On the latest Talk Is Jericho podcast, Chris Jericho went into detail about the numerous talks and negotiations he had with Vince McMahon leading up to his signing with All Elite Wrestling. He also commented on being moved from the WWE's active roster to the alumni section, being removed from their introduction video, and whether or not he misses being a part of the WWE altogether.
Early in the podcast, Jericho recounts when he first informed McMahon about his partnership with NJPW and the match New Japan had planned against Kenny Omega. Jericho claims McMahon showed excitement for the proposition and he believed that Jericho would ultimately be representing the WWE wherever he performed.
"I told Vince McMahon that I was going to go work this match at the Tokyo Dome for New Japan Pro Wrestling," Jericho began. "And he was very accommodating, very excited about it, and thought, 'Even if you're working for NJPW everyone knows that you're a WWE guy.' I was like, 'It's only going to make me a bigger star when I come back.' So we signed off on it like gentleman and that was the end of it. I went to Tokyo in December, attacked Kenny Omega, and then January 4 at the Tokyo Dome, Alpha vs. Omega, Jericho vs. Kenny. People said, 'Oh it's the best match of Jericho's career, 5 star match!' Well, whether you thought it was the best of my career or not, it was a great match and, most importantly, it really drew."
Just before he departed from New Japan in early 2018, Jericho attacked current IWGP Intercontinental Champion Naito in what he described as a farewell message to NJPW, teasing that they may work together in the future. This eventually lead to Jericho signing another three match deal with NJPW, right around the time when he appeared on the RAW 25th Anniversary and agreed to be a part of The Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia. Jericho was asked to compete against WWE Legend, The Undertaker in a Casket Match at The Greatest Royal Rumble, however, the match was changed last minute and Rusev would end up facing The Undertaker in the Casket Match, while Jericho would be a participant in the 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble Match. Jericho attributed the sudden change to his signing with NJPW, explaining how Vince wouldn't give a spotlight match to someone being featured in a rival promotion.
"When I come home, I get a call from Vince asking me what happened and why I attacked Naito, 'I thought it was just a one off?' Jericho imitated. "And I said, 'Well it is just a one off for now, I might do more with NJPW. If I do, I'll definitely let you know because, you know, I wanna run everything past you and make sure you're cool with it, and if nothing else, at least I left Japan with my heat.' If nothing else happens with me and Naito, at least I left with my heat. So it took a couple months after that to put together another deal, I ended up signing a three-match deal with NJPW, and that's around the time that Vince had called me to come back to do the RAW 25th Anniversary show, which I didn't want to do.
"He called me and asked me if I would do it and I said, 'Well, I don't want to go down to the ring. I want to be backstage only.' He said, 'Absolutely.' I did something with Elias and then he called me again to do the Saudi Arabia show, The Greatest Royal Rumble Ever, which I wasn't too keen on. But then he made an offer for one match that was ridiculous! I'd say definitely in my top 10, maybe my top 6-or-7-or 8 biggest payoff ever to do one match.
"The original plan was for me to work against Undertaker in a Casket Match," Jericho explained. "Vince called me and asked me if I want to do it and I was like, 'Absolutely, I'd love to do it.' And then a week later, I finalized the deal with NJPW and I called him to tell him, 'Hey, I'm doing three more matches with NJPW,' and this was a little bit less of a positive response than I had gotten from him before. Because now he was a little bit more apprehensive. Obviously three matches is a lot more, and NJPW is on AXS TV, and anybody that has TV in the United States is competition for Vince, for the WWE.
"So I could tell that Vince was a little bit concerned about it and then 3 hours later," Jericho continued, "I get a text that I'm out of the casket match and that Rusev is back in. Because originally it was Rusev and Undertaker, then it was Undertaker and Jericho, then it got back to Rusev and Undertaker. When I asked Vince why, he said, 'It's because the Prince wants the Rusev/Undertaker match.' And I'm thinking, no offense to anybody, but I think the Jericho/Taker match is much bigger. And then I started realizing, well of course I was pulled from the match, because why would I get a spotlight match where, let's face it, Taker and Jericho, we would have stole the show? Nobody could have stopped us. Casket match or not, we would have had the best match on the show."
Jericho tried to reconcile things, offering another opportunity for Vince and NJPW to join forces with a Intercontinental Champion vs. Champion Match. Then-IWGP Intercontinental Champion Jericho would face then-WWE Intercontinental Champion Seth Rollins at WWE SummerSlam 2018, allowing both promotions more exposure to a worldwide audience. Jericho never heard back from Vince about his cross-promoting idea.
