When you talk about performers with the cross border appeal, names like Brock Lesnar and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson come to mind. Over the years, many superstars tried to venture into different areas of the entertainment genre, but there has been only one superstar who has virtually done it all – Whether it is music, movies, starting his own podcast, reality TV or even being a two – time New York Times best-selling author, and true to his on – screen character, he has been the best at what he does for more than a decade and a half!
Chris Jericho is one of the biggest names in professional wrestling today. Known for being one of the greatest performers to ever lace a pair of boots, Jericho’s odyssey has been nothing short of phenomenal. Having 5 – star classics with the likes of the legendary Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle, Jericho has earned a reputation of delivering the goods every time he steps into the ring.
Jericho’s storied career has seen him become the world champion on six different occasions, and he also holds the record of having the most number of runs as the WWE Intercontinental champion.
Recently, my colleague Ratish Menon and I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Chris Jericho exclusively for the wrestling fans and Jericho-holics in India, and below is an excerpt from the interview.
RM: You have been able to transition to many aspects of the entertainment game, right from your band to hosting TV shows to having your own podcast. No other wrestler has been able to do that while staying active. What do you attribute that kind of a work ethic to and how do you manage to keep your focus on the task at hand?
CJ: I never really considered myself to be just a wrestler; I am an entertainer and so you eliminate the boundaries of saying you are this or that. I just enjoy what I do and there are a lot of elements - things I like to do and things I want to try in that world of show business. So it makes it a lot easier when you don’t put boundaries on yourself, so I am not afraid to try different things.
RM: But how do you keep your focus and be really good at everything that you do?
CJ: I don’t know about that, but I give it a 100% and that’s the only way to do it. It’s probably the easiest answer I can give. I don’t accept every project that I am offered and I don’t do every single thing that people want me to do. I only do one thing at a time. Even if it may seem like I am doing many things at the same time, I am not. I begin a task, finish it, and then take another task and so on. By doing things that way you can stay 100% focused on what you are doing.
AG: You’ve wrestled almost all over the world, and as you had previously said, you’re the last of a dying breed of wrestlers. Who do you think that hasn’t been signed yet by the WWE, should have been with the company?
CJ: I don’t really think I am the last breed, because there has been a resurgence of guys who have travelled the world before they came into the WWE. It wasn’t always like that, but guys like Sheamus, Drew McIntyre, Cesaro and the new ones like KENTA; all those guys have travelled the world and worked in different places. Guys like Sami Zayn, Tyler Black, Ambrose and those guys too. I’m not too familiar with what’s going on outside of the WWE.
I don’t watch any independent wrestling at all. I follow it sometimes online or in different newsletters but as far as who should be signed to WWE, I can’t even begin to tell you because I don’t know anybody that is not in the WWE system. So if they are good enough to be signed, then they will be signed. When they are, you know, I’ll get a chance to check them out.
AG: You’ve wrestled many great matches and faced some of the biggest names such as Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle. Here’s a hard one for you – What has been your best match so far in your career?
CJ: Well I mean, yeah it is a hard one, but sometimes, if I have to tell you one, the one between Shawn Michaels and myself at Unforgiven 2008 - it was a match for the world title. It was a great match and the culmination of the angle that basically grew organically on its own for over 5-8 months. It was a perfect example of really good storytelling.
AG: In recent years, you have come back and put over talents such as Fandango and Bray Wyatt. Do you think WWE has dropped the ball with them since?
CJ: I mean, put them over, beat them or both. It’s just a matter of working with new characters and new guys. WWE doesn’t drop balls; your career goes in waves, it goes in cycles. I know that more than anybody else. Sometimes you work on top, sometimes you’re not and when you’re not, it’s upto you to make your mark and get back on track again. I think that WWE has a plan and never tries to sabotage anybody on purpose. Why would they do that? It costs them money.
Someone like Bray Wyatt has a huge potential, huge upside. He’s got a long way to go, so there are no worries and no rush. Fandango - I thought was kind of a one trick pony as far as his character and gimmick go. There is only so much you can do with it. I think it’s time to update that character and take it to another place because you can only do so much with a character like that.
RM: A lot of the wrestlers in their interviews have mentioned about how snug you are with your work, which in my opinion is what makes it all the more believable. The working style in the WWE, especially in this day and age, is a lot less physical except for a couple of people. Have you had anybody complain about your style or have you toned it down over the years?
CJ: No, not at all. I mean I just worked the way I work. Maybe when I first came to WWE back in 1999. There must have been complaints from certain people but I think those people were complaining about everything I did. Whenever I worked with people like Chris Benoit, Bob Holly, Bradshaw or any of those guys, they worked hard. That doesn’t mean you are stiff, it means you are working solid.
I don’t ever get complaints for the way I work and nor would I expect any. I am not hurting anybody, either Sheamus or Cesaro or anybody who works the general hard style, you are just working, trying to get the best possible match you can make it. No one’s breaking any bones or losing any teeth. I just work hard and that’s what it’s all about.
RM: Who are some of the most physical guys you have been in the ring with?
CJ: Bradshaw, Benoit, Cesaro, Sheamus, Austin. Everybody works a physical style you know. Van Dam (RVD) works a very physical style.
AG: How was the atmosphere on the first night after you jumped ships to the WWE from WCW?
CJ: Well it was pretty electric. People kind of knew that I was coming or expected that I did. Not everybody but a lot of people did. It was a really cool night; that countdown start was a good idea and to have it end in the middle of The Rock’s promo, it was a real genius idea that Vince came up with. It was one of the greatest debuts of all time as far as excitement, as far as the gestation, as far as the payoff as well. It is still one of the favorite moments of my career.
AG: How was the atmosphere backstage with the other talents?
CJ: It was pretty cool. I didn’t really have much interaction with anybody. I was just wondering about my own thing, it was kind of a secret. I worked a little bit with the Rock, with Vince Russo to put the promo together and it just grew from there. Everybody was really excited about it.
RM: Your old buddy Bill Goldberg has a podcast of his own and minces no words in his criticism of the WWE. Given your history with him, do you think he has another run in him and could he be the box-office attraction he once was?
CJ: I don’t know man. Does he have another run in him? It is upto him. I don’t really know the circumstances how he left the WWE or what his mindset is for wrestling now. He was huge star in the late 90s’; when he came into WWE he wasn’t that huge of a star but he is still a very big and intense physical presence. It wouldn’t take much to heat him up, if he wanted to do it. Like I said, I can’t speculate on that.
RM: Have you considered having him on your podcast? You 2 would have so many things to talk about.
CJ: Oh yes, sure. It’s just a matter of timing. We have only had 30 guests so far already and there are a lot of people coming up. I would be open to it for sure, why not? Of course.
Don’t forget to get your hands on Jericho’s new book; The Best in the World by Chris Jericho is published by Orion Books on 6th November 2014.
You can listen to the entire audio here.