'You don't give Mike Tyson a script': Chris Jericho on boxing legend's AEW appearance
Mike Tyson tore off his shirt and got in Chris Jericho's face. He gave Jericho a shove. Jericho shoved him back and a brawl erupted. But it wasn't just Jericho and Tyson Involved in the melee -- former UFC champions Henry Cejudo, Vitor Belfort and Rashad Evans were there to back Tyson up.
It was a wild scene, a brawl that ended AEW's Dynamite television show Wednesday night in Jacksonville, Florida. Tyson's appearance and the subsequent hot angle led to a ton of mainstream buzz and Dynamite's highest TV rating since March 18.
The segment was a direct continuation of a storyline between Tyson and Jericho that started in WWE 10 years ago. Tyson turned on Jericho on Monday Night Raw in 2010, joining forces with Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
So how did Wednesday night's angle develop? Where will wrestling upstart AEW, Tyson and Jericho go from here? ESPN spoke to Jericho to discuss those topics and more.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did this moment with you and Mike Tyson come together?
As far as I'm concerned, I've been working with Mike for 10 years. Probably seen each other half a dozen times and appeared on camera four or five of those. I know Mike. I think when the idea came for him to be involved with us at AEW, the natural pairing was with Chris Jericho.
I know what to expect. A guy like him, he's a firecracker, man. He's a loose cannon as an entertainer, as a performer. You don't give Mike Tyson a script. You don't rehearse something with Mike Tyson. You just go out there. He's gonna do whatever the f--- he wants to do no matter what. And that's cool. I have 30 years of being in the ring and I can guide that.
Plus, we have a story. Last time we were in the ring together, he knocked me out. There's the story. Whether you're into wrestling that much or you're not, it's very cool. And you have two performers that have been in the spotlight for 30-odd years that are arguably at their biggest for drawing buzz right now.
Nobody is more talked about in the sports world than Mike Tyson in the last few months, and nobody is more talked about in the wrestling world more than Chris Jericho over the last few months. It's not just these two guys doing something cool 10 years ago. We're doing something cool now. I think there's a lot of people interested in seeing where this goes.
Ratings went up and it all created a lot of buzz, as you said. Is that the idea when a wrestling promotion does something like this?
Absolutely a home run all across the board, especially for AEW as a company. We have done so much over the past year by just being in existence. Everybody that knows wrestling knows who we are. That's why we have such a great fan base.
But what we did last night was get headlines from every major sports publication saying Mike Tyson makes his mark in an AEW ring with Chris Jericho. All of that is company branding, where people go, "Wow, we've heard of this AEW, but we didn't realize they were that big." Or, "Who is this AEW?" Mike Tyson draws eyeballs. Chris Jericho draws eyeballs. But Tyson is gonna draw the type of coverage that I can't get, because I'm not as mainstream as him.
Where could this lead? Could there be a wrestling match between you and Tyson?
Obviously, the idea is to do something more. That's the thought process, I think between both parties. What that is at this moment, we're thinking and discussing. Look, Chris Jericho versus Mike Tyson in a wrestling match, in a street fight, in a boxing match, would be big. I'm not Mike Tyson. I'm not 1/1,000th of Mike Tyson, but I've been boxing for six years. I know how to box. I could win fights on my own against people of my skill level. So if that's what he wants to do, that works too. Whatever he feels comfortable with, I can make it good. That's what I do for a living. That's what I've been doing for 30 years.
But to me it's the buildup and the angle and all the things we can do. That's what wrestling is all about -- the storyline. The match is the cherry on top. But it's the build that's really the most entertaining part, and the part that gets people really involved. So whatever it is that we decide to do as we move forward, it'll be great. You have one of the most iconic boxers -- and most iconic personalities -- of all time against one of the greatest pro wrestlers and personalities of all time. It writes itself.
Mike has wrestled before, but he's extremely inexperienced and now 53 years old. In a one-on-one situation, how hard would that be for you to guide him through a match?
That's what we do. There's always a way to make it good. There's bells and whistles. You just exemplify the strengths and eliminate the weaknesses. That's the easy part. It's just coming to some sort of a deal, or some sort of acceptance, of what we want to do if we're going to move forward with this. The rest is easy. That's my job. Once the deal is done or whatever we decide to do -- if we decide to do more -- that's the easy part.
