Exclusive interview: Chris Jericho talks retirement and responds to Triple H

Chris Jericho has won World Championships (six of them), toured the globe with his metal band Fozzy and written New York Times bestsellers. He has claimed to outmaneuver “The Man of 1,000 Holds” Dean Malenko, spilled scalding hot coffee on Kane and trash-talked Stephanie McMahon. Y2J has even competed on “Dancing with the Stars” and joined the panel of AMC’s “Talking Dead.”

Yet perhaps the project “The Best in the World at What He Does” is most excited about right now is the brand-new web series, But I’m Chris Jerich o! Flanked by comedy demigods like Scott Thompson (of “The Kids in the Hall” fame) and Andy Kindler, Jericho offers a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of himself as an ex-pro wrestler looking to embark on another of his life’s dreams: becoming an actor.

On the day “But I’m Chris Jericho!” premiered, The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla joined WWE.com for an uncensored interview. In it, the always-candid Jericho discussed his passion for acting and music, as well as the current state of WWE and its roster, Triple H’s derisive comments toward him and others, and the possibility of returning to the ring.

WWE.COM: What have you been up to since the WWE Universe last saw you on TV?

CHRIS JERICHO: I think the last show I did was July 15, so after that, a couple weeks later, I went on tour with Fozzy over to Europe. I think we did nine or 10 countries over the course of four weeks. Then, we came home from that and did another five-week tour of the States and Canada. Just finished that last Friday and then “But I’m Chris Jericho” was released today, which we filmed last January a few days before I returned at the Royal Rumble, so things were pretty busy for me that week. But it’s always busy, so it’s not just like I’ve been at home, relaxing. I’ve had some good relax time, but I’ve still got a lot of projects, which is the way I like it.

WWE.COM: For people who haven’t seen it yet, how would you describe the premise of “But I’m Chris Jericho!”?

JERICHO: I left WWE in 2005 to go to Los Angeles, study acting and start breaking into that world. When I was out there I realized pretty quickly it didn’t really matter that I was Chris Jericho, a former WWE Champion. I was just a guy going to auditions with 18 other guys who look just like me, trying out for one line in “CSI: Sheboygan.” You know, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.” “Thank you, next!” I’m like, “Really? But I’m Chris Jericho! Don’t I get another shot?” And that’s when I formulated the concept of “But I’m Chris Jericho!”

What if Chris Jericho got blackballed from WWE and had no choice but to follow this other dream he had of acting, but having to start at the bottom? And that’s what the premise is. Jericho gets booted out of wrestling and starts trying to be an actor, and he loses everything in the process. So he has to move back in with his college roommate and has to deal with a horrible agent, a terrible acting coach and horrible auditions. That’s basically what I was going through. I had no problems going through that process; I was learning what it was like to be in Hollywood, but the whole time I was thinking, "This or that would be great for my show."

I started working on “But I’m Chris Jericho!” in 2006 with a friend of mine from Toronto. We pitched and wrote some scripts for it, and that was it and then it went away. Then, about a year ago, [my friend] called me and said he sold the show. I asked, “What show?” He said, “‘But I’m Chris Jericho!’” and I said, “You were still working on that?!” That’s when the whole thing came together.

WWE.COM: Have you encountered many misconceptions about wrestlers in other fields, whether acting or music?

JERICHO: You’re always going to get that, and I’ve been dealing with that for years. People don’t know how to take Fozzy because, “Oh, it’s the wrestler who’s the singer.” People who don’t know “But I’m Chris Jericho!” think it’s just going to be me rolling around in tights in the ring. Obviously, people are going to think what they think, and I’ve never had any problems proving people wrong. I do what I do. I have passion for music just like I have passion for wrestling, just like I have passion for creating and acting.

WWE.COM: It’s not like you weren’t already an established performer.

JERICHO: In WWE there’s a huge degree of acting you need to have to become legendary, to become popular. You have to become a great actor in WWE and that’s something I’ve honed from a young age. I could never be the biggest guy on the show when I first started wrestling; it was all about the giants. But I could have the biggest personality, the biggest character. That’s how I always approached the wrestling business, and that’s why I think I went as far as I did, because I worked on my character first and foremost, and then my matches secondarily — which turned out to be fairly good as well. But you’re always going to have people who want to put you in a box and say you can only do this or that, and my response is, look at Jared Leto from 30 Seconds to Mars. He sold out the Hollywood Bowl and he’s going to win an Oscar this year. Look at Justin Timberlake. He’s going to win an Oscar, he’s going to sell out Madison Square Garden. Those are the guys I look to.

I don’t look to the negative people because the only people who ever tell you that you can’t do something are the ones who haven’t done it themselves ... the ones who failed. I don’t ever pay attention to those people, because if I had, I wouldn’t have gotten into the wrestling business in the first place. Everyone told me I’m too small, and I proved them wrong. And then everyone told me I couldn’t do Fozzy, and then I proved them wrong. And then it’s, “You can’t act, you’re not funny.” Okay, go watch “But I’m Chris Jericho!” and then tell me what you think afterward. That’s the best way to live your life: Don’t listen to what other people think. Just follow your heart.

