He once called himself "The Man of 1,004 Holds," but if Chris Jericho keeps it up, he'll soon be known as the Man of 1,004 Books.
At this point in his career, Jericho has transcended the world of professional wrestling. When he's not grappling across continents, he's traveling the world as the high-energy frontman of his band Fozzy, competing on Dancing with the Stars, acting in his own web series and trying to sneak into Marilyn Manson's dressing room.
Already a New York Times best-selling author, his new autobiography, The Best in the World...At What I Have No Idea, picks up right where his previous effort, Undisputed, left off. Jericho has proven himself to be a master storyteller both in and outside of the squared circle, and this latest collection of weird, wonderful and often hilarious tales is as varied and entertaining as his career.
Having just wrapped up another run in the WWE, and with a few weeks off before Fozzy returns to the road, Jericho finally took a moment to discuss the past, wrestling's present and what the future might hold for him.
Fozzy's latest album, Do You Wanna Start a War, is your biggest-seller to date. What's the secret to its success?
I think Do You Wanna Start a War is the best example of who Fozzy is as a band, because it's different. You don't know what you're going to get from one song to the next. This isn't AC/DC. They're one of a kind. They can do the same song, the same style, the same record over and over again. We don't want to be that.
The reason we did [first single] "Lights Go Out" was because we wanted to diversify. The type of band we are is Fozzy. We dictate the styles of music that we do, much the same way as Queen did, or Guns N' Roses or U2. They just are who they are. We realized the diversity of influences that we have, so why worry about sounding like every other band? We figured out a couple of records ago what the Fozzy sound is: heavy grooves, heavy riffs, a lot of choruses, a lot of harmony. If Metallica and Journey had a bastard child, it'd be Fozzy. Once we focused in on that we started to really grow.
The band gives you an outlet to reinvent yourself. Is that also the key to your longevity in wrestling?
You want to keep things fresh if you want any sort of longevity. You can't do the same thing over and over again. There are a few exceptions to the rule. I think the general consensus is that the Beatles are the best band of all time, and why is that? Because you never knew what you were going to get. There were no restrictions, no rules on who they were as a band or what they did or who they wanted to be.
In the WWE, I was always thinking like Madonna or somebody that always changed their image, changed their sound but still stayed true to who they are. Look at Metallica, they're always doing different things. The record they did with Lou Reed – people buried it, hated it. The record itself wasn't really my thing but the concept of them doing it, I loved it, because why not? If I was in Metallica and I wanted to make a record with Lou Reed, you're fucking right I'd do it because I can, and that's all that matters to me.
You predicted the success of rising stars such as Bray Wyatt, Wade Barrett and the Shield. What are the qualities you look for in a new talent?
Personality and character, they're the only things I care about. Honestly, I don't really pay any attention to wrestling skills because they don't matter. There are a lot of similarities between music and wrestling, because they're all about connecting with the crowd. What kind of charisma you have. What kind of personality you have. They're so much more important than whether you can do a shredding guitar solo or a triple-jump moonsault.
It's show business through and through, so when you look at a guy like Bray Wyatt, I loved his character. He can work and he's a good wrestler and all that sort of stuff, but it's the character that really makes it, and if you see something like that that's so different and so unique and riveting, it's a no-brainer. That's what I love about the business, the characters and showmanship elements.
A popular opinion among fans is that the Attitude Era was the greatest period in WWE history. You've gone on record as saying that the current WWE is superior. Why?
When you think of another time like ECW or the Attitude Era, it's like, "Ah, those were the good old days." But having actually lived through it, there was a lot of great stuff, but there was a lot of stuff that sucked, too. Mae Young gave birth to a hand in the Attitude Era. Is that really what you want to remember about wrestling? I thought that was one of the dumbest things.
There were a lot of great characters and a lot of great wresting, so I think you always look back fondly. I live in the now and I think the product is the best it's ever been because it's now. It's where we're at in 2014, and I always look to the future. There were good moments in the past and there were bad moments. There's going to be good moments in the future and bad moments, but I think it's always best to look forward if you want to continue to improve yourself and the product, and improve what people are seeing.
Plenty of wrestlers have written books; what separates yours from theirs?
I don't see myself as a wrestler. I'm an entertainer and I'm an artist, so wrestling is part of what I do. Writing's part of what I do. I have a journalism degree that I got before I ever got into wrestling. I write in my own voice. I have a lot of interesting things to talk about, it's not just wrestling or music. It's a pretty fantastic collection of things.
When they asked me to do a third book I was like, "Do I really need a third autobiography?" I'm only in my early 40s. And then I realized I've still got a lot of great stories to tell. When I started putting pen to paper, oh my gosh, I had so much to write about. I had to start cutting stories and started thinking about things for the next book if it happens.
I had two dreams when I was a kid: I wanted to be in a rock band and I wanted to be a wrestler. Everything else has been an offshoot of that. The crux of it all is being an artist and being creative and just not being afraid to take a chance. I think that's the underlying theme of all my books – if you have a dream, just go for it.
Your new book is packed with great stories. What are some of your favorites?
There are so many. From the whole 2008 resurrection of the Jericho character, to Jericho vs. Michaels, one of the greatest angles of all time. From trying to sneak into Marilyn Manson's dressing room to meet Johnny Depp and Slash, to the first time I met James Hetfield and almost cried. Being knocked out by Mike Tyson, getting into an altercation with Mickey Rourke, arguing with Bob Barker...the stories go on and on and on.
I think the one that sums up the book the best is when I went to Iraq on the "Tribute to the Troops" tour and got stranded in an unsecured war zone, which means they thought that all the Taliban were gone from that city but they weren't sure. We were stranded there in this little schoolhouse that looked like something out of Full Metal Jacket with a dozen soldiers who hadn't had a shower in two weeks, wondering why the hell we were there, and just kind of getting to know them, not just as soldiers but as people. And realizing there was legit danger. They had just had some of their numbers killed by snipers only days before. I remember thinking, "This is pretty scary and I'm not completely sure I'll make it out alive. But if I do, it'll make a great story for the next book!" And it did.