Jericho Talks JR/WWE Situation, Politics In Wrestling, What’s Wrong With TNA
The following are highlights from a recent Busted Open Radio interview with former WWE Superstar Chris Jericho:
How the tour is going with Fozzy?: It’s something that happens quite often actually it is called a bus share. Where it’s their band, our band and the crew. But it’s not as crazy as you think, the buses are just amazing. There are fifteen bunk buses, big lounge in the front, big lounge in the back, the lounge seat pops open when you’re parked and there’s a shower in it. It’s a cool way of traveling. It’s a different way of going as opposed when you travel with WWE. Where you fly into a town, then rent your own car, then drive your car, then find a place to stay and etc. You get on the bus and you go! You wake up in town and your there. It’s a cool way to go, it’s been going great. We just got back from Europe, we were over there for a month and did a bunch of shows in Europe, bunch of shows in the United Kingdom, it was seven countries total. We had a couple weeks off and we are on this tour with Saxon which is really cool touring Canada and the United States for the next five week and our show last night was in Patchogue, New York which I just figured out how to pronounce today. Whenever you start a tour, it is like starting a match. The first match is kind of a feeling out, something work and something don’t. It’s like what Stone Cold (Steve Austin) used to say: “Get the junk out of your system” and it’s the same way when you start a tour. The first couple shows have a couple behind the scene things, technical things which make it rocky and as the tour goes on you get it locked down. The shows are still great it’s just when a guitar goes out of tune or this change over didn’t go quick enough, this segway was not good enough. But we are excited; it’s a great place to start. We always consider New York as our backyard in the States. We played more shows here then anyway in New York City and we are excited to be playing at B.B. King’s. It’s a great venue and its funny, my hotel is right across from B.B. King’s and the big marquee has sign that says Saxon and Fozzy and I took a picture and saved it. You can never take it for granted, I’ve been lucky enough to have my two goals come true but you never forget that it is cool as a fan to be doing this. To have our name in lights in Manhattan at Times Square with a band we grew up listening to is a very cool experience.
Jim Ross memories: Jim Ross, to me, is the best wrestling announcer of all time. When they took him off the air there is an attitude around WWE that you need to constantly prepare for the future which I agree with but there are certain things with Jim Ross as an announcer like John Madden, Don Cherry and Bob Cole with Hockey Night in Canada, they are the best at what they do. They are old, look old but it’s a certain voice that you have to this day is the voice for wrestling and Jim Ross is that voice. Same thing with Howard Finkel as an announcer, they never found anyone that can replace Howard Finkel ever. They have some good ones but it’s like Gene Okerlund as an interviewer, I’ll never hear a better voice then his and I felt like that for Jim Ross. I thought they sent him out to pester a little bit earlier but there have been fireworks with Vince (McMahon) for years. That’s just the way it is. Beyond the announcing as he was the head of talent relations in 1999 and he and Vince Russo were instrumental in bringing me in. Jim gave me a helluva deal and spear headed the deal with Vince’s approval. He took recruiting very seriously, it was like an NFL team for him, he went out and found a lot of the best guys that ever worked in this business and he took great pride in it. When Vince Russo left two months after I got to the WWE, he was kind of my last supporter and there was ninety-nine percent of people that didn’t like what I was doing . But J.R. never turned on me. Some of that was because of who I was and some of it was because of their perception and I always remember that and stood behind me when I was in this rough transition period and when I started to break out and becoming “Chris Jericho”, he took great pride in that. He stood up a lot of the times when they were saying: “This guy is the worse” or “This guy sucks.” And probably saying “Give it time.” like a good hockey coach will, if you get a number one draft choice and he comes in and he is still not ready. You see it three years down the line and J.R. was that guy for me. I always thought of him like that way and I will never forget that for what he did for me when I first started.
Backstage politics in wrestling: I don’t know either because I am not in the closed door meetings. Just by going with the track record of WWE, they have an interesting way of doing things. I know for a fact that Vince didn’t like me when I first came, he didn’t see anything in CM Punk when he first arrived and didn’t see anything in Daniel Bryan when he first came in and it’s a long time to break down those walls, no pun intended. But the Daniel Bryan storyline is something that we used to call “working in the square” which means it’s in the storyline because it comes from true life feelings. “Daniel Bryan is too small, too ugly” or whatever it might be but it goes against the prototype of what a WWE superstar is supposed to be but so did I, so did Shawn Michaels, so did Bret Hart and CM Punk and a lot of the guys. Not everybody can be a John Cena, Dave Batista or Hunter (Triple H) like the perfect, genetically created WWE guys. There are a lot of things that happen because there are issues behind the scenes. I don’t know what happened at Summerslam Access, I just heard about it. Obviously J.R. wasn’t doing much, he had a lot to do with developmental and he was kind of on the outskirts. I bet Vince didn’t even see it, I’m sure he heard about it and just made his opinions on that like what happened with the flag kicking incident in Brazil. He never saw the footage, he just heard about it and had a mental picture of what happened and I was suspended. Meanwhile, when you watch the footage, I really didn’t even do anything. Obviously, I deserved it but it’s not like I said: “This flag sucks” or blew my nose on it, or wiped my ass with it and threw it into the crowd. If you’re hearing about it, someone in the company is stooging it off to the internet which happens all the time. I’m sure there is some truth to what you’re hearing but its speculation. When there’s smoke there’s fire and I’m sure there is some truth to what you’re hearing but I really don’t even know either.
