The current AEW World Champion, Chris Jericho, was a recent guest on the Mature Audiences Mayhem podcast. During the discussion, Jericho opened up about his match against Kevin Owens at WrestleMania 33 and the original plans that WWE had for the feud.
"Probably the best story [at WrestleMania] was Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens," Jericho said. "We were best friends, and all the dastardly stuff we were doing until he turned on me at 'The Festival of Friendship.' Then, we had this big WrestleMania match - the confrontation. Originally, that was going to be the main event for the world title. Kevin Owens was the champion and I was going to beat him in the main event of WrestleMania as a babyface.
"Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar had a match, Brock really liked it and wanted to have a rematch. He put Goldberg over and they had a rematch, but only if he won the title from Bill Goldberg. That was Brock's idea so they changed it. Vince said that it's going to be me versus Kevin Owens for the world title at WrestleMania and you are going to win the title, f--k yeah! Next week, he doesn't tell me, but I hear that it's changed to Brock Lesnar versus Bill Goldberg for the title."
Jericho saw the match being placed on a lower position on the WrestleMania card as an insult, saying how he would have actually preferred to be the 1st match of the night instead of the 2nd. His frustration would eventually lead to an exit from WWE, a resurgence in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and the rumblings of what is now become AEW.
"And not only did they take us out of the main event - and, once again, just because I was told I have no right to it and things change all the time, I'm a big boy, I can handle it. But to take us from the main event slot and then move us to the 2nd match on the card on a card that has 12 matches on it? I was like, that's a f--king insult!" Jericho exclaimed. "And I didn't realize it at the time, but afterward, I guess about 3-4 weeks later, I was like, wait a second, we were 2nd on the card? It wasn't even 1st. The first match on the show at a WrestleMania is a very important match, maybe event second only to the main event. But to put us on second is an insult and it doesn't even matter now what I did.
"We had the best storyline of the year but it doesn't matter, it's still not going to get me higher on the card to be second on the card at WrestleMania," Jericho continued. "I need to leave; that is how you know. When the time comes when you are put in that spot as an insularity guy? Then I went through this whole thing when I went on tour with Fozzy and had the Tokyo Dome match against Kenny Omega. This whole new world of creativity opened up and this whole new star power for Chris Jericho, and we drew a lot of money for New Japan at that Dome show. And that was how the road to AEW started."
Jericho thinks of himself as a bridge for the general audience of pro wrestling to become interested in what AEW has to offer. Tuning in to see him as the company's world champion will ultimately give exposure to the new stars that AEW is presenting on TNT.
"And now with AEW, I'm not the face of the company but I'm definitely the bridge. What I mean by that is that I am the one who brings people in who don't know what AEW is," Jericho explained. "If you are a wrestling fan, you know who Chris Jericho is. You might not know who Kenny Omega is or The Young Bucks or those other guys, but Chris Jericho is there. I know him. I know his history. I've been watching him for so many years so I will check out the show. If you check out the show, you can see me, and you can then see all of these other guys, and then you're hooked. That is what happened with New Japan. They came to see me and they left being Will Ospreay fans, Kenny Omega fans, Young Bucks fans, Okada fans, etc. I think that is why it was smart for Tony Khan to get me on his show, because there's not a lot of other people that could have done that."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Mature Audiences Mayhem with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.