Henry Cejudo was also involved on Wednesday. Do you think there could be a future for Cejudo in AEW?
Absolutely. There was so much star power in that ring Wednesday night. We kind of didn't focus on it as much as we should have. I had no idea these guys were even there. I think they just came to hang with their boy. You bring your posse to the ring. Vitor Belfort is here and Henry and Rashad Evans. I'm like, "What?! What are you talking about?" It happened so quickly. I would have loved to have gotten enough camera time with all of them. It was very fast. I had to worry about Mike Tyson.
With all these other guys in the ring, there's a whole plethora of things you can do. I would assume they weren't there just to hang around. I assume all of them are there because they want to be a part of the business. It's a very exciting idea when you're not in pro wrestling to do something like that.
All of those guys are fighters. They have the mentality of a fighter. They're all showmen too, to an extent. Or they wouldn't be UFC champions or in Mike's case, one of the greatest boxing champions of all time, if not the greatest.
When you watch it back and just see how wild and woolly it was, that's exciting. Afterwards, everybody was all pumped up. It's an exhilarating feeling. Had there been 10,000 people there it would have been even more exhilarating, but for what we are working with, I think it's one of the most exciting segments that we've done -- or what any company has done -- in the pandemic times. Or maybe even ever. I love that s---. If I'm feeling it as a 30-year vet, I know damn well that those guys are feeling it being in a wrestling ring for the first time. If those guys want more, they know where to find us. If those guys want to be part of AEW, we'd be more than happy to have them.
Was there any concern that this was a continuation to a WWE angle?
It's a WWE angle? It's a Chris Jericho angle. I was there. I don't just wash away my entire 19-year history with the WWE. That's ludicrous. Anybody criticizing that this was a WWE angle and we brought it over here -- this is my life. It's my story. Tyson knocked out Chris Jericho. He didn't knock out Chris Jericho and The Rock and Hulk Hogan and Triple H and Kurt Angle. He knocked me out. That's my story. It's like if I write a song and it's a huge hit and I released it on Sony records and then I signed with Warner Bros. and rerecorded the song. It's my song.
How do you feel about the criticisms of using athletes from other sports simply for ratings?
If we hadn't had Mike Tyson on the show last night, you and I wouldn't even be speaking right now. That's the reason why. We were focusing people to know what AEW is, to grow the audience, to grow our fan base. And that's how you do it. It's the same reason how AEW was able to get wrestling fans by bringing Chris Jericho in as the bridge. "Well, Jericho is there, we'll check this out. Oh, we really like this." Now you use Mike Tyson as the bridge. "If Mike Tyson is there, let's check this out. Wow, it's not just Jericho and Tyson." You get to see the whole roster of performers we have here and you realize this company kicks ass.
That's why you do it. You do it smartly. You bring in the right person with the right opponent at the right time. There's nobody hotter in the sports world than Mike Tyson.
It seemed like you guys had a blast putting the Stadium Stampede match together, but there were so many moving parts. It could not have been an easy undertaking. How did that come together?
When you film a movie, there's weeks, months of filming, weeks and months of editing. All that different stuff. We filmed the entire Stadium Stampede in nine hours. From 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday night to Saturday morning. And we had three hours to edit it before we had to take it to the truck. What we created in that time frame is monumental. We literally should win an Emmy for that.
You've got 10 guys and a great crew that were all on the same page. We all knew what we wanted. What's a Stadium Stampede match? Well, it's a match in a stadium. But we went out there [at the Jacksonville Jaguars' TIAA Bank Field] on the first day, on Thursday, to see. I'm like, it's an empty stadium. It's an empty football field. With empty rows and rows and rows of chairs. We're gonna have to dress this up a bit. And that's kind of what we did.
We made this amazing spectacle that no one had ever seen before. It embodied everything of what pro wrestling is. It was serious, it was dangerous, it was breathtaking, it was funny, it was creative, it was unique, it was adventurous. It really was more of a short film than a match. And that's what we wanted. It's one of my favorite things and one of the best things that I've done in 30 years in this business.