Chris Jericho On His Painmaker Persona, His WrestleKingdom Match With Tanahashi, WWE Making Him Replay The Hits

AEW World Champion Chris Jericho spoke to Sports Illustrated recently to talk all things pro-wrestling. During the interview, Le Champion discusses how he's always attempting to adapt his character, and how his NJPW persona, the Painmaker, is one of his favorite renditions. He also hypes his WrestleKingdom 14 showdown with Ace Hiroshi Tanahashi, calling him a wrestler of his caliber. Highlights are below.

Always attempting to stay fresh:

If I was still in the WWE, I would still have to be doing ‘The List’ and it would feel so old. I love all the great stuff I did in the past, but to go out there and say ‘Raw is Jericho’ or ‘I’m the Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla’ would really feel like a rock and roll band that tours that never puts on a new record and tours every summer. I always appreciate when bands play new songs, because I’ve been playing new songs, too. Otherwise, for me, there’s no reason to continue on.

Working with Tanahashi for the first time:

I’ve wrote great songs, shall we say, with a lot of people. Lance Storm, especially early in my career, Ultimo Dragon, Rey Mysterio, The Rock, teaming with Big Show, Shawn Michaels, and more. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so now to have a match that I haven’t had before against a guy with a similar stature, it’s very rare for me. I’m really excited for the opportunity. Tanahashi is one of the biggest stars in the business ever.

Says he's always wanted to work with Tanahashi:

I wanted to work with Tanahashi last year. When I attacked Naito in Korakuen Hall, I wanted to attack Tanahashi, but Gedo wanted it to be Naito, which turned out to be great. This is a main-event, money match, and there is a lot of buzz about it. I just watched the match Tanahashi had with Kenny from last year in the Tokyo Dome, and it was amazing.

The Painmaker character and being inspired by Bruiser Brody:

This fits where I’m at right now. Maybe a year from now I won’t do it anymore, but right now, I love ‘The Painmaker’ character and the whole concept behind it.

I originally went into that Omega match thinking I’d be the same guy from WWE. But I was really into Bruiser Brody at the time–I think it was the 30 anniversary of his death–and watching him just beat the sh-- out of people. In Japan, people are still intimidated by that and they kind of like it. I really liked the lunacy of the character I played building up to and during the Kenny match, so when I went back for Naito, I didn’t want to wear sparkly tights and light-up jackets. It didn’t feel right. I felt crazier, and I decided that some paint needed to be worn.

I was working with Okada, who is ‘The Rainmaker,’ so I said I was ‘The Painmaker. It just happened. Now it’s a whole other side of Jericho that could extend my career for another ten years if I wanted it to. I’m a huge fanatic and disciple of the band KISS and the way they market themselves, and I’m surprised it took me this long to wear some paint. I want to use it in certain cases. That’s why I used the paint against Darby Allin on Dynamite. I want to do this character like how the Great Muta did it.

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