Kayfabe still existing in wrestling: I think sometimes it confuses the fans when you do too much insider stuff, before I came back in 2012, I remember when Punk and Nash were having their feud and their were going back and forth and Nash said: “You would never draw a dime.” I think people do not understand what that really means. I think we all assume that people read the sheets and read the internet and really eighty percent don’t. I’m a big music fan, I read Billboard magazine and I follow charts and read the reviews and see what’s going on but I guarantee that eighty percent of people that like music don’t or eighty percent of people that watch movies don’t read the receipts every week . I think when people say: “Edge didn’t draw a dime” and that’s supposed to be a “heat getting line” and people really do not know what that even means. Edge was a ten-time World Champion so doesn’t that mean he was good? So what, he never took a pencil, drew a circle and wrote “10 cents” in the middle of it. I mean, what does “drawing a dime” really mean? I think we assume that everybody knows as much about wrestling as we do. Telling people: “You’re too small” or “You’re too ugly” and Big Show is broke so he needs the money, it’s like if I’ve been working for WWE and I was broke, something is wrong with me! I don’t want to cheer for Big Show if he is broke after 14 years, you question yourself on: “What the hell were you spending all your money on?” You’re a former World Champion. When I watched Stampede Wrestling, I saw a wrestler by the name of Goldie Rodgers and he was an opening match jobber and I was thinking: “If I can be like Goldie Rodgers, that’s all I want, he is probably making one hundred and fifty thousand a year. Little did I know that he was making fifty a night and probably getting ripped off. To me because he was on television, he was a superstar and rich. That’s what we need to portray our WWE superstars to be. When they are talking about the pre-show, it’s like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” when (Mike) Damone talks to Mark “Rat” Ratner: “Where ever you are, it’s the place to be.” If you’re on the pre-show, it’s going to be the biggest pre-show of your life. When you fighting for the Intercontinental Championship, I was fighting (Curtis) Axel , I wanted them to do in-ring introductions, it either got cut off before I got to the ring or someone forgot to do it, this is a title match on a network television show. Why are we not making this a big deal? I don’t care if it’s the Intercontinental Championship, it’s a championship, it doesn’t matter if it’s the World Championship or the Midget Championship, it should be treated as such because if we don’t treat it as such then nobody will. It’s the same way with these storylines too. “Daniel Bryan is small and ugly.” I never noticed that. I don’t know how big he is. You see these guys in the ring and they are all the same size unless you’re the Big Show or Rey Mysterio. He’s got a beard, ok. He’s ugly, ok who cares, and who said your ugly. Maybe under that beard, he’s the hottest guy. I don’t know. But sometimes they do these things that they thing are going to get heat but I’m not sure if it does get heat.
The transition from going from sports-entertainment to the hardcore wrestling fan: I think they are making the best with what they have. Daniel Bryan is amazing. To me, he is literally the best in the world. (CM) Punk is great but Daniel Bryan is on such a roll right now. Everything he does is: “Wow!” I remember watching him when I was there and everything you touch turns to gold. Vince is thinking: “How can we make this guy the biggest that we can make him? Let’s try this.” Vince never loses and he always makes it work and I hope that the end result will be him winning the title and he is the face of the company till (John)Cena comes back and maybe they can do something. I think they are doing what they’re doing with what they have and that’s the best way they can do it. Daniel Bryan is usually “smaller and uglier” then what we have so let’s focus on that and see if we can turn the fans into like him more. It’s like Ryback being the crybaby. Vince didn’t just try that, he literally believed that it was going to take him to the next level then he changed it and turn him into a bully and believes that it will take him to the next level and if it doesn’t they will change it. Vince is always in control, he knows what he is doing and he always wins in the end so he will keep pushing someone until they get over and they will.
