FOUR QUESTIONS WITH... FORMER WWE UNDISPUTED CHAMPION CHRIS JERICHO (FSM 106; May 2014)
FSM: When you were starting out, were there any aspects of pro wrestling you found harder to master than others?
Chris Jericho: I wouldn’t say I’m the master of anything, even now. If you ever say that, then it’s time to retire, because you’re full of shit.
The whole package of wrestling is hard. I always had the fearlessness to do whatever needed to be done; I never had an issue with doing a promo, or talking to people, or making a fool of myself as a heel, or losing a match. I never really cared about any of that stuff – I just cared about being a performer.
I wasn’t great at promos when I started, but I wasn’t scared of them – I just needed experience. I wasn’t great at psychology when I first got to the WWE, but I knew I just needed to learn it. I knew I would get over eventually because I had gotten over in multiple other territories.
There’s always things you need to learn, and always things you need to adjust constantly. You have to always be improving what you’re doing, and keep your eyes open to learn.
What should young wrestlers be doing to ensure that they learn as much as they can from veteran opponents?
I think the biggest lesson for anyone is that you have to learn what you do best, and stick with it. I remember when I first started training, Lance Storm could jump straight to the top turnbuckle from the mat, and I thought, “Now I have to do that. If I don’t do that, then I’ll never be good.” Of course, he was a natural athlete who could do things like that. In the big scheme of things, it was just part of his style, and it didn’t really make any difference if I could do it or not.
Just be yourself, and that’s when you’ll do your best work.
You’ve previously spoken fondly of your days in various territories. WWE now has the Performance Centre, which is an excellent facility, but do you think the guys coming through can possibly be as well-rounded as you were?
Well, of course they’re not – that’s obvious. That kind of path to the WWE – working in various territories – is few and far between now. I’m not going to say that it doesn’t exist, because the guys that are emerging in the WWE right now all came through that way: Daniel Bryan, The Shield, Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett all came through the worldwide system and they are always going to have a different perspective because of it. They’re going to have more experience, different styles – they know how to get over. When Daniel Bryan first came in, I knew he’d eventually get over, because he already had; he’d been on top in numerous territories, and after you’re on top once – and I don’t care if it’s in a high school gym – you know what it means and you know what it feels like to be on top.
I’m not going to say that guys won’t be able to become big stars coming straight out of the Performance Centre, but it’s going to be different. The business is changing, and that’s the way every sport is – that’s the way every form of entertainment exists. It changes, it shifts, and in wrestling there’s not as much of a worldwide scene anymore, and there aren’t as many opportunities, so guys have got to learn somewhere. If the WWE are going to do it all in-house, I think the Performance Centre is a pretty cool idea.
Is there one piece of advice you got as a rookie that still rings true to you today?
Well, you get advice all the time at the beginning, but the advice I remember more than anything was when I met Jesse Ventura a year before wrestling school in Winnipeg. I told him I was going to be a wrestler, and he said, “First of all, get a degree so you’ve got something to fall back on.” Which I did – I got a journalism degree. And then he said, “Be prepared to live every day in pain.” And he was right about that, too (laughs).
I also remember Bob Backlund, in ’94 in Japan, saying, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you save.” I’ve always gone along with that rule; when I was working in Japan, I’d come home after a three-week tour with five, six, or seven thousand dollars, but put half of it in the bank and then use the rest of it for bills and to go party or whatever I wanted to do. But I always made sure I saved.