Former WWE Champion and current AEW star Chris Jericho spoke to Busted Open Radio about his path to AEW. As Jericho traced back his path from WWE to AEW, he hit on a particularly interesting topic consisting of his WrestleMania 29 match with Fandango. Jericho transitioned from an unwillingness to work with Fandango to eventually enjoying and respecting him, all due to a phone call with Undertaker.
"Jericho vs Fandango at WrestleMania? Wasn't the biggest fan of it," Jericho admitted. "Was pretty pissed off about it to be honest with you. But when I realized this is what Vince wants me to do and there's no way out of it, now I got to make it great. If I can do that, then even though I don't feel great about it, at least I'll get respect from the boss."
Jericho stated it was Fandango's lack of experience on television and in the ring that worried him. The former champion was so against the Fandango match, he admitted he gave Vince McMahon 'three or four' other suggestions, all of which were denied.
"I gave him three or four other suggestions and he said no to all of them," Jericho said. "He was super into Fandango. And I finally said 'There's nothing I can do to change your mind is there?' And Vince goes 'Nope'. So I hung up on him."
As frustration built towards Wrestlemania, Jericho phoned locker room leader and WWE legend The Undertaker to vent his frustrations. It was 'Taker who gave Jericho a different perspective on the match thus changing his view on working with Fandango.
"Then I called Undertaker," Jericho explained. "I said 'Listen what Vince wants me to do, he wants me to work with this guy who has never been on TV. Hasn't even had a match. I got to work with Fandango at WrestleMania. What am I supposed to do?'. And Undertaker said, 'Do it. What's the problem? That's who he wants you to work - work him!'
"Talking about Undertaker's 20-0 streak at the time, Undertaker said 'How many of those matches were stinkers?' A lot of them were stinkers. Giant Gonzales, Jimmy Snuka far past his prime, Nathan Jones. He said 'If you go and do your best and get this match over, and get this guy over, Vince will respect you more. And even if you don't, this is your job. If we go to a Steven Spielberg audition and the part calls for me to blow my own nuts off, fall down a flight of stairs going 'wacka wacka wacka' and I go 'Hey Steve, I don't want to do this', Spielberg says, 'Okay, get the hell outta here, I'll hire the next guy'.
"That really was an eye opener. I had three weeks to get it over. And I remember he next night on Raw, people were chanting his name and signing along. I take a lot of credit for that."
Jericho appeared upset that his match with Fandango was built moreso on Vince's hype for a new talent as opposed to something organic. According to Jericho, Vince enjoyed utilizing new talents until he grew tired of them before eventually moving on to the next.
"Bret Hart said 'Vince plays with his toys until he's bored and then throws them in the corner'. It's not that petty but Vince saw something in the guy and was super hot on him and that's your start. And that guy has to take it and go with it. He did a great job with that character. I have a lot of respect for him. I didn't want to work with him at first just because it wasn't what I was expecting. Working with him was a lot of fun and watching him was great."
As Jericho elaborated more on the matchup, he admits that simply the name Fandango didn't contain World Champion appeal.
"There's a certain shelf life with a character like that," Jericho said. "I always say in my head, 'Okay, what's the guys name? Fandango'. Can you imagine, 'And the new World Championů Fandango'? Not really. World Champion... can you imagine this guy with this name as World Champ? And if you can't, you've answered your question."
Despite spending a large amount of time in WWE, Jericho also dove into what lays ahead in AEW. He admitted that returning to WWE would be the safe and familiar career move whereas AEW is a calculated risk but could be loaded with the potential to exceed expectations.
"I'm out to prove a point. It pisses me off, [Jericho vs Owens] being second on WrestleMania really bothered me. If I go back to WWE, it's easy. It's the easy way to go. I know what I'm going to be doing, I know where I'll be, and that's great. I could do it for the rest of my career. I don't want that. I want to take a chance. I want to make a difference. I want to do something that by Jericho showing up, people are paying attention."
Though Jericho had negative emotions about the Fandango situation, his attitude pivoted to a more positive outlook when discussing his more recent and future endeavors. Jericho went on to draw parallels of his journey to New Japan to his recent move to AEW by crediting himself the bridge for fans to crossover to unfamiliar wrestling organizations. It's hard to argue, given many new eyes viewed New Japan after Jericho had jumped over. Jericho repeatedly stressed 'making a difference' as his goals in wrestling moving forward.
"When I went to New Japan - I'm like a bridge. Most fans didn't really pay attention to New Japan. But when they heard Jericho vs Omega, a lot of people followed. The New Japan world streaming went up 60% when I went to New Japan. People are following me saying 'Jericho's WWE right? No He's New Japan. What's that?' Cuz I'm such a WWE guy that going to AEW makes a difference. I'll take a chance and make a difference. If it goes t--s up fine, at least we tried. But if it works, isn't that another feather in the cap of Chris Jericho, that he's one of the reasons AEW became a big success?"
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.