"June, I go and win the Intercontinental Championship from Naito—had a great match with him and won the title," Jericho said. "And about three or four weeks later, I pitched the idea to Vince, called him, 'I'd love to do an Intercontinental Champion vs. Champion match at SummerSlam, Jericho vs. Seth Rollins.' And Vince once again was, 'Well I don't know how that would work. Can we do it?' And I was like, 'Harold Meij, the new President of NJPW, he wants to expand and I bet we can figure it out.' And this is something that happened all the time in the 70's and the 80s in WWE...Never heard back [from Vince]. Made the call, pitched the idea, never heard back."
Jericho then explained how he wanted WWE's NXT brand to be the featured performers on his Rocking 'N Wrestling Rager At Sea cruise, but WWE told him they were uninterested. Ring of Honor, however, did show interest and Jericho came to terms with ROH on an agreement. Following that, Vince contacted Jericho about performing at WWE Crown Jewel in November, but once again, Vince left their negotiations undecided.
"The Jericho Cruise, The Rock 'N Wrestling Rager At Sea comes in," Jericho recounted. "I had been working on this for three years and my idea was always to hire a wrestling company to take care of all the wrestling. That way we don't have to worry about booking it, and I don't have to worry about who's available, and who's injured, and who's going to this company and that company. My original pitch was to NXT, they passed. Ring of Honor agreed.
"There's another example of Vince calling me and asking me to go to Saudi Arabia again. And I'm like, 'Well, I've got a show, I might be able to make it, but I don't know if I can make it. And him saying like, 'Well, I really need you.' 'Well I have a show in Osaka, so I can technically do the show, but I would need to take a private jet to Osaka. I could do the show in, I believe it was Riyadh or whatever it was, and then fly straight to Osaka. How much am I getting paid?' [Vince] said, 'I'll get back to you.' He didn't!"
Jericho claims that he was still discussing business with WWE up until a few days before the AEW Double Or Nothing Rally in Jacksonville, Florida. Even though he was never given an offer to return to WWE, he had nothing but positive things to say about Vince and their relationship. Jericho doesn't intend to tarnish the WWE name by joining with AEW and told listeners that he has been upfront and honest with Vince throughout the entire process.
"Once again, I still kinda gave WWE the benefit of, 'Hey, listen guys, the train is leaving the station. Are we gonna work together or not?,' Jericho said. "And to their credit, we talked, and all the way up to a few days before the rally. But there was never really an offer given. And I understand the reasons why and I'm not going to get in to those. I understand Vince's mindset just as he understand mine, but we did leave on amicable terms.
"Vince McMahon is my friend and I respect him so much. He's helped me a lot and we've made each other a lot of money. And most importantly, like I said, we're friends. So the last thing I wanted to do, if I was going to leave the WWE, was do it as a screw job or as a stabbing in the back. I didn't want that. I never wanted it the whole time. I always told Vince what I was doing and he knew before anybody else that I was going to All Elite Wrestling and, once again, once I go there, I'm gone."
After Jericho announced his affiliation with AEW, it was recognized by the pro wrestling community that Jericho was moved from the WWE Active Roster section of the WWE website to the WWE Alumni Section. Jericho was amused as he reflected on the change.
"Well, why wouldn't I be?" Jericho asked with a chuckle. "I'm not in the WWE anymore, I am a WWE alumni and I am a proud WWE alumni, but why would I be on the active roster of SmackDown? I'm not there anymore. This is a 3-year exclusive deal, with the exception of NJPW, which I still intend to work with. We don't have anything set in stone, but we're working on it. But other than that, I'm not working anywhere else. I can't, contractually, nor would I want to. It's AEW all the way. And the other thing was, people were saying that I was taken out of the 'Then. Now. Forever.' video at the beginning of SmackDown, the beginning of RAW. Once again, why wouldn't I be? Why would you promote somebody on your show that's working for another show? That's obvious. That's business."
Jericho admits that it's strange no longer being signed to the largest pro wrestling promotion in the world, WWE. Even so, Jericho believes that he'll be seeing some of his fellow WWE superstars join AEW in the new year and he'll be right there in AEW, thinking of new ways to transform his character.
"Is it weird to not be in the WWE? Of course it is. WWE's the biggest wrestling company in the world," Jericho said. "Am I gonna miss my brothers over there? Yeah, I'll miss some of them, but I bet you some of them will be on AEW within the next year or so. I'm not going anywhere, I'm here for another three years. Am I gonna miss working for Vince McMahon? Of course. I love Vince, he's a genius, but we got some other geniuses. And you gotta take a chance, and you gotta make some moves. You can't rest on your laurels. I've never been that guy! I've always wanted to revamp and change."
You can listen to Jericho's full podcast below.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.