Chris Jericho Continues Life's Tale in Latest Book 'Undisputed'
And then he walked away.
While Jericho still loves the wrestling business, he also has plenty of other interests, including his rock band Fozzy and looking for more opportunities in entertainment that may come his way.
It wasn't a tough choice for him to leave the wrestling company when his contract expired. But just because he's gone, it doesn't mean he won't return at some point. Then again, he has so many other interests that he may not return, breaking the hearts of his loyal fans.
It's something that Jerichoholics should be used to. Back in 2005, he decided to walk away when he was burned-out by the business. But two years later, Jericho was back on WWE television -- refreshed, renewed and ready to prove he was better than ever.
So when he says he's not sure when -- or if -- he'll be back in the squared circle, he's not trying to be cold-hearted. It's just that he has other projects that he's passionate about.
That includes his latest one, his highly anticipated second autobiography titled "Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps," which hits bookstores everywhere on Feb. 16.
The book picks up right where his first autobiography -- the New York Times bestseller "A Lions's Tale" -- leaves off, with Jericho set to make his debut in WWE and fulfill a lifelong dream of working with the promotion.
From there, "Undisputed" takes you on the entertaining ride of how he went from being despised by his peers -- and even his boss Vince McMahon -- to doing what many thought was impossible: becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. All this while becoming a husband, a father and even the lead singer of a rock band that was trying to prove its worth in the music world.
Recently, FanHouse spoke with Jericho about his new book, the fans' reaction to him leaving WWE last year and a possible return, his thoughts on the wrestling business and the future of WWE, what his future may entail and much more.
Brian Fritz: Was there a lot of pressure on you when it came to this book and having it live up to the standards of 'A Lion's Tale' or be even better?
Chris Jericho: Yeah of course there was. I signed the deal for the second book before the first book even came out. My publisher really enjoyed the buzz that 'Lion's Tale' was getting. I wrote it to be a continuing saga. That's exactly why the first book ended right as I'm about to go have the conversation with The Rock and pick up exactly where it left off, literally seconds after 'Lion's Tale' ended, that's where 'Undisputed' begins. But there wasn't one point where I was like, I have so much work going on and I'm just going to let Pete (Fornatale) write the whole thing this time and I'll just punch it up like a script doctor type thing. And then I realized that I could never do that because 'Lion's Tale' was so good, so well received, so well written. So I had to do the same thing for 'Undisputed.'
There was a lot of pressure and once I got into it, I realized the material I had for 'Undisputed' was just as good if not better than the material I had for 'Lion's Tale.' So, I kind of started thinking this is going to be 'Godfather 2' and 'Lion's Tale' is 'Godfather' whereas it's going to be one of those rare things where the sequel is actually better than the original. And that's kind of what I was shooting for. There was a lot of expectation, a lot of anticipation for this book. I knew what it could be, so I decided pretty early on that it's going to be better than the first if it's at all possible and I'll do my best to make that happen.
When did you decide it was time to walk away from WWE a second time?
I really didn't think that at all. When I came back in 2007, I signed a three-year deal. And I knew at the time that when the deal was up I'd be 39 years old, almost ready to turn 40, and I would just play it by ear at that point. The WWE schedule is very grueling. It's very difficult. I'm going to be one of those guys that has an easier deal I'd guess you'd say. And there's nothing wrong with the guys that do have that. I'm either in or I'm out. And at the end of September when my deal expired, we had a lot of stuff coming up with Fozzy. We did seven countries in seven weeks since I left the WWE from the beginning of October until the middle of November. So, I just wanted to concentrate on that. It's the same thing when my wrestling career started to pick up speed, you got to ride the wave. And it's the same thing with Fozzy. The band is picking up speed and there's a lot of opportunities. You got to ride the wave to make that happen. It was time to switch over to that and work on the band. I also knew that the book was coming out and there was a big tour for that. So, there were a lot of things. And things change too.
At one point I was going to go back and other things came up. Am I gone from the WWE forever? Who knows. Am I going back? Who knows. I really don't have any plans either way. And the door is wide open. I laugh when I get asked 'were you future endeavored?' That's the furthest thing from the truth. It was just my deal was up and I moved on to some other things. I still talk to Vince (McMahon) quite often. I watch the show very intently to see how they're doing. Like I said, the company will do just fine without Chris Jericho. It's done just fine without The Rock. It's done just fine without Steve Austin. It's a good time for some of those younger guys to pick up their socks and make their mark because they have to.
When was the last time you had a wrestling-related thought about a storyline, a match or something that involved yourself?
All the time. That's one of the reasons why ... I think it pisses some people off that I don't just live within the wrestling box and just wrestle for as much as I can and as long as I can because I have too many ideas and too many creative thoughts and too many outlets of things that are going good. But just because I'm on the road with Fozzy or something like that, I still have other ideas and thoughts and angles. I have a million ideas. The Miz just called me the other day to ask some thoughts about certain things and I had about 10 ideas in 30 seconds. After doing this for 20 years, wrestling became very much second nature for me. I almost say easy in a lot of ways because it was very much 'OK, let me think for five minutes and see what I come up with' and I have some interesting ideas that are different from the norm. And that's not just me, like I'm some kind of crazy genius or something, but it's more along the lines of the fact that I have 20 years of experience all around the world. Not just wrestling experience but life experience, and that really helps flesh out your ideas when you're putting together storylines or matches or whatever it may be.
You've been very open about if you're going to return to WWE. You don't know if that's going to happen or when that might happen. Do you find that fans are getting angry when you say 'I might not return, I don't know what the future holds for me?'
I think it does make them angry. But I think it's also something that I've come to expect because, like I said, I've never been the type of guy that just wrestled and that was it. We've been doing Fozzy for 11 years now which is hard to believe, five albums in and this is my second book. I've done a handful of cool movies and TV movies and all that sort of stuff and my radio show and all these different things, hosting 'Downfall,' hosting 'Redemption Song.' There's always other stuff going on with Jericho and I think at this point some people may hope that I go back to WWE but they also realize that he's also out there doing a lot of different stuff. And if I like Jericho then I know that anything he puts his name on is going to be quality so I'll give it a try. It's not like I've just rolled up into a ball and just hid and gone away. I'm still out there doing quite a few things. This tour coming up for 'Undisputed' is two weeks straight every day. They're having to schedule breaks because there's so much interest in the book and so much interest in what's going on. People might be a little annoyed at me for not coming back to wrestling but I think they're also very curious to see what's coming up next for Chris Jericho.
You've now walked away twice when you were at the top of your game. Batista recently walked away as a top superstar. Trish Stratus, Lita both left at the top of the Divas division. Do you think this will be something we see more of with top superstars walking away on their own terms rather than hanging around for what might be too long?
Shawn Michaels did it too. Shawn could still be working. There's no doubt about it. Yeah, I think it's just like any other sport or any other form of entertainment. When you feel that you've had enough, then it's time to move on. It's not like it used to be 20, 15 years ago where guys would have to be led out the door kicking and screaming. You see a guy like (Ric) Flair or a guy like (Hulk) Hogan ... God bless them. I'm glad they still work and love doing it. It's like Ozzy on tour; a lot of people b***h and complain 'oh, Ozzy can't sing anymore, he's slow.' Who gives a s**t? He's having fun, he's Ozzy, and if you like it, then watch it. If you don't, then watch somebody else. And it's like that with wrestling too. I think when I left in 2005 I wasn't at the top of my game. I think I was a little disheartened with what was going on. I needed to make a change. I needed to do that in order to come back better than ever in 2007.
When I left in 2010, yeah, I was at the top of my game and at the top of the ladder in the company. I don't think it's egotistical in saying that. Like I said, there were other things that were going on and that's how I live my life. You gotta take a chance. I took a chance when I was 19 years old to move to Calgary to start training for wrestling. I'm taking a chance right now to build the band and have all these other things that are going on. And it's paying off. When you put enough time into something and you have enough talent at it and have enough gut feeling about it, then you have to go for it. I know how to get over. I know how much work it takes to get into wrestling and make it work. So, I can apply those same skills and thoughts and attitude towards some of these projects that I have.
What was it about that second run you had that made it so successful? I think when people look at your career now, they look at that last tenure with WWE putting you over the top as a major superstar.
