AEW’s Chris Jericho on Being a Reigning Champ of Quarantine
Chris Jericho may have recently lost the All Elite Wrestling title, but he’s definitely winning in the era of social-distancing. Never one to stay idle, AEW’s inaugural champion has added commentator to his list of credits, found a way to stay connected with fans through weekly Facebook Lives, joined two new bands and managed to squeeze in time for another of his passions: B movies. This Friday, he co-hosts the season premiere of Shudder’s The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs.
“I’ve been a fan of Joe Bob Briggs since the ’80s. I used to read his books about B movies and little known horror movies. I’ve always been very interested and knowledgeable about that,” Jericho says. “I met Joe Bob at an autograph signing. I do those types of comic book conventions and pop culture conventions, if I can get someone to do my podcast [Talk is Jericho] at the same time. He was on the roster of guests, so I was able to book him. That’s how it started.”
Here, “Le Champion” explains his love of the genre, how he began moonlighting as an AEW announcer and why it’s important for the league—and himself—to continue entertaining during these uncertain times.
— Chris Jericho (@IAmJericho) April 14, 2020
One of the films on this week’s Drive-In double bill is rumored to be a certain 1970s horror movie classic that is one of your favorites.
Chris Jericho: I think the secret has been taken away because the director, Joel Reed, recently passed away. The movie is Blood Sucking Freaks, which if anyone knows about me and my history, you know [my on-air bodyguard] Ralphus from WCW. He was based on a character from Blood Sucking Freaks. It was a movie I saw about 20 to 25 years ago, and I never forgot it. So I thought it was the perfect one for us to do on The Last Drive-In.
When was the last time you saw the movie?
In the late ’90s. I used to have this group of guys called the “Cheap Ass Club.” We’d watch these B-level movies. We did it all throughout high school and carried it through the late ’80s and when we got together again. We still do it from time to time and during Christmas. We found Blood Sucking Freaks, and it’s definitely one of the most depraved movies of all-time, but done with a comedic edge. There is this murderous little person called Ralphus, and when I needed a name for my lackey in WCW, I just happened to have seen the movie. That’s when the whole legend of Ralphus began.
Do you remember the first horror movie you saw?
There used to be these late-night horror movies shown on Saturday nights. This was late ’70s into early ’80s. There was no VHS back then, so if you wanted to see the movie that was on TV, you had to get up and watch it. So my mom used to allow me to get up to watch these midnight movies. I used to watch Dracula, London After Midnight. Then there were the Hammer movies Blood of the Vampire. There were more current ones, like Burnt Offerings and The Omen. I remember my parents saw The Omen in the movie theater and then came home. My mom woke me up and was checking my head to make sure I didn’t have the sign of the beast like Damien Thorn had.
For the last few weeks, you’ve done interactive sessions on Facebook Live called the Saturday Night Special. We’ve seen you answer questions, host a “Judas” sing-a-long and even have friends like Kevin Smith join. What is it like to see the response?
We’re all at home, and everyone is looking for something to do—including me. I can’t build a fence. I don’t know how to change the oil in a car. But I know how to entertain, and I know how to make people happy. I figured I would do a live Q&A, didn’t have any idea how to do it. I didn’t know what to expect. Every week it has done 250,000 to 300,000 viewers. I realized there were a lot of people who wanted to see this. Sing some songs, tell some stories, do some Q&A sessions and maybe have some guests or maybe I won’t—it’s free-form. It’s not meant to be perfect. It’s not meant to be slick, overproduced. I think people appreciate that, because it really is like we’re hanging out on a Saturday night having some drinks. That’s what I wanted to do with it. I think that’s why it has been so successful so far.
Another way you’ve been entertaining the masses is by doing commentary for AEW. People have loved hearing you and Tony Schiavone together.
I knew we would have to start filming a bunch of shows all at once because of the way things were [with the pandemic]. We had to do four to six weeks of TV. When I heard that, I knew I had to be involved for the show’s sake and my sake. I didn’t want to miss four to six weeks. I thought rather than inserting myself into some sort of angle, why don’t I just do commentary? The plan for that first week was to have me do commentary anyway, because Jim Ross couldn’t make it for travel reasons. Then I thought, let me do commentary the whole time. That’s what happened. I was excited about it, because I’ve done a few matches here and there, but to do a whole show is a different animal.
So, I’m basically relying on the expertise of Tony Schiavone to carry me through it. Then I realized we had great chemistry, which is no surprise: we always had great chemistry if you look at the work we did in the late ’90s in WCW. I feel like since the legendary Jim Ross is not available, I’ll step in to do the best I can to provide commentary and some energy. When you’re working in front of just a few people there, the more energy you can have the better. If there ever was some dead spot, I thought I could make some noise since I’m this semi-obnoxious heel anyway. It has been a lot of fun. I hope in the future I can do some more.
One of the positives to have come out of this whole ordeal has been the execution of some outside-the-box ideas. You’ve been involved in some interesting segments, including interacting with Matt Hardy’s beloved drone Vanguard 1.
That’s the world we live in now. You have to be as creative as you can. Now is the time to throw anything against the wall. “The Bubbly Bunch” [The Inner Circle trash-talking The Elite on a video hangout] is an idea I had before, stemming from Santana and Ortiz putting some ideas out there. We were all able to take it and make something that ended up being a pretty big hit. I finished editing the second one. We’ll see what happens. Everyone is coming in from different places. If this was 10 or 15 years ago, you wouldn’t be able to do this. Because we have this technology, we can. We might as well be creative and take advantage of it.
You’ve been working with Hardy, who is no stranger to exploring new concepts. Do you think we’ll ever see the proposed “Elite Deletion” match at the Hardy Compound become a reality?
I haven’t thought much about it because we’re not at that point. I think it’s great Matt is in AEW. I think it has made such a big impact. Right now, we’re just keeping the lights on and doing the best we can to make sure everybody is involved and continues their storylines. Then when the time is right, if there is an “Elite Deletion,” we’ll do it. We still have “Blood and Guts” [the postponed March special that was to feature Hardy and The Elite vs. The Inner Circle] to do and a lot of other stuff. For right now, we have to continue just being as creative as we can and come up with as many ideas as we can to keep the ball moving.
There are a lot of new wrestlers on the market due to the recent round of WWE releases. Is there anyone in particular you think would fit in well with AEW?
It’s an interesting time right now, because a lot of guys got released. By proxy, you went from a business that was very profitable in many different levels to everything grinding to a halt. Hopefully, many of them will get picked up by the different companies. Some guys may have to go overseas. I don’t know what AEW has planned. That’s not really my wheelhouse. But I’m sure everybody is going to land where they should land. It’s just how it goes.
How are you handling the lockdown on a personal level?
Staying at home isn’t in any of our natures. I’m staying as busy as I can. You have to be as creative and active as you can. You can’t fall into the trap of Groundhog Day.
If you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, now is the easiest time to be able to do it. Learn how to play an instrument, work on projects, writing and singing, whatever you can do. I have two separate kinds of bands that started during this quarantine. Are they going to last past it? No. But it’s something to do to be creative and connect with each other. I think it’s important to do that in whatever capacity you can. Don’t hibernate and disappear. Try to stay as involved in the real world as you can.
The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, premieres April 24, 9/8c, Shudder
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT