Jericho Talks About His WWE Hiatus, Youth Movement, TNA & More

Pro Wrestling Illustrated interview excerpts with Chris Jericho
Interview conducted by Al Castle in December
Full interview available Prowrestlingillustrated.blogspot.com.

On whether he’ll return to WWE: “As of right now I don’t see myself returning to WWE any time soon. That’s not to say that I’ll never return, but I have no plans, no schedule, no time line for it. Every fan that I see is like, ‘Hey when are you coming back? What’s going? What are you doing?’ And I’ve never really thought that far ahead. As far as I know right now, I don’t have any plans to come back any time in the near future. Sorry if that disappoints anybody!”

On his departure coming at a time when WWE’s roster was already thin: “That’s their responsibility. That’s their issue. And I think it’s better for them if they lose a lot of top guys, because then they don’t rely on the same thing over and over again. They’re forced to make changes. They’re forced to use new guys. They’re forced to move forward, which is something they could have done a couple years ago, but they really didn’t. So now they have no choice….

“It forces them to take a chance with some guys. You know, that’s the bad thing about the business nowadays. Before there were always lots of guys in other countries, and guys climbing up the ranks, and guys that had experience who weren’t with WWE. Now the way that it works is that all your guys are in WWE, and that’s it. And a lot of those guys don’t have a lot of experience, but that’s just the way the business has moved nowadays. So they’re forced to take a chance on guys who they might not have taken a chance on before… So good for them.”

On the changing landscape in wrestling: “Now you guys who have five, six, seven, eight years experience working at the top of the top, whereas before you had guys who 15 years experience or 20 years experience. You just might never have that anymore. It’s one of those things where the whole game has changed now the curve will now maybe drop. And what used to be a three star match five years ago, just may end up being the five star match of the future, because you just might not be able to replace that ever. You just don’t have guys like with that experience and it’s not built that way anymore. It’s kind of sad in a lot of ways.”

On Kevin Nash’s criticism of WWE’s youth movement: “There’s still a place for guys who are older and it’s not necessary to just take care of the young guys. You are who you are. There are guys who are better in their 40s than in their 30s. There are guys who are done by the time they’re 25, 26, 27 years old. So you can’t really say, ‘Well this guy can work until he’s 45, and this guy can work until he’s 50.’ Everybody’s got a certain shelf life.

“Some guy’s shelf life is longer than others. That’s why you always have to have young guys come in. You always have to have big drafts come in. And you can’t keep guys on top just because they have name value. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. You have to be able to entertain and you have to be able to provide the certain quality of work that they’re you’re always used to. Just because a certain somebody had name value in 1999 when wrestling was quote-unquote hot, doesn’t mean they necessarily should be on top in 2010.”

On TNA’s struggles to grow its audience: “I just think a company with that much talent should be doing better than they are. They’ve had the same ratings for the last three years. It’s just unacceptable with the amount of talent they have there, just as a business. I run my own business as well. I run the business of ‘Fozzy.’ And if somebody’s not performing and we’re not getting bigger, than something has to change.

“So I just wish they would look at it that way, instead of relying on the same old things and the same old people. They’ve been trying different things and something isn’t clicking. They’ve had the same million and a half viewers for the last three years. Just as an outsider looking in—as any business owner looking in—if you had the same return or the same results after three years, maybe you might want to try something different to make it grow.”

On working with Edge last year: “The Edge babyface character last year at WrestleMania was getting over. It took a while because Edge was such a hated heel. You can’t just turn into a rah-rah babyface in five or six months. It takes time for people to sort of trust you. And they were behind him, even to the point where we worked a couple of shows after that when he was already a heel, and by proxy became baby face because he was working with me.

“And people were into him as a babyface. It just took time. For whatever reason Vince got an itchy trigger finger and decided to switch him back heel. But it would have worked. Now people don’t know how to trust. They don’t know if they trust the good guy or the bad guy, the way they’ve changed him.”

On turning heel and abandoning Y2J: “For me, I was so over the whole Y2J thing. I just couldn’t even stand it. I just wanted to get completely different and change it completely. If you look back at that time, nobody was doing that. Nobody was coming out and being serious and not smiling. Nobody was wearing a suit. And that’s why I did it.

“And now every heel is coached to be that way. Be silent. Be straight. Because it worked. So now it’s the prerequisite for a WWE heel. But if you go back to 2007, nobody did that. And I have no problem saying that. I’m not saying I was the first guy to do it. But I’m saying I was the first guy to do it in that company and at that time. So if I was there now, I’d almost have to change it again, because everybody’s doing it now, you know what I mean?”

On his dedication to being hated by fans: “I took it to the next level. There were no catch phrases…There became some by proxy from the stuff that I said. But I never set out to make ‘I’m the best in the world at what I do’ or “shameless pandering” a catch phrase. I mean, who would ever think that “gelatinous parasite” would be a catch phrase?… I never wanted to have a catch phrase. I didn’t want merchandise. There’s no Chris Jericho merchandise. There’s no Chris Jericho T-shirt. All that stuff was because of me. They wanted to make a T-shirt, but I said, ‘Why? Why would I want someone wearing a T-shirt in the crowd that has my name on it? That’s one guy in the crowd that’s not going to boo me.’ It’s an art form to be a heel and to stay a heel. Because the best characters of all times are villains. Darth Vader. Terminator. Hannibal Lector. Freddy Kruger.