So do I. It took me from a guy that was good into a guy that, like you said, that kind of had this legendary status in a lot of ways. And it feels weird to say that. I'll tell you when I suck too. The last three years was some of the best, if not the best, work of my career. And the reason for that was just total reinvention. You said the people that got mad at me because I'm not coming back quick enough for them are the same people that were angry when I completely killed off the Y2J character. 'Where's funny Jericho?' Or 'put the tights back on.' Or 'grow your hair out.' All this stuff, and I don't live in the past. I live in the future. I live in the present and how I can continue to evolve and get better is what I do. And I felt that when I came back in 2007 I was a little miscast as a babyface but that's the way the company wanted me to come back, and it took me about three or four months to figure out what I wanted to do and how I wanted to change and do something new. Like I said, it sounds ridiculous but one of my big show business mentors or show business influences was Madonna and how she constantly and always changes and reinvents herself. Her look, the style of music she played, the people she plays with, her concerts, her stage shows. It's always different. She does not look the same she did 10 years ago or five years ago. That's the way I always wanted to be with Chris Jericho. That's why I always had different facial hair and different hairstyles and different tights.
I'm on TV 52 weeks out of the year. I gotta look different weekly or else people are going to get bored. And I think I'm still one of the only guys that did that even to this day. I made a lot changes of things I did. I got rid of all the catchphrases, did not allow any merchandise to be made, adapted this whole new demeanor of a silent killer type of a guy wearing suits instead of cool clothes. It's funny because now if you look at the WWE, most of the heels do that. It's almost like that's the handbook of how to be a WWE heel. And I'm not saying I'm the first guy to do that but I'm definitely the first guy to do that in 2008. If you look at the way I did my promos and how almost everybody does their promos like that. That's cool. It's a compliment I guess.
I think one of the other things that stood out during your second run was you had longer storylines. We saw it with Rey Mysterio. We really saw it with Shawn Michaels. Why do we not see that more in wrestling these days?
Well, it's funny because that Shawn Michaels angle is a classic angle. I think they should have made a DVD with every match, promo, backstage bit, and put it all in one chronological-order disc and let people see this as kind of the handbook of how to have a great angle. It wasn't planned out. It was just a very organic thing. It just happened. Originally, I was supposed to just turn on Shawn when I was the referee in Baltimore in the match with Batista. We were going to go one month and move on from there. It just didn't feel right. We wanted to make it slower and then Shawn came up with that idea where his knee was kind of hurt and then that just kind of blossomed into this whole seven-month angle that was just amazing. And the same with the Mysterio one. That was a good three months.
Spielberg calls it the MacGuffin. What's the MacGuffin of this story? I want to take Mysterio's mask. What's the MacGuffin of this story? I want to retire Shawn Michaels in all these different ways. I tried to do that. I think a lot of the reasons for not having that nowadays is a lot of guys are scared to speak up because they don't have the experience and don't have the creative ability to come up with a long-term storyline and they're just happy to be given what they're given and do what they're told. I'm not like that. I always had different ideas. I think we're moving too fast here or maybe let's try this. The whole Mysterio thing was orchestrated by me. I had to go to Vince and plead my case like a lawyer to a judge. He did not think anyone would care about Rey's mask. He just didn't think it was relevant. And I had to sit down with him in Pittsburgh in his office and talk to him for about a half an hour as to why I thought the mask meant something and I was right. Edge and I had a long storyline that was going to go from when we won the title I believe in June all the way to WrestleMania. So it would have been an eight- or nine-month story but then he got hurt about two weeks in, so we had to redo everything. When you have creative people that can take the load off the guy writing TV every week, it makes it a lot better and more interesting for everybody.
Which guys do you find most interesting right now when it comes to WWE?
Well, I'm pretty good at calling which guys are going to be big. I called it for (Randy) Orton and (John) Cena way, way long ago. I had Cena's first pay-per-view match. I once again called Vince and had to talk him into letting Cena go over on me and then they just kind of put him back to where he was, kind of a glorified jobber status until he started doing the rap thing. I knew Miz was going to be big because he has the gift of gab, he's got the character and his matches have progressed a lot as well. I was a big fan of (Jack) Swagger. I still am. I think they're kind of not doing the most they can with him. Kofi's (Kingston) another one. (Alberto) Del Rio is obviously a natural. I used to work with his dad in Mexico and Japan so that's kind of funny. As soon as I met him, I could see the traits of his father. In my opinion, Dos Caras was always better than Mil (Mascaras), it's just that Mil had the name value. I think those guys are pretty good. (Wade) Barrett I knew was going to be a huge star. Sheamus. Those are kind of the flock of new guys. (CM) Punk is great. Edge always does a great job, especially putting together matches. That's his forte. He's very smart at that. (John) Morrison is another one. He's very exciting. He just need to harness his personality a little more but that comes. All that comes once you start feeling the confidence of the people in the company and the office behind you.
