Interviews

Interview With . . . Chris Jericho

AEW star Chris Jericho may be an expert at compiling lists – but The Demo God’s new venture is a monstrous undertaking three decades in the making.

Speaking exclusively with Inside The Ropes’Kenny McIntosh, former AEW World Champion Chris Jericho opened up about his new book – The Complete List of Jericho – and how he never planned for it to be a book, nor for the details he’d meticulously kept since 1990 to be released in any form in 2021.

So, you’ve got a new book coming out! The Complete List of Jericho tracks, in detail, your 30-year, now plus, career. Was it always planned to be 30 years? When did that decision come about?

Well, I was never even really planning it to be a book, it’s just something that I’ve always done. You know, I always kept a list of every match that I ever had just because no-one else ever did. And I just thought, ‘Well, I want to know how many matches I’ve had, even if nobody else cares and whether I have I have one match or 1,000 matches, I want to have them written down.’ So I started October 2nd, 1990. I literally remember writing this down on the piece of paper that I still have to this day and kept an entire collection of all these matches since that day.

So I think basically, probably subtly, I think it’s funny because now they’re getting ready to do Metallica 40. But Metallica 30, I was there at the theatre at the Fillmore in San Francisco for two of those nights. And I remember thinking, ‘This is really cool how they’re doing this 30-year celebration,’ and they’re doing it in a way that no-one else ever, ever had. They had a lot of guests, friends there, and they had all of the covers they’d ever done and learning songs just for one night that they’d never played before. And I just thought, ‘This is really a cool way to celebrate a 30th anniversary.’

So I think when I started getting closer to mine, I was like, ‘Well, what can I really do to make this special?’ And what I didn’t realise is that Tony Khan had the idea to do the Jericho 30 show on Dynamite. And that’s when I kind of started thinking, ‘Well, if I’m going to do it, now is probably the time of putting it together.’ Long story short, is the original idea, I think, for these for this list of matches was used as an appendix for one of my other books. I remember talking about as early as Lion’s Tale, like one of the appendices will be every match – which would have been, you know, hundreds of pages. It just didn’t work. And then I started thinking, ‘Well, could I actually do this as a standalone book on its own?’ And that’s kind of where the idea started to germinate, and start to think, ‘How can I make this a really cool kind of almost like a history book and a souvenir, a coffee table book?’ All of those kind of things, whether you’re a Jericho fan or just a wrestling fan, because like I said, it really is more of a history book than anything just from the time that it covers.

I love the story of how the book came about. Can you tell us why you started keeping track of your matches?

Yeah, I mean, it was first day of wrestling school and it was the Hart Brothers Pro-Wrestling Camp, but Keith Hart showed up only on the first day, basically to collect our money and then we never saw him again. It was a little bit nerve racking because this is Keith Hart. I saw him on TV and here we are at wrestling school, and he came in the ring and asked a couple people questions. And I remember I asked him, ‘How many matches have you had?’ And he said, ‘Nobody keeps track of that. That’s kind of a stupid question.’ And then he called me a ‘gearbox’ which, to this day I’m like, ‘That’s the worst insult I’ve ever heard.’ But point being is that I was thinking about that. Well, if I want to know how many games Wayne Gretzky’s played, I can go to a library and look it up in a book! I can’t look up how many matches Keith Hart has had, that seemed very strange to me. So let me give people the option, and me the option, to know how many matches I’ve had by keeping my own record.

So that’s kind of where it all started and that’s why the very first night, my first show, October 2nd, 1990, like I said, Ponoka, Alberta in Canada versus Lance Storm. And it was a ten-minute draw and I gave it I can’t remember what I gave it, two and a half stars, and my payoff was 30 bucks. And the crowd was, you know, 110 people. So I wrote that down. And then every night afterwards, I’d finished my match and write down the information. And then suddenly, you know, one match becomes ten, becomes 100, becomes 200. Then it just becomes a thing that I do to where the book has 2,722 matches included in it from October 2nd, 1990 to October 7th, 2020.

And then I started thinking, ‘Well, I don’t want to just put out a book of just lists, but what else would I do with it? And that’s when Alex Marvez and Pete Fornatale, who I worked with on this, started coming up with ideas of doing top ten lists and doing, you know, having some of the biggest stars in wrestling and journalists and people giving their memories of Chris Jericho and the kind of all the information and details, and pie charts, and graphs, and all this other stuff and then kind of finding, you know, all of these rare pictures because, back in the early days, there was no cell phone to take pictures. You would bring a camera and take the pictures and so you would develop the actual stills. So I have hundreds of those from the first five or six years of my career and I just had to go find them and kind of make this big collection of the career of Jericho. And that’s kind of where it all started and how it became to be.

So, it is a list – but it’s not JUST a list. One of the things I looked for straight away was musical chairs with Randy Orton, which is in there! Why was that important?

I believe, going back to it was against Randy Orton that night and probably talked about musical chairs ’cause what I did too was, Alex was very instrumental in this. Alex would pull you know, obviously I can’t write a description every match but I said, ‘Pull, you know, 20 or 30 or 40 important moments and I’ll write paragraphs on those matches. And that’s kind of what we did. So obviously, the most memorable thing about that night in Winnipeg was the musical chair matches, or musical chair contest – which I won, by the way. But the point is, you now know what date it was. And I could probably look it up if I had a couple of seconds. I believe it was in 2005 in the summertime and I can find that type of information in here, and nobody else has that.

That’s one thing I really liked about it. You know, there’s people like Tommy Dreamer’s claim that he’s done that, and Frankie Kazarian says that he’s done it, too. But other than that, I mean, this would be like an especially spanning the time frame of 1990 to 2020, just how much the business has changed and this would be the equivalent of like if Shawn Michaels or Ric Flair or somebody did it, just imagine the names that you would see. And that’s the thing too. You can go in here and find out what was going on in CMLL at the time or going on in in Japan at the time, or Germany when I went, in Smokey Mountain. All of that is included in here. So I just thought it was just… There’s nothing left out. And as a result, you can go through this and learn so much, not just about me, but about wrestling in general.

Another one I noted down was Rey Mysterio, which is match 2,130, you talk about having to convince Vince McMahon about the finish of the match with the mask coming off, so you do elaborate on the matches.

That’s kind of the idea behind it. Like, we we weren’t able to do every single match that way but I would go through the pictures that we had and go through some of the matches that we were talking about, and just kind of see which ones would be relevant to tell certain stories about. It’s one of the things I’ve been doing on the Saturday Night Special, where I asked people just to choose a number and then I can tell stories about that number just by looking at the book and just say, right now it was July 5th, 2004. That was the night of the musical chairs, because I fought Randy Orton in Winnipeg, it was match number 1,734. I lost to a roll up and I gave that match four stars. So, you know, it’s all in there. And I can tell you those stories just from this book. It’s a lot of fun of me. To read it all the way through is kind of strange. If you look behind me, I have a Rush book right there. It’s called Wandering the Face of the Earth. That has every single Rush gig ever, all the details about it and all the stories and the setlists. Obviously, I’m not going to read it all the way through but if I want to look at the the Rush gigs that I saw, I can find them. And that’s what a lot of people are doing with the Complete List of Jericho – looking up the matches that they were at and kind of seeing what’s been said about them.

Another match I wanted to bring up that you mentioned being a favourite of yours. 1,284. You and Chris Benoit vs. Triple H and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Obviously that match doesn’t get spoken about much anymore in the mainstream, so how important was it for you to include that match?

Well, I mean, at one point, it was voted the best RAW match of all time. And of course, now it’s got an asterisk to it because Benoit is in it. But take out the personal side of things. From a work side, it is one of the best matches of all time. It’s one of the only times that I can recall where Steve Austin was legitimately a heel and had heel heat. That night in San Jose, people were going crazy for it. And there’s you know, there’s something big at stake of the tag team titles. And, of course, these two huge megastars fighting the young up-and-comers. The false finish was amazing and, of course, it becomes even more legendary with the fact that Triple H tore his quad during it. So it’s kind of gone beyond just the match and gone to almost folklore at this point in time because of all the elements surrounding it. It is one of the greatest matches of all time and I’m not saying that from an egotistical standpoint. I’m saying that from just the circumstances surrounding it. Definitely one of the most talked about. Like I said, has almost become mythical in all of these different things that happened, all these fruits that lined up to make it so. So when you go through and read that book, and see it and then I can talk about a little bit more, I think it’s in my top ten favorite matches of all time, which once again, how do you choose ten matches out of 2,722. It’s not easy but I did my best to do that.