“And all those villains turned babyface because they were so entertaining. Each one of those guys I said in the second or third movie became a good guy. If Heath Ledger hadn’t passed away, he would have been a good guy in the next Batman movie, guaranteed, because he was too entertaining. So it’s easier to make people hate you than to make them love you. But it’s very, very difficult to make them stay hating you, and I was able to do that for two and a half years.”

On his losing streak near the end of his WWE run: “As far as losing, the only guys who were really stuck on the losing were guys who were reporting on it. Most of the losses were my idea. It’s not like there was anything going on behind the scenes. Once again, we’re at a time where you have a lot of young guys and you’ve got to build them up quickly, so you have them win. I could lose every night. I can lose to you. You think anybody’s going to care? Nobody… I was one of the few guys that could do that make that work. Once again, that was a challenge. Wins and losses mean nothing if you know how to do them properly.”

On not being overly critical of anyone in his new book: “I’m not going to go out of my way to verbally bash them. A book is not a place to settle a vendetta. That’s for sure. I tell the stories as I see fit. And when I was editing it, I did dial back some things, because you don’t want to be mean. Mean is mean. But I’m very honest about the things I went through. And in this book there’s a lot of that stuff. When I first got to WWE, it was a political quagmire. There was so much stuff that I faced that I never expect to face. Look back on my career. The first six months that I was there they basically didn’t do anything. I was just a guy. So I talk about all that stuff in the book, as I should. And I don’t pull any punches. But I don’t go out of my way to be mean or bitter or anything. I just tell the story as it is.”

On the WWE Hall of Fame, and those who think it’s a farce: “Anybody who says, ‘It’s all a work,’ is probably somebody who’s not in there, you know what I mean? To not be in the hall of fame, you think, ‘Oh, who cares?’ But I think anybody who is in the Hall of Fame probably thinks it’s pretty cool. For me, I think I’d be a little bit embarrassed that all of these people were there cheering for me for the work I did in the past.

“Like I said, I’ve never really thought of the past. I always think of the future. I think it would be an honor to be in the Hall of Fame, but I think I’d be very, very embarrassed to be up there talking about how great I am, or how great I’m perceived as being, or how great I am on that night. I think that’s one of the reasons I like writing books. I can tell the good things that I’ve done, and also really focus and call myself on the carpet for all the bad things I’ve done as well. So yeah, the Hall of Fame is a huge honor. I hope I’m in it someday. But I’d almost be scared to show up. I might not even go. (laughs)”

On WWE’s “50 Greatest Superstars” DVD and his #25 ranking: “I think it’s just a gimmick, promotional thing to sell DVDs. I think when you look at that list, it’s pretty crazy all the way through and there’s really no rhyme or reason to the way they’re ranked, with the exception of the first one (Shawn Michaels). Any list where Hogan is at number 20 or something like that, it’s making more of a political statement than anything. But I think if you take the top 25 guys of all time, maybe I could have done a little bit better. Top 20 maybe. But I definitely don’t see myself in the top 10 of all time. But any time you can be included in something like that—I’d rather be at number 25 than at number 51 and not make the cut.”

On dedicating himself to acting and music rather that wrestling: “I see myself doing a lot more of that in the future as well. I think at this stage in my career, it’s going to transition more to just being Fozzy and doing more of the hosting and acting thing. I think that’s another reason why the wrestling fans are mad at me, because they’re starting to realize that when I say I might not come back, they’re starting to see the result of that, and saying, ‘Well, jeez. He might actually be serious and not be pulling a typical wrestling thing where they keep coming back.’ And I’m not saying that’s not going to happen. But the way things are going right now, the road isn’t taking me down that path right now.”

On being an affable game show host on Downfall while also playing a heel in WWE: “I’m an actor, and I have to play the part of Chris Jericho in WWE. It’s like Anthony Hopkins doesn’t walk down the street eating people’s livers with a fine Chianti and a straight jacket. It’s a character he played in a movie and he’s more than capable of playing two or three different characters at the same time as they shoot two or three different movies.

“And I played the character of Chris Jericho in WWE and outside of WWE there is no character, unless I’m doing another movie. But, Downfall, that was myself. I was playing myself. I never ever, ever once went into the ring as they guy that’s talking to you right now. I became somebody else, because that’s what wrestling is—from day one for me. It’s not athletic. It’s not a sport. Not even close. You have to be an athlete, but there’s no scoring goals and all that sort of thing. It’s show business, man. One hundred percent.”

On not having a big send off at the end of his wrestling career: “I don’t ever want that big, overblown, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair goodbye. I don’t want it. Good for those guys that got it. I don’t want it. If I never wrestle another day, I wouldn’t feel bad about the fact that I never got my last applause and got to ride off into the sunset. I’m a bad guy. Bad guys are cowards. Bad guys die at the end of movies. And that’s it. You never see them again. That’s what I want to happen to me. I want to fall off the building like the dude in Die Hard and scream ‘Aaaah!’ all the way down. And it’s like, ‘That guy was a loser. I’m glad he’s dead.’ That’s what my mindset is. Although, I don’t want the ‘dead’ part to happen.”

There’s a lot more in the hour-plus long interview, including Jericho’s thoughts on WWE using NXT and Tough Enough to recruit new talent, Paul Heyman’s strong points as a booker, reflecting on his “vanity project” comment about Dixie Carter and TNA, his memorable feuds with Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio and Rick Steamboat, why Jerry Lawler wasn’t included in the WrestleMania 25 legends handicapped match, and who Vince McMahon originally wanted in that match instead of Steamboat.