/ FACES Magazine May/June 2017
Today’s WWE fighters are the fall guys for critics: despite being the entertainers they are. But if we all viewed everything through our inner skeptic, we would struggle to ever be entertained at all. Our movie reviews would be lengthy and Die Hard would have never made the cut: “The first thing I noticed is that the guns were fake, I mean how can we take this seriously when I know for a fact that Bruce Willis isn’t a police officer and he’s running around covered in fake blood, shooting toy guns at an English Alan Rickman who is now suddenly German?” A bit of a stretch, sure. But to further the point, Die Hard is known as one of the greatest action films ever made. Yet many action-seekers view wrestling as an endless array of fake fights—missing the art form that is professional wrestling.
Unlike the stars in action packed classics, the performers of World Wrestling Entertainment do not have stunt doubles. Green screens and CGI do not exist for these athletes. When they fall off ladders they are falling off ladders. No soundboard is used for punches and kicks. Yes, it is choreographed to lessen the impact, but the punches and kicks can be very, very real. The performers risk their health and safety on a nightly basis to entertain the audience. All too often, they take too many risks and their careers are cut short.
You can look to names like Bryan Danielson: who wrestled for WWE as Daniel Bryan. Danielson had to retire in 2016 in his early 30’s due to injuries from the constant beating his body took in the ring. You may not enjoy the spectacle that is professional wrestling, the same way some may not enjoy Die Hard. But the rhetoric of ‘fake’ wrestling should be put to bed. No one can take away what these athletes do each week: the risks they take, and the sacrifices they make in the name of entertainment.
Chris Jericho would be the first person to tell you that he is a showmen in the grand theatre that is the WWE. He gives his opinions to the writers about what he feels is best for his character, but at the end of the day he goes out every week and performs the role he is given to the best of his ability. Chris Jericho has been the WWE World Champion six times over in his career and is one of the most popular wrestlers to ever set foot in the ring. He has wrestled many of the greats: Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. He has seen and done it all over the three decades he’s spent in professional wrestling.
Jericho was born Chris Irvine and grew up in Winnipeg. At the age of 46, he has already accomplished more than most could aspire to do in a lifetime. He is one of the greatest WWE superstars in history. He is the front man for a rock band that has toured and played for the masses. He is now one of the top 100 podcasters in the world. Most recently, he has completed his fourth book: the issue at-hand during our interview with him on one of his busy Wednesday afternoons last month. Jericho has overcome adversity to become someone that is a genuine role model and inspiration for any young Canadian looking to land among the stars. We sat down with Chris Jericho to talk about his career, his band “Fozzy”, his top-rated podcast and his new book.
FM: What was life like growing up in Winnipeg? How would you describe your childhood?
CJ: It was one of the best places to grow up. It was actually so cold, so bitter cold that I have never felt cold in any way since. I’ll be walking around out here in the States wearing shorts in 2⁰ C weather and people will start flipping out about how cold it is. I have a reputation of never getting hurt because of it being so rough in Canada. You know when you’re a teenager, you take a bottle of vodka from your dad’s liquor cabinet and meet your friends at the 7-Eleven, drink all night in - 30⁰ C weather without a tuque or gloves? It’s not cool to wear gloves and a tuque for some reason in high school. That definitely added to my overall mental and physical toughness.
FM: Your dad played for the New York Rangers, did you ever have any aspirations to play hockey?
CJ: I had been playing hockey since I was about two or three years old and I realized early on that I just wasn’t very good (laughs). I gave it the old college try but, I wasn’t very talented. At the same time, it was really good to learn the concept of a team sport. Hockey was my father’s thing and it just wasn’t for me; so I looked for other things to do.
FM: In your first book, “A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex”, you talked about how you got your start in wrestling and the long road you took to eventually get to the WCW and then to the WWE. Can you tell us a little about how you got in with WCW—and what it was like being on National North American Television for the first time?
