Known for his charisma and talent, AEW World Champion Chris Jericho made headlines after making his official debut in AEW back in January. Since his arrival, he became the first-ever AEW World Champion after successfully defeating Hangman Page at All Out. Even though he's already an established wrestler prior to his arrival, Jericho says none of this would've have been possibly if it weren't for AEW President, Tony Khan.
Jericho recently sat down with Ariel Helwani on his MMA Show podcast to discuss Khan and why he believes he's the best fit for AEW.
"He's a fan, but I would go as far as to say that he is a savant," Jericho stated. "Not an idiot savant, but he knows everything about wrestling. To the point where I'll ask him where did I have my match against William Regal? He'll say at WrestleMania 17. He's not just some idiot kid that has his dad's money and decided to put on a wrestling company. He's a very smart and accomplished businessman on his own terms. But he's also the strictest analyst of wrestling that I've ever met."
Helwani mentions that people in the past have called Khan a "mark." Jericho informs Helwani that the word "mark" is derogatory, because people shouldn't be ashamed to be a fan of pro wrestling, especially with how big it's become in pop culture media today.
"A mark is such a derogatory term, especially in 2019," Jericho mentioned. "I remember people coming up to me and saying 'I'm sorry, I'm a mark. Or, I'm marking out.' I tell them don't say that, you're not a mark. You're appreciative of our work, you're a fan."
It's no secret that WWE is trying to push the envelope and keep fans interested in their product over AEW. Jericho compares AEW to Happy Days character The Fonz, and says that fans want to see cool things, but doesn't feel like they have to try as hard to be cool. Whereas, WWE still tries to be cool, but has a hard job of really knowing what is considered to be hip in this new wrestling era. Jericho credits The Elite and their contributions to the company, as well as how TNT has been broadcasting their content to draw fans over to their promotion.
"WWE has been around for so long that their business practices are kind of like the snooty guy on the block who used to be cool but really was not," Jericho said. "(Fans) they see AEW and think we're The Fonz. We're the coolest kids on the block. We're a little bit revolutionary. People also like to be involved from the start. Last night, was the first time in any of our lifetimes, unless you're – I don't know - 60 or 70, where you could say I saw the first episode of a major league company. Our very first show ever as a legit mainstream company sold out a 14,000 seat arena. That's never happened before. That means the business is cool and most importantly, that AEW is cool."
Speaking of cool or uncool, depending on your preference, CM Punk recently has had his fair share of media attention as of late. With the possibility of working for WWE again, Helwani wanted to know from Jericho what his thoughts were on about that, and additionally his relationship status with Punk after all the comments he made about AEW.
"I never had any personal conversation with him (with Punk about going to AEW)," Jericho began. When asked if he was still friends with Punk, Jericho admitted that he wasn't.
"Well, not at this point," Jericho answered. "He's an interesting guy. From what I understand, there was some reaching out to him (about AEW) and it wasn't via text like he said. That's Punk, he's a martyr. I think it hurt their feelings (Khan and the AEW roster) more than anything, but I was like guys that's Punk, that's just who he is. We don't need him. It's always great to have a guy (Punk) like that, but it's up to him...I haven't talked to him in a long time. If he wanted to come in, it would be a huge buzz, it'd be great. But, I have a feeling he wants to go back to WWE because Vince wants to close the circle. He wants to be friends with everybody, and I think Punk feels the same way."
Now that Jericho has reached his 29th anniversary in the wrestling business, one thing that he wants to do now as a veteran is to help inspire young talent to excel in their careers, especially ones who are just starting out in the business. Jericho recalls a time when he was younger and how the men that he looked up to in the locker room weren't the most pleasant people/idols to be around. He knew from that moment, that he was never going to turn his back on talent that needed advice.
"The 90's were different," Jericho began. "There were a lot of guys who had a sh***y attitude and I remember that. It wasn't as good of an atmosphere as it is now. I'm a straight shooter. I'm not always going to tell you what you want to hear, but I'll give you my opinion if you want it. After 29 years of being on the job, I'd be happy to give it to you. I'll always tell you some positives, but I'll also tell you some negatives as well. Back in those days (90's) you'd either hear all negative or guys who were just whitewashing you. They'd say things like 'Oh, that was great. I wouldn't change a thing.' You're either just lying, or you didn't watch, but said that you watched. I never wanted to be like that."
Jericho mentions that Hulk Hogan was great to go to for advice, because he was happy to help anyone including him. Jericho strives to be more like Hogan in the locker room.
" Hulk Hogan was always honest and great to work with," Jericho recalled. "He was a great guy that would give you feedback and to this day he still does. I always wanted to be like him."
You can listen to the full interview by clicking 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.