Q&A with Chris Jericho
I conducted a phone interview Thursday with WWE star Chris Jericho, who discussed his aborted partnership with Edge and subsequent pairing with The Big Show, working with Rey Mysterio, the need for Raw to build new talent, his thoughts on Raw having guest hosts and more.
Jericho and Big Show will defend the WWE Unified tag team title against Cryme Tyme at the SummerSlam pay-per-view on Sunday.
Fans really seemed to be excited about you and Edge teaming together. How disappointing was it to have it end so abruptly because of Edge’s injury?
It was disappointing because I think we had a great story line in the works, with a lot of trips and traps that were going to lead to a certain place. But it was one of those things that the moment it happened you’re like, “Well, OK, what are we going to do now? Back to the drawing board.” You can’t do anything about it. It’s part of what we do. So it was very disappointing. And then as soon as I found out that they’re going to push The Big Show, I was intrigued about it. You have to turn a negative into a positive and I think we’ve done that. We’ve made the best of the situation while we wait for Edge to heal. Like I said, it would have been great, but everything happens for a reason. You have to drop it and go on. Big Show has been a great replacement. Everyone said it had to be Dolph Ziggler or The Miz. No, this is about two world champions at the top of their game who have a certain stature. Yeah, it would help them, but it wouldn’t help me. We’re trying to reinvigorate the tag titles and reinvigorate Big Show as well. The guy is a giant. He’s a commodity and people need to be reminded of that and we need to start promoting that.
Your program with Rey Mysterio was so good that I don’t think anyone was ready for it to end. What are your thoughts on working with him?
Well, I’ve worked with Rey for years, but we never had an official program. We worked once or twice in WCW but never worked in WWE. We had worked plenty of times in Japan when we were working for Tenryu. I just thought it would be a great program between the two of us. When they originally proposed it, it was supposed to be for the Backlash pay-per-view [in April], the one where I ended up wrestling [Ricky] Steamboat. I fought it and said we should take our time and build it. I’m very happy with that story line. Each match was better than the last. The finish with the 619 where I pulled the mask off is probably something that you’ll never see again. It was very memorable. As far as feuds go, it’s a close runner-up to Shawn Michaels.
When you were in WCW, it seemed as if the guys at the top were reluctant to work with and elevate guys who had potential such as yourself. Now that you are in the position of being a top guy, did what you experienced in WCW influence how you approach working with younger guys?
It wasn’t reluctance; it was just denial. They just wouldn’t do it and it [ticked] me off so much because there was a lot of money left on the table. It’s something that I said that I would never do. We’re in a crisis period in WWE and we need to build new guys. When Shawn Michaels came back to Raw, he said, “Whose been built since I left?” On Smackdown we’ve built [John] Morrison and [Dolph] Ziggler and Cryme Tyme. The Intercontinetal title has been rebuilt now with Rey Mysterio. But I can’t tell you on Raw who has been built over the last six months. They better do it soon, because when this generation of performers is gone, who will replace them?
You’ve managed to stay injury-free for the most part throughout your career, and it’s not as if you have a soft work style. What is your secret as far as durability?
I think it’s a combination of good genetics, soul and a lot of luck. It sounds funny, but I think because I grew up in Canada and it was always cold, and you’d go out on a Friday night walking around the streets with your friends and a bottle of vodka, it toughens you and makes you a harder person. I think it makes you have a tougher soul and more tolerance to pain. I also think I’m a little bit of a genetic freak as well. You saw on Raw that it looked like I almost broke my neck, and I have no residual effects. I had torn ligaments in my knee, which usually puts you out for eight weeks, but I didn’t miss any time at all. One of these days I’ll probably just disappear in a puff of smoke and spontaneously combust like the drummer in “Spinal Tap.”
You’ve crossed over and done a lot of work in the entertainment field other than wrestling, so what are your thoughts on the Raw guest host format?
I love it. There are a lot of similarities between Raw and “Saturday Night Live” and there always has been. As far as the guest hosts, some will work, some won’t be so good and some will suck. That’s the chance you take with outsiders. Shaq really got it; Seth Green was great; and Freddie Prinze was really good. I look forward every week to seeing who is going to be on.
You got to interact on camera with Shaquille O’Neal when he was the Raw guest host. What was that like? Do you think he’s a natural for pro wrestling?
Absolutely. He is a natural not just because of his size and athleticism, but also because of his personality and charisma. He understood about projecting those qualities. I’m not the biggest basketball fan. I don’t really follow it at all, so I wasn’t freaking out or marking out when he showed up, but I was very impressed with the work he did on the show. He was very laid back and respectful and willing to play along. He had no problems with the Kobe Bryant line.
What’s the latest on your band, Fozzy?
Our new record, "Chasing The Grail," will be out in January. We’ve been in discussions with radio programmers to see what the first single will be. There are five or six different songs they want to choose from. This really is a masterpiece for us and I think it will put us in a different category. I think it will change people’s perceptions that this is just Jericho’s wrestling band. I mean, Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden is a pilot but that doesn’t mean that his band doesn’t kick ass. We’re doing straight-forward, great rock and roll music.
One final music question since I know you’re a metal aficionado. What do you think of the new Kiss song, “Modern Day Delilah,” that will be on their forthcoming album?
I haven’t heard it. Is it good?
It’s not bad. Gene Simmons has described the album as a cross between “Rock and Roll Over” and “Love Gun.”
Paul Stanley is one of my favorite singers, and he’s a hero of mine as far as being a great showman. There are very few Paul Stanley songs that I don’t like. I was a huge Kiss fan in the early ’90s when they did “Revenge” and “Carnival of Souls.” I was angry when they did the reunion tour because I knew what it was for. You know, they keep selling Kiss merchandise, and the biggest piece of merchandise is a new Kiss record.
Photo courtesy of wwe.com.