CJ: I had worked six years to get to the WCW and I had been at the top of the mountain, so to speak, no matter what company I worked in. Whether it be Japan or Mexico or places in Canada. So, by the time I got to the WCW I was a well-rounded professional because I knew the territorial side of things and understood how that worked. I did have to learn a lot about being in a TV company with some of the top stars in the world. I ended up going from being a top star myself to just some guy in the match. That was an adjustment period: I went from doing 20 to 30 minute matches a night to five minute ones. The political waters were also new and I had never dealt with that before. Anywhere you go in this business, you need to adopt to whatever it may be—given whatever business or country it’s in—and I could do that, so I had that going for me.
FM: Who would you say took you under their wing when you first got to the WCW? What was the best advice you ever received?
CJ: My friends really helped me out honestly, — Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit—we were all very close. The environment was weird there; it was ‘kill or be killed’ in the WCW. I got a few words of advice from Arn Anderson and Jimmy Hart was helpful, Jimmy Taylor was as well. But other than that, I didn’t really get advice from the very top guys. My friends would just tell me to keep my head above water and try not to kill anybody even if they deserved it.
FM: In 1999, you left the WCW to join the WWE and made one of, if not the most famous debuts in the history of the WWE when you interrupted The Rock. You often have said your goal was always to be with the WWE—did you fully appreciate the magnitude of what was happening at that moment?
CJ: I mean, yes and no. It was my goal to make it there and once I did get there I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be in terms of the political climate. I didn’t know that coming in with a big push would garner the resentment it did. That was a whole new world of politics, and it was not at all what I expected. So, I learned how to adapt; how to reinvent myself. It took a few years to get to that point but things have changed a lot now: there isn’t as much politics or animosity amongst the boys. That was just the nature of the game back then—the mental war and behind the scenes type deal. I was able to get it figured out and become a big fish: a white whale in a sense, eating all the sharks in the big ocean.
FM: Vince McMahon is a polarizing figure for many. How would you describe him after almost two decades of knowing the most powerful man in professional wrestling?
CJ: He’s great! He’s my boss, and your boss is your boss. Sometimes you love them, sometimes you hate them because you have disagreements. Overall though, Vince is one of my favourite people, and a great guy when you get a chance to sit down and talk to him. He’s just a guy like me who had that dream and that vision that created this entire pop-culture type industry. Obviously, the brand of Chris Jericho isn’t as big as the WWE brand, but we both created something out of nothing against all odds. I don’t bow down to every single one of his wishes, I have my own ideas and I think he appreciates that because there are a lot of people around him that are “yes-men.” He enjoys that I give him an honest opinion. Even though he might not like it, he knows that I’m being real which is important to a guy like him.
FM: Your fourth book “No is a Four-Letter Word: How I Failed Spelling, But Succeeded in Life” is going to be available later this summer, what can readers expect from your latest release and how does it compare to your other three books?
CJ: My first three books were very successful: they were New York Times Best Sellers. This one is a little bit different though, it’s more of a motivational self-help book which talks about how to achieve your goals and dreams through 20 principles that I’ve learned over the years. It shows you what to do and what not to do in order to overcome these seemingly unsurmountable odds. I am actually re-reading it right now. Reading it with fresh eyes really reminds me how cool it is and that people will enjoy it. The book is different from all my others, which people will like because, I mean, how many autobiographies can a guy have? There are great stories in it, along with a great message. It will answer a lot of people’s questions like “How did you do this?” or “How did you make both your dreams come true?” I teach others to figure out how to do that for themselves.
FM: Do you enjoy the writing process? Where do you find the time to write these books amongst your hectic wrestling, music and podcasting schedules?
CJ: The best time to write a book is when you’re travelling. When you’re sitting on a plane, you don’t need to see “Modern Family” reruns. Plus, it’s something I just do and that I’ve always done. I enjoy writing. It sounds hard to write a book but that’s part of the fun of doing it. I’ve done one every three years which is good because that’s kind of a loose schedule. It’s art: you get to create something out of nothing which is another aspect I value as a performer. I’m a writer, I like to write a story because it’s fun for me. I mean, if you were to price the amount of fun you have in writing a book I would put it at around 40 cents an hour. Similar to working in a sweat shop in Indonesia or something. But it’s worth those hours: these stories and these books will last forever which is a cool legacy to be a part of.
