Today I got to speak to a man who is four days away from hosting a wrestling and rock music event on a cruise ship sailing from Miami to the Bahamas that he has spent the last three years organising - Chris Jericho. On the boat will be a host of rock bands and wrestlers from Ring of Honor, NJPW and Impact Wrestling and the crazy thing is that might not even be the biggest or most surprising thing he's done this year!
That's right, Chris Jericho's 2018 has been somewhat of a wild-ride with 'The Ayatollah of Rock and Roll' making his debut for New Japan Pro Wrestling at the Tokyo Dome in the co-main event of Wrestle Kingdom against Kenny Omega, bringing back 'The List of Jericho' at Raw 25, surprising the world at ALL IN despite having a Fozzy gig on the same day and now the cruise.
Anyone of those moments would be a career-defining moment but this is Chris Jericho we're talking about, the first-ever Undisputed WWE Champion doesn't just have one career-defining moment, he has a career-defining moment every time he does anything these days. Which is why I was keen to talk to Jericho about the history making Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager at Sea, his highly successful 2018 and what the future holds for him.
The 'Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager At Sea' is set to be a world first, with top talent from Ring of Honor, NJPW and Impact Wrestling coming together for a series of incredible looking wrestling shows, all accompanied by live music, podcasts and an all-inclusive cruise from Miami to the Bahamas. And it all came from the mind of Chris Jericho. I wanted to ask him where the idea came from and why would someone do something like this?
Jericho: "Well it started we did the Kiss cruise in 2015, and it was such a great experience as a professional, as a fan, as a performer, all across the board I was just really impressed with how much fun it was and how easy it was. I mean, you get up in the morning, you hang for a bit, you do you gig, you go back to your cabin take a shower then you've got the rest of the night to do whatever you want to do.
It was a great party, a great time and as soon as we got back from it I called my manager, Fozzy's manager and I said 'Dude, I want to do this, I want to do a cruise that's synonymous with Chris Jericho - Rock and Roll and wrestling' and that's where it all started, three years ago now. So it took quite a while to get it up and running but now we're almost ready to roll man, less than a week away!"
I believe the cruise is sold out now? Obviously, it hasn't happened yet, so it may be a little early but will there be a Chris Jericho's Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager at Sea 2 down the line?
Jericho: "It's not sold out yet, it's at about 96%, which for a first-year cruise is pretty good! But that was always the idea. I mean, it was never meant to be just a 'one-and-done.' I wanted it to be something like an annual vacation and destination just like the Kiss cruise, who are getting ready for their eighth one.
That's kind of what the mindset was behind it so I think that, so far good. I mean we've had a lot of success already before we've even left port, but I think that when we've set sail and people realise exactly what they're going to be getting it'll make the word of mouth even more so and next year we'll be able to sell it completely."
Next: Jericho talks about the 'Streaming for Vengeance' show coming from the cruise, not appearing at Impact's Bound for Glory and whether or not he thinks 2018 is his best year ever
As someone from the UK with limited funds I would've loved to have gone on the cruise but couldn't justify it this year. So when some of the matches were announced like Alpha Club Vs Bullet Club I was gutted and secretly hoped there'd be some sort of streaming deal. And thankfully our wishes were answered! I asked Jericho if this was secretly the plan all along!
One of the other things announced fairly recently about the cruise was that there will be a show of one of the nights of wrestling on FITE TV. Did that come about because of public demand from people who wouldn't be able to make it or was that always part of the plan.
Jericho: "You know, it wasn't always part of the plan. It's not just one of the nights of wrestling, it's kind of the biggest main event that we can put together which is the Alpha Club Vs The Bullet Club. I think when that match was announced, which is Chris Jericho and the Young Bucks Vs Kenny Omega, Cody and Marty Scurll, that it sent the rest of the world into a buzz because it's a match that everybody wants to see.
My initial thoughts were that I don't want it streamed because I just wanted it to be part of the cruise. I want people to know that when the cruise comes out you can't see it anywhere else, you need to be on the ship. But once we started inching closer to selling out I realised that there were so many people who wanted to check it out and see the match so I started putting together the deal with FITE TV. Once again, nothing's ever easy, it took a while to get it but once we got it, now it gives people an option to see this match that you're not going to see anywhere else or might never see again!
A boat is a fairly weird place to have a wrestling event take place, would you say it's the weirdest place you've wrestled or are there any weirder places you've wrestled?
