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Chris Jericho Explains When He Decided To Leave WWE

Stone Cold & Chris Jericho on the Broken Skull Sessions

Chris Jericho recently revealed one of the key moments behind his decision to leave WWE in 2018, citing a change in plans at WrestleMania 33 as a deciding factor.

The world of professional wrestling was abuzz when the inaugural AEW World Champion Chris Jericho was recently announced as the latest guest on WWE’s Networks ‘Broken Skull Sessions’. Many would speculate the topics of discussion, and whether AEW would be mentioned during the interview with Steve Austin.

The pair covered Jericho’s entire WWE career and transition to New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling. When Jericho left WWE in 2018, he was widely heralded as one of the most recognisable figures in the company.

A main event player with the company for many years, Y2J was seemingly a WWE lifer. However when discussing his final run, in particular his feud with Kevin Owens, Jericho revealed his frustration with the company. Claiming their match at WrestleMania 33 was originally set to main event the pay-per-view, a frustrated Jericho would start to look for pastures new following this slip down the card:

“I knew what I would be if I went back to WWE. I knew what would happen – I knew the first thing I did when I went back is I would have to put somebody on The List [Of Jericho] – in 2020 or 2019, the list was from 2016. It felt like I’m just going to go play fricking ‘Back In Black’ for the rest of my life even though I’ve had 15 albums since.

And this is the big one, when I had this big programme with Kevin Owens in 2016, which in my opinion was one of the best stories, if not the best story for that year. We get to WrestleMania, it changed from Kevin and Jericho to Brock and Goldberg and great, no problem. But when Kevin and Jericho went from the main event – proposed – to the second match on the show I thought to myself ‘this is where I’ll be, in my opinion, for the rest of my time in WWE – the second match guy’ and in my mind I wasn’t a second match guy.

So that’s the kind of reason I went to New Japan and suddenly I’m headlining the Tokyo Dome 3 years in a row, and when the opportunity of AEW came up, I said ‘I wanna continue to do this’. I like being ‘the guy’ which I’d never been really before.”

The match between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho at WrestleMania followed the now infamous ‘Festival of Friendship’, in which Owens turned on Jericho following months of onscreen unity. Notably, the match was critically panned by Vince McMahon. In a 2019 interview with Inside The Ropes, Jericho recalled Vince’s reaction backstage:

“I thought it was good and I was very surprised when I saw KO later and he said that Vince said it was one of the worst matches in WrestleMania history. I was like, ‘What?!’. Because he wanted Kevin to be this type of heel, and Kevin was doing a lot of stuff off the top rope and flashy moves and Vince did not want that […] Vince never said anything to me about the match, ever. Not once. Never said he didn’t like it, never said it was the worst match in WrestleMania history, never said a word about it. We talked about it the next night, we didn’t go into detail but he just went ‘Yeah yeah yeah’, and didn’t say anything.”

Prior to his final exit from WWE, Jericho had made numerous appearances with NJPW. He would feud with fellow Winnipeg native Kenny Omega and even capture the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Jericho, who had previously claimed he would never wrestle in the United States for anyone other than WWE, would then shock the world by signing with AEW in January 2019. He would become the company’s inaugural World Heavyweight Champion and go on to lead the Inner Circle.

Credit for Interview: Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions