Chris Jericho came in to the WWE with a lot of fanfare in 1999 after some success in the rival WCW. What started off as his dream opportunity, turned into a struggle to fit in and a battle for air time. When Jericho was given his opportunity to shine in 2000, he grabbed the reigns and broke through to become one of the best performers in WWE’s storied history.
Throughout his storied career, Chris became more then just a wrestler a he became a rock and roll star with his band “Fozzy”. Chris started his own podcast called “Talk is Jericho” which airs twice a week at Podcastone.com. After two successful autobiographies, Chris has written a third to share his stories on the road with both WWE and Fozzy.
Recently Randy Zellea of Back Sports Page recently caught up with Chris to discuss his new book “King of the World, of What I Have No Idea”, his podcast and some of his career highlights in the ring.
Q) Thanks for the time. Your podcast is awesome and fun to listen to. Can you discuss your podcast, what was the initial idea for it?
A) Thanks man, I really appreciate it. It’s fun to because I am not really trying to have an interview but more like a conversation. It’s fun to sit down with people who I have been friends with for years. My friend Chris Harwood has been a friend for years and we have seen each other backstage a lot but never really have an hour to sit down to talk. It’s a rare thing to do and fun weather its friends like the Triple H and Edge or famous names that I don’t know personally such as the William Shatner. It is a lot of fun to have conversations with them.
Q) While doing podcasts you conduct a lot of interviews, how is it different is it with your book tour? Do you do email interviews? Phone interviews?
A) I won’t do email interviews. It’s a waste of time and very stale. When you are able to interview someone over the phone and or in person is better but it’s the whole conversation. Look I’m doing a book tour, I could do 10 minute interviews and that would be great but when you are able to have an extended interview for like 30 minutes you are able to get some solid information and some great stories.
Q) Was it hard for it not to be just a wrestling show? Other Wrestlers seem to focus on just wrestling; did you find it hard to branch away from it just not being a wrestling show?
A) I’m not just going to do that. The first thing is I am an entertainer and I have a lot of different interests. The first few shows were built as wrestling shows to help draw in downloads. After a while I was more interested in making this different. The thing was the company was not too sure because the non wrestling shows didn’t do well. I told them I don’t care; I’m not doing this to spark ratings. I’m doing this to grow a fan base. People have to start trusting me that I will have someone on my show that I feel fans will like. That’s why if I bring on a director, an actor, a wrestler, anybody who I think is interesting. The audience will like it because they are a fan of the show.
Q) Can you talk about the process of writing the book? Did you have a co-author?
A) I don’t have a co-author. I did all the writing, every word. I did work with a collaborator as like a guide. They gave me some guidance, feedback and a certain direction. The first book I did, I had no idea what I was doing. I had been in contact with a few people who helped give me guidance on the process until I got comfortable with it. Then there are parts when I handed in the first draft of the book, then the follow up drafts of the book. The Book wrapped up eight or nine months before the book came out. Out of the three books “Best in the World” is the best of the trilogy in my mind because its the best of my whole career not just the wrestling aspect. I think it is definitely the Return of the Jedi of the Chris Jericho books.
Q) In the Beginning of Undisputed you stated there was a delay because of a disclaimer of Chris Benoit. Can you talk about that decision and the process of writing King of the World?
A) No, it was chosen by me personally. There was no real push back from the book company. It was all me. I had to put a little bit of a forward in there because Chris (Benoit) is talked about so much in the book in a favorable way. I had to put a little something in. This wasn’t a major thing to hold the book back. When book one did well, we got the offer from them to do book two and when book two did well then we got an offer for book three. There is no way I can begin the process for another two years for a fourth book. When I wrote the “Best in the World” I could tell you that I just didn’t have enough stories to write within the year time frame. Then I realized I have too many stories and I have to put some aside for a fourth book. That’s why I am so proud of book three because it happened in the shortest of time. It’s the most suffice and story wise the strongest because of things that happened in that time frame.
Q) In the book you had a chapter entitled the Joker. You talked about getting lost in your character and your experiences with Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio and how dark you became. Can you go back and describe rehashing that time frame.
