Six-time world champion Chris Jericho holds a unique position as a star attraction for both WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
At 47-years-old, the Canadian is in demand more than ever before in his career, gracing the ring for the world’s two biggest wrestling companies.
In just one week he went from WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia to surprising fans at NJPW’s Wrestling Dontaku in Japan.
Y2J ambushed IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito at the show in Fukuoka, setting up a title match at Dominion in Osaka on June 9.
Jericho will then embark on a major tour with his metal band Fozzy, appearing at festivals across North America and Europe this summer.
But first The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla is set for Words of Jericho events in Glasgow, Manchester and London with Scotland’s Inside The Ropes.
The future Hall of Famer will meet fans and tell stories about his amazing journey from Mexico and Japan to WCW and WWE in the U.S.
He spoke to Mirror Sport about juggling WWE and NJPW commitments, the Greatest Royal Rumble, Tetsuya Naito and future feuds.
You’re doing a spoken word tour with Inside the Ropes, coming to Glasgow May 21, Manchester May 22 and London May 23. You previously worked with them last summer – clearly you had a good time and wanted to come back for more!
Yeah I’ve done these on and off sporadically overs the years, always internationally – Australia, Ireland and the UK, Canada… and it’s a lot of fun man. It’s a chance for me to go and tell some stories, that a lot of people know but maybe they don’t know the detail of, or have never heard before, based around wrestling and music and life in general. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve had a couple of stand-up comedians come up and say ‘this is funnier than a stand-up comedian show’. That’s kind of the idea, after all these years talking in front of a crowd, all that sort of thing, I kind of know how to time things and deliver things, so I always make sure people have a great time when they come to a Words of Jericho show. There are stories that I have that are kind of like greatest hits and there’s others that I have that just kind of come up when you’re doing it. But they’re always cool, they are always jam-packed and always fun and that’s what you want.
Do you field questions from the audience?
I don’t – I did for a while but I realised that any questions that the audience has, usually aren’t better than the stories I’m telling myself. I usually structure a 90-minute show just based on the tales that I want to tell. It’s not so much a question and answer, informational thing, it’s more of a fun, stand-up type of a show, with me explaining all the ridiculous things I’ve done over the years! I’ve done enough of these to have a proper structure. Q&As, sometimes they’re fun, sometimes they’re not, so just sit back, let me take charge of the show, let me put together the show. I know how to do this show!
As someone observing your career from afar, it seems like such a unique time for you as a performer – juggling your music with appearing for the world’s two biggest wrestling companies.
Yeah I’ve got to the position where basically I can call my own shots at this point, which is a pretty enviable thing. Not a lot of people can do that. I’d say I’ve earned it but a lot of it too is not caring – when you have a certain value and have a certain mindset – you know you can go and make your own decisions and call your own shots. That was something that I did specifically years ago, because I didn’t want to be Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, hanging on past his prime, working whatever high school I can get a gig at. If you do that, there’s nothing wrong with it, but for me, I wanted to do different things and I wanted to do more.
So by spreading myself around and being diverse with my career choices, I think it’s paid off quite well, that I can basically do what I want to do, come and go when I want to, and I almost feel like it’s my duty to keep people on the edge of their seat with ‘what is Jericho going to do next?’ and what cool kind of thing am I going to do that people can enjoy and get a buzz going. If you’re talking about the New Japan thing for example, or the Fozzy tours or new Fozzy records, it’s always different, you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s always 100% Jericho. I take great pride in all the things I do. I think it’s a good position to be in, it’s one that I’ve earned and I enjoy.
Making sporadic appearances and people not knowing when you may turn up or what shows you might be on, gives you a ‘marquee attraction’ feel as a performer, similar to what Brock Lesnar has in WWE. It keeps an appearance by you a special event, in of itself.
Well, Brock Lesnar has what Chris Jericho has in WWE, you know what I mean? I come and go when I feel it’s right. I’m there more than Brock is when I’m there, but as far as being there/not being there, I’m not under contract to WWE. Everyone always thinks that, they’re always like ‘oh is WWE cool with you working in New Japan?’ It doesn’t matter if they’re cool or not because I’m not under contract. My contract with them ended in May of last year. So I have the right to do whatever I want to do, I don’t have to ask permission from anybody. I tell them what I’m doing out of courtesy because I respect the company and respect Vince McMahon, but I don’t have a contract with anybody, other than the match I have with Tetsuya Naito coming up.
How proud were you to return to NJPW at this stage in your career and work such an acclaimed match with Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12?
