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SDCC: AEW’s Chris Jericho on Never Wanting to be a Nostalgia Act, Creating the JAS

Author’s Note: The following Chris Jericho interview clips were taken from a roundtable interview session with other reporters. This transcript has been edited for clarity and to include only 411’s questions and answers.

During the 2022 San Diego Comic-Con, 411mania was on hand for a series of roundtable interviews with the AEW stars in attendance for last Saturday’s AEW: Heroes & Villains panel during Comic-Con International. During the roundtables, we were able to talk to former AEW World Champion, and the first WWE Undisputed Champion, Chris Jericho on his illustrious career, how he doesn’t want to ever be a nostalgia act, letting things in wrestling happen organically, and the creation of the Jericho Appreciation Society. Here’s a transcript and a full video of our chat with Jericho:

Jeffrey Harris: How does it feel to be a part of AEW at Comic-Con during this comeback year for the convention?

Chris Jericho: Well I mean this is obviously such a big — it’s such a big deal to be a part of it, to be here. So many different kinds of awesome forms of entertainment kind of all combining. So yeah, I mean this is the first time I’ve ever been at the San Diego Comic-Con. We did the New York Comic-Con a couple of times, but this is one of the big ones. So we should be here, and we’re excited to be here.

Jeffrey Harris: Do you see a correlation between pro wrestling characters and comic books at all?

Chris Jericho: Well I mean absolutely, and that’s kind of one of the reasons why I’m here with The Painmaker is because the graphic novel that we’re doing you know in the metaverse you know the nft blockchain graphic novel, and it’s perfect because when I started doing The Painmaker in Japan, it was like if a serial killer was a pro wrestler, what would he look like? Because when I first went there and had the match with Kenny Omega, I was wearing basically what I wore in WWE, and then I realized this doesn’t fit the vibe here. Japan is a very — as you guys know — it’s a very mystical country, and I just felt I wanted to do something more, a little bit more evil because that was my role there was to be kind of the modern-day Bruiser Brody monster heel sort of thing. So what would a monster look like if he was a wrestler, and that’s where The Painmaker came from. For some reason, the makeup felt right, and the hat, and the spiked jacket, and it just was something really interesting to me. And then I thought as well too, I know this is a long answer but it does fit with what your question was, there’s only so many Batman, Superman, Spider-Man movies we can make, right? They have to create a new superhero at some point, and I thought The Painamker was perfect for both wrestling and for comic books, and with the idea in the long run of actually even doing a movie, a feature film. And that’s why I still like, doing The Painmaker in AEW when we have these ultraviolet Barbed Wire Everywhere matches or the Nick Gage Death Match that I had because it fits the vibe of this character that I play. And it is a character you play because when you’re in wrestling, you’re playing a character, so it just added to the different dimensions of Chris Jericho, and I thought really lend itself to a comic book and you know the comic book world.

Jeffrey Harris: What I respect about your career is that you’ve been in this business for over 30 years, and you are not a person who rests on your laurels you’re not content doing like the greatest hits thing. And you’re constantly laying golden eggs. Can you speak at all about what inspires you to do that? You’re not content to keep doing like “stupid idiot,” or you come up with, “I’m a wizard,” and you’re throwing fireballs.

Chris Jericho: Because you have to. In my mind, you have to, and this is the reason why. 32 years into the wrestling business, which is insane when you think about it. I don’t think there’s anybody that’s been around as long as I have that’s been able to do this, but it’s not something I force It organically happens, and it’s very much influenced by David Bowie. He was always different, always changed, all the way until the end. He put out a record the day he died with a whole new character, Button Face. And everything was different: Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Let’s Dance, The Tin Machine, the Button Eye. You never knew who David Bowie was, but it was always him. You could go to a Halloween party, and go with 10 of your friends and everyone dresses up as David Bowie, and each one is a different character and you would know who it was.

And that’s kind of the same for me. Every Halloween, I post pictures of people who dress up as Chris Jericho, and they’re all different eras of Jericho. And that to me is very, very cool because — That’s The Painmaker, that’s Lionheart, the Stupid Idiot, that’s the List Guy, that’s the – you know all these different ones. And that excites me, so I’ll never rest on my laurels. I never want to be a nostalgia act, and I don’t think people want that anymore. They like the changes, and I don’t know when it’s gonna happen, but when it happens, it happens. You gotta read the room. The wizard was something – I threw the fireball at Eddie Kingston, and then on commentary, wizards. They cast spells, and they throw fireballs, don’t they? So yeah, I’m a wizard, whatever.

Back in 10-15 years ago when you said something that was getting over, people would hold up signs. They don’t hold up signs anymore. You know why? Because they’re too busy doing this *Holds up his phone*. Right? Now, how you can read the room is by Twitter, and Instagram, and those types of reactions and posts, and everybody was talking about the wizard. So it’s like, okay I’ll run with it. I’m a wizard. And then you have people going, “Oh, you gotta wear a wizard hat and wizard clothes!” Like no you don’t. That would be parody. I just use the name and call myself that and throw a fireball a couple of times and suddenly it becomes a thing. Then it’s another era of Chris Jericho, so all of these things kind of follow each other.

Jeffrey Harris: As a wrestler, how do you think the internet and social media have transformed wrestling? Because back in like the late 90s in when you were in WCW, the internet was there, and like there was like that subset of like smart marks and the internet wrestling community.

Chris Jericho: It was in his infancy though.

Jeffrey Harris: Yeah it was in its, but now like everyone has Twitter, and everyone’s trying to be like a smart fan, but what do you think?

Chris Jericho: That’s one of the things I love. Like people angry that Eddie Kingston “lost” the match even, though he beat the crap out of me and threw me in the spider web of death, and it’s like, you guys don’t know what the full story is yet. You know, everything leads to the next week, and when I watch a movie I don’t want to know what the end of the movie is before I see it. I want to watch it unfold the way that the filmmaker wants it to unfold. You know, I’m going through a big Godfather phase right now. I don’t go to the end of The Godfather and watch the last scene and go, “Well, that sucks! That doesn’t make any sense!” Watch the whole f***ing thing! Then when it’s over, then you can make your judgment. Here’s what I think with the internet. I think its influence is overblown. I think it’s overrated, and here’s the reason why. I have 4.2 million followers on Instagram. When I post a photo or a video, if it gets 10,000 likes, that’s a lot. Think about that. 10,000 likes is a lot out of 4.2 million. People aren’t paying as much attention to it as we think. Twitter, something gets posted, if you get a hundred tweets about a certain Painmaker match, Fozzy song, that’s a lot. Holy s***, that’s a lot! That’s a hundred. I’ve got four million followers on Twitter.

So, I think its influence is overblown, and people who are obsessed with social media consider its importance to be more than it really is. So, I think social media is a great way to promote your work, to read the room, but don’t be obsessed with it. There’s yin and yang for the people who say you’re the greatest thing ever. Those other people say go away and never come back, and you can’t take it for face value either way. It’s just people’s opinions. That’s all.

Jeffrey Harris: What do you think of the Jericho Appreciation Society? I’ve always felt 2.0 and Matt Menard were amazingly talented, but some of the work he’s done as part of the Jericho Appreciation Society, and just things like, “Sports entertainers!” I ca n’t get enough of it, like when he’s talking about his wife and his wife begging him not to work those matches. This guy’s amazing!

Chris Jericho: Well once again, it wasn’t like we ever sat down, and I picked, “Okay. I’m gonna use this guy, this guy, this guy.” There was never a JAS. It happened with Eddie Kingston and Santana/Ortiz, and Bryan Danielson said, “I want to start my own thing with [Jon] Moxley,” and he said, “We’ll bring in Wheeler Yuta, and we’ll bring in Lee Moriarty, and we’ll bring in Danny Garcia,” and I thought, “Well, that would suck for Menard and Parker if they just brought in Garcia and left those guys hanging. They should keep them together. They should keep them together and come with me,” because that was the crux of the angle that Eddie Kingston. Garcia, Parker, and Menard attacked Kingston, and they attacked me. So I go to the ring, not to save Eddie Kingston but to avenge the attack, which then causes problems with Eddie Kingston. So, they’ve been involved since day one. It’d be ridiculous not to continue this. So that’s when I thought, “Well, Santana & Ortiz are kind of gone with Kingston. Sammy’s the TNT champion, so he would just leave. I’ll keep [Jake] Hager because he’s my hand of the king. He’s my heater. I’ll bring these three other guys, and we’ll start a whole new thing! And we’ll call it The Citadel!”

And then I told Tony Khan. He loved it, although he said, “Citadel,” he didn’t like it, and I had just seen some email for the New York City Art Appreciation Society. I was like, “What kind of people are going to the Art Appreciation Society? Who’s going, ‘I appreciate art, so I’m going to the society.’” And then I thought, “That’s really cool. Let me just go all out and call it the Jericho Appreciation Society!” And of course, when I first said it people hated it. The same people said, “The Inner Circle is the worst name ever. It’s a terrible name. It should be called Inner Circle 2.0, you idiot! Don’t you get it?!” I’m like, “Oh my god. That’s so bad. You don’t get it!”

And then suddenly, we create a cool logo, and then we use the sports entertainer thing, which I’ve told that story before too about how Eddie said that in Connecticut and people booed, and I thought, “Wow. Let me see if sports entertainer is copyright written,” which it wasn’t. The The next day it was by me, and suddenly we have a whole new thing that has legs for months and months and months. And then, you know, Inner Circle was five. It had to stay at five. Blackpool Combat Club and Eddie had six. Okay, let’s add six. Let’s bring in Tay [Conti]. Let’s do Anna Jay as well. Now we’re like the Stones, where there’s like 15 people on stage, but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be just five. Let’s make it different.

Jeffrey Harris: Non-wrestling question. Have you watched Obi-Wan Kenobi yet, and did you think it was better than The Book of Boba Fett?

Chris Jericho: And it is. Well, let me rephrase that. I haven’t seen The Book of Boba Fett yet, but I loved The Mandalorian, but I just thought Obi-Wan was better, and I’ll tell you the reason why. They finally made up for the fact that in f***ing Phantom Menace, they took Jar Jar Binks into Tatooine instead of Obi-Wan. They left the best character on the ship and took the most annoying character into the city. So now, they finally made up for it because I love Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan. I think he’s one of my all-time favorite characters in the Star Wars canon. And so really glad that they did that. Hopefully, they do more.

Thank you to Chris Jericho for taking the time to speak with us.

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