Jericho: "Weird? Not necessarily, unorthodox, different, first time ever and that's once again why it took a while to get it rolling because it's never been done before. We actually had to have a team of engineers to come aboard the boat and do whatever they have to do to make sure the ring doesn't slide off into the ocean. There's no template to match against and I like that, I like the fact that I'm the first time ever. I'm the pioneer of putting on this cruise.
I think I've had weirder places. A parking lot in the dark where the lights were the headlights from a car, that sort of thing. But as far as this, this is the first time I've ever wrestled not on land, shall we say. So unless somebody's going to Mars this is probably the only place that hasn't been conquered by wrestling and here we are!
That's amazing, I was going to ask if you were worried about choppy waters or sea sickness and how that will affect the wrestling, but if you've got engineers checking it all out you've probably got it covered?
Jericho: Well you can't have an engineer not make the water choppy, you know that's part of being on a cruise! I know during Kiss cruise I never felt it once, we did three shows on that cruise and not once did I ever feel unbalanced back and forth. I guess it's all part of the ship and the way it's built
We do have a backup plan if it's raining or it's really bad on the top deck, we have another set-up inside as well. So the show and the matches will be taking place no matter what. I think, once again, it's an adventure, let's see what happens because there's never been a boat ever that's had matches at sea, in the middle of the ocean. So you don't know what to expect because nobody knows what to expect. It's never been done before!
Next: Chris Jericho talks about not being at SmackDown 1000 or Crown Jewel, his appearance on the Raw 25th episode and New Japan Pro Wrestling!
You have booked talent from NJPW, Impact and ROH on the cruise, am I right in saying that you asked WWE and they said no? Which led to you going to these other companies. Would you say that this is what led to you broadening your wrestling horizons this year and making appearances for other companies?
Jericho: "I did approach WWE and I knew what the answer was going to be, it was the due diligence, it was the right thing to do. Ring of Honor was there in a second! And then the relationships I built working in Japan with the Bucks and Cody and Kenny Omega and all those guys definitely made it a lot easier to put it all together.
But my idea from the start was to hire a wrestling company to take care of all the wrestling because I don't know how to book a show, I don't know how to do that, how to put together a card, what happens if somebody signs with WWE? Or if a guy gets hurt? So I thought the easiest way to do that was just to hire a complete company.
So that's what I did. I've kind of gone into a partnership with Ring of Honor now. I think that was the right way to do it. And then Impact came aboard so now, like you said, we've got the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, we've got the IWGP Intercontinental Champion, we've got Alpha Club vs Bullet Club, we've got Impact vs Ring of Honor, we've got everybody, WWE Hall of Famers and everything in between, so it really is bringing together the entire wrestling world all under this umbrella of Chris Jericho's Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager at Sea.
I didn't set out for it to be like that, but here I am doing something that not only hasn't been done before, but might never happen again with all these companies working together."
Next: Jericho addresses whether he'll appear for Impact after not being at Bound for Glory and what the commentary duo of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler bring to the cruise
Whilst it's a well-known fact now that WWE said no to sending NXT Superstars on the Cruise of Jericho, there will be some familiar WWE faces on the cruise as Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross have been signed on as hosts.
You mentioned WWE Hall of Famers, whilst there might not be anyone from WWE wrestling you have booked arguably one of the greatest WWE commentary duos ever in Jim Ross and Jerry 'The King' Lawler, what will they host to the cruise?
Jericho: "They're kind of, yeah, they're the ipso facto hosts of the cruise, they'll kick it off. I'm doing a podcast with them, they're doing their own podcast as well, and signings. It's really one of those things where besides me, I built the cruise around me, because I knew that I wouldn't walk out on myself or be hard to deal with, not that anybody else is, but other than that everybody has three shows, four shows to do over four days and the rest is just kind of hanging around.
That's the cool thing because it's basically just a working vacation for a lot of people and that makes it cool as well. This is the first one, I didn't have a huge budget but I did have this really cool offer - I can't pay you this but I can pay you that and give you a free all expenses paid cruise, and that was a big selling point for a lot of the guys. King included, Jerry Lawler contacted me and said 'I've never been on a cruise before, I'd love to do it' and it's like dude, make it happen. We got the deal and here he is, and it was like that with a lot of people.