I never really kind of think of stuff like that. When people were going ‘oh my gosh this is the match of the year’, ‘this is Jericho’s best match’ and ‘at 47-years-old he put on the performance of a lifetime’… if people think that, that’s awesome man. What a cool position for me to be in, for people to say I had my best match ever at 47-years-old. I’ll take it man, I think that’s great. I thought the match was good, there were a couple of things in it that drove me nuts, a couple of things in it that I will never tell anybody, that it’s hard for me to even watch it, because there’s something in it that I think is so bad. But if people say it’s the best Jericho match ever, that’s cool man, that’s your opinion and I’m glad that people felt that way.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) May 5, 2018
I was just glad it made a difference business-wise, it was exactly what I thought it was going to be, which was kind of a Conor McGregor versus Floyd Mayweather, one-on-one fight that no-one thought they would ever see, because it’s two guys from two separate worlds, and that’s what made it really cool for me to get to that position, that’s why I wanted it to happen in the first place, because I knew it would be something no one ever thought they would see. And the window of opportunity was there. It might not have happened next year and it wouldn’t have happened last year. It was just the right time, at the right place, with the right guy and it made a lot of money for everybody. That was an exciting show and an exciting time, which is why I wanted to do more with New Japan. It took a while for us to get it worked out and organised, but once we did, here we are.
You made a dramatic return to NJPW on May 4, ambushing NJPW icon Tetsuya Naito. The seeds had been sown for that back in January, when you first attacked him the day after Wrestle Kingdom. You have long been the master of keeping people guessing, spreading misinformation, and down the years you have kept a lot of big surprises secret, such as your appearance at the Royal Rumble in 2013. This time there were a few rumours and the cat got out the bag – why do you think that was?
I don’t know man. It’s one of those things, the cat got out of the bag, but everyone was convinced I was going to be in Long Beach too [NJPW held a show titled Strong Style Evolved in California on March 25]. You can’t tell me that you really knew for sure because no one knew for sure. I have found out that fans have a way to track your flight patterns now… which really makes me feel safe. Maybe that’s how, they found out that Chris Jericho was flying into Tokyo or whatever it was, but once again, I don’t feel bad because we were very specific, very secret about it. I flew into Haneda Airport, stayed a night there, then secretly flew into Fukuoka and stayed at a different hotel, so if people say they knew I was there that’s wrong, because there might have been some rumours, but it’s not like I was busted or caught red-handed or anything along those lines. If I hadn’t have been there, people would have just said ‘oh that’s Jericho, we thought he was going to be at Long Beach too’.
It was still a shock and a cool moment when you did attack – jumping out of the crowd with a mask on.
Well yeah exactly and that’s the thing, even if people knew I was there, nobody knew what I was going to do. Nobody knew I was going to be dressed as a Los Ingobernables de Japon fan with a Bushi mask on and anybody says they knew Jericho was going to be there – okay fine, you got me – but they had no idea whatsoever how I would do it, so that’s cool.
— WWE (@WWE) April 27, 2018
It came hot on the heels of you being part of WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble Show in Saudi Arabia on April 27. What were your thoughts on that event?
It was cool man. It was a long trip for a short period of time – I think I was in the rumble match for four minutes or something like that. I know they must have been paid a whole lot of money, just by proxy of what I was paid ha ha. I was like ‘oh my gosh, really, you’re going to pay me that to do this? How much are you guys making?’ I always say I don’t do things for money but once in a while opportunities come up where you’re crazy if you don’t do it. It was a quick trip, I don’t remember much about it, because we arrived there, three in the afternoon one day and the next day we’re at the stadium at nine in the morning and we get back to the hotel at one in the morning and we’re gone at 5am. So you’re really quickly in and out. Did I get a chance to do much other than sit in my room and try and get as much sleep as I could and sit in the backstage of a dusty old stadium? No I didn’t. Ha ha. That’s about all I saw.
It was great to see you have that interaction again with Kevin Owens, especially the look on his face when you came out at number 50.
Yeah, quite frankly I didn’t know where I was going to be on the card, or what I was going to be doing, but to me, the real reason I wanted to do it, besides financially because as I said it was too good to be true, also on top of that, I enjoyed the concept of being at a huge WWE show one week and then seven days later make this surprise appearance in Japan. I thought that was a cool statement – it was something not a lot of other people could do, if anybody.
You targeted Owens in the Walls of Jericho and eliminated Shelton Benjamin, before being eliminated by Braun Strowman. Fans were hoping to see you perhaps lock horns with Daniel Bryan. Are there opponents still in WWE that you would love to work, a long programme with Bryan for example?
It’s all about the story. If it’s a good story I will work with anybody. I enjoy wrestling still but I enjoy the storyline behind it. I liked the idea of a surprise attack on Naito, I like all these type of things that you don’t really expect to see. That’s why I still enjoy wrestling. Yeah sure, working with Strowman would be great, working with Daniel Bryan would be great, working with any of those guys would be great, I love Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins and all of those dudes. But what’s the story behind it? If we can come up with a good story, then I’m all in. If not, then I will just continue doing what I’m doing right now and having a lot of fun doing it.
Limited general admission tickets are on sale for the Word of Jericho shows at the O2 ABC Glasgow on May 21 and The Clapham Grand London on May 23.
You can find out more and purchase tickets at http://www.insidetheropes.co.uk/chrisjericho