FM: When you retire from the WWE one day down the road, how do you want fans to remember your career? What is your greatest accomplishment?
CJ: Just the fact that I was able to do what I love to do for 27 years and counting. Even when I “retire” from the WWE, I’ll still continue my career as an artist, a showman. I think that people will remember me for different things, it’s up to them. I’m sure they know me for some things I’ve done that I don’t even remember. I can’t tell you what I want to be remembered for because I think that’s up to you. I think that being able to do this for so many years, to travel the world having all these great adventures, and to have four books at 46 years old is pretty impressive on the surface. I’ve had a great life doing all of this stuff: not just in wrestling but in music, doing the podcast, and acting too. Sometimes I even go “Man, I can’t believe this is my job, how lucky am I?” I never take that for granted. I’ve been very fortunate as far as wrestling goes that I haven’t been hurt. I can still perform at the top level and still have a lot of ideas and creativity. That’s a great accomplishment for me.
FM: Tell us about your band Fozzy, who are some of your bands musical influences? What is the best thing about being in that band – and how do you find performing with Fozzy differs from you performing with the WWE?
There’s a lot of similarities—they’re both very high, intense forms of entertainment depending on the crowd. If you have a crazy crowd it doesn’t matter if you’re technically proficient or not, it matters what the crowd is feeling and if they care about things like that or not. We’ve just released our seventh record and each record has been bigger than the last. We’ve been able to tour the world and play with Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica, Kiss, you name it. Fozzy has had a lot of great tours and the fan base keeps growing. Once again, it was really great because when I was a kid I wanted to be in a rock and roll band as well as a wrestler. It’s a kind of relief to go back and forth. Acting is great but you don’t get that instant gratification from the audience like you do with wrestling. After leaving wrestling, I head right over to the Fozzy fans because I love the crowd. It’s a different crowd but there’s still a lot of similarities because people just want to have a good time. That’s why I have a reputation of being a good frontman because I understand that concept and am able to take people on a ride while making sure they’re having fun
FM: Your band is touring in May 2017, do you expect any Canadian dates later this year?
CJ: Yeah! We always do well in Canada, we have a great fan-base out there. Maybe not this year, but next year for sure. Our record doesn’t come out until September so this will be a kind of preliminary tour and then we’ll head up to Europe in June, October, and November. Next year will be more geared towards the States and Canada.
FM: Speaking of music, you also produce the Podcast “Talk is Jericho” twice a week on Podcast One that features interviews with a variety of entertainers, musicians and wrestlers. How did you get into podcasting—and how would you describe “Talk is Jericho” to those who may not have had a chance to listen?
CJ: I’ve always loved doing interviews; I’m a journalist by trade because I went to college for it. When the podcast group started I got a call for it and I figured it was right up my alley. It was a hit right off the bat and I think one of the reasons why is because of the diversity of topics in it. It’s not a wrestling podcast or a music podcast; it’s a Chris Jericho podcast. So, if I find somebody interesting I’ll have them on the show—wrestlers, porn stars, comedians, musicians—you know. I do a lot of paranormal stuff on my show which I enjoy. I think it’s a success because people don’t really know what they’re going to get, every week is a different topic, subject or vibe. It’s become one of the top ten podcasts in the world, I think we’re almost at 200 million downloads at this point total. It’s become a kind of “cottage industry” thing for me, I’ve got my own podcast network called “The Jericho Network” where I take different podcasts and throw them on my network. There’s a lot of stuff going on around that and when wrestling is over, this’ll be a thing that will allow me to continue having a voice.
FM: Looking at the current state of the WWE, critics would say that ratings are down and that it has lost the “cool” factor that it had during the Attitude Era. Do you agree that wrestling isn’t as popular today?
