Chris Jericho is one of the up-and-coming stars in pro wrestling. In the seven years that he’s been wrestling, he’s held numerous titles and travelled the world. SLAM! Wrestling was fortunate to be able to talk with the Winnipeg-raised Jericho and find out a little more about the Lion Heart. Here is the complete interview.
The following interview was conducted by phone with Chris Jericho by Greg Oliver of SLAM! Sports on Thursday, September 24, 1997 at 11:30 a.m. EST. Jericho was at his new home in Orlando, Florida.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re from, where you grew up?
A: I was originally born in New York City because my father used to play for the Rangers. I grew up in Winnipeg, Canada and for the last seven years I’ve been living up in Calgary. I actually just moved down here [to Orlando, FL] about a month ago, actually not even that, it was about three weeks ago because it was getting a bit much to be traveling from Calgary all of the time. But I’ll end up back there again, I’m sure.
Q: So you went to school in Winnipeg?
A: Yeah, in Winnipeg. I went to high school there and I went to college there.
Q: What college?
A: It’s called Red River Community College and I took journalism there.
Q: So you could be turning the tables on me here!
A: Yeah, let me ask you a few questions!
Q: I went to Ryerson [for journalism]. It’s a good program. I think it gives you life skills. It prepares you for interviews anyway.
Q: Tell me a little bit about how you got involved in pro wrestling.
A: I grew up watching Stampede Wrestling and WWF. Stampede was from Calgary. Stampede had a wrestling show they used to advertise on their TV show so I was thinking ‘that’d be cool if I could get into that.’ When I finished college I just said ‘I’m going to try this,’ and I went to the wrestling school there. But since I was 16 years old, I knew that I wanted to do that. Then it was like a two month thing. You went there everyday for three hours a day and got beat up and thrown around and stretched out. After that I was a wrestler.
Q: At what age did you enter the Hart school?
A: I was nineteen.
Q: How long did that apprenticeship take? How long were you there?
A: Two months. Everyday for two months. And then after that you’re pretty much on your own.
Q: Let’s go back to your dad. What was his name?
A: Ted Irvine. He played from ’67 to ’77 for the Kings, and the Rangers and the Blues.
Q: Did you guys move around much with him?
A: Yeah, I was born in New York, I lived in St. Louis. And then always in the off-season we were back in Winnipeg because that’s where my dad was from.
Q: Tell me about where you went after Calgary, after you finished your training.
A: Well, once I finished my training, I just worked independents around Calgary for a while. The first big trip I had I went to Japan in October of 1991 for a company called FMW [Frontier Martial Arts]. It wasn’t really my thing. It was more like a ‘blow-up everything’ kind of company. After that, I kept doing independents. Then in about ’92 in about December I got a chance to go work in Mexico at one of the smaller companies there. It was in Monterey, Mexico, which in comparison would be like an ECW of USWA type of thing. I worked there for a bit, then I got a chance to go up to the big league in Mexico which was EMLL. And I worked there for two years. While I was working there, I got the chance to work in Japan for a company called WAR with Ultimo Dragon. I went there for two years straight and then everything just escalated from there.
Q: How did you come up with the name Chris Jericho?
A: I think it was two or three weeks before my first match, the promoter said ‘we need a name for you’ and I couldn’t really think of anything. Just from looking in The Bible and I had an album by this band called Helloween called Walls of Jericho. I just thought Jericho would be a cool name to use. Chris Jericho. I had never heard the name before, and that’s basically why I chose it. It was an original one.
Q: How did you go about getting contacted by WCW?
A: That was a long process as well. When I was working in Japan, I met up with Chris Benoit there. I had never really met him before but we were from the same area, the same background and stuff. He helped me get into ECW. And then when I started working in ECW he had gone on to WCW. He kind of helped me get into WCW as well just by taking my tape, giving me some good p.r. And then they just started calling me. The catalyst was when I worked the World Peace Festival in Los Angeles held by [Antonio] Inoki with all these different companies. I just kind of, not weaseled, but I really wanted to be a part of the show because I thought it would be a real honorable thing and it would be neat to be involved. I happened to run into a guy doing an independent show in Los Angeles and I kept calling him and calling him and calling him. He was one guy who had something to do with putting together the show, so I ended up on the show. That’s where I met Eric Bischoff [boss of WCW]. He told me to call him. Once again, the rest is history.
Q: One of the questions that a lot of people asked us is your thoughts on the Hart Foundation, because you were trained by the Harts.
A: I think it’s great. I think it’s one of the best things the WWF has. I have a lot of respect for Bret Hart, and Owen Hart as well. Bret has always been first class with me, and a very good guy. Very helpful and stuff. I enjoy what they do. Especially Bret and Owen. I think they’re great, great professional wrestlers. Looks like they’re having a lot of fun up there.
Q: The next logical question is do you ever see yourself being a member of the Hart Foundation?
A: It’s definitely an option. If I ever went to the WWF, that’d be a great place for me to go. I am from Calgary — well, I ‘m not from Calgary but I feel like I am now. Calgary’s my home city. So I’m from Calgary. I was trained by the Hart brothers and their styles is a lot like my style. Yeah, I’d love to be in it if I ever went to the WWF. But that’s not to say that I’d ever go to the WWF. But if I ever did, that’s the place I’d like to be.
Q: One of our readers asked if you share the ‘anti-American sentiment’ that the Harts are expressing?
A: I don’t really have that. I don’t have that. I enjoy the United States and have a lot of good friends from the United States. That’s the other thing. I like everybody. I’m easy to get along with.
Q: Tell me about some of your title runs.
A: It’s funny because a friend of mine had just given me a bunch of things from the Internet. He’s from Japan … It had a history of all the titles that I’ve had and it actually had the history of the belts. The first one I had was the NWA middleweight belt and that was from Mexico. And that belt was like 90 years old. The first champ was like 1911, or something like that. It’s cool … Eddie Guerrero’s father had the belt in 1950, the original Tiger Mask Satoru Sayama had it. So there’s a lot of history involved. So I had that one for almost a year and I lost that one to Ultimo Dragon. I guess that was about three years ago now. … I just trying to think of the major ones that I’ve had. Another one was the WAR International Junior Heavyweight belt, which is kind of like a cruiserweight thing. I lost that one to Ultimo Dragon as well. He’s beaten me for a lot of stuff. I had that one for about six weeks. I had the ECW TV championship for about six weeks as well. I beat Pit Bull #2 for that and lost it to Shane Douglas. And then the WCW cruiserweight belt, and there’s been a couple of tag belts and a couple of other ones. Those are like the four major ones.
Q: I’ve got a question here from a reader about that ECW TV title. He points out that cruiserweight champs in WCW — Malenko, Mysterio Jr, Eddie Guerrero and you — were all ECW TV title holders. Do you feel there’s some sort of bizarre link going on there?
A: I don’t know if it’s a bizarre link. But there’s no denying the fact that Paul E. Dangerously [ECW boss] is a very smart guy and he gave a lot of chances to guys who had never had chances before. For Dean and Eddie and myself and Rey Mysterio and even Chris Benoit, he saw something in us that no one else did and as a result the big WCW saw it because of him. I attribute a lot of the reason I’m in WCW is to Paul E. as well. ECW was a great place. A lot of great wrestlers work there now and have come from there in the past. I’m proud of my ECW background.
Q: Do you still follow it?
A: I still try to follow it as much as I can. It’s hard. I don’t get a chance to see it that often. Through the grapevine and stuff I always try to follow what’s going on.