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Chris Jericho on why he chose AEW over WWE, how close he came to signing with Impact, his future with New Japan

Chris Jericho’s Instagram

Chris Jericho promised a tell-all edition of Talk is Jericho this week, and he pretty much delivered.

While there are certain details of his signing with All Elite Wrestling (AEW) he contractually can’t or ethically won’t share with the world, Y2J didn’t leave out much. The self-proclaimed maverick dove into why he took the gamble of signing with a brand new company being launched by the Khans, owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars & Fulham FC, with his friends The Young Bucks & Cody Rhodes over taking the safe route of re-signing with WWE & his friend Vince McMahon. Jericho also talked about how close he came to signing with Impact and what he might have done there, and what his AEW deal means for him & New Japan.

Listen to the whole thing here, and check out these highlights:

  • He liked being treated like a main event-level star in New Japan, and knew where he’d be slotted if he returned to WWE. Jericho felt that his match with Kevin Owens being given the #2 slot on WrestleMania 33’s card was “too low” considering how much TV time they’d gotten and how popular his angle with KO was.

  • There was concern - and not much interest on his part - about going back to WWE and being “Chris Jericho ‘The List’ guy”. He also knew if he went back as his New Japan character, some fans might be angry.

  • On how close he came to joining the Anthem-owned Impact Wrestling: “I’ve been really impressed by Impact over the past year. I thought Don Callis and Scott D’Amore have really turned things around in that company and I really, really enjoy it. And I thought long and hard about doing some shows there - I even had a meeting Scott and Don in Toronto and Ed Nordholm, the offer they made was a great offer. That’s something that’s funny, when I hear you know, all these companies are vying for the talent, the free agents: WWE, AEW, Ring of Honor, New Japan and someone mentioned MLW - dude! What about Impact? They’ve got money! They were gonna spend some money on me, on Chris Jericho. We had some great matches planned. Jericho vs. Sami Callihan, maybe, or with Johnny Impact or Brian Cage, Rich Swann - I’d love to work with Rich Swann. So I did honestly talk to Impact and really, really thought about going there.”

  • Jericho doesn’t explain exactly why he ruled Impact out (we can probably guess that TV played a big role), but the decision to pick All Elite over WWE is discussed in detail: “And then, Tony Khan came in with this offer, that’s you know, the biggest offer I’ve ever been offered in my career. And then you have to stop and think. Ok, if you’re gonna get this offer then you know you’re gonna have some real focus... It’s a little bit hard, because I’ve worked for WWE for 19 years. Love the WWE. But, I put myself into Chris Jericho’s shoes back in 1998 back when I was contemplating leaving WCW and thinking, ‘how much further can I go in WCW under these rules, under these conditions?’ And I realized I probably can’t go much farther... so I put myself in those shoes. Could I walk away from the WWE and go to All Elite Wrestling? A brand new company that doesn’t even own a wrestling ring at this point as far as I know. And after some introspection, the answer was ‘yes, I can do this’. Because what AEW is doing is they’re showing me respect, and they’re showing me that they have a lot of expectations for me. The cart is on my back and I have to do great work, and I have to go the extra mile to help make this work. In WWE, it doesn’t matter what I do. It’s still gonna be WWE. In AEW, it does matter what I do, and I have to be my best, and I have to really use my 30 years, or my 29 years of experience to help build this company. And that was exciting to me.”

  • In addition to the challenge helping start a new company offered, and the honor of being a top guy vs. another cog in the machine, Jericho gave Vince & company the chance to make a counter offer. But that offer never really came: “Once again, I still kind of gave WWE the benefit of, ‘hey listen guys, the train is leaving the station - are we gonna work together or not?’ And to their credit, we talked and all the way up to a few days before the rally, but there was never really an offer given. And I understand the reasons why, and I’m not gonna get into those, and I understand Vince’s mindset just as he understands mine.”

  • Jericho said he absolutely understands WWE’s moves to make sure they’re not promoting him after he showed up at the All Elite rally, and reiterated that he & Vince remain on good terms after his exit: “But we did leave on amicable terms, you know. We really did. It was a shaking of the hands, proverbially. A thank you, a couple other things were discussed where both of our sides were happy with the arrangements that we made and kind of the closure that we got. You know, Vince McMahon is my friend. I mean, I respect him - so much. He’s helped me a lot, and we’ve made each other a lot of money. And most importantly, like I said, we’re friends. So the last thing I wanted to do, if I was gonna leave the WWE, was to do it as a screw job, or as a stabbing in the back, you know. I didn’t want that. I never wanted it the whole time. I always told Vince what I was doing, and he knew before anyone else that I was going to All Elite Wrestling. And, once again, once I go there, I’m gone... we can all hold our heads up high and realize that we did things the right way, as the way it should be. No ill feelings, no ill will, no talking shit behind each other’s backs. That might happen, but not on my end. I love the WWE, I respect the WWE.”

  • On what his new contract means for the teased program with IWGP Heavyweight champ Hiroshi Tanahashi: “This is a three year exclusive deal, with the exception of New Japan, which I still intend to work with. We don’t have anything set in stone, but we’re working on it. But other than that, I’m not working anywhere else. I can’t, contractually, nor would I want to. It’s AEW all the way.”

  • Following up on the respect he has for The ‘E, Jericho says the goal of his new venture isn’t to compete with Vince McMahon’s corporation: “They [WWE] go through ups and downs creatively and stylistically and character-wise, but it’s the WWE! It’s the biggest wrestling company in the world. You’re not going to beat it! But we don’t want to beat the WWE, we’re not planning on that - that’s not the mindset of AEW. The mindset is to provide an option, an alternative for wrestling fans, something that you haven’t seen before or haven’t seen in a while.”

We’ll see how this latest risk in the career of a 48 year old who believes he’s a better performer now than he was at 28 pans out. In the meantime, listen to the entire “Change the Universe” episode of his podcast here, and let us know what you think below.

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