WWE.COM: At the same time, there are only 24 hours in a day. How do you balance Fozzy with all your other endeavors?

JERICHO: Fozzy has been pretty much the priority for the last three years and I decided back in 2010 that I’d put the band first and see where it went. The buzz for us has been off the charts; the band has grown so much in the last few years, and there’s such a big potential now and so much going on for us. We’re actually turning down tours at this point because we’re writing another record and we’ve got to stick to the plan. We just turned down a huge tour and it tore me apart that we had to do it, but we just didn’t have time for it. All the other projects revolve around that. I think at this stage in my life, that’s the best way to do it.

Don’t listen to what other people think. Just follow your heart.I spent 20 years as a full-time wrestler. I still love WWE and I’ll probably still come back at some point, but my days of being a full-time wrestler are over because there are so many other things going on. I’m not saying that won’t change in a year or two, but right now all these projects I’ve been working on for so long are finally paying off. Like I said, “But I’m Chris Jericho!” took six years to make, and that’s what you have to do. You have to stick with it if you want to get something done because things that are worth doing are never easy. That’s how I do it. I stick with it and I have to have a passion for it, be into it 100 percent. I think I’ve done so many things, I have a great fan base. Chris Jericho fans know what to expect from me. They know if I’m putting my name on it, it’s because I believe in it 100 percent and in my opinion, it’s the best I could have possibly done and I think you’re going to like it.

WWE.COM: One of the byproducts of your many endeavors, you just mentioned, is the part-time schedule in WWE. Besides the fact it allows you to work on other projects, what are the upsides to that type of schedule?

CHRIS JERICHO: I think I was always thinking ahead as far as being in WWE. You’re on TV 52 weeks a year, twice a week sometimes, and that’s why I’m always trying to change things — change my character, change my look, change my hair, change my facial hair, change my costumes, or implement different jackets or catchphrases. I try to keep myself fresh. I always try to be the Madonna of wrestling in that she always changed her look and her style, but she always stayed true to herself as an artist. That’s the best way to have longevity in this business, for sure.

I think having the “part-time schedule” now benefits Chris Jericho as a performer, as an attraction, as a character. If you stick around too long, people go on looking for the next thing. If I come and go and always leave people wanting more, I think it just adds to my abilities to help WWE, and it adds to my time in the ring — staying at a higher level, in my opinion. I think the last run I did in 2013, January through July basically, was one of the best runs of my career. I think I had some of the best matches that I’ve had. I was almost in the zone where I thought every match I had was good and I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been doing this for such a long time and been pretty fortunate as far as avoiding injuries, but you never know.

WWE.COM: How do you keep going?

JERICHO: A couple years ago I started doing yoga, changed my diet around. I feel better than I ever have. I feel better than I did 10 years ago and my matches are just as good, if not better, because I have more experience now. So I think to come and go would give me more time on the back end in the ring, but it depends on what other people feel. I don’t know what WWE’s plans are as far as letting me come and go. They’ve been pretty cool with it, but on the other side of the coin, I think I’ve more than done my part in holding up my end of the deal.

WWE.COM: Do you think more veterans should be doing what you’re doing?

JERICHO: I think they could use a Chris Jericho or a few Chris Jerichos — guys who can work with anybody and do anything, which is just a by-product of the experience that I have, and there aren't a lot of guys left who can do that. I think I’ve got some job security in that respect, but if the day comes when it’s like, “Sign for two years or you can’t come back,” then I guess I know what the answer’s going to be. But right now, I think it’s beneficial for both Jericho and WWE to have me coming and going. It keeps me fresh, and it always gives them somewhere to go and somebody they know they can always count on.

WWE.COM: You were mentioned recently on Raw when Triple H dressed down Daniel Bryan and listed the many great, popular wrestlers who, in his opinion, weren’t able to be “the guy,” or the face of WWE. He listed Rob Van Dam, Edge and you. What’s your response to that opinion?

JERICHO: You just said it, it’s his opinion, you know? That’s his opinion, and as somebody that was a six-time World Champion and main evented pay-per-views for years, was I ever the guy? Well, no, but who was? I think if you look over the last 15 years in WWE, you’ve got Rock, Austin, Hogan and Cena. I wasn’t the guy. But I think as far as this B+, A+, C+, F+ ... I don’t even know what that means. I just know that I had great matches pretty much every night. I had great rapport with the fans. I could make them love me or hate me depending on what I wanted, so I don’t know what more you can say.

WWE.COM: So there’s no tension between you two? 

JERICHO: The thing is, I really can’t be angry at something like that because it’s his opinion. Some of it might be the show business aspect and some of it may be true. But, like I said, we always had great matches together, so I think Triple H and I are fairly similar as far as where we were in the company. He got a lot of the spotlight put on him, probably more than I did, but if you look at the careers of Jericho and Triple H, we were always the guys who worked with the guy. Ask the fans what they think. That’s the ultimate judge of who was better. In my opinion, Triple H was great, one of the best of all time. But I think I could go toe-to-toe with him in every aspect.

