Chris Jericho was perhaps the biggest name to sign with AEW as he’s a no-doubt future Hall of Famer. At this stage of his career it was a bold move by Jericho as he had plenty of other options and always has the comfort of WWE as a place to call home.
Jericho discussed his reasoning for taking this challenge and signing with AEW on a recent episode his Talk is Jericho podcast.
“It is exciting to actually see this taking off and getting off the ground because once again we are starting from scratch. This is not something where there was 30 years of history like there was in WCW, which used to be the NWA or the WWE that was the WWF that was the WWWF, where Vince McMahon’s grandfather, Jess McMahon, had a company going on before that. So, we have never seen the actual start of a legit, big-time, big money organization,” said Jericho.
“Make no mistake about it; there are lots of jokes about us being a t-shirt company and all these different things, or a soda company where you can go to my Instagram and we are selling AEW Root Beer. Now, we are actually getting rolling. I think that it is a long time coming and a lot of haters. They say that AEW sucks and that they are never going to get off the ground and meanwhile we have a roster of over 50 talents with some of the greatest performers in the world and some of the greatest performers you have never heard of before, which is another thing I love about this.”
Jericho brought up the old-timers like The Undertaker and Goldberg who are returning for WWE’s Super ShowDown event, and he said that AEW doesn’t have retreads like that. When he joined the company, he wasn’t even billed as a performer with an extensive WWE background as he made it a point to not even bring that up.
“I think one of the reasons that it was a big deal when I signed with AEW was that it wasn’t ‘here is Chris Jericho the 19-year WWE veteran.’ It was ‘here is Chris Jericho who had reinvented himself as one of the hottest properties in wrestling through my work in New Japan.’ So, whether I would have shown back up in New Japan or shown back up in WWE, but instead I signed with AEW; it really had a lot of buzz towards it. If you are thinking of all those things and combine with the fact that we have a legit TV deal with legit major cable network in TNT and Time Warner, it throws everything in a completely different world now,” stated Jericho.
Jericho is aware of fans being turned off by WWE’s product and he says the criticism of WWE is actually helping AEW get coverage.
“A lot of [our coverage] has to do with what is going on in the WWE lately. This isn’t bagging on the WWE because I love the WWE. I have a great history there and great respect for everybody involved,” revealed Jericho. “But when you are reading the reports online about what critics are thinking and long-time fans are complaining about the booking and some of the booking decisions where things aren’t making sense, there is a whole kind of a real cloud over the WWE’s head at this point which in turn is giving AEW so much coverage and we haven’t even had to do anything. It is unbelievable when you actually think about it…
“Listen, WWE has some great talents and performers; I watched WWE’s Money in the Bank recently and Seth Rollins vs AJ Styles and the Men’s Money in the Bank match, outside of the finish, was a tremendous match as an actual performance. So, it’s not like the wrestling side is taking a hit but it is the overall opinion of behind the scenes and that sort of thing.”
The idea of being part of a start-up instead of joining an established company is something that many people can relate to and that’s why they identify with AEW.
“We haven’t even started on live TV yet, which is okay because that is part of the beauty of all of this,” said Jericho. “I may have mentioned this in the podcast before where part of the reason why people love AEW so much is that they see themselves being part of something new, something growing, something from its inception and watching it grow and build so when it becomes something famous and successful you can say that I was there. There is a lot of pressure but in a good way. It is why I still do this because I know that it is a challenge for me.
“You know, if you are in the main event of WrestleMania, it’s still one of the hugest honors in WWE, but it is still a WrestleMania. There will be another WrestleMania the following year, and the year after that. Obviously, like you said, now that we have this weekly television deal we are not going anywhere, but still, I mean, if this show gets off to a great start with a great main event you know that it bodes well for the future with everyone involved in AEW. I think that is one of the reasons why people are stoked about this.”
Without a weekly TV spot leading up to Double or Nothing and future events, AEW has had to build its audience organically. They can’t promote future events on AEW programming because, at this point, there is no weekly AEW programming. Thus, many of the AEW talents turned to social media to help build up Double or Nothing and beyond.
“Social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube; that is it. There is no TV ads, no magazine ads, or anything like that. I put up four videos within the past few weeks and there have been a million downloads, views, combined just on Instagram alone,” stated Jericho. “That is how we keep it rolling. We are taking advantage of the modern era to get people interested in these matches and these angles and it is isn’t even on TV; it doesn’t have to be.
“We told the story of Cody saying something about me and I berated him with a phone call; he didn’t appreciate it. He wanted to fine me as his boss. I did a d*ck move and said how much was the fine, I threw money at him. I went to his office as he tried to calmly reason with me as I beat up his assistant and then go and learn a new finish, which everyone knows about by proxy of doing a spinning elbow…
“I think a lot of heads are going to be turned, which I am really excited about.”
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.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.