No early All Elite Wrestling signing was as impactful to the casual wrestling fan as Chris Jericho. It's early, but less than a year later Jericho's in-ring impact has proven to be just as important if not more so.
"Le Champion" told Bleacher Report he's enjoying the creative freedom AEW offers compared to other organizations at which he's been. Rather than scripted promos that come from writers, often without the talent's input, AEW allows them to take their character where they best see fit.
"I've never been in charge of booking my own stuff," Jericho said. "I've always had input, but actually coming up with the genesis of it, seeing it through and knowing that there really aren't any rules, I love that.
"It's funny because even during one of the weekly shows, we had some ring entrances going on and we're waiting to come back from break to start the match, so I grab the mic and start messing with the crowd. They're chanting 'assh--e' at me and I say, 'Maybe I'm not the assh--e. Maybe you're the assh--e.' What I didn't know was that we were back on camera. I didn't even know that until a day later when I saw it online. I would've been fired at WWE for that, but no one even said a word to me. There just aren't that many restrictions for us at AEW. Whatever's happening, we go with it and have a good time. The crowd loved it, the guys loved it, and it made for good television.
"I love the fact that I don't have to sit there for two hours, write a promo down word by word and have it approved and changed. I just say whatever I want because I know what's best for what I'm trying to get across. I don't need approval or suggestions. I'll take them, but after doing this for as long as I have, I know what I'm doing and most of the guys on AEW know what they're doing. Let the professionals be professionals."
A 26-time WWE champion, the future Hall of Famer announced his commitment to the new promotion in front of an energetic crowd at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida where AEW's operations are located.
"I'm all in with All Elite Wrestling," Jericho exclaimed.
Signing a reported three-year contract, the 49-year-old veteran told Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio that this is "the best contract of his career," allowing him to work for New Japan Pro-Wrestling as well as on personal business endeavors outside the ring that include acting, writing, his band, podcast and even his own cruise.
The Canadian was in talks with WWE as well up until the last minute, but they weren't able to offer as attractive of a deal to the man who would eventually become AEW's inaugural world champion seven months later.
Jericho says there's no bad blood with WWE on his end and he hopes that's reciprocal after spending 20 years of his career with the organization. However, he understands that the rivalry between his former and current employer appears to be picking up. All he can control now is helping guide AEW through its start as one of the top wrestling promotions in the world while having a lot of fun doing so.
"We've only had six weeks of television time, so it's really exciting because we're basically starting from scratch," Jericho said. "It's uncharted waters ... Overall though, I'm really enjoying it because the creative freedom is just off the charts. Every week, it's been something cool. These six weeks have been magical."
As a result of his newfound creative freedom, Jericho formed The Inner Circle—one of wrestling's hottest stables—and handpicked Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, Santana and Ortiz to be its members. To much fanfare, Jericho also coined the phrases "little bit of the bubbly" and "Le Champion" early into his time with the company.
Despite the great in-ring work from AEW's roster, it's the press from Jericho that's grabbed much of the company's national headlines, good or bad. On Sept. 1, just hours after winning the AEW world championship title at All Out in Chicago, Jericho reported the belt as stolen.
Before eating dinner, Jericho realized at some point he had taken the wrong bag from the Tallahassee airport. He then had his limo driver go back to the airport to retrieve his luggage while he ate dinner. The belt, left in the limo during the return trip, was gone when the limo arrived at the restaurant.
Jericho, wanting to take the negative and turn it into a positive as soon as he could, had some fun on social media while local police searched for the prestigious missing belt.
"It got stolen, that's the bottom line," Jericho said. "We still don't know exactly what happened. Somebody supposedly found it when they were driving by a silver bag on the side of the road. When you're driving down the street, do you stop when you see something lying on the side of the road and then happen to return it right when the guy is at the police station putting in his report about it? Come on, man.
"But bottom line is we got it back. We got some very cool press about our title. It was so prestigious that someone wanted to steal it 12 hours after I won it. I decided to do some videos about it, put out a worldwide hunt, and we got it back very quickly. If you try to ignore it and don't take the dragon by the tail, then it spins into something you don't want."
Another thing that made waves both in AEW and in wrestling recently was a scorching promo from Cody during his feud with Jericho that questioned the veteran's relevancy in today's climate, with the American Nightmare saying, "Jericho needs this generation more than it needs Jericho."
Cody has frequently condemned the Attitude Era of wrestling from 1997 to 2002 which despite its record-setting ratings, often featured an increase in sexual content, politically incorrect characters and storylines created for shock value. It was during this era that Jericho was a staple of WWE.
Jericho, who referred to Cody as an "entitled millennial b---h" throughout their heated rivalry, disagrees with Cody.
"AEW needs me way more at this point than I need them, and that's just to help get them off the ground," Jericho said. "That's not to be egotistical, but there are very specific moments that helped AEW become what it is and one was having a big name like Chris Jericho come to AEW and immediately make it legitimate. Fans thought, 'Wow, Jericho's there? Well, let's go check out some of these other guys.' That doesn't even take into account all the guys that I brought on just by being Chris Jericho. There would be no Jon Moxley here, there would be no Jake Hager, and Sammy Guevara was handpicked by me. There are a whole lot of things that happened to AEW because Jericho came."
When he's not in the ring, Jericho is busy with his rock band, Fozzy, and his own cruise called Chris Jericho's Rock 'N' Wrestling Rager at Sea at which Fozzy performs on every voyage. Perhaps a band isn't too random an interest for a man who rattled off Metallica, Guns N' Roses and Iron Maiden as some of his biggest musical influences during the interview, but a cruise?
Turns out, it was another one of his favorite bands that inspired him to enter the business.
"The cruise is something I came up with after Fozzy performed on the Kiss Cruise in 2015," Jericho said. "I wanted to do it and put wrestling matches in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of musicians and comedians. It took me three years to get it going. The first year barely sold out, the second sold out four months in advance and we're already working on the third one. We've built a community of people that buy a ticket before they even know who or what is going to be on the cruise. My goal was to create an annual destination vacation."
For the first time, the next edition of the cruise will be in collaboration with AEW and features a wrestling event where some of their biggest stars like Kenny Omega, Cody and Jon Moxley are advertised to be featured. As one can imagine, professional wrestling on a ship can occasionally have some logistical issues.
"This concept of having wrestling on a cruise is so new that we had to have a team of engineers come on the ship and figure out how to keep the ring secure," Jericho said. "If there's a big wave, the ring could slide around. We had to invent this water balance system that you put the ring over and it doesn't budge regardless of how the boat is moving."
Jericho says he's as much of an entrepreneur as he is a wrestler, and when something piques his interest, the businessman side to Le Champion comes out. In fact, he's already been inspired by his time at AEW to enter the alcohol business.
"I think it's natural to start a 'Little Bit of the Bubbly' champagne. When it happens in my head, the light bulb goes off and we make it happen," he said.
Stay tuned for bubbly updates.