WWE.COM: What are your thoughts on the current roster? Who impresses you, and if you were in Triple H’s position, are there certain Superstars you’d ensure have an opportunity to be in the main event?

JERICHO: There are a lot of guys. It’s an interesting time right now because you’re always waiting for someone to “step up,” and that’s what Daniel Bryan did. I think he proved beyond anybody’s doubts that he can be a top guy and once again, if there’s ever a match between Triple H and Daniel Bryan, I guarantee it’d be one of the best matches Triple H ever had. That’s the type of performer Daniel Bryan is. Sure, he’s “smaller,” even though he’s bigger than the average guy. He’s got long hair, a long beard and is a vegan, but who gives a damn? He’s a great performer. He connects with the crowd.

That’s the most important thing you need as a WWE Superstar: You have to connect with the crowd. If you can’t do that, I don’t care how good a wrestler you are, or how much muscle you have or how cool your hair is. You have to connect with the crowd. The guys who I like are the ones who have that connection.

WWE.COM: Who else stands out?

JERICHO: I love what The Shield did in a short period of time. I love Dustin Rhodes. I always did love Dustin Rhodes. I thought he was one of the most underrated performers in the company. To see him come back and work at that highest level of ability, I like it, because again, he’s got that experience and he knows what he’s doing. He knows how to make guys look good. Right now, Dustin’s one of the few A+ guys on that roster, in my opinion.

I love Bray Wyatt. I think he’s done a great job right from the start. There are quite a few guys that are coming through the system and finding themselves and getting that confidence, because you need confidence to get that connection to the crowd. If you don’t have the confidence, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re always second-guessing yourself. I never second-guess myself. I could wrestle you right now and I know we’d have a good match. Right now. Let’s go to the ring and don’t even worry about it, let’s go. Madison Square Garden. Let’s do it. Once you feel that way, nothing can bring you down, nothing can stop you.

WWE.COM: Do you have any wishes for wrestling? What does Chris Jericho believe is “best for business”?

JERICHO: What’s best for business is just continue to have an entertaining product with great, interesting characters. A lot of people will be down and say, “The business nowadays is this, this and this.” Has it changed? Yes, obviously it has. All sports have. All businesses have. It’s a little bit of a drag that the experience level has gone down, but those are the cards that have been dealt. I think under the circumstances, WWE’s in great shape. I think there are so many guys coming up that are ready to bust loose. All they need is that one little flame of confidence that starts the inferno. And when you get those guys, once it starts happening, nothing can stop you. And you can tell which guys have it. You always know which guys have it. 

WWE.COM: You’re hopeful for the future.

JERICHO: I think WWE and wrestling as a whole is in a great place right now. Obviously, there’s a transition phase that’s going on, but I love the WWE Performance Center, I think it’s a great idea. I think it’s going to save WWE’s ass in the long run. I think guys like Kane that are constantly revamping themselves … the proof is in pudding. Here we are, and Kane’s in the main event again, still. So once again, that’s the experience that he has, and there aren’t a lot of guys like that. We take guys like that for granted sometimes. Guys that big, that agile, that smart and that experienced.

We have a really good roster. I think it’s like a good hockey team. You’ve got a lot of rookies, first-round draft picks that are finding their way. You’ve got guys that have been around for a few years that are finding their way. You’ve also got some great veterans, so I think the business is going to be just fine. And sometimes, the other thing too is that people get down on certain things, but WWE’s doing over 100 shows a year. Some things are going to work, some aren’t. But there’s always something new going on, so it’s fun to watch and see what’s coming next. It’s like buying your favorite band’s new record. Some songs are guaranteed winners, some are OK, some you grow to like and some of them suck. That’s just how it goes. It’s like that with WWE storylines; if you don’t like something, well, just wait a few weeks and you’ll get something else.

WWE.COM: You alluded to this before, that we haven’t seen the last of you in WWE. Can you give us an idea of when we might see Chris Jericho return?

JERICHO: No, I can’t because I really don’t know. Like I said, I don’t have any plans right now, but somebody said to me the other day, “When did you know it was time to retire?” I said, “Retire? I never said that.” I’m never going to say the word “retire.” If I feel like having a match when I’m 70 years old and I think I can go out there and tear it up, then I’m going to do it.

If anything, the last run I had earlier this year proved to me that I’m still on top of my game, still one of the best in the business, still someone who has a great connection with the fans and can still go either way. I can come back as Y2J or I can come back as the evil, suit-wearing Chris Jericho; either way, it’s going to work. We’ll see what happens. And even if I did know, I wouldn’t tell you. I wouldn’t tell anybody. I would just show up and that’s the way I work. Hopefully it’ll be soon and if it happens, great. If it doesn’t happen, then I’m more than satisfied with everything that I’ve accomplished in the wrestling business and in WWE. And if I’m a “B player,” that’s because the “B” stands for badass.