Chris Jericho has suggested that a recent promo from MJF just made people feel uncomfortable rather than drawing any heat from the crowd.
Over the course of his career, Chris Jericho has become known as one of the best ‘promo guys’ in the business. From his explanation of his “1004 holds” in WCW to his verbal sparring with The Rock on his WWE debut to his AEW shootouts with the likes of MJF, Jericho has gained a reputation as a man who can move a crowd.
Speaking during a new interview with Richard Deitsch on Sports Media, Chris Jericho opened up about the art of cutting a good promo. The leader of the Inner Circle explained that above all else it’s important to commit to what you’re saying before describing how he constructs his segments.
“You just have to commit,” Chris Jericho said. “For something like the drone, you commit, and you make people believe the drone is real, and you’re pissed off, and, ‘I’m going to smash it.’ And that’s how it works, and that’s just what you do.
How do I do a promo? I do write them down because I need to get my thoughts in order. Sometimes it’s only an hour before the show, and sometimes it works great. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. Basically, I put my thoughts together. I’ll write them down, kind of bullet points, and then just kind of think about it and let it sink for a bit. If you’re going to tell a joke or some kind of an insult, you better make sure it’s good. And once again, you better to commit to it, and you can’t force it. It has to come to you.”
Jericho continued by saying that he didn’t like the way WWE structed promos for it’s performers, recalling one incident with John Morrison in particular.
“I used to hate that in WWE. It’s like, ‘you need an insult here.’ If you didn’t have the right one, you’d go out there (and crash and burn). I remember Vince made John Morrison use the insult of ‘platypus dung.’ I was like, ‘John, you can’t say that. No one’s going to laugh.’ He said ‘well, Vince wants me to say it.’ I said, ‘just say you forgot to say it.’ And of course, he said it, it dies.
“You have to be confident, you have to have your thoughts in mind, but you also have to be cognizant of, ‘if things change, like a conversation, if something happens, you’ve got to roll with that too.’ So it’s almost like if you asked Wayne Gretzky, ‘how does he score a goal?’ It’s probably hard to explain because it’s just something he does. And it’s always been that way for promos for me, because when I first started in 1990, I wasn’t the biggest guy. I knew I would never be the biggest guy in the show, but I could have the most personality, the most charisma, and have the best character.
“It’s been ingrained in my system as a good guy or as a bad guy, being fearless, committing, not worrying what people think about you. If you’re locked in and you believe what you’re saying, if people believe, if I believe this drone is real, other people will believe this drone is real as well. And that’s the most important thing about a promo. You have to believe what you’re saying, and be committed to it.”
Often the promos which prove to be the biggest hit with fans are those which skirt the line between reality and fiction. It is often said that CM Punk’s infamous “pipe bomb” promo worked so well was because although it appeared on WWE television and was part of the program, it came from a very real place.
Jericho said that he aims for his promos to land somewhere in-between the two extremes, before citing a recent segment from MJF that crossed the line. During a verbal battle with Sting on an episode of Dynamite, MJF made reference to Sting’s friend Lex Luger being in a wheelchair.
The former AEW World Champion revealed that he felt that the comments crossed the line and made people uncomfortable instead of drawing heat as they should have done.
“People at this point know that this is show business. There’s only so deep you can go,” Chris Jericho said. “I think that, for example, there was a line a few weeks ago that MJF used about Lex Luger being in a wheelchair to Sting. I don’t think that gets heat, I think it makes people feel uncomfortable. I think it makes people feel bad, and you don’t want that. So there is a fine line between using real life issues, and going to inside baseball, where it’s like, ‘I don’t know what this guy is talking about, but it just doesn’t feel right.’ To me, that is the fine line of a pro wrestling promo.
If there’s something in the universe that people know, then you can use it because it’s been on the show or whatever. If it’s something behind the scenes like, ‘well, your dad was a drunk.’ And it’s like, ‘where did that come from? His dad’s a drunk? Well that sucks. My dad was a drunk too. I don’t want to watch this show anymore.’
Chris Jericho was speaking ahead of leading the Inner Circle into a Minneapolis Street Fight against the Men of the Year and American Top Team at Full Gear.
H/t to Wrestling Inc for the transcription.