Last week, while in Austin for this year’s Fantastic Fest, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with wrestling legend Chris Jericho, who was in attendance to celebrate the US premiere of Terrifier 2 (we’ll also have an interview with Damien Leone, David Howard Thornton, and Jericho in early October for you to enjoy, too). For this writer, who has been a wrestling fan for nearly four decades now, it was a real pleasure to speak with Jericho, especially on the heels of his historic win over Claudio Castagnoli for the Ring of Honor World Title, as we talked about what fans can expect from “The Wizard” taking the top spot in ROH. Jericho also discussed the risks and rewards of joining AEW at this point in his career, his approach to elevating younger AEW talent, what challenges Jericho after all these years and more.
Look for more on Terrifier 2 in advance of its release on Thursday, October 6th.
Really appreciate you taking the time for this chat, Chris. I just gotta ask—how on earth do you manage everything? Because you're doing AEW, you're doing Fozzy, you're doing movies, the podcast, and everything else. Is there ever just a day where you wake up and you're like, “Oh wow, I could use a break?”
Chris Jericho: Well, it's one of those things where I work a lot, but I'm also home quite a bit and people don't realize that. AEW is great because we only work once a week. So, usually I'll leave on a Tuesday and I'm back home on a Thursday morning. Podcasts, you do them during the day. Fozzy tours, but that's maybe two or three months out of the year. So when you love what you do, there's always a way to make it work and balance it properly. So I don't take on projects that I'm not interested in. I have to really invest and really want to do it because time is very valuable for me. But I like to spend it wisely.
Just thinking of all the things that you've been able to achieve in the ring, outside of the ring, on TV, in movies, and music—what challenges you these days?
Chris Jericho: Everything. Because you want to make it great, not just good, great. Especially if my name's attached to it. So if you're thinking about wrestling, like I'm 51 now, so I'm under the microscope. I'm having a career year, but there are still a lot of haters that just want me to ball up and die—you go away. So everything I do has to be great because if it's not, it's like, “Ah see, he's 51.” Same with Fozzy. We had so much flack in the early years because I was in the band. How can a wrestler be a singer? And we had to work twice as hard to get people's respect. But now we have five consecutive top ten hits and a gold record. But still, everything has to be great because now there are still people who are going to be annoyed or offended that I'm in the band. But now we're also playing in the big leagues. So you're up there with every big band, you have to be great. So on and so on.
Even being here and being in Terrifier 2. It has to be great because if it's not, I might not get another chance. So that's the challenge. Yes, I could lean back on Chris Jericho. Because I am Chris Jericho is why I have a certain level of consistency and quality that I have to have for every single project that I'm involved in.
It feels like your own sense of fandom drives you in a lot of ways. Do you feel like that's a crucial element, where you really have to be invested outside of the business side of it for it to really mean something?
Chris Jericho: I think so. Because like I said, for me, I don't do anything that I don't want to do. And so that means I have to be a fan of it. I'm a huge fan of rock and roll, so I have a rock and roll band. I am a huge fan of wrestling, so I became a wrestler. I love horror movies, so I'm in movies. I love longterm conversations, so I have a podcast. I remember it was a long time ago now when they had the Celebrity Apprentice. I got asked to do that show three times. I didn't feel the need, I didn't need to be on TV, and I didn't need the hundred grand or whatever it was, I just didn't feel it. But then they asked me to do Name That Tune because that's starting up again. I'm like, “Fuck I'd love to do that.” So that's the difference. I'll tell you right away, if it feels right, even if it's completely unorthodox, let's do it. If it feels like it's something that you're doing just for the wrong reasons, I'll never do that. So that makes a difference.
So here you are, now the ROH champion. I think what's really exciting for me as a fan is, I've been following ROH for a long time and I knew they were going through a rough phase, but it feels like we're building towards some course correction and getting to see the brand on track a little bit. How do you see your role in that? Because from reports and things like that, you've been very instrumental behind the scenes at AEW since you came in and have been this foundational person.
Chris Jericho: Well, it's funny what you see. I always say every time I lose a match, it's great. Every time I win a match it's like, “Oh, Jericho's just putting himself over the young boys.” And I'm not in charge of who wins or loses. That's Tony Khan and he had the idea of having me win the ROH World Title. I think to put some prestige on it, but also too, I'm going to give that title a reason to be. Now it's just kind of on the show along with a lot of other belts. Now, let me do something with this. If you believe in Ring of Honor, then make it special. And that's what I can do. And we have a whole story. It's not just Jericho beats Claudio and puts himself over. There's always a storyline to everything that they make. And I think that's the reason. We can put some prestige on this title. It automatically takes it to the next level, having it on Jericho.
So, the goal is there are a couple of people that we're going to build as a result of this and a prop, which is the Ring of Honor World Title, will build that up. So, it means a lot more and has a reason to be on Dynamite every week rather than just here's the champion random matches. There's a whole thing that we have planned for the next couple of months based around that.
I was going to ask you, too, also being the first AEW Champion, was that really an exciting time for you in your career in terms of being able to be the inaugural champion, and really turn it into something at the start? I think you gave a lot of fans a reason to believe in the title, if that makes sense.
Chris Jericho: Well, just coming to AEW was huge because it was a challenge. Nothing was guaranteed. We didn't know what to expect. But I was at the point in my career where I wanted to take a chance. If it works, it's another feather in my legendary cap. If it doesn't, well, then we'll deal with it when that happens. It did work and it worked very quickly. So now to be one of the figureheads of AEW and to see the company continue to grow and know that we've made it safe for Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole and Saraya last night, now we have made it safe for people to come here. It wasn't the case before. We started and a lot of people didn't want to come because they thought that it would probably just be a flash in the pan. I knew that wasn't going to happen. But now we have legitimate proof.
So, I think it's exciting to be involved and able to see it grow. I think I was the right man to be the first champion because I was the one guy that everybody knew. They didn't know Kenny Omega or the Young Bucks or Adam Page or Cody Rhodes. The last time they saw him, he was Stardust. So I think I was the right guy to really take the company on my shoulders for the first three months and to make as many stars as I could in a short period of time. And we did. We brought Moxley right away, too. That was huge. So we really had a cool core talent base out of the gate and focused on making them stars and building up the young guys. And that's what we still do. Yes, I've been in the business for 32 years. Yes, sometimes I win. It's just the way it goes. But everything that I do is orchestrated and constructed to build anybody else that I'm in the room with. That's the number-one goal for me in the AEW at this point. And it always was.
We went through the whole thing with the Pinnacle and Inner Circle. That was to build Sammy and Max. And then look at the Jericho Appreciation Society. Fucking Danny Garcia. Daddy Magic's become a thing. You pick guys you think have something and then you build upon it. And that's kind of my job. So if you're in the Jericho Appreciation Society, it's not like you're under the evil thumb of Jericho. You get a lot of TV time and get a chance to find what your character is and get that over with the audience.