Chris Jericho Interview
Chris is currently on tour promoting his autobiography, A Lion’s Tale: Around The World In Spandex. The book chronicles Chris’s journey to WWE, a dream he had as a child and which saw him circle the globe as he chased his goals.
With all the publicity, and with the cryptic Save_Us.222 video invading WWE programming, rumours have been rife that Y2J is set for a return to the ring. Having taken a break in 2005, Chris has made it clear that he in no way intended to retire.
He took time out to chat with NZPWI Editor Kirsty Quested about his book, the rumours, his band Fozzy, and much, much more.
Kirsty Quested: Few performers have had the same impact on the international wrestling scene as my guest at this time. As a child, he had the dream of becoming a wrestling superstar, and he went on to fulfil that dream as one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. Currently promoting his autobiography, A Lion’s Tale, he shares with fans that journey. He is Y2J, Chris Jericho.
Chris Jericho: Hey, how’s it going?
I’m really good, how are you?
I’m doing pretty good.
Yeah absolutely. I spent like 18 months working on the project, I wanted to get it exactly the way that I wanted it, and I did, now that it’s out and people are enjoying it, it’s doing really well… I’m really excited, it feels good. It feels like I just… you create something out of nothing as an artist, and it’s great the book can happen the way it is, and everyone’s digging it, it’s a very gratifying and vindicating experience for me.
I read that Mick Foley went through the entire manuscript for you and then worried that it was better than his. That must have been a boost?
Yeah it’s pretty funny. He says that on the back of the book. I just called him to get a quote from him for the flap jacket, and he went through it line by line to help me out, he just really enjoyed it and felt that he wanted to give me advice, and when you have a number one best selling author giving you advice of course I’m going to take it. So it worked out really good.
For sure, for sure. Interesting that the book concludes with your WWE debut; can we take this to mean a sequel is planned?
Yeah, I mean I thought that was the best story to tell, was my journey to make it to the WWE, it was 9 years of highs and lows, trials and tribulations, and I think once I got to the WWE that was the end of that chapter in my life, and the end of the book, but I could literally do a sequel that picks up seconds after the last one left off. I’ve already started thinking about it. So we’ll have to see, but that’s a very good possibility.
You’ve compared your book to Bret Hart’s, saying that the organic process both books follow over years of experience could be the last of their kind. Do you not think that others might take their cue from you and Bret and Mick Foley and wait until the time is right?
Maybe, but who would have a story to tell the same way that Mick or Bret or I did, where you kind of travel the world, experience all these different things. There’s a couple of guys that have a lot of experience – Triple H and Undertaker – but they didn’t travel the world the same way that we did in our younger years. So that’s what I meant by basically saying it’s kind of the last of its kind, because I think just the story and the journey and the way that I had the early part of my career, is a lost art. I mean, there’s not a lot of guys that have done that, or that are still doing, that, because the business has changed now, it’s a lot different. So there might be other guys that can do it, I just don’t know who. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I said this could be the last book written by a guy who comes into the business the same way that I did.
You said that when you left WWE you were burnt out and needed a break; has writing the book helped you reignite your passion for the business?
Oh absolutely, absolutely, there’s no doubt about it. Once I finished writing it I realized how fortunate I was to live this dream that I had from such a young age, and second of all, maybe remember how much passion and love I had for the business, and still do have, and… I just needed a break, I needed to get away, and now that the book is done… I never said I was retiring, I just needed to take a step back for a while. And now that things have gone the way they have, who knows what could happen in the future.
You pulled your book back in light of the Chris Benoit tragedy to add a note; obviously it was really important for you to do this?
Well I didn’t pull it back, it’s just that it was done, and then after it happened I just wanted to re-read it again with these certain events in mind now, because Chris plays a big part in this book, and he’s a big part of the story in a positive way. I wrote the book as much for non-wrestling fans as I did for wrestling fans, and I didn’t want there to be any confusion as to why I spoke so positively about this guy who had done these horrible crimes… so I felt it was the best way to deal with it by writing a little bit of a foreward just explaining that, that the guy that I knew during these years, and what happened afterwards is basically irrelevant to this book. But I felt that there would be a big black cloud hanging over a very inspirational, positive, humorous story if I didn’t address it right off the bat, so I did and I think that kind of clears it up so you can enjoy the book the way it’s meant to be enjoyed.
You’ve said that you didn’t watch a lot of wrestling right after you left WWE; are you watching now?
Yeah, yeah absolutely, probably for the last year I have… the first year I was gone, I was just completely fried mentally, really burnt out, and I just wasn’t interested… not that I didn’t like wrestling, I still followed it, but I just didn’t watch any of the shows. It wasn’t something I really wanted to spend time doing, but that’s slowly crept back in again.
Is there anyone on the international wrestling stage who really stands out for you right now?
There’s quite a few guys. You know, I watch all the companies, I enjoy TNA, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe are very good, I like Abyss, I like watching… I think Tomko’s improved… I like Brian Danielson, I like Nigel McGuinness… you know, in the WWE I think Edge has taken a step up, I’ve always been a fan of Cena… Shawn Michaels is still Shawn Michaels, he’s one of the best ever. So there’s a lot of guys I enjoy watching.
Do you think that the Save_Us.222 campaign has been effective?
[long pause] I don’t know, because I don’t really know what it is, it’s one of those things where I’m always the last one to know everything, but if effective means causing a huge buzz about Chris Jericho, and a possible return, then it’s been beyond effective. I think it’s one of the most successful things that’s been on WWE TV in years. And it’s great. It’s one of those things, for me… whether it is, or it isn’t, or whatever [laughs] it’s still a great way for me to get a lot of publicity and a lot of buzz and a lot of speculation, and I’d rather have that than people saying “Chris Jericho sucks and we never want to see him again,” instead it’s like “we can’t wait for Jericho to come back,” and I think that’s part of the… it’s one of those old school wrestling angles where people just don’t know what’s going on. People nowadays, they can find out anything they want just by going on a website, and I don’t think that’s fair. I mean, when I was a kid I didn’t know anything about wrestling, what was going to happen, I just knew I watched the shows every week, and whatever happened on the shows, I’d have to wait till the next week to find out more. And I think people feel a sense of entitlement, like “I don’t know what’s going on, and I should know right now!”
And they can’t find out.
Yeah exactly, that’s not the way that it’s intended to be, so you should just sit back and watch and wait and learn just like everybody else.
Well I mean, if I was to return, then it shouldn’t be a secret. But it’s one of those things where I think people don’t know exactly… they think they know but they just don’t know for sure. And it drives some people nuts. And I love it. It’s like, I’m a magician, I have all these tricks and secrets, and even if I was coming back tomorrow, I wouldn’t tell anybody, why should I? You know, that’s my business, and you’re on a need to know basis, and you don’t need to know.
You’ve said that if you were to return, it would have to be on your own terms, and that being able to enjoy the business the way you used to is important. Do you think the business may have changed so much in recent years that it might not be possible? To enjoy it the way you used to?
Uh no, because if it has changed at all, it’s changed for the worse. Because wrestling is first and foremost entertainment. It’s a show, it’s fun. It’s show business. And that’s what I bring to the table. I was never the biggest guy in the show, but I always worked on having the biggest character, the biggest charisma, being the biggest entertainer. And that never changes. Entertainment is entertainment. And people might not realize it, because some guys just don’t know how to do that now. And that’s one thing I’ve always known how to do. And the first day that I come back, whenever that day may be, it’s going to be business as usual for Jericho, and people better keep up, or they’re gonna fall by the wayside.
What aspects of the business do you enjoy the most?
The entertainment, the showmanship. I love that part of it. It’s my favourite part.
It’s no secret that you had been in talks with TNA; what are your thoughts on their product?
I think it’s great that TNA exists, I think it’s great that they’re making progress, they’re having some growing pains, but any new company does. And they’re expanding. As each week goes by, they’re learning more, and they’ll eventually figure it out, because they’re not going anywhere. They have a strong TV contract, they have the company behind them, the video game company is behind them, so I think it’s great for the business, it’s great for the fans, great for the wrestlers.
Were you surprised when Christian and Kurt Angle made the jump?
Ah, not really. That’s what I said, it’s great for the guys, because they have an option to go somewhere else, they have a choice. And that just makes it better for everybody.
Two separate animals, but they both boil down to the same thing of entertaining the fans. We did touring over in the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Australia, had a great time, built a really big fanbase for ourselves, and that was really cool, because we started the band out as just a fun thing, and then to a certain level, we became huge rock stars. And that was… it’s great to know, we went out and tried it, and it worked, and we started really honing in on it, and people started really getting into it, and that’s what it’s all about.
Do you find much of a difference between music fans and wrestling fans? Like, are there many Fozzy fans out there who are surprised to learn that Mongoose McQueen is also a pro-wrestler?
I think at first that was kind of the selling point for the band, you know, Jericho is a wrestler, but that only lasts for so long, and then after that you have to be a good band and have good songs. And the novelty wore off very quickly. And also, so did the fanbase, where the people who were coming just to see Jericho, dwindled away, and were replaced by people who came to see the band Fozzy, and hear our songs, and that’s how we were able to sell out the London Astoria three times on our last tour, because people were there to see Fozzy and Fozzy’s music, not just coming to see Chris Jericho. So like I said, that doesn’t last very long, it’s a novelty, and novelties usually wear off very quickly.
What do you think of the WWE Films concept? Have you seen any of the three projects?
Yeah I’ve seen them all, seen them all. I think it’s a great idea to give a platform for the guys in the company who can act. Because there are a few. I think Hollywood pretty much ignores wrestling for whatever reason… it’s crazy, I don’t know why. But WWE’s supplying that outlet, and I think once again, as time moves on that will get better as well. All three of those movies had their ups and downs, but I enjoyed all three of them. I don’t think any of them were classics, but I don’t think Live Hard, Die Free… what was it… or Live Free, or whatever the hell the last Die Hard movie was a classic either. It gives you what you pay to see; high intense action, some explosions, some bombs, some fun lines, some hot chicks, and then you’re out of there. It’s what you’re looking for.
It’s been an absolute pleasure to speak with you, all the best for your future projects, and who knows… perhaps we’ll see you out here in New Zealand sometime.
Yeah, it’s one of the countries I’ve never been to, so I’m looking forward to it. I have some good friends in New Zealand, so it’d be nice to go there some day and check out the place where Lord of the Rings was filmed.
Well we’d love to see you out here Chris, and thanks again, I really appreciate your time.
All right, thanks a lot.
A Lion’s Tale: Around The World In Spandex, is available from Amazon.