WWE.”
• As we draw toward the holiday season, Al Snow’s weekly advice column, Inside Al’s Head, looks at what he believes is the greatest piece of cinematic Christmas expression of all-time: the Christmas Story movie.
“It’s the single greatest movie ever made,” said Snow. “Without a question or a doubt, it’s the best story.”
The film, which was released in 1983, remains a classic largely due to the storytelling, which was designed to have viewers relate to the tale.
“If you are a parent, you can relate to it because you have children,” said Snow. “If you’re a child, you can relate to being a child and thinking all the same things that the main character, Ralphie, thinks. There isn’t one of us who didn’t have the same thoughts that the adult narrator expressed in the film when Ralphie gets grounded or has to get his mouth washed out with soap.
“There isn’t one of us who hasn’t been in a fight or in trouble at school and was scared thinking of how our dad was going to punish us–that was the scariest feeling in the world. And everyone had that special Christmas present that we absolutely, desperately wanted. So how you could you not relate to the movie or understand the characters and the story?”
Flick is another iconic character in the film, and there is a memorable scene where he is triple-dog-dared to stick his tongue on a frozen flagpole.
“In wrestling, Flick was Marty Jannetty,” said Snow. “He’d be the one who ended up getting his tongue stuck to a pole–or stuck somewhere else. Traveling with Marty Jannetty was like being with Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom; quite honestly, you never knew what was going to happen.”
One of the most touching scenes of the film occurs when Christmas Day is nearly finished and Ralphie finally uncovers the object of his desire: a Red Ryder BB gun.
“All the presents are unwrapped, and Ralphie finds his dad–played brilliantly by Darren McGavin–just as excited to give him the BB gun as Ralphie was to receive it,” said Snow. “He’s over there pantomiming putting the BBs in, and it’s just as big a deal to give that gift to his son as it is for his son to get it.
“In wrestling terms, Ralphie gets put over, we go home happy, and just like we wished he would, Ralphie gets his BB gun.”
The major antagonist–the film’s heel–was bully Scut Farkus.
“The movie put a ton of heat on Farkus, and they paid the heat off when the kind, gentle Ralphie finally overcomes this bully,” said Snow. “Ralphie did what every one of us wanted to do to that bully in our lives, and we all cheer for Ralphie when he beats the living piss out of him. Farkus and his little toad sidekick get their comeuppance.”
“It’s a fabulous movie, and I think it’s the greatest of all-time.”