We noted earlier how Chris Jericho has reportedly signed a three-year contract with All Elite Wrestling, telling Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that AEW gave him the best contract he’s ever signed in his pro wrestling career. Jericho appeared on Busted Open Radio earlier today and talked about always wanting to try something new & different, leading to him signing with the brand new promotion.
“I think when you’re talking about all the stuff that has happened the past few years that led to me signing with AEW, it’s always that mindset in my head – I do not want to do the same thing that I’ve done before,” Jericho said. “That could go match style, look, hair style, or even company that I’m working for.”
WWE Hall of Famer Bully Ray, who is a co-host of the show, asked Jericho how big his involvement is for AEW. Jericho compared it to a much cooler version of WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan joining WCW in 1994, two years before Hogan would form the nWo.
“I think it was the piece of the puzzle that they definitely needed at this point in time,” Jericho said. “Because what I do for that company is the same thing I did for New Japan last year. I’m not going to say 100% that it’s my work that led to New Japan into the Garden [the upcoming ROH/NJPW Madison Square Garden show], but it’s a big reason because New Japan has become very hot over the last year with a lot of people that never watched it before, a lot of executives and fans that never watched it before, because they checked it out last year at the Tokyo Dome for Alpha vs. Omega, Jericho vs. Kenny [his match with Kenny Omega]. They might’ve heard of this New Japan, they might have even known some of the guys that were in it, but they weren’t really… and then when Chris Jericho shows up there, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, Chris Jericho’s there. Well, let me check this out.’ And then they watch the show and go, ‘Oh my gosh, well Jericho’s great but look at this Kenny, and they got Okada and Tanahashi, and The Young Bucks, and Cody’s there now, and Ibushi’s there, etc., etc., etc.'”
Jericho continued, “I think it’s the same with AEW and having a legit… you know, let’s be honest. I don’t know if you said it Dave, I didn’t, a legend. If it is a legend, the legendary guy, Chris Jericho’s there, that’s still super relevant, and people are saying is the hottest free agent in the business. I don’t think there’s anybody else that could’ve gone there that had that same kind of affect. If you brought a Hulk Hogan there, for example, then all this is just a re-tread. If you brought Goldberg there… it’s like, well OK we haven’t seen him in a while and it’s probably a money thing, but with Chris Jericho, everyone was waiting to see where he was going to go. And I think most people say, ‘Yeah, he’ll talk to other places but he’s probably going to end up in WWE.’ And when I didn’t, it really is a modern day version of Hulk Hogan in 1994, showing up in WCW, but it’s a much cooler, more contemporary version of that type of a name, because I’ve been doing nothing but rebuilding my brand and making people wonder what’s Chris Jericho doing to do in 2019. So, when I showed up at the press conference, now everybody knows, and I think people take AEW a whole lot more seriously than they did before I was involved.”
Jericho was asked what it felt like to be involved with the AEW rally in Jacksonville, knowing that WWE was nearby preparing for the SmackDown tapings for that night. Despite what other AEW officials have claimed, Jericho said it was not a coincidence that they held the rally in Jacksonville on the same day as WWE SmackDown. Jericho said this was not to start a war with WWE, but it was AEW sending a message to the biggest pro wrestling company in the world.
“I was laughing because that fireworks display at the end of it, it was at the top of the Jacksonville stadium, so it was like the end of a WrestleMania or a beginning of a WrestleMania,” Jericho said. “I had no idea it was going to be a huge pyro display that was going on for about two minutes. And I know, I just know that inside that Jacksonville arena, somewhere the old man was in there going, ‘Will you shut that pyro off! God damn it! I’m trying to do a meeting here, trying to run a show!’ it was very strange, obviously no coincidence it was done the same day SmackDown was in Jacksonville. But it’s one of those things, where if you’re going to send a message, and if you’re going to do things a certain way, do it the right way, and that was making a real statement. Not just to every other company, but to all the fans that are watching. And this is not to start a war, to go to war with WWE, but that doesn’t mean you can’t co-exist. If you’re in the jungle and there’s a wild lion, and a wild boar, and a rhino… you don’t have to be friends with each other but you can also all exist within the same jungle.”
Bully asked if Jericho has had any discussions with Vince McMahon about AEW, or where Jericho thinks Vince’s head is at. Bully said he doesn’t think Vince is happy that Jericho isn’t with WWE, and is with another pro wrestling company in the United States. Jericho said the AEW talks he had with WWE have been amicable. Jericho also revealed that Vince knew about his AEW signing before the rally. Jericho also said the Khan family is really serious about getting into the wrestling business, and they were adamant about having Jericho on the roster.
“A lot of that stuff is private but I did have a very amicable conversation with him and he knew it, he knew what I was doing,” Jericho said of Vince. “It was not a surprise. I didn’t just show up in Jacksonville and that was it. The bottom line is that the Khan family isn’t messing around. They want to make a go of this, and they have a lot of money, and they have a lot of capital, they have a lot of business acumen in sports and entertainment. Not sports entertainment, but the two separate entities. They own the Jacksonville Jaguars and they operate that organization. They own the Fulham football club in London in the Premier League. They know how to run that operation and they understand the pomp & circumstance of what happens when you have a big time sports entity. It’s not just a team, it’s all of the glitz & glamour surrounding it. They were very adamant that they wanted Chris Jericho on the roster.”
Jericho continued, “It took a while for me to really believe that, and believe that it could be something, but once again, over the past year I’ve done a lot of work with The Young Bucks and Cody Rhodes, with all those guys, both in New Japan and on my cruise, at All In, and you know, once again, no matter how big the offer was, there’s also got to be a little bit of belief deep down inside for me… and those guys are all there and motivated, and I love the fact that this day in age, that there are guys, and we’re seeing it more & more now, that can make a huge living outside of that system. I did enjoy working over the past year, outside of the WWE system because it’s Vince’s world and that’s great, when you work there you know it, it’s just the way it is and you don’t argue it, you don’t hassle it. But it was a lot of fun to kind of go back and… what do I think is best, and to kind of let the people in charge know that with my 29 years of experience, this is the right way to go. And not have to go through a producer, a cameraman, and a director, and this guy & that guy & this guy, then go sit outside of Vince’s office for an hour, waiting to talk to him, to convince them that this is the right way to go. And with all of the matches that I did this year, and there were 5 – 4 in New Japan and 1 on the cruise, were all great matches and they were different, and they all had very smart elements to them. All the build-ups for the matches, you know, that was all me, with some input from the other guys that I was working with, and not having to worry about the corporate side of it. So, I was looking forward to it and when the offer came down from the Khans, and WWE was very amicable in saying congratulations, and go kick ass. So, that’s basically what happened. Now once it happened, I don’t know what the reaction would be, but the last conversation I had was an amicable one, for sure.”
Jericho also talked about how AEW is building a strong backstage crew to make the company work, in addition to the talents being picked up. Everyone from booking agents to talent relations, show directors and camera men. Jericho also talked about TV deals being on the table, and said that was a big part of him signing.
“As far as TV goes, it’s one of those things,” Jericho said. “I would’ve have gone to All Elite if there wasn’t a strong TV deal on the table being worked on. There’s a couple that I know of, and both of them are like, ‘Wow!’ If it’s announced, if it’s one of those two, you’ll go, ‘Welp! That’s what you need.'”