I mention this match for no reason in particular… Daniel Bryan. It’s a match many people may have even forgot happened – but it’s so interesting despite maybe not being one you’d call a favourite. Can you tell us about that?

Yeah, I mean, I didn’t want to have that match. I just thought, ‘Why is the WWE Champion having a match against some guy that’s just coming in for NXT?’ I remember it was Undertaker that was like, ‘Go out there and show them why you’re the champion.’ And I think it was a very short match. It was only six minutes. I remember Bryan hit that tope and he kind of came out so fast, I didn’t expect it. And he overshot and hit the desk and had had we had more time, we could have built the whole match just around that and changed it all on the fly, but we really didn’t have the time to do that. I don’t think I wrestled Daniel many more times, maybe two or three times, but none of them memorable. That one was the one that was memorable and who would have thought it at the time? But here we are, you know, ten years later and people still talk about it because it was such a monumental match and the first meeting between two guys that, you know, are still doing it pretty much at the top of our games ten years later. Like you said, had this book not been released, you might forget about those matches and not even remember it. So it’s right there for all the world to see.

And that leads me on to another name. CM Punk. AEW has just sold out the United Center. 10,000 plus tickets in a day. I know you can’t say, “CM Punk has signed” to us, but the speculation is there. You’ve wrestled him before, would you like to see CM Punk in AEW?

Well, I mean, the short answer is, ‘Of course.’ I mean, he’s one of the few guys out there that has has this mythology surrounding him because he hasn’t wrestled so long. Take Punk out of the equation. Sting is with us now. Edge is back in WWE. Christian is with us. But you take, other than that, guys who haven’t wrestled for a long time, he’s probably at the top of the list, unless you’re going to throw Steve Austin in there and you know Steve’s not going to come back. So, it would create a huge buzz that would add to the already huge buzz that we have, and I think just the fact that 12,000 tickets sold at the United Center without one name even being announced, or one match even being announced, shows just how much anticipation there is for all of these things. So, yeah, we’ll see what happens. And I honestly, really don’t know. It’s something that I know nothing about.

Obviously, it’s intriguing and I’ll be watching along with everybody else to see what happens. But we’ve got great momentum without Punk and we’ll have great momentum continuing without him, and great momentum with him if he shows up. So either way, I think we’ve built ourselves up into a great position right now.

The Nick Gage match. It’s not the match many people thought they’d ever see on TNT, that style of match. Whose idea was it and were you happy with how it turned out?

Well, I’m not being egotistical when I say, ‘Of course it was my idea and of course I was fine with it’ because I thought of it. I booked the whole match as well. You never thought you’d see Chris Jericho in that type of match, maybe not on TNT, but why wouldn’t you see Chris Jericho in that type of match? Because I’ve done every other match! You know, go back to the book. I had the first ever barbed wire match in Canadian history in 1993 against Beef Wellington and did the the thumbtack bump with with with Moxley in the Ambrose Asylum Match and all that type of stuff.

If the story fits, I’ll do it – because it is all about storytelling. Obviously it’s not something I would want to do every night or probably will ever do again but when you’re talking about the story that we’re telling, it was perfect for it. And I think that match was a classic in its genre. I think it might even be the most-watched death match of all time in the fact that we had 1.2 million people watching it. Show me another death match that had that type of viewership. So it really did do what we wanted it to do, which was was kind of extend this storyline and create a stir, and create a buzz. So like I said, was it was something that I would ever volunteer to do again? Probably not. But was it something that completely was 1000 percent approved and basically thought of by me? Well, guilty as charged.

And you put a pizza cutter on the map!

I also put I also put a clipboard on the map a few years prior. So that’s kind of what I do.

And Vince McMahon recently made some comments about AEW not being competition. Were you surprised by those?

Well, what else is he going to say? You know, and to respond to that, we don’t see WWE as competition. And he was smart to say that. We’re not worried about what WWE is and we haven’t been since day one. We weren’t worried about what NXT did.