What's your thoughts about the future of the wrestling business because it's changed so much over the last decade. The WWE isn't going anywhere but some of their numbers are down. With TNA, we don't know what the future is going to be. Wrestling seems to be dying over in Japan. What's your thoughts about the future of the industry?
It's a very star-driven business. It always has been and always will be and there's always transition phases. They kind of got painted into the corner over the years when Vince took over the territories and had all the best of the best but he didn't like small guys. So there were a lot of small guys who were doing more high-impact work that had to go to other places. Maybe Stampede (Wrestling) or Japan or Mexico or England or Germany. And there's a whole generation of guys who did that that ended off with guys in my generation. And then when those guys were all done, then where do you find guys? Then suddenly, instead of guys with nine years experience before they go to the WWE like me, you have guys with two years experience or one year experience or no experience. You can't teach experience. That's the difference. So the business has changed.
I'm not one of those guys who sits back and goes 'it was a lot better in my day,' it's just the way it is. I think the bell curve of a five-star match even five years ago will change to where a five-star match now or a year from now or five years from now might have only been a three-star match a couple of years ago because the experience level has gone down. The quality will go down. There's always going to be somebody that's better than the last. There's always going to be that next Cena that just connects like Rock or (Steve) Austin connected. Or like Jericho connected. Not that I'm at the level of those two guys, but you know what I mean. There's always going to be somebody that figures out what to do. And there's going to be natural athletes.
One of the smart things and one of the interesting things are these second- or third-generation guys that come out, because those guys have true respect for the business. They might not have experience working but they have experience being around the business and learning it and studying it. Wrestling is always going to be around. WWE is always going to be around. It's woven itself into the pop-culture fabric at this point. And it's going to twist and turn and change just like the NHL has or football has or music has. Who's the next band that's going to be playing stadiums 10 years from now? There isn't one. It's scary. It's just the way the world has changed. So we'll have to wait and see what happens. But there's always going to be people who come out there and connect with the crowd and draw money. That's just the way the world works.
How much longer do you think it's going to be where Vince McMahon calls all the shots like he has for so many years?
Well, I think what Vince is going to do right now is give up some of the legwork, watching 'Raw' from gorilla and all that sort of stuff. But Vince will always have the last word until the day he dies. I guarantee that. He's not the type of person that's going to be able to go and sit at home and watch the show without having the final say. He'll be more influenced by certain people. He'll give up some of the lighter work I'm sure. Vince McMahon is a genius. He is a bona fide genius and his specialty is the wrestling business. And when the day comes when Vince does not have the final say and doesn't have any answers as to what is going on, which will be the day he dies, that's when I think the business is going to be in a little bit of trouble because he's a visionary. You can copy those visions but you can't have them on your own and not just anybody can do that. You can't just appoint someone and say 'you're the next guy that's a genius.' Vince is one of a kind and that's why he's killed every other promotion and that's why everything he does wrestling-wise turns to gold.
I mean, the latest example is The Nexus invasion. If you would have told me that they were going to take these eight guys that no one's ever heard of and make them into the hottest heels and the hottest storyline in the company, anybody would have said no way. You would have said it, but he did it. He saw what could happen and it worked. It was huge. I thought it was a great summer. I thought that Nexus angle, the original one, was amazing. So, once again, even Vince in his mid-60s is coming up with these great ideas where you go 'wow!' Who would have thought of that and who would have taken a chance to even try it? I think the key to the WWE's ebb and flow is Vince, and when Vince is gone it will be very, very interesting to see what happens.
Whenever that day does come, it's assumed that Stephanie (McMahon) and Triple H (her husband) will be the people running the company. Do you think there would be major changes of how they look at the business and how they do things creatively from what we see now?
