Now a 29 year veteran in the pro wrestling business, Chris Jericho never thought he would ever wrestle past the age of 30.
"In 1990, I remember telling Lance Storm that I don't think I'll be wrestling past 30," Jericho said during a recent interview with Ariel Helwani on the MMA Show. "You realize that when you get close to 30, I'm just now figuring out what the hell is going on. In 2005, I left for a couple of years, and then very sporadically in 2010, since my band Fozzy took off. Fozzy is a priority.
"What really invigorated me was two things. One, was when I came back in 2016 and I met Kevin Owens. We had great chemistry. We could do something together. We became the hottest act in the WWE, and we had the greatest angle. It was so much fun. And then learning from the new generation of guys like Seth Rollins, Owens, Sami Zayn, and Roman Reigns.
"Then I left (the WWE) to start the Fozzy tour and our record "Judas" took off huge. But then, this idea came to work with Kenny Omega and New Japan, and we did the Tokyo Dome. We sold out the Tokyo Dome. We did huge business on the New Japan subscription site. When I got there I was like I can do anything I want. There's no restrictions, there's no Vince McMahon filter. Not that it's a bad thing, but when you work in the WWE, there's a lot of layers of government that you have to go through to get an idea passed. And in New Japan, there was only one, me. When I was finished with that, I enjoyed myself so much, I kind of reignited the fire of the artistic side of things. I decided to do a couple of matches in Japan and that was when I met The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Kenny, and then the Tony Khan thing came up. When it came through (AEW), I really wanted to do this because of the artistic freedom that I would have away from Vince's system, which was such a new beginning for me. It made me excited to be in wrestling."
Jericho did mention in the podcast that he is considered to be an exclusive member of AEW for the next three years. He, however, is still allowed to work for New Japan Pro Wrestling in between.
"I can do New Japan shows, if it doesn't conflict with AEW. I did one earlier this year, where I had an IWGP Championship match against Kazuchika Okada. I might do some more with them. But it's pretty much exclusive."
New Japan Pro Wrestling has pioneered the way for many great wrestling talent past or present. Jericho mentioned that he believes that NJPW should be considered part of the wrestling renaissance of the modern era, because of all the great things they have done to draw in audiences from around the world. From creating groups like The Bullet Club, Chaos, Los Ingobernables de Japon, and The Elite, to putting on star-studded matches like Jericho versus Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12, they have always found a way to draw in both traditional and non-traditional fans.
"It did start with New Japan," Jericho stated. "I'm not putting too much credit into my own credit box, but when I did the Tokyo Dome show with Omega, the New Japan World subscriptions went from 35,000 to 100,000. It was because people wanted to see that match. If you were a wrestling fan that paid attention to more than just WWE, you wanted to see that match. As a result, people started checking it out for the first time to see Jericho versus this guy, Kenny Omega. But they also saw The Young Bucks, Okada, Kota Ibushi, Rhodes, Juice Robinson, Hangman Page, Tetsuya Naito, and all these other guys.
"So, New Japan became very hot. It came to the States, they were selling out. They were (the fans) familiar with these cast of characters. Then when the Tony Khan thing came up, and AEW, you kind of knew those characters from New Japan."
Regardless of whether Jericho is wrestling in AEW, NJPW, or both, one thing is for sure, he doesn't plan on walking away from the squared circle anytime soon. In fact, Jericho noted that he is currently the happiest he has ever been in his career, and he has no plans on slowing down anytime soon.
"I always answer that (about when was he the happiest in his career), because they'll ask me 'What's your favorite era of Chris Jericho?' And I say now," Jericho declared. "Because if I say back then, then I'm not paying attention to right now."
You can listen to Chris Jericho's full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Ariel Helwani's MMA Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.