Chris Jericho recently sat down with Chris Van Vliet on The Chris Van Vliet Show where he discussed how he has reinvented himself throughout his career, and he opened up about almost retiring in 2005. On the topic of his constant reinvention, Jericho noted that WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan could always connect with a crowd whether he was face or heel. Jericho named his influences that help him connect with an audience.
“Well, the thing is, the Hogan thing comes in with connecting with the crowd. I’m not 6’8″, 300 lbs,” Jericho pointed out. “I don’t have that style that Hogan has, but if you look at connecting with an audience and getting people involved, it’s very much of Hogan’s influence. Hogan’s also one of the few guys that’s a great babyface and a great heel.
“You can’t say that about Ric Flair; Ric Flair is not a great babyface. I worked him as a babyface. Flair’s more comfortable as a heel. Hogan could be both and was great at both, and I think he was very underrated as a result of that. I think if you look at Chris Jericho, it’s another guy. Eddie Guerrero could do it, too. That could be a great heel that everyone hates and then, on a dime, turn to a great babyface that everybody loves. It’s a very rare thing.
“The [David] Bowie thing did not start out to be that way. When I started out, I wanted to be the best rock and roll front-man, but in a wrestling ring. Paul Stanley, David Roth, Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Bruce Dickinson – those are the guys that I loved on stage. Even as a singer for Fozzy– but also, how did they connect with the audience and what did they do?”
Jericho continued discussing how he used the influence of David Bowie on WWE television. He also noted that when you’re changing something up, you have to also change something with your character as well.
“Once again, I could never be of high stature, but I got the biggest charisma and personality,” Jericho stated. “Where the Bowie influence came in is when I was in WWE and I realized we’re on TV every single week, and if you’re on TV every single week for three, four, five years, you better change your s–t up or it’s going to be really boring. And if you look at those early days, I always had different facial hair, different hairstyles, and different tights because I realize every one you do they make an action figure of it.
“So I had probably at this point 250 different action figures. That’s no exaggeration, because I always gave them something different to build upon, and then I also always had a theory that if you change from babyface to heel, or vice versa, something has to change with you so people know you’re serious.
“Going back to Kiss taking off their makeup, they took off their makeup and you knew it was something different, something real. And that’s why when I turned heel once again, from lovable Y2J– he was way too stale in 2007 from something that started in 1999. The countdown was gone, the Y2J was gone, it changed from long tights to short tights.”
Jericho said that he always wanted people to know that there was something different about him whether he was a babyface or a heel. He said that no matter what you do, you have to commit to it and people will also commit to it with you.
“I wanted people to know there’s something different about this guy, and once that kind of worked, then I changed it every single time,” Jericho said. “Heel, babyface, returning and coming back, going to New Japan, becoming the Painmaker because it just felt right. Coming back to AEW, [I thought], what am I going to wear? I got to change something with ‘Le Champion’. Let’s do some glittery jackets and that sort of thing.
“And you think where do you come up with these ideas? They just happen. Either they do or they don’t. You can’t just sit there and think about it; you just got to do it, and if you do that and, once again, commit to what you’re doing and be consistent with it, nine times out of ten, people will get into to it and enjoy it as well. But you have to be 100% committed to it.”
Jericho was asked what keeps him motivated. He spoke on wanting to stay creative and continue to build his legacy. He said that without his Wrestle Kingdom 12 match against Kenny Omega, then there would not be an AEW because of how that match influenced AEW President Tony Khan. He also compared the rivalry between the two companies to HBO’s Game Of Thrones, explaining that he’s now “right hang to the king of AEW”.
“Oh man, that’s easy – just being creatively stimulated and continuing to build on this legacy that I have,” Jericho answered. “I don’t believe my own hype but I believe my own facts, and the facts are, had I not gone to New Japan and worked that match with Kenny, I don’t know if AEW would exist, because that’s the match that Tony Khan convinced himself we can do this. It was because that match did big business.
“It did big business in the arena, added about another 12,000 tickets, and it added about 30% subscriptions for New Japan World for the highest that’s ever been, and Tony’s like, ‘there is people out there who want something different.’ So, that motivates me. Starting this company from scratch, going up against– it’s like Game of Thrones. I learned so much of what I know from the kingdom of the WWE, and now, I’m the right hand to the king of AEW, giving him all the secrets that I learned in the kingdom of WWE.”
Jericho said that while WWE is not going anywhere, he said it is fun to compete with them and to build Dynamite. He noted how his presence in AEW has been a big influence on the wrestling industry and how that has helped motivate him even more.
“WWE’s not going anywhere,” Jericho noted. “They never will, but it sure is fun to mess with them, and it sure is fun to go up against them, and it sure is fun to compete with them and to have a great show that we’ve been putting on, and to see our show build and to see out show continue to get better, and to build our stars in our company. So, that motivates me. It excites me.
“This kind of unsolicited opportunity to do commentary kind of opened up a whole door there to where I’m not going to be wrestling forever, but I’ll probably be involved until the day I die at this point, just doing commentary, if I choose to. So all that motivates me. It’s exciting to be involved in the company that I feel I made a difference in. [In] WWE, you’re not going to make a difference. That’s the machine; guys come, guys go.
“AEW, it made a big difference for me to be there. It was a big factor in getting it off the ground in the first couple of months. That company was on my shoulders. Now, it’s on many people’s shoulders, but it’s still really cool to know that I made a difference and changed the wrestling business for the better in my opinion. So, that’s all motivation.”
Jericho then opened up about leaving WWE in 2005. He revealed that he was burnt out, but after taking on different projects during his time away from WWE, he was able to reinvent himself and become the Jericho that many associate with today.
“Yeah, absolutely. I mean, 2005, SummerSlam with John Cena, I wasn’t done but was mentally done and burned out, and I walked away, and my contract was up,” Jericho recalled. “There were no contract negotiations. I said ‘don’t even give me a figure’, because I felt they were going to give me a downgraded pay just from the way that my career was at the time. I knew it was time to get away. So, that’s why I left the business for two and a half years.
“I think people forget that, and when I came back in 2007, it was with a completely different mindset because I had done a lot of acting, training, studying. And that’s where the whole suit and tie guy Jericho came in where it was just completely dropped in and completely committed to this character, and that’s kind of one of the last guys that were getting in fights in the streets with fans because people were so invested and just hated this character, and that’s directly because of my work with The Groundlings and studying acting with Kirk Baltz in LA. And Kirk Baltz is most famously known as Marvin Nash from Reservoir Dogs – he gets his ears cut off.
“So, I really studied and learned, and so when I came back to wrestling, that’s when I really became the Chris Jericho that you know and love – or hate – today, because that’s when I think I finally reached my full potential in the ring as a worker, as a character, and dude, I’m 18 years in. So it goes to show you really don’t know until you get it. That’s how long it took me to get it. Ever since then, I’ve been top level, and then, 2015, I had gone for a while and I decided I didn’t really want to deal with the rigmarole of being on TV.”
Jericho continued talking about the feuds that he was involved in the past couple of years. He said that AEW helped reinvigorate him and said that without AEW, he would have retired because he could no longer handle the WWE system.
“So I asked Vince if I can just do house shows. He said yes,” Jericho recalled. “So I worked 60 house shows and then I was going to think about winding down, but then I was going to sign for a three-month thing in 2016 that ended up going a year and a half because I had so much fun with Kevin Owens, and then I walked away from that because it was time to go into Fozzy, and then the New Japan/Kenny Omega match came up. And then it’s like the cliché ‘as soon as you leave, they draw you back in’. But it wasn’t hard to draw me back in.
“I was just looking for something different, and every time I found something different, it reinvigorated my passion and my creative flow. And AEW came around; it was a godsend for me. If there was no AEW, I probably would have been retired right now because I wouldn’t have been able to handle the WWE system anymore. That’s not a cut-down. It’s just a different world there.
“So now it’s like I have no thoughts or anything about when will I stop because it’s just so much fun and I’m enjoying it, and I think the match I had last week against Isiah Kassidy and the promo we did after with MJF is as good as anything I’ve done in the last three or four years. And I’m my own biggest critic, so I was really happy with it, and as long as I’m happy and I feel that I’m not kind of living down my own legacy rather than adding to it, I’ll continue to be here.”
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.