Chris Jericho opened up on the latest episode of the Talk is Jericho podcast about his journey from being a mainstay on the WWE roster to one of the headlining members of the new All Elite Wrestling promotion.
Jericho started off the podcast by explaining how he wound up wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling, namely that Don Callis had reached out to him about the original match with Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12 but that he really appreciated the creative freedom the company gave to their wrestlers when it came to characters, promos and storylines. During his time there he built up a friendship with Omega and the other members of The Elite, which was strengthened when the Young Bucks were the first Ring of Honor wrestlers to jump at the chance to work on his Rock 'n Rager Wrestling at Sea cruise last year.
Throughout that time Jericho was clued in on the Bucks and Cody's plan to potentially start their own promotion. Jericho was still on good terms with WWE at the time and had been negotiating a possible return to the company for matches at SummerSlam and Crown Jewel, but was instead convinced by Rhodes to make an appearance at the All In event on September 1.
Jericho then revealed that the private jet that had famously transported him All In as well as his Fozzy concert later that same evening in Kansas City was paid for by Tony Khan, now the president of AEW.
It was around that time that Jericho had a four-hour meeting with Khan, who sold him on the idea of joining the new promotion.
"(I) really got the chance to get to know this guy and hear what his thoughts were, hear what he wants to do with this company and hear what he's thinking and feeling," Jericho said. "And that's when I realized this guy really wants to do this."
Jericho was sold on Khan's passion and his experience running both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Fulham FC Premier League soccer club. He then said Khan's original offer to him blew him away, comparing it to an NHL-level deal.
"And then we started talking possible offers and the original offer that came in blew my mind," he said. "This is a real, like an NHL-level offer, which I had never gotten before. But I also know that with the money WWE has that they could match if they want to. So then you start thinking and negotiating as time creeps on after All In, kind of the shots were fired that Jericho said he'd never work anywhere else in the States but now he did. And that was done as a message to WWE, letting them know 'Hey, I'm out here, still causing waves.' No pun intended, but I'm going to do things the way I want to do things."
Jericho said he and WWE were still negotiating (as well as considering an offer from Callis to work for Impact Wrestling) up until days before AEW's fan rally in Jacksonville on Jan. 8. He finally made the decision that from a career and creative standpoint, AEW was the right choice.
"And then Tony Khan came in with this offer, that's the biggest offer I've ever been offered in my career. And then you have to stop and think, 'Okay, if you're going to get this offer, then you know you're going to have some real focus.' As big as The Bucks and Cody are, Hangman Page has some steam, all the guys that were kind of ear-marked to go to All Elite... even if Kenny went there. He hasn't gone there yet, but what if he did? So there's a lot of different ways I can go here," Jericho said. "And when Tony puts the money where the mouth is, now I'm like, 'Well I really have to think, do I really want to make the jump?'"
Jericho said it was a tough decision, but considered that if he went back to WWE, he'd likely not be positioned on the shows and on pay-per-view cards the way he wanted.
"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 from back in 1998 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.
"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, I have to do great work and I have go the extra mile to make this work," he said. "In WWE, it doesn't matter what I do, it's still going to be WWE. In AEW, it does matter what I do and I have to be my best. An dI have to really use my 29 years of experience to help build this company. And that was exciting to me."
AEW's first event, Double or Nothing, takes place at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 25.