The whole time with the NXT versus AEW war, which ended in a total abysmal failure for NXT, we never once had a TV screen watching what they were doing when we were doing it. We didn’t know what segments they were in. We didn’t know any of that. Now, WWE way is you’re watching what the competition is doing when they were on, we didn’t do that. And it was no disrespect. We just didn’t care. We were too busy worrying about our own company and about our own stories, and about our own show to care what anybody else is doing. And that’s one of the reasons why we did so well is that we were concentrating on AEW, not anything else.

We could not control the fact that NXT was put up against us. We couldn’t control the fact if, you know, there’s a Beatles reunion put up against us, you know, whatever. We can’t control that. All we can control is our own show on the quality of what we’re doing. And we’ve worked very hard to improve the things that need improving and to focus on the things that we’re doing great. I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve gone as far as we have and why our demos have crept up to where they are and where our ratings have crept up to where they are. So WWE is not competition for us. We’re competition for ourselves.

So for Vince to say that – to me, it’s probably reverse psychology and that he does see us as competition. But deep down inside, what does it really matter? The WWE is the WWE and they have billions of dollars locked in TV deals and we are working towards that. Now when our demo ends up beating there’s and TV deals start coming in for us at the billions, then I truly think there will be a lot of competition because now you’re fighting for money, you’re not just fighting for bragging rights – and bragging rights don’t mean anything. It’s the money that you make from it that counts. So we’ll see what happens.

Finally, you recently had an altercation with a fan who tried to get in the ring. Obviously you’ve spoken about the creative freedom in AEW. Is it easier to deal with that than in WWE where you might have a script to recall and you maybe can’t work on the fly as much?

Well, I mean, let’s not get carried away here. I mean, there was stuff that you would do on the fly in WWE all the time, I mean, constantly you could do that sort of stuff because you never know what’s going to happen. And obviously, some guys are more equipped to be able to do that than others but I could tell you a dozen times when things happen in WWE that you just go with the flow. I can tell you when I changed finishes on the fly in WWE. I was supposed to be Ricky Steamboat once and I changed it to him winning because it just felt that’s what the crowd wanted. So it’s not that bad. At least it wasn’t for me. But, you know, in the case of…

Number one, just don’t try and get in the ring. It’s a great rule. Just don’t. You can’t win. It’s not funny and you’re not tougher than we are, and it’s not going to work, So just don’t do it and save yourself that hassle and save us the hassle of having to knock you about. So it happens sometimes. The best thing is you can see them coming from a mile away and the guys always think that they’re creeping up. It’s like, I saw that guy three minutes before he even got on the stage and like, ‘OK,’ because there’s a rule that King Haku taught me, everybody has to get into the ring. Think about that, they have to get into the ring, and unless you’re Big Show going over the top rope – and even then a quick punch to the balls will stop you – everybody has to get into the ring. When you get into the ring, how do you do that, Kenny?

You have to go through the ropes.

Exactly. When you get through the ropes, your head is there – perfect size for a nice football kick. “You’re going to get your f***ing head kicked in.” There’s a football chant right there. And this is going to happen to you when you try and get into the ring at any time.

I have one last question for you. Pick a number between one and 700.

362.

360, let’s see where we’re at 362, and that would be August 5th, 1994. Wow! 362, it’s the famous Night of the Legends match. Thrillseekers vs. The Heavenly Bodies where I broke my arm. I pinned Jimmy del Rey with a roll-up and there was a crowd of 4,500 people. Four star match and I got paid five hundred bucks.

And one last thing is, is when I came up with the idea for this book, I have four New York Times best sellers and the publisher said, “This is too much of a niche product. It’ll never sell.” So I published it myself and now we’re almost sold out of the first printing. So if you want this, people are like, “When is it available in Scotland? When is it available in Poughkeepsie, New York?” It’s available now. Jericho30.com “When’s it going to be the bookstores?” Never! Because the publisher said it’s not going to sell. So I did it myself. So if you want to check it out, it’s Jericho30.com. Don’t wait for it to come into Waterstones because it ain’t going to be there. And don’t wait for it to come on sale in your specific country because it already is at Jericho30.com.

The book features information about over 2,700 more matches, and of course the legendary career hasn’t even had the surface scraped with the former AEW World Champion’s comments while speaking with ITR. For the entire list, you can by Chris Jericho’s biggest list yet at Jericho30.com

Thanks to Chris Jericho for taking the time. To order your copy of The Complete List of Jericho, as written by Chris Jericho, click here.