First, Chris Jericho wanted to “save us,” and then his mantra became “save me.” Now, he is playing a role in helping 11 female singers who are seeking redemption.
Jericho is the host of Fuse TV’s Redemption Song, a reality competition show in which down-on-their-luck singers with troubled pasts vie for their last chance at musical stardom. The show debuts tonight at 11.
I spoke with Jericho on the phone today about the show and, of course, his wrestling career.
What was it about Redemption Song that made you want to get involved with it?
I like the fact that it has a heart behind it. There are so many rowdy shows, and what makes one different than the next? So many of them are sensationalistic, and there are a lot of girls making out with girls, and people going crazy and bad girls. The thing about this show is, there is that element of it, but the fact is that there is a really big prize at stake. The winner gets a contract with Geffen Records, and all these girls can really sing, so it’s not just a train wreck of a bunch of chicks who just want to get on TV. It’s not Jericho of Love where the prize is a date with me.
The prize is actually to become a star in the music industry, and these girls have the chops to do that. But they just have these checkered pasts, these troubled lives that they’ve led – not really getting a lot of breaks, making bad decisions, making choices that they shouldn’t have. And now this gives them a shot at redemption. So it is very sensationalistic … but it gives them a chance to change their lives around and make something out of themselves before they just end up going down the wrong road completely. I thought it was such an interesting twist from what we usually see on a lot of these shows.
The press release about the show says the contestants have “troubled pasts filled with bad attitudes, emotional ups and downs and hard-partying.” Sounds a lot like the WCW locker room from the late 1990s.
(Laughs). Exactly. I could have been involved in Redemption Song had it been 10 years ago.
What is your role on the show? I know that you are the host, but are you kind of stirring the pot, as well?
I was a jack of all trades. I was the host of the show, so I piece everything together; I do all the inserts and let them know what’s going on and what they have to do. On each show there is a challenge, something they have to accomplish, whether it’s something vocally or with their image or with physical fitness – everything that goes into making it in the music industry and show business. So sometimes I was a drill sergeant if need be, kind of very stern and strict. Other times I’d be kind of a mentor giving out advice. Other times I’d be more of a shoulder to cry on if they needed that. But it got to the point where they got really scared of me. I was like the Angel of Death whenever they saw me because they knew something was going to go down.
I remember one time in particular, they were all loaded and they were fighting and throwing food at each other. There was a big argument going on and they sent me in the kitchen where they were, and as soon as I got there, there was an audible like, “Oh, no, Chris is here.” It was kind of like the principal walked in the room. So it was interesting to have that role. Seeing the show now that it’s been all cut and edited, there’s so much stuff that I never saw, that I wasn’t privy to, because I was just there when something needed to be done or someone was being eliminated. I never saw what these girls were really, really like. I saw the front that they gave me and had suspicions of what they might be like, but now actually seeing all the behind the scenes stuff is very interesting for me as well, because I became the authority figure in the house, which was kind of fun.
So you had to cut promos on them?
Oh, yeah, a couple times, especially near the beginning when the girls had a lot of attitude. I had to let them know very specifically at the beginning that this is my show and you will do what I tell you, and they figured that out pretty quickly.
How were the girls eliminated? Was it by judges?
Yeah, but not like a panel of judges. It wasn’t like an American Idol-type thing. It was different judges, different Geffen executives, different video producers, different heads of the company. There was a vocal coach, someone who had worked with them from the start, who had a lot of input on the judging, as well. There was not really any kind of a cliched nice Paul Abdul, middle-of-the-road Randy and a mean Simon. And I wasn’t one of the judges. I was just the mouthpiece and the host that connected everything together.
With reality shows, a lot of the conflict comes across to me as contrived. Was that the case at all with this show?
No, this was real. This was something where you didn’t have to contrive anything, because these girls were all a little bit crazy. They all had a lot of attitude and a chip on their shoulders. Some of them had chances in the past to make it and failed. Others had no idea how they could make it; they just knew they had talent, but they made bad decisions. You had all different types of chicks – strippers and madams, piercings and tattoos, and fighting and throwing other chicks through windows. All this type of crazy stuff that they stay away from on your typical Idol-type thing. And like I said, there wasn’t just a date at stake – “if you win you get to go out with Bret Michaels for two weeks before he dumps you.”
This was much bigger than that. The fact that you’re dealing with the biggest record company on the planet, and this is what’s at stake – you could be signed to Geffen. You know, I would enter this contest for a chance to get signed at Geffen. This is a real dogfight, and you can see that throughout the course of the show. So you didn’t have to contrive anything, because you stick all these girls in a house together, add some alcohol and some bad attitudes and you see what’s going to happen.
Switching gears a bit, are you working on another book?
Yeah, I am working on it, but not as much as I’d like to be. All the stuff has been committed to paper, so to speak, and I have it all organized. I just have to actually write the thing. It’s a big project to write a book, and I’m really busy right now, so it’s hard to get into that mind-set. But there will be another one.
I can’t let you go without asking a few wrestling questions.
Like a lot of people, I was a big fan of your program with Shawn Michaels. How much creative freedom did the two of you have?
Most of the best programs and story lines have a lot of input from the principal characters, and I’ve never been the type of guy to just have somebody write something for me. Obviously, behind the scenes, some of the things that you do from Monday to Monday I have no control over, but I do a lot of writing for all the promos, and Shawn and I did a lot of writing together for some of the things that we did.
The story line was supposed to be a month-long thing, and then it ended up blossoming into me winning the world title as a result of it going seven months. So it really did get bigger than it was ever supposed to, and we took a lot of pride in that because we worked long and hard on it. I think for both of us it was one of the best angles that we’ve ever been involved in. To me, it was definitely the most intricate, and it was fun because people didn’t know for sure if it was real or not. There was so much stuff that happened that was so outside of the box of what you usually see on our shows, and people really took notice of that.
