The first-ever AEW World Champion Chris Jericho has revealed what the deciding factor was that made him walk away from WWE.
Debuting in WWE in 1999 after walking away from WCW, Jericho spent most of the next two decades as an integral part of the company. After winning world championships and headlining WrestleMania, Jericho proved to be the master of reinvention and captured the audience’s imaginations once again with his partnership with Kevin Owens and the List Of Jericho.
Speaking on The Kurt Angle Show, Jericho explained why he decided to seek out pastures new but first explained how his partnership with Owens came about:
“I was working with Kevin Owens, who is another guy like Shawn [Michaels] and Eddie Kingston where we just had a brief promo in London. I remember thinking this guy’s pretty funny, he has a good sense of humor, he doesn’t look like much because I didn’t really know him but he gets it.”
“Then I saw him work and I was like he’s a f*cking great worker too. We did something in London where it was a random pairing and just as I got to the top of the ramp I said ‘I’m the GOAT.’ I used GOAT before anybody else by the way, I put GOAT on the back of my trunks because I heard it in a rap song and Vince asked me what does that mean?”
“I said it means ‘Greatest of all time,’ and he said ‘that’s terrible. Goat?’ I said ‘I know, I wish it was Rhino or Moose or something. It’s a street thing, can I just use it?’ And he said ‘Fine, but don’t ever say greatest of all time, say GOAT and leave it at that.’”
“I said ‘I’m the GOAT’ and Kevin just kind of faintly said ‘and I’m the Donkey,’ and he had that french accent, I said that’s f*cking funny that he came up with that like that. We started this amazing angle where we became aligned, this was in August and I remember saying to Vince ‘I think we can take this to Mania’ and he said that was a long time Chris.”
Chris Jericho then explains how Vince McMahon had told them they’d be in the main event of WrestleMania that year but those plans quickly changed and Jericho was less than impressed with going on second:
“Lo and behold we made it to ‘Mania but it bummed me out because we had a great story and one of the greatest turns of all time in the Festival of Friendship that nobody saw coming and Vince was so into it, he said we’re going to put you on as the main event [at WrestleMania]. This was still only one night of WrestleMania, you guys will be the main event of WrestleMania, Kevin was the champ and you’re going to win the title.”
“The reasons I thought it was cool was because the story was there and it was the right thing to do. When he changed it to Brock and Goldberg, I was disappointed but once again, what am I going to do? It is what it is but what really bummed me out is they put us on second. Kurt will tell you, second is a death spot. You don’t want to be there, you couldn’t put us on first? You couldn’t put us in a semi-main event? If you want us to do the World Title match, then give us the spot.”
“If you can’t go on last, the next best place is to go first, and if you can’t go first then semi-main event. Those are your three spots. And to go on second is a real slap in the face, it really is. If you look at any card, second is the worst spot to be in and more importantly, he sent me a message.”
Chris Jericho finished by explaining how he saw parallels with his WCW exit and if Vince McMahon saw him as a “second match guy” he didn’t want to stick around:
“I don’t see what else I could do, I felt the same when I left WCW. I had this great story with Goldberg, everybody was into it and Bischoff didn’t want to do it, Goldberg didn’t want to do it and if they’re not going to go with this, they’re probably not going to go with anything else I can think of.”
“I felt the same with the Kevin thing, I can’t go any higher than this and if Vince sees me as a second match guy, that’s where I’ll be my entire career so I need to split and that’s what I did. Not bitter, not angry, no problems but it was disappointing. But, as I’ve always done, if I don’t feel it’s the right place to be, I leave. That’s the way to do it and that’s what I did.”