As animated in the ring as he is on stage with his band, Fozzy, Chris Irvine - better known around wrestling circles as Chris Jericho - has been a multidisciplinary entertainer since his teenage years. Famous for his exploits on the ropes with the WCW and WWE for the past two decades, Jericho has made his mark on the music industry with the same intensity of his classic finisher, the Walls of Jericho. We sat down with the 43-year-old "Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla" during a visit to Montreal to find out a little more about the man behind the championship belts, and his affinity for all things hockey.
Your dad, former NHLer Ted Irvine, had a great career with the New York Rangers. What's your best memory of watching him play?
CHRIS JERICHO: I used to go to MSG when I was three or four years old. I hated it because it was so loud. I remember my grandma made me this little sweater, and I used to lift it over my ears to shelter out the noise. It used to bug me when my dad didn't look at me when he was playing. I thought, "If he's in on a breakaway, he should look up and wave." I specifically remember that about Madison Square Garden. Then when I first wrestled in the Garden in 2000, it was just a really surreal, cool, second-generation Irvine going back to the Garden again.
Did you play hockey as a kid?
CJ: I used to play, but when I was a kid I wanted to be in a band and I wanted to be a wrestler so I was focused on that. I wasn't very good at hockey. I don't think I had the natural skills, plus I didn't have the passion for it like I did for music and wrestling. One of the coolest moments was playing in the Garden at the Christopher Reeves Superskate. I did that four years in a row. One year, I actually scored a goal on Kirk McLean. I skated down and I took this slap shot. The puck looked like a drunken bat, and it went over his shoulder and into the net. So I scored a goal on the Rangers goalie in the Garden.
Who do you think has it harder - hockey players or wrestlers?
CJ: They both have it hard, but there's no offseason in wrestling. That's the difference. Hockey is obviously the hardest sport to win a championship in. It's definitely the most grueling and toughest sport, but you get three or four months out of the year to recuperate, whereas in wrestling you never get that. They're both dangerous in different ways, but definitely out of all the other different sports in the world, hockey is the toughest, as far as I'm concerned.
What do you think about the evolution of the business?
CJ: It's like hockey. I'm sure there are guys that look back at the good old days of hockey, but there'll never be another guy like Wayne Gretzky again. Even if there's a guy that good, you'll never have a free-wheeling style where you can put up 215 points in a year. Guys are bigger, the rules are different. It's just not the same. That's the same with wrestling, too. Things have changed over the years. When I started, it was more about the international scene. Guys would come in from different territories and different countries, whereas now, you go through the developmental system and six months later you're on national TV. Some people don't like that, but for me it's just the evolution of the game. It happens in every sport and every form of entertainment. You've got to stay ahead of the curve rather than complaining about it and staying behind the curve and thinking about the past. I'm sure there are a lot of young hockey players that don't want to hear things like "Back in my day, we didn't wear helmets." Well, that was then, and this is now. That's kind of the way I approach it. I like to stay ahead of it rather than behind it.
How would you describe your band Fozzy in one word?
CJ: Energy. I think that's one thing over the years, we have a reputation for being a very entertaining and energetic live band because we expect a lot of crowd participation, and we get it. We don't have dragons flying from the ceiling or pyro going off. We are the show, so we take that very seriously, and we make sure there's never a dull moment in anything that Fozzy does whenever we're on stage. I never liked bands that just stand around. I always liked bands that looked like they were having a good time because it rubs off on you if you're having fun. It's reciprocal. We've kind of staked our reputation on that.
Who were your musical influences growing up?
CJ: The Beatles was the first band I got in to. I had every record they made by the time I was eight. I was just obsessed with the whole concept of what The Beatles were musically and socially, as much as an eight-year-old can comprehend that. Then I started Junior High School and it wasn't really cool to like The Beatles in the early '80s. It was kind of looked at as almost nerdy. It you listened to Loverboy and the Little River Band you were cool, but if you listened to The Beatles you weren't. It was weird. But I saw all the girls I liked were wearing Ozzy shirts, Judas Priest shirts, and Iron Maiden shirts, so I thought well if I'm going to ever actually get a date, maybe I should check out this heavy metal stuff. I bought Blizzard of Oz by Ozzy, and that's where I kind of clicked in to the metal thing. But it's always been Metallica, Iron Maiden, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and some German bands, too. Helloween was a big influence. I loved The Police and Sabbath, too. It's your basic musical menu. It was never just metal or just rock and roll. It was a combination of everything.
Do you enjoy coming back to Montreal?
CJ: Montreal is a great town. The first time I ever came here was in 1997 with WCW. I had one of the most fun, craziest party nights of my life, and it's always been that way in Montreal. The city has great fans, a little bit different than the rest of Canada. Quebec is kind of an entity unto itself. They've got great wrestling fans and great heavy metal fans. Montreal is a huge metal city, and Quebec is a huge metal province. They've got great Chris Jericho fans also. It's always a pleasure to come to Canada, and Montreal is always a highlight for me.
What's one thing you do every time you come back to town?
CJ: It's funny because a lot of times you don't get a chance to do anything. It's usually airport, hotel, venue, hotel, airport. One memory I have is going to a karaoke bar with Pat Patterson, who's kind of like my mentor. He was The Rock's mentor, and he's Vince [McMahon]'s right-hand man. He's from Montreal.
How difficult is it to manage your dual passions: rock music with Fozzy, and wrestling with WWE?
CJ: My schedule has been based around Fozzy and what the band's been doing for the last four or five years. We've been really busy and kind of growing so quickly that my time for wrestling gets shorter and shorter. I came back this year for a couple of months, and then another couple of months. When I was a kid, I was in a band and I wanted to be a wrestler, and now I'm getting the chance to do both. We want to do as much as we can with our band and take it as high as we can go. We want Metallica's job and we're not going to stop until we get it.