An article by Mike Mooneyham
(Published in 1999)
Chris Jericho made the biggest decision of his professional career earlier this year when he turned down a lucrative offer from WCW in favor of a chance to display his considerable skills in the WWF.
Jericho, however, now finds himself embroiled in controversy and the target of what many consider to be a behind-the-scenes power struggle.
A number of WWF performers have complained about Jericho’s in-ring shortcomings, although the 28-year-old phenom has been dubbed one of the industry’s “can’t-miss” superstars. Some, pointing to injuries suffered by Stevie Richards and Chyna, have accused Jericho of working overly stiff. WWF sources say Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who “went ballistic” when Jericho accidentally gave Triple H’s real-life girl friend Chyna a swollen black eye, has been behind the push to derail Jericho.
It has been speculated that Jericho’s problems with Helmsley stem from heat with Helmsley’s former Clique buddy Kevin Nash in WCW. Sources point to Nash as having been Bill Goldberg’s decision to veto a proposed angle with Jericho because of Jericho’s size.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Jericho told The Post and Courier earlier this year that he had his theory on why that angle was nixed, but in hindsight said it was a blessing in disguise.
“It was a bad business decision not to do it,” said Jericho. “I don’t want to point any fingers. I just knew at that point that it was time to move on. One thing I’ve learned after nine years in the business is that whenever the time comes to move on from a territory or company, you know it. It was time to move on.”
Jericho received a major build-up upon his arrival in the WWF, but his stint so far in the organization has been less than smooth. The situation came to a head with a recent meeting between Jericho and WWF owner Vince McMahon. Jim Ross denied widespread reports that there was a heated confrontation between the two, claiming no voices were raised and no ultimatums were given, but Jericho reportedly was ordered to fall in line.
Jericho, though, has downplayed reports of unrest.
“I have the utmost respect for Vince McMahon and I’m looking forward to having a long and successful business relationship with him and the WWF – my company!” Jericho recently posted on his Web site.
“As far as DX goes, I’ve had some great matches with all of them in the past (except for HHH whom I haven’t wrestled yet) and I can’t wait to work with all of them and the rest of the WWF roster in the future.”
Jericho, who is being turned babyface despite a tremendous heel response, reportedly has agreed to let Degeneration X member X-Pac (Sean Waltman) “coach” him.
“No matter what has been said, Y2J has become a better wrestler in the past four months and with further help and guidance from everyone in the company, I expect to get better and more polished than ever,” said Jericho.
Jericho told The Post and Courier earlier this year that he “gained tenfold” by leaving WCW for the WWF.
“In the long run it’ll be much better for me here,” said Jericho, whose WWF con tract is heavily incentive-based with a lower downside guarantee than WCW was offering. “And even if it was (a pay cut), I wouldn’t care. Money was never the most important thing anyway. I was much happier making 50 grand a year in Japan and ECW than I was making the money in WCW. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
“They (the WWF) have been very responsive to me. They put together a deal I was very happy with. I didn’t lose anything by coming here.”
Jericho said in the interview that he tried to maintain a balance between his life in the business and his life outside it. “A lot of things have changed since I entered the business in 1990,” said Jericho. “It’s not even so much the crazy party life style that was glorified and personified in the past. There’s definitely some guys who enjoy that, but there’s also a good percent age who don’t. Most of the guys are pretty faithful to their significant others, and there’s not really that much partying going on. The guys have a few beers once in a while, but everybody does.
“It’s not like what it used to be. It’s a lot easier to be a straight-living guy nowadays because it’s not just a regional thing any more. It’s a national television thing, and we have to perform every night. When you’re younger, it’s more fun to do all those things. But when you get a little older, it’s no fun getting up every morning and putting on a happy smile and saying `Hi guys, I’m here to perform,’ when you really feel like crap. The novelty wears off after a while. It’s not as difficult as people think. We have the bad apples, but it’s like that in any business. We’re much more at tuned to what we do and it’s much more of physical sport that you have to take of yourself to perform. It’s a personal decision. It depends on the individual, but for myself, I’ve never really been that way, and I’m not going to start now because I’m in the WWF.”
Jericho said he took the WWF’s hard-core direction into account while he was making his decision.
“Yeah, it was a concern. One thing I understand, this is not your wrestling of the ’80s anymore. This is more of a television drama with wrestling as a backdrop. If I were an actor on `NYPD Blue’ and there’s a junkie on there who rapes his sister, it’s just part of the show. Wrestling has kind of gone that way. For my character I never really strayed in that direction. My character is more a psychological manipulator. It’s pretty easy to go out there and cuss and do those types of things. I’d rather go in the other direction and be creative about it.
“If there was one (angle) like that, I would just tell them and basically not do it. They can tell you what they want you to do, but if you don’t want to do it then it’s your choice. Some people just don’t mind. Other people don’t have the same kind of feelings I would have. And some don’t have the same talents. They don’t know how to entertain the fans except for doing it that way.”