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…
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
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.
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
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.
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.
(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
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.