Chris Jericho
Photo Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Chris Jericho: I Left WWE Because I Didn’t Want To Be A ‘Second Match Guy’, AEW Was On My Back Early On

On paper, Chris Jericho is a future WWE Hall of Famer. Apart from some gaps in his tenure, he was one of the company’s top stars from the time he debuted until the time he departed in 2018. Jericho’s decision to become the face of All Elite Wrestling seemingly burned his bridges with WWE, but he shocked the wrestling world when he appeared on a program produced by the company.

The Former AEW World Champion was recently the featured guest on “The Broken Skull Sessions,” where he discussed his legendary career with WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. In one highlight, Jericho explained why he left WWE for the last time. He shared that he didn’t want to play the classics if he came back to the company, as he wanted to find success with new stories instead.

“I knew what I would be if I went back to WWE. I knew what would happen.

“I knew the first thing when I went back is, I would have to put somebody on the list. In 2020, or 2019, the list was from 2016, it felt like, I’m just gonna go play ‘Back in Black’ for the rest of my life, even though I had 15 albums since.”

Jericho also explained that the way WWE management handled the end of his feud with Kevin Owens in 2016 was a deciding factor in his decision to leave WWE. The former WWE Champion explained that the placement of his match at WWE WrestleMania 33 was a deciding factor in his departure.

“I had this big program with Kevin Owens in 2016, which, in my opinion, was one of the best stories, if not the best story, for that year,” said Jericho. “And we get to WrestleMania, it changed from Kevin and Jericho to Brock [Lesnar] and Goldberg. And great, no problem. But when Kevin and Jericho went from the main event proposed to the second match on the show, I thought to myself, this is where I’ll be for, in my opinion, for the rest of my time in WWE. The second match guy. And in my mind, I wasn’t a second match guy.

“So that’s kind of the reason why I went to New Japan [Pro-Wrestling] and suddenly headlined the Tokyo Dome three ears in a row, and when the opportunity for AEW came up, I said I want to continue to do this. I like being the guy, which I’d never been, really before. And that kind of carried over in AEW, and it became a big success.”

“Le Champion” went on to describe how the success of All Elite Wrestling was on his shoulders in its first few months. He reflected on this time by stating that he felt like the natural leader of the locker room, especially when AEW’s first pay-per-view cemented the young company’s status.

“First couple months, [it] was specifically on my shoulders, and suddenly all the other guys came in, and now we’re one big team,” said Jericho. “But at first it was on my back, it was my responsibility to carry this company to the promised land, so to speak. That’s the way I felt. I felt a real big responsibility for that.

“I wanted to let the guys know and the girls know that this is a really big deal, and this doesn’t happen everyday. And our first show was at Las Vegas in the MGM Grand. We sold it out, [I’d] never seen so many people hanging from the rafters. I just had a team meeting with the roster and I said, ‘Listen, I want you guys to remember this moment. Because this is a historical moment for the business. No matter what happens. This is the first time in 20 years that there’s an actual company that can sell out the MGM Grand in Vegas. It’s gonna do 150,000 buys on pay-per-view. With a television deal waiting in the wings. Don’t take this for granted because it doesn’t happen every day. It’ll probably never happen again.’

Jericho then compared his role to that of McMahon, as countless wrestlers sought him out for advice in AEW’s early days.

“And I think when I kinda threw my pole in the sand…‘Taker doesn’t say he’s the locker room leader, I never say that either,” said Jericho. “But if people have questions and ideas or concerns, my door is getting knocked on. I feel like Vince sometimes; there’s a lineup of people to talk to me because I have the advice.”

Read more: Steve Austin Reveals How Chris Jericho’s ‘Broken Skull Sessions’ Appearance Came Together