Chris Jericho leads The Inner Circle (Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, Santana and Ortiz) against Maxwell Jacob Freidman’s group The Pinnacle (Wardlow, Shawn Spears, Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler) in a double-ring WarGames style cage match at “AEW Blood and Guts” on May 5 (8 p.m., TNT). Before this feud comes to a head, Jericho took time for some Q&A with The Post’s Joseph Staszewski.
(Edited for length and clarity)
Q: What’s the feeling for you and AEW to finally unveil this match after it was scheduled in Newark before the pandemic and didn’t get a chance to happen?
A: It’s one of those things we’ve kind of had in our back pocket for a while, because I’m a big believer in you don’t do an angle because of a match, you do a match because of an angle. We had it built up perfectly last year before the pandemic locked us down.
We didn’t want to rush the match because once the time passed, then we were locked down and then we came up with the Stadium Stampede, so what do you do to finally put this match on and that’s when we started this giant feud with MJF and Jericho and The Pinnacle and The Inner Circle that we basically started in September. With sort of the blood feud that came out of it, we thought it would be the perfect time to do Blood and Guts, 14, 15 months later because the story demands it.
Q: Why was the decision made to go back to the original Dusty Rhodes WarGames rules for this match where the only way it ends is any participant either submits, surrenders, or is knocked unconscious?
A: Our version of kind of the WarGames is why we called it Blood and Guts, it’s just not a copyright thing. There are some differences and we wanted to kind of make it our own version of this classic match, which we obviously have a direct legacy to with Dustin and Cody [Rhodes] being with the company and obviously [president] Tony Khan is a massive fan of that era of wrestling. So, I think he didn’t want to mess with those classic rules. He grew up loving that style of WarGames.
I’ve never been in a WarGames before in my life. A matter of fact, I’ve never even seen one. I watched a couple now to just kind of look at them. The reason why I don’t need to go back and watch any is (because) I’ve been in a lot of first-ever matches that are now kind of mainstream, if you talk about Money in the Bank, if you talk about the Elimination Chamber or Stadium Stampede. We didn’t go back and watch other ones, because there weren’t any. I’m treating Blood and Guts kind of the same way. Yes, there are ideas you can pull, but this isn’t a typical WarGames or a typical cage match. Also, our angle seems to be a lot more serious than some of those teams that were kind of put together and a lot more of a blood feud. I think those rules fit what we’re doing here in that you don’t want to do a bunch of pins and eliminations. It really is submit or surrender because of the story that we’ve been telling between these two factions.
Q: Is there an AEW twist you kind of said you put on it?
A: Our apparatus, if you will, is different. We are putting it in Daily’s Place so there were some configurations you kind of had to switch around a bit just out of space restrictions, which kind of adds to the originality of our match and our structure. If you watched WarGames back in 1992, it’s a little different from that and if you saw kind of WWE’s bastardized version, it’s different from that. We kind of have a little bit of a different thing. Some of it is by design, some of it is from necessity.
Q: When did you know it was time for the Inner Circle to officially turn babyface?
A: Doing this for as long as I have, you can always tell. Also, I believe in long-term storytelling. Kind of the idea when MJF joined the Inner Circle was eventually to have him start his own group. What I wanted, which has never been done before, is to have the entire Inner Circle turn from heel to babyface.
There was no reason to end the Inner Circle, but as far as the Inner Circle as heels there wasn’t much more we could do with it. But we knew that because that’s why we started this angle in September, knowing that when we go to February or so it would be time to do the massive switch.
Q: You talk about the promos. Is there sort of a fun, friendly rivalry between you and MJF when you are basically cutting promos on each other every week?
A: That’s just a professional rivalry, but it comes from a place of respect. I remember when I started in WWE there weren’t a lot of guys who could go toe to toe with The Rock on the mic. Me being a great heel combined with his great babyface, we pushed each other. MJF is like that, too. I think for both of us, especially you get somebody who can cut a great promo and there’s not a lot that can do it the way that MJF can and there are not a lot who can do it the way Chris Jericho can. I think one of the reasons we thought it would be great for us to work together in the first place was for the promos we could do back and forth, face to face.
Now that we’re such at odds, good guy, bad guy, enemies and allies, there is professional rivalry but the best part is, it just ends up being better for the segment and better for the fans. It’s not like there’s any animosity or underlying heat, it’s more of just volleying back and forth. What can you come up with? That was great. Wow that was f—king great too. That just makes for a better show. I’m saying this with complete humility, if it’s even possible in wrestling. There are not a lot of guys that can do that in this day and age the way that he and I can.
That’s why most weeks you’ll just see us doing promos. As soon as Blood and Guts was announced there really was no reason to do anything physical. We found out that Mike Tyson was available so then we did the Dax versus Jericho match. Worked out great, but had there been no Mike Tyson we wouldn’t have even touched each other yet and we would just be building these promos up to Blood and Guts.