Which was good because, like I've said, I needed some help, I've never done this before, I'm not Moneybags Mcgee, it's not Chris Jericho's cruise in name only, I have a financial stake in it as well. So, having said all of those things I have a great group of people, a lot of people came on board, not as a favour, but more of a neutral favour, 'I'll bring you on board if you do this, you're happy to do it, let's rock' and that's kind of the whole idea behind it!"
Next: Chris Jericho discusses 2018 possibly being his biggest year in wrestling and when he'll return to WWE
Chris Jericho's relationship with Impact Wrestling bosses Don Callis and Scott D'Amore isn't a secret and neither was the fact that he was in negotiations to appear for Impact Wrestling. However all of the build-up seemed to point towards Jericho debuting for Impact at Bound for Glory during Eli Drake's open challenge segment, but that didn't happen.
Many fans were left disappointed, especially as Impact Wrestling themselves have teased Jericho a few times on social media and on programming. I offered Jericho the opportunity to address this situation and say whether or not he would be appearing for Impact.
Jericho: "I think you know me well enough to know there's always a chance, I have no restrictions on anything that I'm doing, and you know me well enough to know that if it was going to happen I damn well wouldn't tell you. I think it's just one of those things where you'll have to wait and see. I don't have any restrictions or any real plans at all. I just kind of do things as they come which is why this year has been... and I'm sure next year will be more of the same so let's see what happens."
This year's been a fairly big year, you've got the cruise which is one of the biggest things you've probably ever done and you debuted for New Japan. What made you decide to do things that you've never done before
Jericho: "It wasn't this overriding, overall plan. The cruise idea happened in 2015. That was before I went back in '16 to WWE. So it was just I want to do this cruise and why not? When I was a kid I wanted to be in a Rock and Roll band and I wanted to be a wrestler, why not? So once you do those things and have success in them you're fearless, I'm not scared in trying anything now at this point. I think that's a good way to be, I'm not going to restrict myself from anything that seems interesting and viable, the cruise is one of them."
Jericho: "Last year when the idea was presented to me of doing a Chris Jericho-Kenny Omega match I thought 'that's interesting'. Kenny's from Winnipeg and that's basically what spurred that, the Winnipeg connection. Don Callis is from Winnipeg, the commentator, so there was really no other reason for that other than the fact we came from a small town on the prairie. And when that match was so good, the build-up was so good, I thought 'why should I only do one' let's do some more and that's kind of how that came about.
And then why shouldn't I do ALL IN if I can make it work and still make the Fozzy gig that night it could be something fun to do, something fun to do to promote the cruise and just to be Chris Jericho. And that's kind of how I've worked this year, with no real plan, just going by the seat of my pants just going from experience to experience that's interesting and fun to me. If I think it's going to create a buzz then I'm going to do it!"
Next: Chris Jericho explains why he won't be at Crown Jewel and when we'll see him in the WWE next?
Chris Jericho attacking Kenny Omega at ALL IN sparked a lot of people wanting to see the two Winnipeg wrestlers go one-on-one again. Unfortunately, that's not happening on the cruise, with the dream main event being Jericho and the Bucks vs Cody, Kenny and Marty. But does Jericho want to wrestle Omega one-on-one again?
As you've said you don't particularly make plans you take things as they come, but next year would you want to do another Kenny Omega singles match? I know a lot of people are potentially looking forward to that happening.
Jericho: "Yeah, that was my original idea with New Japan. Then they wanted to do some stuff with Naito which was great, EVIL now which was cool. There are so many matches in New Japan alone, there's the Omega rematch, Naito rematch, Okada, Tanahashi. There's much stuff that I could do there... Ibushi, guys I've never worked before, Suzuki/Jericho would be great. So you're talking a lot of dream matches just from that capacity, if you're just talking about New Japan.
You talk about [Impact] and Bound For Glory, there's Austin Aries, there's Brian Cage, there's Johnny Impact. There's a lot of guys from that end of the spectrum that would be great to work with, Sami Callihan."
Jericho: "If you're looking at the Ring of Honor side of things, you know Cody and Jericho would be a great match for the NWA title, there's still WWE matches that would be good, there's a lot of stuff going on that could happen and would be great for me.
I've really kind of built myself into this position where I don't have to do anything I don't want to do, I don't have to go anywhere I don't want to go so I'm not rushing it, we'll see what happens. I've been working really hard this year, I think after the New Japan thing is done, maybe it's time to take some time and disappear for a while. We'll see, I don't know, I have no real plan or thought, I just think about stuff when it's presented to me and make a decision on that."