Hard to change with a different character: That’s a question that you need to deal with yourself. There is no hand holding and cuddling in the WWE. This is the big leagues and that’s one of the reasons why a lot of the guys are having trouble getting over because they don’t have the experience to duck, dodge, dive and dip when things are thrown their way. That’s why one of things I did when I got there and things were going the way I wanted to, I had to make changes and morph it and I knew from my nine years of experience of getting over that I’d do it. I knew how to get over. If I can do it in Mexico and Japan, I can do it here. Even in ECW and WCW, I was nothing in WCW until I figured out how to get over. That’s why everybody that had experience eventually did it. Eddie (Guererro) did it, (Chris) Benoit did it, (Rey) Mysterio did it and Punk did it. I knew the moment Daniel Bryan walked through the door, he was going to get over. He did it before! “Just because you got over in some bingo hall in Philly”, it doesn’t matter you still got over in front of the hardest fans to get over in front of. A lot of the guys don’t have that so how does Ryback get over? That’s up to Ryback to figure out and try. Not everybody is going to make it into the Hall of Fame. That’s the hard culture of live. You have to have some wear-with-all in yourself to get there with Steve Austin being the perfect example of that. There is nothing worse when “You have the best match on the best show in the world. I can sing every note clean and be perfectly in tune” and if the crowd is dead, I failed! “I can have the perfect match, everything is graceful, and everything is cool” and if the crowd is dead, you failed! “You can have a crappy match, screw-up everything, botch everything, hit a hundred clams vocally at a live show” and if the crowd is going nuts, who cares! David Lee Roth never had a good show in 1985 but you always remember Van Halen at their peak then. He missed all his notes, forgot his lyrics and he didn’t care, it’s live and all that matters is connecting with the crowd. Ryback needs to connect with the crowd and he will. He’s not a big dumb idiot. He’s a very smart, receptive, thoughtful and perspective and he will get it. You just need to learn who you are as a performer, what you need to do to make it work and stay within that wheelhouse.
TNA, what are they doing wrong?: It’s hard to be the number two company in such a small market as far as wrestling fans. I mean there are ten million wrestling fans across the states. If you want a fast food burger and there’s a McDonalds and Arthur’s Burgers and Arthurs Burgers is the best and everyone tells you it’s the best. McDonalds is what we know, let’s go here. WWE is the name of pro wrestling. TNA wrestling is already behind the eight ball so they would have to do something completely different the way that ECW did in 1994 and 1995. But there is nothing different anymore because everything has been seen or done. One of things is that it just comes across as a retread. When I turn on and I see (Eric) Bischoff or (Hulk) Hogan or Sting in this day and age, you automatically think that this is the old guy’s league. No matter what they do, they still relay on those guys. The only way TNA can do it is if they came up with some new guys that just popped huge that didn’t come from WWE. All of their main guys came from WWE like Jeff Hardy, (Kurt) Angle, Bubba (Ray Dudley), they are great performers. Bubba is doing the best work of his career right now but still, he is Bubba Ray Dudley and he is always going to be that. You need to get a guy that comes out of nowhere that maybe gets turned down by the WWE Performance Center because they didn’t like his look and suddenly he becomes the next Rey Mysterio or the next John Cena or the next Mick Foley or somebody that changes the way things go but also, you need to get the eyeballs attracted to that guy so you can make it roll. It’s a tough position to be in. I don’t envy what they are doing and they don’t take a lot of chances. I don’t watch the show but the Bound for Glory and he’s got eighteen points and he’s got fifteen points and it’s a twelve week tournament and it’s like who has time to follow this stuff. When I watch wrestling, I don’t want to think. I just want to enjoy it, I don’t want to do mathematical equations and figure it out. If there is a Round Robin and here are your brackets and I get it. But if you win, if you get disqualified, if you get five points or twelve points, I don’t get it. I’ll just put on Seinfeld instead.
WWE Performance Center, good or bad: I couldn’t believe how awesome it was. I trained in a bowling alley where if you jumped too high you can put your head through it. Everything here is in HD and electronic and they had promo areas, weight lifting areas, condition areas, seventeen rings, training the cameraman, the producers, they are training everyone. It’s just not the guys in the ring but it’s the announcers, cable runners, cameraman, producers, it’s a huge training ecosystem where you can go in and learn everything. I spoke to the students afterwards and I told them to cherish this, don’t think it’s always like this and don’t think that it’s like this anywhere else, this is special. It’s the smartest thing that they ever done and it was a great idea by Hunter but he said we do not want any more independent guys anymore because they get too many bad habits and that will probably change if there are certain guys out there because most of good guys came from other places. Things have changed; it’s not even the same wrestling from five years ago. It’s going to continually change and you are going to get more of the old guard guys that are going to be retired or moved to other positions and you can see it. Jane Geddes, head of talent relations, she came from golfing. That was a job that was held by a former wrestler who knew the ins and outs. They are going full on corporate and that’s the way WWE is going to be. It’s going to morph into that, like it or not, it’s the way it is. We will see how the performance center does, who turns out to be there new stars. Most of the guys that became stars were from other places. What do you do if you can’t make it to the WWE performance center? It took me nine years to get into the WWE, don’t give me a sob story, go out there and find a way, that’s what I did. I can’t say that the performance center is a bad idea because it took me nine years to get a look from those guys, cover of magazines, five star matches, match of the year, they couldn’t give a shit. It took nine years. That’s what you have to deal with, it’s not easy. Guys that get into the WWE after six months are like Asthon Kutcher booking “That 70’s Show” after his first audition. It doesn’t happen too often and you should feel lucky when you get it but don’t blow it.
Check out the complete interview online at Facebook.com/bustedopenradio.