A) Yeah, people don’t understand we play characters on TV and it is acting. When you become very good at what we do, you become attached and into the character you play. I was such an evil role on TV and was doing it so well that I felt I was the best on the planet . I felt I was the best I the world at what I did and a lot of people agreed. Not all the time, but on certain nights and at certain times. Listen you do drop into a character and it is very dark and it’s the type of character that people attacked on the streets for real. People were literally attacking me on the street. People knew that wrestling is a show, but they pointed at me and said that guy was real. When you look at how Heath Ledger passed away with the pills and he couldn’t get out of the darkness of the Joker character. If you are not an actor or performer you might think that it’s a little crazy, but as a performer you drop down so far it’s like inception and you are not really sure how to get back to the real person. It was a really a dark time for me on screen and off as I really started acting like this person. Not completely but elements of that character remained in me at all times.
Q) I don’t know if you realized that you worked with Austin, Hogan, Rock, Angle, Edge, Cena, Triple H, HBK, and Goldberg. How does it feel knowing that the company has that much trust in you and you were able to produce stellar matches with different styles?
A) That has a lot to do with longevity. When Vince bought me in 1999, I was even as close as good as I would have been. That didn’t happen until 2008 when I became that Jericho with the suit and tie character. There has been diversity and versatility because I came to the business unlike anybody else that exists now. I started in Canada training in a very difficult manor and then going through different small time promotions like Mexico, Germany, Japan, Smokey Mountain, ECW, and WCW. You talk about the different guys I have wrestled, name a guy who has wrestled in all of places that I have in this day in age. That is why I enjoy coming back and that is why I feel I am a valuable asset to the company. I still wrestle at the peak of my ability. I can wrestle with anybody and I have wrestled with everybody. Name somebody from 1999 to now and I have worked with them… Everybody. I have had good matches with them too because of my training and background. I really didn’t realize that until you pointed it out but I have been in the ring with them
Q) If you use that on Raw do I Get credit for that?
A) That will only work if I am a heel I can’t do that if I am a baby face. There are a lot of rules if you’re a good guy.
Q) How involved are you with your creative and the material you are involved with on TV?
A) You could read about that in “Best in the world”. When you read it you could see how much involvement and input I had with my programs with Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio and CM Punk. I was involved with the creative aspect as they used my ideas, not all of them but I was very involved with them. When I came in to the WWE in 1999 I helped write my own stuff, but over time we bought in more writers. I work with the writers in collaboration. Nobody ever gives me a piece of paper and tell me to say things on the air. For other guys they do that and it works for them. They have to gain a trust on what they do between them and the company. You are able to work out and gain the experience to know what you are doing and know who you are. It takes experience on what you can get across as a performer in your promo and the storyline . Sometimes the boss will go with your suggestions and sometimes he won’t and if he doesn’t want to do it then there is not thing you could do. The more I could interject more of my ideas into my character and add my own personality into my storyline and in my promo the better it’s gonna be. Everybody is in their own case by case basis but in my case everything is in collaboration and it has to be. I cannot do any other way.
Q) Do guys have the option to be hands on and have input?
A) Some guys don’t have that option because they don’t have the experience. You pretty much have to do what they are told. I am not doing it because I am such a visionary, I do it because I have the experience and the trust and it takes a while to earn that and get that. When you do get the trust then you can branch out on your own. Until you do get that then you have to do what you are too told do like you would at any job. Certain guys will break free and figure it out and become bigger characters and the own that become Hall of Famers.
Q) What is the difference between the WWE and WCW ring style?
A) Once again there is a certain WWE style which is taking your time and learning what you’re doing, it takes some time to figure it out when you worked in some other organizations a little bit of time to figure it out for yourself. I figured it out in 2008 with the suit and tie Jericho. I know people think there is a mythical WWE style but it is a real thing. It’s not one of those things that hold you down, or chains you down. It teaches you how to work properly, and how to have the best match you could possibly have and I didn’t learn that until I got to the WWE because I was never taught that way.
Q) Was it a tough adjustment for you?
