Chris Jericho unedited
While researching for the WWE Championship book, I was able to catch up with Chris Jericho via phone one Monday night. Much of what he told me wound up in the book; but here are portions of the interview that wound up on the cutting room floor. Enjoy:
You unofficially won the WWE Championship against Triple H on Raw. Unfortunately, you had it taken away immediately … and then you had to wait approximately a year and a half before officially winning the gold. During that time, did you ever question if a “real” reign would happen for you?
Not really. Things were a lot different back then. There was a certain level you had to get to before you could be in the title hunt. The fact that the company showed that confidence in me in April 2000, even if it was a gimmick for a show, lead me to believe I would win it again. I wasn’t sure when, I wasn’t sure how, but I believed I would win it again.
How did you celebrate the win?
I had to drive from San Diego back to Anaheim. I was the last person to leave the building and I got stuck in a traffic jam. There wasn’t really a chance to do a big celebration. It was one of those things where I got back to my room, sighed a relief, patted myself on the back and went to the next show. So it wasn’t really the confetti and champagne type of thing. It was more of a get your gear saddle up and get ready for the next show.
What was it like to square off against Rock and Stone Cold?
I’m all about match quality. I thought those matches against Rock and Austin were good, but having one of the best matches of the night against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania means a lot more to me than winning the title that night because those matches were good, but I’m all about what was the best match of the show. I’m not sure if those matches were the best on the show; they were pretty good. I worked for about 35 minutes total, back to back. It was a great time in my career. It was like winning an Oscar for the first time and getting that pat on the back that meant more than actually being able to brag about being the champion. It was more the principle of it than it was the process.
Your reign came at a pivotal time in the company. Did you find it stressful?
No, it was different then because there was only one champion. Because of this there was no coasting. And we had some of the biggest stars ever in Rock, Austin, Triple H, Undertaker, Mick Foley, and Kurt Angle. Just because you were champion didn’t mean you were the top guy in the company. You really had to work your tail off to stay at that level. Just because I had the title around my waist didn’t really mean much. You still had to put your nose to the grindstone. And once you win the title, there’s a target on your back … Everybody wants to cut you down … There’s a lot of things that happen behind the scenes when you become champion.
After losing the title, you went on to win the Intercontinental Championship. Did you see that as a step back or a demotion in any way?
Any time you win a title it’s a good thing, but once you’ve been the WWE Champion, you don’t really want to go back to the IC title because it is a step down. It is more of a title for up and coming guys. But you still never want to downplay it. You’re still a champion, but being WWE Champion is like you are THE champion.
Speaking of Y2J, I thought it would be funny to share a story from his MSG debut. I probably should’ve been fired that night … boy, how things would’ve changed if I got canned.
Anyway, it was shortly after Jericho’s TV debut in 1999. He wasn’t advertised to be at the Garden on this night, but was going to make a surprise appearance. This was back when the lights would go down in the arena during his entrance, then he would appear as if from nowhere doing his arms spread thingy.
So the lights went out as planned and the crowd started to buzz. No music was playing, so nobody in the crowd really knew what was going on … but they could tell something big was about to happen. With the lights out, the plan was for Y2J to sneak into the ring, then his music would hit and the lights would go on … unfortunately, that wasn’t what ended up happening (You know where this is going, right?).
I was working as a producer for WWE.com and standing at Gorilla Postition with our cameragirl when Jericho slyly made his way out from behind the curtain. At that moment, the girl (who wasn’t all that bright) grabbed me and said, “let’s follow him down the aisle with our camera and get a .com exclusive.” Naively, I said, “ok,” and grabbed our handheld mic to pick up crowd sound.
So there we are with Jericho sneaking down to the ring … back then we could get away with these things at house shows … not so much anymore (probably because of what happened next). About seven yards away from the ring, our cameragirl realizes she can’t see Jericho in her shot because it was so dark. She then decides to turn the camera light on and point it right at Y2J. All the way up to the ring, she had her light shining on Jericho. The whole arena saw it … we ruined the surprise.
Luckily, I realized this wasn’t going to end well, so I dropped the microphone and bolted back toward the locker room. I literally ran right through the curtain and past all the big wigs. Unfortunately for the cameragirl, she didn’t follow me, despite me telling her to do so. Instead, she just kept ruining the surprise. When she got back to the locker room, she was destroyed by certain unnamed, high-ranking WWE officials (Needless to say, she didn’t last too much longer).
The whole thing happened so fast that very few people actually noticed me fleeing from the scene (at least the important ones didn’t, which is all that matters). But because she was my responsibility at the time, I did receive a minor slap on the wrist. Amazingly, I went on to spend nine more years with WWE (sans a brief six-week hiatus … but that’s a whole other story).