I don't think so. Obviously, they've been taught by Vince and been groomed by Vince since they were very young, especially Stephanie but Hunter too. He came there in 1995 or whatever it is. But I think you'll see when that happens that Shawn Michaels will have more influence, Undertaker, guys like that, even myself. I could work in the WWE until I'm 65 years old if I want to. I have never been asked but I think I could. I think I have the kind of reputation. Guys like Edge as well. But once again, it gets diluted. Vince is the boss. Not Stephanie. Not Triple H. It's not Undertaker. Not Shawn Michaels. When Vince goes, then let's talk to Stephanie and then let's talk with Triple H. Then suddenly you have two bosses. Or maybe John Laurinaitis is involved and it becomes more of a committee thing.
Vince is the boss, and when you have one boss that everyone trusts ... Sure, he's crazy. We're all crazy. There's days when he comes up with ideas that are horrible. But he's still Vince and his track record speaks for itself and you have to trust everything that he goes for because most of the time his instincts are right. And everyone knows who to go to when you have a question. Even if he says no to something when you know it will work, if he says no then you're done. That's it. So when he leaves, I think the power will be spread out a little more. I think that would be a big difference.
Could you ever see a day down the road where you work behind the scenes in WWE in some capacity, even creatively?
I don't know. I don't know if my ego would allow it. I enjoy being in front of the camera way too much to go behind the scenes. So I don't know. It's funny because the best coaches were guys that were never usually the biggest stars. Wayne Gretzky as a coach didn't work because he can't explain why he did things. He just did them. He just knew how to do them. Ted DiBiase was like that too when he was an agent. And he wasn't a great agent because he couldn't really tell you why or how to do things. He just had that instinct and the genius of what to do. Could I do it? Sure, but would I want to? I don't know man. Not at this point but I guess ask me in five years. It's hard to say. I see myself maybe commentating or something like that.
In the book, you wrote that when you wrote 'Lion's Tale,' you got your juices flowing to want to come back to WWE. What do you think it's going to take this time around for you to considering returning to wrestling?
Well, I consider it right now. I consider it always because it's not like it was in 2005 where I was sick of wrestling. Sick of it is maybe a harsh word. Disenchanted, I guess, is a better word. I wasn't disenchanted when I left in September. It was just my contract was up. That was it. And there were other things just waiting to come through. Even if I was coming back, I always would have taken those four months, three months off to do the Fozzy tours. Then other things have kind of popped up to delay my return. I mean, there's a deal on the table. A deal on the table that's 90-percent done. There's a couple of minor things that we had to hammer out. It would just be a matter of what other stuff is going on and how that stuff is going. I just have to feel the urge to come back to wrestling and I need to be there 100 percent.
Now that ... Fozzy is doing really good and 'Undisputed' was coming out, I kind of had my eyes on other things and you can't do that. You got to be 100-percent committed to the WWE and if you're not, step aside and let someone else take over that is. So, it's just a matter of being 100-percent committed to doing it. Because now I have set such a high bar for myself -- which I'm glad -- and I need to match that and I need to not come in anything less than that. When the time comes for me to do that, I'll be happy to come back, and if I never went back to wrestling, I'm happy with that too. I think I went out like a good heel should. I got killed at the end when Randy Orton kicked me in the head. If that's it, that's it. I don't need a big sendoff. I don't want a big sendoff. I think the Michaels, Flair things were amazing moments. But I don't want that. I'd feel kind of embarrassed to be honest with you to have all these people tell you how great I am, crying and all this stuff. It's like 'yuck, save it, save it please.'
I know your wrestling career might not be over yet but what do you think your legacy is in the business?
I think it's a guy who always gave 100 percent to entertain the fans. Went out of his way to make sure people had a good time. Made sure they got their money's worth and was also smart in how I always did it. It's funny, 'Black Magic' Norman Smiley -- I've been friends with him since the early-90s -- and we were just talking and he was like we wrestled together in Monterrey, Mexico in '92. And he said if you would have told me that this guy right here, this blond guy right here, this guy will become the best in the world at what he did, multiple-time world champion and future Hall of Famer, I would have gone, 'this guy?' This guy right here? He's going to be one of the best? C'mon!' And that's kind of the attitude I had for a long time. You're too small or you're too this or too that or whatever. The fact that I was able to beat all those people and do what I did, I take great pride in that. I'm doing the same thing with my music career as well and with everything else that I've done. Just a guy that gave 100 percent to entertain and did the best he could with any given situation and helped the guys he felt deserved the help and was a fun guy to go have a couple drinks with at the bar after the show.