Chris Jericho has shared what it was like for him as a guy that helped to carry AEW in the first few months of the company.
When AEW launched in January 2019, Chris Jericho was at the first press conference as one of the biggest signings made by AEW’s Owner, President & General Manager Tony Khan. Later that year, Jericho became the first AEW World Champion.
Since Jericho was arguably the biggest name signed to an AEW contract at the start of the promotion and a guy that had over 20+ years in major pro wrestling companies like WWE, WCW and NJPW, it made sense to build around him.
While speaking during a recent Inside the Ropes live tour that recently aired on the Talk Is Jericho podcast, the “Lionheart” talked about how helping grow in the beginning has added to his legendary status in pro wrestling.
“I didn’t care about the door being closed with WWE because like I said at that point, and this is not like angry or bitter, it’s just, it’s second match. Okay, great, let’s do something else. So when the idea came for AEW, and like you’ve heard it a million times though, there’s a new wrestling company, this guy’s [Tony Khan] got some money, like whatever, whatever, same thing over and over again.”
“And it took me a while to really believe what Tony was talking about, because what you need to start a company is you need money and a lot of it, which the Khan family has, you need a great television deal, which we didn’t have at the time, but we finally got it with TNT and TBS, and you need a collection of guys who aren’t retreads or haven’t lived up to their full potential.”
“And we had that with The Elite right out of the gate and then bringing in [Jon] Moxley right out of the bat for the first show that we had. That’s a guy who just was not even close to living up to his full potential. You can see that now, Moxley is so much better and bigger than ever was as Dean Ambrose.”
“So we had all three of those things, and also a passion and a desire, and not a vendetta but there was a point to prove. So when I started really thinking about going to AEW, it really reignited my passion and love for wrestling. And more importantly, I said, ‘I can really cement my legacy with this.’ Because I could stay in WWE, it doesn’t matter. It’s always going to be good. If I’m there, anything that I do at the risk of sounding egotistical, or anything I do is going to be good.”
“But if I go to AEW, and it becomes something, we’ve now changed the course of wrestling history, and it’s basically on my back the first three or four months of AEW was on Chris Jericho’s back completely. So that was like if we can make this work. Suddenly there’s a whole different level of you know, legendary status to Chris Jericho.”
Jericho went on to explain that his longtime WWE boss Vince McMahon actually told him to take the AEW deal, so that’s what Jericho did.
“I did give WWE a chance, though, I did give him a chance and said, ‘Here’s the offer that I’ve gotten for this new company.’ And I was told, ‘Vince says take it.’ I think he thought I was bluffing. And when I took it then about a week later, he’s like ‘You took it?’, and I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘Can you get out of it?’ I’m like, ‘No. You told me to take it. Why would I try and get out of it?’ And then he’s like, ‘Well who is [recruiting], what’s the word when you’re trying to bring somebody in? Who’s that or whatever? It’s not cultivating but who’s kind of backing it?”
“Yeah. Well, like if you’re going into the army, and you enrol into the army, you’re signing up, let’s say well, who’s enlisting? I’ll think of the word later, who’s kind of bringing in guys, who’s the broker to get guys to come in? That’s what Vince is asking me. And it’s like, I’m thinking, I said, ‘Well, it’s me.’ I just want to tell him that and then he was asking me all these like, ‘What kind of a TV deal [is it]?’”
“I was like you can’t ask me these questions. I’m not going into here as a covert agent spy for Vince McMahon. So anyways, once I took the deal with Tony, I’m full on 1,000%. No looking back, let’s create some history. And that’s what we did. Recruiting! That’s the word!”
The 51-year-old (52 in November) Jericho made history as the first AEW World Champion, and he is now the ROH World Champion after defeating Claudio Castagnoli to win that title on the September 21 edition of Dynamite.
Jericho is now promoting a t-shirt called “The Ocho” in reference to his eight World Titles in pro wrestling: Six in WWE, one in AEW and now one in ROH as well.
— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) September 24, 2022