A) I think it was for me, I know it was for Chris, for Eddie, also Sean Waltman went through it. I think it is the learning part of the business. Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins went through it when they came into the WWE from other places. There is a certain way to do things in the WWE. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. You have to adjust and fall in line and figure it out. As long as you do, you will become a better worker and a brighter star in this business.
Q) What about some of your favorite matches. Any stick out?
A) I really liked the ladder match with Shawn Michaels back at No Mercy 2008 for the world title. I felt like that was one of the best matches ever due to the circumstances that lead up to it. The fact that we were supposed to do have a one time match. Eight months later, we working for the world title in the main event of a pay per view and that is a testament to how good that storyline was. I love the cage match I had with Bray a few months back. I think it’s a testament after being in the business for 24 years that I could still go out and have great match like that it. I feel better than I have and still feel I could accomplish these types of matches. I also loved my matches with Rey Mystero that we had in 2009. If you watch any of those matches you could see we had amazing chemistry together. There are so many of them but those are some of the recent ones.
Q) I had the Memory of one great match between X-Pac Vs Eddie Vs Benoit and yourself. Any memories of that match from 2001?
A) I do remember that match. I do not think that I have ever watched it. I just remember it was really good. I also remember we were on second on that show, but someone showed up late or something got changed so we ended up putting the match together on the fly. Putting a match together on the fly is easier when it’s just two people.. When its four people it is pretty much walking a tight rope of trust. I remember really enjoying it, but how could it not be a great match when you have the caliber of the four guys in the match? It was a really cool moment but something that made it even more special was that we didn’t have the time to plan it. Sometimes when you have four good workers and put them all together it has no choice but to be a really good match.
Q) How has the business changed and how do you stay motivated?
A) Back during that time period we took the attitude of you work with who you work with and you do your best to make it good. I had nine years experience before I came to the WWE and that’s something a lot of people seem to forget about. No matter what obstacles are thrown at me, I have been through it before so I know how to make it good. So even though it took a while in my mind I had nowhere to go but up. Things were going to be good because that was the way I was trained. I was never given anything in the wrestling business from the day I started. When you don’t have things handed to you, you have to work harder to get the spot. I just did my thing and sometimes it went my way and sometimes it didn’t but I knew in the long run it was going to be good because that is how I was trained.
Q) Do you feel that there is not enough experience now in the WWE locker? You have guys that are in and out. Is it difficult to build new talent?
A) There is a bunch of young guys now. You can’t just bring in guys who have experience anymore. It’s not the way it used to be. They have guys training these kids from the inside but things have changed. It’s not their fault it’s the way it is. It was a very magical time in the early 2000’s because you had guys who had ten to twenty years experience in this industry all together in the same place. That made it so magical because of guys who had been through trenches already. Sadly you are not going to have that anymore so you have guys learning as they go. They have to create new guys, new stories, new situations but it will take time. The company is in the right direction and in good shape as new talent is currently being developed.
Q) Can you discuss the legendary tag match from Raw in 2001, Triple H and Steve Austin vs. You and Chris Benoit? Did you guys want to show you can hang with those guys at the time?
A) It wasn’t showing that we could hang at that point. People knew we could hang. Around that time it was you had two very over heels and two young baby faces. You look at the crowd that night, it was just amazing how they were reacting and things were different then. They hadn’t seen anyone hand Triple H and Steve Austin there asses like we did that night. That was a special match that night and with Hunter getting hurt that night it made it more of a legendary match. The fans were amazing which created an awesome atmosphere. It was a shame we couldn’t go in the back and toast each other afterwords because Hunter got hurt. It sucks even more now that match gets buried because of Benoit’s involvement but at the time and still is one of the greatest matches in Raw history.
Q) Final Question: With your busy schedule do you find it difficult to spend time with your family?
A) No, because you have to make time for it. It might seem like I have a lot going on and I do. There is time where all I do and want to do is spend time with my family. I make sure I drop the kids off and pick them up from school. Unfortunately because of my job and what I do I travel a lot and it’s what I do but when I am home. I always know family is the number one priority.
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