Jon Moxley's conversation with Chris Jericho went viral soon after it was published Wednesday. The former Dean Ambrose gave fans a rare look inside WWE's creative process on Jericho's podcast. For over an hour, he bashed everything from Vince McMahon's vision to WWE's tendency to overproduce its talent.
Jericho says the response to his "Talk Is Jericho" interview with Moxley has been "insane." The WWE legend and current AEW star said the podcast became the most-downloaded episode of the show within 10 hours. In 36 hours, it doubled the previous No. 1 episode.
Jericho's interview with Moxley was published four days after Moxley's run-in debut that closed AEW's inaugural show Double or Nothing on May 25. While it has been a hot topic in the wrestling community, fans aren't the only ones taking notice.
According to Jericho, current WWE talent has reached out to him about it.
"I have heard from a lot of people who are working there saying, 'I can't wait to do my version in X amount of months,'" Jericho told ESPN.
Even at age 48, Jericho's wrestling career is reaching new heights outside the WWE. He'll be in the first AEW world title match against "Hangman" Adam Page at All Out in late August, as well as an IWGP heavyweight title bout with Kazuchika Okada at New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Dominion event on June 9. On top of his wrestling and podcast commitments, the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native is also planning the second iteration of his Jericho Cruise, which sets sail from Jan. 20-24, going from Miami to the Bahamas with wrestling matches and other events on board the ship along the way. AEW wrestlers and legends like Ric Flair are set to be a part of the festivities at sea.
While the buzz around the Moxley interview was not unexpected, he had no idea how big it would be. For the most part, Jericho felt everything Moxley said about WWE's creative process -- led by a team of writers in a system where just about everything has to be approved by McMahon -- is common knowledge in the wrestling world.
"It's something that if you work in the WWE system, you know it's true," Jericho said. "It's part of the genius of Vince McMahon. It's what he thinks. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don't. You heard all about it on Moxley's podcast. When you work for Vince, you have to do things his way. That's just the way it goes. I think that it's very eye-opening for people to hear just exactly how intricate those ideas and thoughts Vince has are. A lot of them are genius, a lot of them are weird, a lot of them are strange. But it's up to you to do your best and make the best of what you got, as Moxley did."
Moxley's main gripe was that WWE wanted him to recite lines verbatim, while he wanted more freedom in his promos. Moxley said he wanted to now prove the WWE creative process "sucks" and it's "killing the company."
Jericho said he believed Moxley did the right thing in how he left WWE -- he didn't walk out or quit or ask for a release. He waited for his contract to be up and left for AEW, with the added attraction of dates with NJPW and a variety of indie promotions.
"You finish up your work, you finish out, you do what they want to do, you put over who needs to be put over and you move on to the next territory," Jericho said. "That's the best way to do business. You don't walk out, you don't ask for your release. You don't quit. You finish out the job that you were contracted and expected to do as a professional. Once that's done, then it's up to you. You go where you want to go and do what you want to do. And that's exactly what Moxley did, and he seems quite happy right now. So hopefully that's inspirational to other talent in the business."
Chris Jericho on what it'll take to spin the success of Double or Nothing into building up AEW's fan base. (Video: Tim Fiorvanti)
Jericho left WWE in 2017 to focus more on his rock band Fozzy. An opportunity came together for him to work a match at New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom 12 show at the Tokyo Dome against Kenny Omega in January 2018, so he took it and ended up enjoying the wrestling world outside of WWE, he said. Jericho has done three other matches in NJPW since then, including another big Tokyo Dome bout against Tetsuya Naito back in January at Wrestle Kingdom 13. He even won the IWGP Intercontinental title last year.
The key for Jericho, who made it clear he never initially intended to work anywhere but the WWE at this stage in his career, has been his communication with McMahon throughout his decision-making process. He has not burned bridges. Jericho said he even kept McMahon in the loop before he signed with AEW earlier this year, and he never went out of his way to blast WWE upon his exit.
"I never had to, because I had a great relationship with the WWE, I had a great relationship with Vince," Jericho said. "I also had 19 years there, 10 of them as a legit main-event, top-level performer who had the trust of Vince to at least try different things. Now, a lot of my ideas he didn't use, a lot of my ideas he did use. But at least I knew what the story was and he knew where I was coming from and vice versa.
"Vince knew about [AEW] the whole time. I didn't just show up in AEW and say, 'Here I am, guys.' It was a conversation that we had, we discussed it and both of us agreed. He was happy for me for taking the contract and I was happy to take it. I wonder, in retrospect, if he realizes just how much of a juggernaut AEW is going to be. And that was sparked by Jericho's signing. So it's something that maybe he might think differently about now. But at the time, he was very happy for me and very agreeable to me going and taking this chance."
One prominent wrestler who exited WWE in a far different way was CM Punk, who left on extremely negative terms. AEW president Tony Khan said after Double or Nothing that he put together a list of potential roster members before the launch and he got most of who he wanted -- with Punk being an exception.
Jericho said he's not sure if CM Punk will return to wrestling, but he would not completely rule it out being in AEW if he did.
"If he wants to come back to wrestling, it would have to be for the right reasons -- both on his end and on AEW's end," Jericho said. "CM Punk is a unique individual. Could we use him? Of course we can. Could WWE use him? Of course they could. It all depends on what Punk wants to do and what his attitude is when and if he comes back. Because it's a new world now. It's not a negative world, it's a positive world. Especially in AEW.
"Like I said, if he wants to come in, he'd probably be welcomed with open arms. But I think he would have to kind of prove himself, as he would want to. Because I know him. He's a competitor. He's not gonna come back just for a paycheck or just to be famous. If he comes back, it's because he wants to be here, he wants to wrestle and he wants to prove something. And if he doesn't feel that way, he won't come back. The only person that can answer that question, I believe, is CM Punk himself."