Speaking of real, I’m guessing the punch to Rebecca Michaels’ face wasn’t supposed to be as real as it was. What was Shawn’s reaction once you both got through the curtain, and what did you say to him and Rebecca?
I mean, what could you say? It was one of those things where there’s always the X factor that something could happen like that, and we all knew what the danger of it was. Obviously, Shawn and I felt terrible. Rebecca did not. She loved it. She thought it was awesome. And the fact that she didn’t end up with any permanent damage – no broken teeth, a fat lip for a couple weeks – it’s probably the best thing that could have happened. That really kick-started the angle and took it to a different place. Obviously, I felt so bad about it, but when all was said and done, it actually worked out for the best.
On the flip slide of the last question, what did your wife say when you came home with a broken tooth?
She wasn’t happy about it, but it was more that she was sad that I got hurt. My son wasn’t happy about it either, but that’s the business. I’m a warrior and sometimes things like that happen. I’ve never lost a tooth before; I hope I don’t ever lose one again. You live with it. You look like Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber until you get to the dentist. And then the next thing you know, you get the crown on there and you never notice anything different.
It’s a war wound and that’s the way I treat it. I think it made that match even more dramatic. I think a lot of people said that was the best ladder match they had ever seen, and that’s probably one of the reasons for it, because they knew it was real. Once again, something happened that was outside the box of what a “normal” wrestling match is. I’m actually lucky that I didn’t lose more teeth. The dentist told me that I should have lost all four of the teeth. So I’ll take the half-tooth and just consider myself lucky.
Would you say your work the past several months has been the best of your career?
Well, I don’t know if I’d be that specific with it, but I did say that I wouldn’t come back unless I was ready to be better than ever. I had some ideas of things I wanted to do when I came back. I wanted to make a transformation of this character, and it took me three of four months to figure out a way to do that. But once it kind of locked it, it was very organic. To hear some people say that it’s the best work of my career, I appreciate that, because I think in a lot of ways it is. I think when I first came back a lot of people were like, “Oh, it’s Jericho doing the same old thing,” and that’s kind of the way I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to make a complete disconnect, but I knew there was a different direction that I wanted to go in, because I don’t want to be the same thing.
I’ve never been into nostalgia, doing the same thing over and over again. It’s got to be a constant evolution. I’ve said this for a long time, and it sounds kind of funny, but I consider myself to be like the Madonna of wrestling. She constantly reinvents herself, constantly reinvents her songs. She still has links to her past, but she has no interest in living there. That’s the same way that I’ve been. A lot of people are like, “We love Y2J. Why don’t you go back to this, grow your hair back?” It’s like, that was cool, that was me in the ’90s and early 2000s, but this is me now, and I think that what I’m doing is just as exciting if not more exciting than it’s ever been.
I thought your title reign ended prematurely. What are your thoughts?
Well, certain things happen at certain times, and there’s different reactions from Vince [McMahon]. And when he makes a decision, you have to go with it. But let me just say that it’s not completely the way that it seems right now – there’s going to be a lot more to it. Vince usually has a lot of different plans, and whether it’s the end of it for good or whether I win the title again, I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter to me. I think there’s a lot of over-analyzing of different things. To me, the most important thing was that I got it in the first place, which was never supposed to be the case.
I was very happy with the work I did while I had it on this run, and how long you keep a title has nothing to do with me. That’s up to the boss, and whatever he wants to do, I’ll be happy to do it. And I’ll get my chance again, and when I do, I’ll do exactly the same thing I did when I had it the last time, which is do the best work that I possibly can and make people hate me even more. Usually in Vince’s grand scheme of things, even though things sometimes don’t seem like they’re the right way to do things at the start, in the big picture they usually always are. And I’ve been around long enough to know that you have to trust the boss when he has a feeling, and that’s what I’m going to do.
In an interview I did with Rob Van Dam last January, he basically said that when he signed with WWE, you became insecure about losing your spot to him. What is your response?
I’ve never been insecure about anything with my spot. I tried to help Rob, because he was supposed to be a heel and he still was interested in being a babyface. Rob wants to be Rob. He doesn’t want to play along, because he’s RVD and he’s going to do what he wants to do. I’m about business. If I’m a heel, I want to be hated; if I’m a babyface, I want to be cheered. When he was a heel, he wanted to be cheered, so I tried to help him with that. He thought I was insecure about my spot, and I’m sorry that that’s the case. I’ve always been a fan of Rob’s even when most people in the office weren’t, and I always stood up for him. So, if he feels that way it’s too bad, because I was actually one of his biggest supporters.
Do you have any other projects that you want to talk about, or any final words about Redemption Song?
I’m really excited about the show, and I know Fuse is really excited about it. We’re getting great reviews for it, so I’m happy to be a part of it. Every project that I do I give a hundred percent, and I’m very careful with the projects that I pick. And the people who dig what I do usually dig everything that I do because of that. You always know you’re going to get the best quality when Jericho is involved, and this is another in a long line of those things.
And I’m just focusing on the WWE and working as hard as I can there. I’m trying to do this other book when I get a chance. I’ve done some more acting – I did a show for the Disney Channel called Aaron Stone that comes out in February and March. So there are a lot of projects in the works and it’s an exciting time for me. Like I said, it’s cool to know that whenever I do something, that people usually follow me to check it out. I’m very fortunate.
To watch a trailer for Redemption Song, click here.
To watch Redemption Song online, click here.
Photo credit: Carin Baer/Fuse 2008