The Buzzer’s Jimmy Traina recently spoke to the multi-talented Chris Jericho about his wrestling career, his new podcast and more. The popular WWE superstar talked about WrestleMania, CM Punk and Vince McMahon’s distaste for improv. Jericho also discussed his philosophy for hosting an entertaining podcast and revealed his do’s and don’ts for the show.
FOXSports.com: WrestleMania XXX is on April 6. Are you excited to watch it or do you not have much interest since you’re not part of the WWE at the moment?
Chris Jericho: Kind of half and half. I’m not wrestling because I choose not to. I have other things going on. I don’t see myself wresting five years from now, so now is the time to make that transition. I follow the shows more online than anything. I don’t really watch wrestling because there are too many other things I like to watch. If I were at home for a couple of days, I’d rather watch "True Detective" or "Walking Dead" or "House of Cards" than wrestling. WrestleMania, I might check it out if I’m home. But my house isn’t really a wrestling house. My kids don’t care for it, my wife’s not a fan. If I do watch it, it’s more like I have to tape it and watch it later.
FS: Do you keep up with what’s going on in the WWE?
CJ: I follow what’s going on, but I don’t really sit down to watch and analyze it. I need to follow what’s going on. It’s part of what I do. Whether it’s my podcast or just being Chris Jericho. I never understood the guys who would come back into wrestling after being gone for five or six years and have no idea who all the characters are, and what’s what. I’m kind of in the middle. I still follow along, but I don’t really watch a lot.
FS: The big story in the WWE right now is the status of CM Punk, who walked away from the company a couple of months ago. Did you walk out on the WWE? And what is your opinion on what Punk did?
CJ: No. I’ve never done that. When I felt the way that Punk did in ’05, I just waited until my contract was done, and then I left for two-and-a-half years. I never walked out in the middle of a contract, nor would I. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that Punk did because that’s his decision. I don’t know anything about it. I know as much as everyone else. The thing is, the wrestling business goes on. There’s never been one guy who has ever left and caused the business to shut down. Hulk Hogan left. Bret Hart left. All these guys have left and guess what? They get replaced.
FS: Jim Ross told me that Punk is leaving a ton of money on the table.
CJ: Then, he must have made a s—load of money. I walked away from WCW when they offered me a contract, but I had enough. They could’ve paid me $3 million or $5 million or $10 million, and I still didn’t want to be there. If you don’t want to be there, the money is irrelevant. Yeah, you could look at it like he’s walking away from a s—load of money, but he’s also walking away from a situation where he’s saying, "I don’t care what they pay me, it’s not enough. It’s not worth my sanity, and I’m leaving." It’s easy to play armchair quarterback with this situation, but no one knows what’s going on except Punk, and he’s not talking, so it’s all speculation at this point. The bottom line is, life goes on, the business goes on, and Punk doesn’t seem to worry about it too much because he’s not there.
FS: You had one of the great debuts in WWE history where you went back and forth with The Rock. Did you guys write that exchange?
CJ: It was a great entrance; probably one of the best entrances to a company of all time. I wrote the entire promo out on my own. I remember going into a back room with Rock and one of the other writers to go through it. There was no rehearsal. Nothing had to be approved by Vince McMahon. These days, every promo has to be approved. Everything goes through rehearsal. It’s very micromanaged now. It’s very different now. At that point in time, no one knew what we were going to say. I didn’t show it to anybody. Now, if you write a promo, the writer will write the first draft, and then I’ll re-write it with the wrestler I’m talking with, and then we have to get Vince to approve it, and then he’ll make his changes and edits.
FS: When guys like you and The Rock come back, you don’t get carte blanche to say what you want?
CJ: No, we don’t get carte blanche. It still has to be approved. It’s a different world. There is a little bit more of a trust level with guys like us, but it still has to go through the system. I’m usually writing 60 to 70 percent of what I’m saying anyways, so if Vince doesn’t like it, I’ll just go in the direction he wants. I think a lot of times it’s because there’s less and less guys with 20 years experience like me and Rock, and Vince forgets how good we are. Sometimes I have to say, "Back off, I know what I’m doing. I made you a lot of money." And Vince will say, "Of course, of course."
The art of improv and following what the crowd is doing is really gone. So if you have to break off the script and improv, you just have to do it and not tell anybody because it’s frowned upon even when it works.
One time I came backstage and Vince asked, "What were you doing out there?" I said, "Well, I was improv-ing." He said, "Next time you’re gonna improv, tell me." I had to explain to him that it doesn’t work that way. He looked down over his glasses at me and said, "Don’t be smartass."
FS: The schedule of a wrestler is grueling, but you seem to maintain a pretty hectic schedule even when you’re not with the WWE. You’re in a band, you host a podcast, you do various signings, and you have a web show. How do you do it all?
CJ: I never have a problem with the schedule either way. When I’m doing something, I do it all the way. Being in the WWE, you have a busy schedule, but so is going on tour with Fozzy. If I’m doing something, the only reason I’m doing it is because I love it, it’s because I’m into it 100 percent. It’s not about the money; it’s not about anything else. It’s about being 100 percent committed to what I’m doing. We finished our last Fozzy tour in the middle of December, and I’ve been home pretty much ever since. I go for a couple of days to do these signings; I go to L.A. for a couple of days for things. I work on the podcast for three or four hours during the day and then go drop off or pick up my kids at school. My schedule is as busy as I want it to be. Obviously, when we put out a new record, I know it’s going to be a lot of touring.
When I join up with the WWE, I know I’m not a guy who just works TVs. If I’m there, I’m there. If I’m not, I’m not. I don’t come back and do one-offs. I don’t have any interest in that. They asked me this year to cover the Hall of Fame. I said no. I don’t want to go to the Hall of Fame. I don’t want to sit there and watch the Hall of Fame and watch WrestleMania. Screw that. If I’m doing it, I’ll be there. If I’m not, I’ll be at home or wherever I am.
FS: You have a podcast for Podcast One that’s doing extremely well. I’ve listened to many episodes and was impressed with how polished you are and how good you are at interviewing. Was this something that came naturally?
CJ: I had a radio show for two years previous to this that ended in the summer. I would have a guest every week. I’m just interested in different things and curious about different things. I also don’t have guests on if I don’t have any emotional stake on it. Not that I couldn’t do an interview with somebody I didn’t know much about, but I haven’t really had to do that yet.
FS: You churn them out, too. It seems you’re doing two or three a week. Do you book the podcast or does Podcast One book it?
CJ: I have a lot of friends in wrestling, music and acting. Podcast One brings a lot of people. Some I do, some I don’t. When I had my radio show, it was great, but very limiting. All I could do is interview musicians. Now, I have the option to interview anyone I choose, and there are thousands of guests out there. My show is doing really well, so people are coming to me. I have a rule. I won’t talk to anybody for less than 40 minutes. I like to do the interviews that are more in-depth than, "Tell me about your latest project." You don’t get much out of those. I like having time to talk about different things.
FS: That’s a smart policy.
CJ: I know the business. The No. 1 thing I don’t like is being asked the same question over and over again. So I try to stay away from those questions. I had Slash on my radio show once and he said, "Don’t ask about Axl." I said, "I’m not gonna ask about Axl. I don’t give a f— about Axl." I got Slash, I don’t need to talk about Axl. I try to think of a different way to do things and to give people an interview they’re gonna have fun with. I know what it’s like to do press days and 60 interviews in a row and get asked the same questions. I’ve fallen asleep during interviews. It’s the same s— over and over again. I try to keep it exciting for the guests and the listeners. I structure my podcast like a talk show. I have an opening monologue. Sometimes it’s comedy, sometimes it’s news. Whatever interests me. And I take calls.