On a recent episode of the Talk Is Jericho podcast, Chris Jericho had on his fellow Inner Circle member Jake Hager, and they discussed Hager’s signing with AEW as well as the beginnings of The Inner Circle. Hager admitted that AEW was always a goal for him, and he said he wanted to use MMA to become a better pro wrestler.
“I mean, honestly, I think anybody in the pro wrestling world around 2018 and there on was really starting to get the vibe that AEW was going to be a thing,” Hager noted. “Everyone was seeing what you and Kenny [Omega] were doing with New Japan, and it was only a matter of time. I forget when that actual announcement was for AEW, but that was always the goal for me is to use MMA to make me a better pro wrestler, and what’s better than going to the brand new hot promotion?”
Hager recalled reaching out to EVP Cody Rhodes and AEW President Tony Khan to sign with AEW. He noted that Jericho had helped put in a word for him.
“I had reached out to Cody. I think everybody in the world was reaching out to Cody at the time,” Hager pointed out. “We knew that we were on the same page; maybe it can work out. I reached out again and I’m still not getting anything. This is about May. This is Double or Nothing time and I’m not getting anything, and I think I told you that, and so, [Jericho] reached out. And he was like, ‘hey, check back in a couple weeks,’ and I don’t know what changed but then you came back an hour later. You’re like, ‘no man, this is it. They want to go with you.'”
Jericho added that the formation of The Inner Circle might have changed Khan’s mind. He has spoken before on pitching Hager as his muscle for his faction, and he spoke on “subtly nudging” Khan into signing Hager.
“I think what changed was that The Inner Circle became a thing,” Jericho said. “That must have been something because I remember it took him a long time. We’re talking about Tony Khan – it took him a long time to get back to you, and I kept kind of subtly nudging him. And he was like, ‘yeah, yeah, sure, sure’, but something switched and maybe that was it. Maybe he decided you were the right man for the job.”
Hager spoke highly of Khan, noting how easy he is to talk to. He also talked about how everyone in The Inner Circle gelled together quickly.
“You set us up, and I know we had a great phone call with him,” Hager recalled. “And I got off the phone, and I was like, ‘holy cow, this is a billionaire. This is the owner of the company? He was so casual and easy to talk to that you could really feel comfortable telling him, ‘hey, man, I’m really insecure about whatever.’ It was one of those types of conversations, and hopefully– I like to say my winning personality along with the endorsement for The Inner Circle helped.
“It was so cool how it happened, and immediately, everybody just kind of started getting to know each other and really vibe. Of course, I feel like you do a great job of seeing the bigger picture. ‘That’s all great. Let’s do it this way and make it even better.'”
Hager reflected on his first year at AEW and called it the greatest year of his pro wrestling career. He talked about how it was established early on that his AEW character would be different than his WWE character, with Jericho cutting fans off who chanted “We The People”.
“I look back at this year with AEW as the greatest year in my career pro wrestling wise. Moments like that were really cool,” Hager expressed. “14,000 people, the debut episod – I was nervous as s–t and I had the easiest thing to do. All I had to do was run out to the ring without tripping and then slide in the ring and do a couple things. You look back at some of the uncut footage that they have formatted, it’s so cool, and the crowd was going so crazy.
“I think you had to know that we were onto something that night, because we talked about ‘We The People’. They are all started chanting ‘We The People.’ The first night they were chanting it and then the second night is when you completely cut it off, and they haven’t said it since. It’s just cool because we are different characters with AEW, so let’s be different.”
Jericho added that while he is appreciative of fans that still chant “Y2J”, he admitted that it pisses him off because fans are chanting for a character that is over 20 years old. He noted that it is also diminishing AEW because they are more focused on something WWE related rather than the AEW product.
“That’s what I wanted people to understand, because once in a while, they still want to chant ‘Y2J,’ and I understand you’re being appreciative but it’s pissing me off because that’s a character that’s 20 years old,” Jericho pointed out. “And also, if you’re an AEW fan, it’s kind of demeaning to our product if you’re saying something that was made famous in WWE, and that’s why with the ‘We The People thing,’ I’m like, I want this shut off now.
“I don’t want them seeing Jack Swagger. I want them to see this brand new guy, which now, a year in, Jack Swagger’s a memory, as is Dean Ambrose, as is a lot of those types of characters, but Jake Hagar’s the guy. So that’s what we need to make people realize and remember. This is a whole new dude here.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
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