CJ: I actually disagree: I think that wrestling is in a great position right now. They’re bringing in new waves of talent from around the world which isn’t what it was like when I came in. Things might not be the same as they were 15 years ago from a live standpoint but what is anymore? Everything is down, album sales are down, book sales are down, ratings are down because there’s thousands of different places you can watch things, from Youtube to streaming sites in general. I think the past year and a half has been a movement in the right direction especially with all the talent that’s been coming out of the woodwork that we haven’t seen in years. It’s an exciting time to be a fan and there’s constantly new guys debuting on the show—it’s a good time to be in the business for sure.
FM: Who are some of the current stars that you feel could carry the WWE banner the way that people like you, Steve Austin, the Rock, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Bret Hart and John Cena did in the past?
CJ: There’s a ton! There’s Shannon Moore and the SmackDown brand that I’m a big fan of, I’ve been waiting for him to come up for a year now. Bálor just returned the other day. Roman Reigns is amazing; he’s so good, people don’t realize that but when they do he’s going to be another flag bearer for years to come. Kevin Owens, Bones, there’s a lot out there and plenty more coming up. Guys will be popping out of the woodwork and you’ll be going “Wow I never saw it coming.” Same thing could be said for John Cena when he came in, nobody expected him to be what he was and now he’s one of the top stars of all time.
FM: We also had a chance to speak to AJ Mendez Brooks (formerly known as AJ Lee from the WWE) for our May/June issue. You and her husband CM Punk had one of the greatest feuds in recent memory leading up to your Wrestlemania 28 match in 2013. What are your memories of that feud and working with CM Punk? Do you feel he will be back with the WWE at some point?
CJ: Absolutely, everyone comes back: there’s too much fun to be had for him not to come back. Everybody has disagreements and once he gets over it Vince would have him back tomorrow—at least I think he would. But, yeah, I loved working with Punk, we had done a ton of work together before that feud. We worked a whole program in 2008 and 2009, which even got reconfigured in 2013. There’s been great chemistry between us. That angle for Wrestlemania was kind of a controversial one especially since it was one dealing with alcoholism and that sort of thing. I find that the best angles are the ones with a little bit of truth behind them. Either way, I’m sure he’ll be back at some point whether he wants to admit it or not but if he doesn’t he’ll be that one guy that didn’t come back. It’s the same reason Guns n’ Roses got back together after so many years: when you give up on something you’ve been working on for so long, after a healing process, you realize “Man, what the **** is my problem? Why am I not doing this? This has been my whole life, let’s get back to it while I’m still physically able to.”
FM: You have given a lot of credit to Diamond Dallas Page and his DDP Yoga program for helping you to recover from your injury and be able to compete at a high level at age 46. To the men who cringe at the thought of yoga, why should they try it?
CJ: I was never really a yoga guy. I always thought it was for hippies and gurus but I ended up having no other choice. It was either that or back surgery. So, I gave it a try and it really did heal me up. For people who are cringing about it or who are in pain, swallow your pride and give it a go. The thing about Page and the DDP Yoga program is that he understands because he’s been there. It isn’t really normal yoga either, it’s kind of his version of it. I’m proof that it works and that it’s not a gimmick
FM: You are one of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history, you have a successful podcast, a rock band that has played some of the biggest music festivals around the world, you’ve hosted TV shows and acted in film and Television. You have had incredible success in life. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone who aspires to follow in your footsteps, who may not think doing what you have done is possible? What made it possible for you and what is the most important thing to finding success and happiness in life?
CJ: Just don’t give up, and don’t listen to people who tell you otherwise. If you really want to do something, you have to make it happen because you owe that to yourself. Don’t put yourself in a box, and don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do. You can do anything you want to do and you can even do multiple things. I’ve talked to Rob Zombie about this and he’s said people will say “How dare you want to go make a movie when you’re already a famous rock star!” You’re the only one who can decide what’s right and what’s wrong for you.