We Want Answers: Chris Jericho

The former WWE titleholder and showbiz Renaissance man sounds off on a colorful career.

It’s safe to say that Chris Jericho has had one

of the most diverse careers of anyone in show business. He wrestled for just

about every promotion in the universe, eventually winning the WWE heavyweight

belt. He did improv comedy, toured the world with heavy metal band Fozzy, and

logged in hours as one of VH1’s few reliably glib pop culture pundits. With the

late-October release of the enormously entertaining A Lion’s Tale:

Around the World in Spandex,
Jericho has added author to his résumé.

Here he weighs in on…

A Lion’s

Tale
:

I decided to write about my journey to

realize my goal of wrestling in WWE. It’s more of a follow-your-dreams,

coming-of-age, stranger-in-a-strange-land story with wrestling in the

background. You know, The Catcher in the Rye with a

half-naked guy swinging a steel chair. It’s 100 percent Chris Jericho. If you

like it, I’ll take the credit. If you don’t, I’ll blame it on someone else.

…whether young wanna-be wrestlers could follow

his path into the business:

A friend of mine recently

told me, “The thing about this book is that in an age when all you have to do is

write a blog or put yourself up on YouTube to get fame, this is one of the last

old-school journeys.” When I first started, I had to write letters to people, to

send out tapes and pictures, to try to photocopy pictures where I looked cool.

Now people just Photoshop everything and send it via e-mail.

The book is really a pay-your-dues type of story, about this

kid who probably should’ve given up a few times, but was too stubborn or stupid

to do that. As a result, he ended up achieving his goal. There’s not a lot more

books like this to be written, because I don’t think there are a lot of stories
like that to be told. Uh, I pretty much forgot what your question was

[laughs].

…”enthusiastic”

fans:

Somebody actually tattooed my face on his arm. In

a couple years, that will be the equivalent of having a Screech tattoo. A woman

fan wrote me letters every time I went to a certain arena in Mexico: “I will be

your wife someday. You know you love me.” A bunch of letters later, she wrote,

“If you don’t write me back within the next week and tell me that you love me, I

will kill myself.” And then the next time I went back to that arena, I didn’t

see her, and I never saw her after that. It was one of those creepy things. Did

she actually do it? I don’t know.

Another girl called me at

4 A.M. screaming that the [Japanese] Yakuza were

coming to get her and to please help her, then the phone went dead halfway

through the conversation. So either the Yakuza offed her while she was on the

phone with me, or she hung up the phone and everybody at the party started

laughing about how much of a loser I was.

…on

misperceptions people have about wrestling and pro wrestlers:


That we’re stupid. That it’s all fake—”fake” is a word I hate, because

nothing about wrestling is fake. It’s predetermined show business, but it’s a

contact sport. The things you do are very, very real. I don’t think people

understand how hard wrestling is physically and mentally. There’s only a handful

of people worldwide who really know how to do this job properly, and millions of

people worldwide who enjoy watching it.

…the challenges of life as a

wrestler:
Being on the road, now that I have a family,

is the hardest part. In the early years, it was just the uncertainty as to where

the next job would come from—all the culture shock that comes with being a

20-year-old kid walking the streets of Tokyo with no work visa and no money,

trying to figure out how the hell I got there.

There’s no

unemployment insurance if you don’t have a job in wrestling. You really have to

be committed, to have a love and a passion for the sport, a belief in yourself

that you can do it. That belief gets shaken and tossed around many, many times.

You can’t let go of that. If you do, you’re done.

…the fate of Ralphus, his “valet” from his

unhappy WCW tenure:

You know what, man? I’m not sure

what happened to him. If I had to guess, he’s probably serving fries somewhere

in a truck stop in Peoria. He was such a unique-looking guy. He had a face that

needed to be on radio, so I took him to TV instead. He became a big star. I

don’t think he had any idea what was going on the whole time.

[WCW bookers] didn’t get what I was doing, because they

didn’t really care. I was so far under the radar that there were no boundaries

on what I could or couldn’t do. They just said, “Yeah, whatever.”

…the differences between various wrestling

federations around the world:

In Mexico, wrestling is

part of the cultural fabric. The guys wear masks and they are real-life

superheroes. Santo is a cultural icon in Mexico the way JFK is in the United

States, and that’s not an exaggeration. The atmosphere there is a little

cartoonish, but in an action-adventure way.

In Japan, fans

wear suits and ties to matches. They analyze everything very closely. They don’t

make any noise, because they’re studying. The first time I went to Japan, I was

like, “Do I suck? Why isn’t anybody cheering?” The U.S. is somewhere between the

two. ECW had a hard-core, barbaric-type audience, like Romans watching the

Christians being torn apart by lions.

…his

(temporary?) retirement from wrestling:

I didn’t really

miss it, because I was mentally burned out after 15 straight years. Physically,

they used to call me the Canadian hockey puck, because I never got hurt. But I

was fried. If pizza’s your favorite meal and you eat it every day, pretty soon

you’re going to say, “Please, no more pizza for a while.” After a while, you get

hungry for pizza again, and you start thinking about it.

…his gig as a jack-of-all-trades VH1

pundit:
I have a real ability-slash-curse to remember

everything about nothing, an ability to spew nonsensical bullshit about stuff

that doesn’t matter. You don’t get a script for I Love the

80s
or any of those shows; you just have to do it on complete memory.

It’s found a niche.

…how he’d feel about

returning to wrestling in the wake of the deaths of close friends Eddie Guerrero

and Chris Benoit:

I think it’d be a tribute to those

guys. I take a lot of pride in the fact that there’s a certain style that guys

like myself, Eddie, Dean Malenko, and Lance Storm wrestle. There are not a lot

of people left that are a hybrid of the Mexican, European, Japanese, American,

and Canadian styles. I’d be flying the flag for them. On a very different scale,

it’s like with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr right now: There are only a few

guys who can actually say they were a Beatle. Maybe that’s my duty, to go back

and try to impart a little bit of that style to the younger guys.

…his pick for the best wrestler in the world,

circa late 2007:

If you’re going on just pure ability,

there are a couple guys in Ring of Honor I like to watch, like Bryan Danielson.

Shawn Michaels is probably still the best in the world. He knows exactly what to

do and when to do it. From an excitement standpoint, you can’t discount John

Cena. He always has good matches, and he works hard. People either love him or

hate him—that’s the ultimate goal in wrestling, to get a reaction. I think A.J.

Styles is very underrated. When and if the day comes that I wrestle again, there

are a lot of intriguing matchups.

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Maxim Staff