Q: Is the goal still to get Mike in the ring for a match at some point?
A: He was available to come in randomly a couple weeks ago. We put together a good two-week angle that really used Mike to the biggest strength that we could use. So yes, I’d love to have a match with Mike, but the dynamic has switched. You don’t want Mike coming in as a bad guy. That’s hard to do, he’s Mike Tyson and Jericho is a good guy, so we can’t really work each other. So maybe we can do a tag team against somebody else. I’m not sure. I think Mike has a lot of trust in me as well. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think if he ever did that he would want me involved in one way, shape or form. The answer is always yes, and the answer is you can always make it work as long as you tell the right story. We’d like to ensure that the storyline fits the match, not just, “Oh, Tyson’s available, let’s shoehorn a match in there.”
Q: When you guys see the ratings the first two weeks of being truly unopposed by NXT, is it kind of validation for what you thought would happen and does it pique your interest in what that rating can become when fans come back?
A: We never started this rivalry, this war was kind of thrust upon us. But we never really paid attention to what NXT was doing. Obviously you look at the ratings the next day and that sort of thing, but (we) didn’t know which matches they had against which. The WWE style is — in fact, I know that they had AEW kind of running during their show to see, “OK, they’ve got so and so and we’ll have this guy in there.” We never really paid much attention to that. We were too busy concentrating on making our show is the best it could possibly be.
And when NXT was kind of driven away by AEW, if it was a war, we definitely won it. We were really able to just concentrate on what we do, which is putting on the best shows we can. And I think the best part about it is if we’re putting on a great segment we don’t have to worry about people switching back and forth if they’re inclined to do so. Once NXT leaves and suddenly our ratings go to 1.2 [million] and 1.1 etcetera, etcetera, if there were an extra three, four hundred thousand people who would have watched our show all along, well then we are vindicated and then we can build upon that.
We never lost our cool factor either, which I think NXT and WWE lost a lot of. We never lost that, so when we start performing in front of 5,000 fans, 10,000 fans going to Canada, going to England, going wherever we’re going to go, I think it’s going to be a completely different world of, this is really, really cool.
Q: One thing you haven’t done is have a match with Sting. Is that something that’s on your radar now that he’s in the company?
A: Painmaker versus Sting, kind of my alter ego, bat versus bat. It’s all there. Once again, it’s always based on the story. But one thing I’ve done really well since 2016 when I came back to WWE and worked with Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, I concentrated on working with kind of guys from the younger generation because I didn’t want to see another Jericho versus Triple H match for example. We’ve done it. So Jericho versus Sting for a one-time dream match, I think it would work. I don’t want it to be like WCW in ’96 where it’s Piper versus Hogan, Piper versus Savage where it’s just kind of like the same thing.
Q: But we haven’t seen this one before.
A: I think the difference is I used the Painmaker when I had the street fight with Darby Allin way back in week three of AEW. So I think Painmaker versus Sting, some kind of a match where the bats are involved, I think that would draw. So the answer would be yes, I’d love to do it. Once again, if the story is right I think the pieces are right there. It’s very obvious because I’ve never even been in the ring with Sting. We never even had an in-ring segment or anything in WCW.
Q: Whenever WWE makes cuts, it starts the “when is this guy going to show up in AEW” talk. Is there anybody that either intrigues you from just their star power or some that could maybe benefit from being in your environment?
A: You look at a guy like Tucker for example, I don’t know if we would take him tomorrow, we might, but it seems to me if he goes and proves what he can do and what he’s capable of, well then absolutely. Obviously, the one name that stands out as an established main-event heavyweight champion guy is Samoa Joe. Those guys have three months before they can go anywhere. But I’d love to see Joe in an AEW ring at some point. That’s another dream match if you want to go there. I’ve never. I think we had one little, three-minute s—tty little match on Raw and it was just kind of thrown away. And I didn’t want to do it because I said this is a pay-per-view match, but that’s the WWE style. I think Joe and Jericho, Joe and Omega, Joe with Cody, Joe with put name here is a money match.
Q: When you name a match Blood and Guts, what should fans expect?
A: This is the perfect group of guys to be in this match. It’s violent by nature, it’s violent by name, it’s violent by storyline and I think a lot of people are going to want to see exactly what happens. Do I expect 10 guys to be bleeding and light bulb tubes and all that other s—t? No. Is this is going to be a hard-hitting, violent fight between 10 guys that don’t legit really like each other right now? Absaf—kinglutely.
There’s a long way to go between The Pinnacle and The Inner Circle and I feel Blood and Guts is just the beginning. What a way to begin. You’re putting “Welcome to the Jungle” on the first song of the album. If you think that’s good wait ’till you hear the rest of it.
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