It's very rare for a pro wrestler to have the best years of his career as he's closing in on 50 years old but that seems to be the case with Chris Jericho. Since the start of 2018 Jericho had made history in New Japan, AEW, on his Rock 'N' Wrestling Cruise and even wrote a new book!
The last three years is in stark contrast to where Jericho was five years ago and he talked about needing a change of scenery in order to be reinvigorated when he joined Busted Open.
"Well, it's funny, because in 2015 – if that's what you were talking about and Don [Callis], Lance [Storm], and Lenny [Lane] and I were at Madison Square Garden – there was a show on October 3rd, which on that date, I claimed it was the exact day of my anniversary. It was a day later, but for marketing purposes, it sounded much better. But I was just working House Shows in 2015. I did 16 Live Events and I wasn't interested in being on TV," admitted Jericho. "And then after that, I decided to do a three-month contract in 2016 to do something at WrestleMania . I don't remember, it was supposed to be with [Dean] Ambrose and they changed to AJ [Styles], but then, I hooked up with Kevin Owens and I realized then, this is really fun."
It was working with Owens that Jericho came up with "The List" which became one of the defining storylines of his career. Despite the success of the Jericho-Owens pairing, Jericho was slighted with the spot on the card they were given at WrestleMania 33.
"It kind of reinvigorated my love and creativity and then, midway through '17, when we had the best story on RAW by far and I'm not being a jerk about that," stated Jericho. "You can go back and watch how entertaining that story was and all that garnered us was the second match on the card at WrestleMania. Second match! Don will tell you that's a jobber match. It's either first or last. Those are the two; maybe a semi-main event. We were on second?
"After having the best show of the year, I was like, 'You know what? I'm done. I'm not doing this again.' And I split to do Fozzy when Judas took off and I wasn't interested in going back to wrestling until Don put the idea, 'What do you think about working with Kenny Omega?' And when I went to New Japan, it was like this whole new world of creativity opened up where I was like, 'This is what wrestling is supposed to be!' There are no scripts, there's no queueing in the camera with what the bumps and what the dives are, and sometimes, that's bad. But it was real and that's where it all started coming back to me again. Doing those New Japan shows, I did six matches there which lead me to AEW.
"If there was no AEW, I might not be wrestling right now because I didn't want to deal with the s--t anymore and that's not a bad thing. It's just the way it is there [in WWE]. Either you deal with it or you don't and I was over it and now in AEW, it's me getting to be me and if you say the last three years of my career have been my best, I'll tell you the last year has probably been one of the most fun I ever had because there are no restrictions! How creative can you be? Can we do a match revolving around Mimosa because Orange Cassidy is Orange Juice and I'm the Champagne guy? How can we do this? Let's put it together and there were no restrictions, no problems, no hassle, no nothing. I drew the worst picture ever of what I wanted to do. I said it to Tony Khan five minutes later and he's like, 'Let's do it.' That's what we do here.
"We be creative and we work towards putting on the best show and everybody in AEW's roster gets a chance to make it. Everybody! Everybody on this roster. There's nobody here that's just here to be, 'Oh, a Dark guy and this guy's a developmental guy.' No, screw that! You're signed here to be the main event player. I don't care if you're 22 or 52, everybody gets a shot and that makes it such a huge difference to the roster and the fans' perception and all of us."
While Jericho was brought up in a different era of pro wrestling and is considered an old-school guy, he doesn't have an old-school mentality. He actually has the exact opposite of that and says that old school mentality doesn't work anymore.
He talked about adapting to the changing nature of wrestling and modifying his approach to remain relevant.
"Yeah, I mean the thing is when I came back in 2016, I remember working with Seth Rollins one night and I love working with Seth and Roman and Sami, Cesaro, and all those guys I worked with and I remember he wanted to do two dives in a row. Two topés in a row, and in my mind, I was like, 'That's stupid!' I was taught you do one dive, you put it in the right spot, and that's it, but times have changed," stated Jericho. "Now two dives, three dives in a row is just what you do and I remember that was the transition part of me where I was like, I can be a stick in the mud, old school, 'Brother, that's not how we do it' or I can get my head out of my ass and work like these guys that are 15 years younger than me and remain relevant. And that's what I did and that's why that run in WWE was so successful."
During Jericho's last years in WWE, he worked with the likes of Rollins, Owens, Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn while mostly staying away from his contemporaries. He went into more detail about why he avoided guys his age and what WWE match he absolutely hated watching.
"I didn't want to work with Kane. I didn't want to work with Hunter. I didn't want to work with Shawn. I want to work with guys that were younger than me because it put you in a different position. The same thing in AEW. There will never be a Chris Jericho vs. Matt Hardy match. Never! Never, never, never, because we've seen that. You put it on, suddenly, it's just two guys that worked 20 years ago in WWE. That doesn't make any sense," said Jericho. "There might be a Chris Jericho-Sammy Guevara vs. Matt Hardy and Darby Allin match. That's exciting to me, but I never wanted to just… okay, well, the worst match I ever saw – and here's your clickbait – was Saudi Arabia, Triple H and Shawn Michaels vs. Kane and Undertaker. That was such a stupid idea in the booking. It never should have happened. It should have been Shawn and Hunter vs. Roman and Seth and Taker and Kane vs. I don't know – give me two names of guys – Cesaro and Kevin Owens, whatever you want.
"That's exciting, but it's like, 'Oh, we'll go up there and just wing it, brother.' That doesn't work anymore. That old school mentality doesn't work. So, I think it's kept me relevant to work with these younger guys and also learn from them, but more importantly, take these styles that they have and put my psychology in them. Darn, I mention the Isiah [Kassidy] match. I almost said that was one of my favorite matches because it was just last week and as good of a match I had in three years. It was and that was his second-ever singles match. Second ever singles match! My second ever singles match, I was dropkicking Don Callis in the corner and belly-to-belly suplexing him as shoot because I was much stronger and tougher than him.
"This guy's working his second-ever singles match on national TV and we killed it! So, that exciting, because I took what he did, put in the blender with what I do, and suddenly you have a 49-year-old guy and a 23-year-old kid having a great match and that's what wrestling's all about."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.