(Nobody tell Chris that Cody isn't NWA Champion anymore!)
Next: "If I never went back to WWE again, it wouldn't bother me" - Chris Jericho
It's been some time since Chris Jericho was the first ever Undisputed Champion in WWE, winning both of its major titles in one night and it can be hard to forget that he was United States champion for much of 2016. But this year bizarrely feels like a breakout year for Jericho. I asked him how he felt about 2018.
This year has arguably been one of the biggest years of your wrestling career, which is saying a lot, but do you think this year ranks up there as one of the biggest years of your career?
Jericho: "It's funny because I think 2016/17 was the best year in my career, completely, in terms of match quality and the whole thing with Kevin Owens and the Ambrose thing. I just thought it was a great year... Roman Reigns, all those guys.
And then I just kind of disappeared and here we are, 2018, through no grand design. I think this is the biggest I've ever been career-wise. If you look at it, I worked WWE, I worked New Japan, I worked basically Ring of Honor if you talk about the Bucks and Cody and Marty Scurll.
So yeah, I think this is the best year for my career as far as, the biggest buzz that I've ever had, as far as star power I think it's the biggest I've ever been, as far as name value and that's why I have to be very specific about what my next move is.
Because every move that I've made so far has built this name value of mine. And when I say that I'm just as valuable as Brock Lesnar in pro wrestling in 2018, I believe it! I think I bring just as much to the table as Brock does now, in so many different ways. So I have to think like that all across the board.
Next: Jericho speaks on being wasted at Raw 25, missing SmackDown 1000 and Crown Jewel
One of the big things everyone wants to know about Chris Jericho at all times is when he'll be back with the WWE, so obviously I asked him that question. We also talked about him not being at SmackDown 1000 and how he won't be at Crown Jewel
Would you be open to returning to the WWE, I know you've said they didn't ask you to do anything for SmackDown 1000 and obviously you're not going to Crown Jewel, so would you want to go back and when?
Jericho: "When I said they didn't ask me I wasn't saying it like, you know, a sad thing. That's what happened. They didn't ask me to go, and to be honest with you, I didn't really want to do Raw 25 either. I don't like wasting a surprise appearance, I don't like wasting those appearances on one-offs. I know how those shows go, there are so many guys on the show, I don't want to do it. So, nobody asked me, but if that had I probably wouldn't have done it anyway.
That's why when you saw me at Raw 25 it was just a backstage bit and that's the way that Vince and I discussed it to be. I didn't want to go out in front of the crowd, because you're wasting one of those cash-in chips of a Jericho appearance, so to speak.
And for Crown Jewel, I was asked for Crown Jewel but I can't make it because I have EVIL in Osaka at Power Struggle on November 3rd, it's pretty much physically impossible time-wise to make it from one to the other. And I don't want to put that pressure on myself worrying about what if the plane isn't going to make it on time, I'm not going to do that to myself so it didn't work out for Crown Jewel either."
Jericho: "But yeah, of course, I would consider going back to the WWE, but once again, all of the things that we've talked about, it's a whole different Chris Jericho now than I was the last time I was there, which is a whole different Chris Jericho to the last time I was there before that. So we'd have to work out some ideas and things and there's a lot of money going around now in WWE, so that's a whole different world too.
So, the answer is yes. But I'm in no rush and I don't feel like I have to do it. If I never went back to WWE again it wouldn't bother me, just like if I never went back to New Japan, if I never wrestled again, period. But if it's something that's right and it feels the right thing to do then, of course, I would consider it.
Usually there's a preamble from me now where I thank Jericho for talking to me, point everyone in the direction of FITE TV to watch Streaming For Vengeance, remind people there's still one or two cabins left on the cruise and that Jericho is defending the IWGP Intercontinental Title against EVIL for NJPW Power Struggle, but instead I'll leave you with this final quote from Jericho himself.
We've got 2,000 people ready for the cruise and for those who can't make it this time they can watch Alpha Vs Bullet Club on FITE TV which will also have the whole Sea of Honor tournament with Ring of Honor, so I tried to make it something that was exciting and fun for everybody involved and now everybody can see it if they're not on the ship and that's kind of why I do the things I do now. I like to try and give people something fun to look forward to.
Do you think 2018 has been Chris Jericho's best year yet? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!