Chris Jericho‘s NJPW appearance in 2017 caused shockwaves in the wrestling word and was ultimately the catalyst that eventually led to the birth of AEW and the biggest change in wrestling for over 20 years.
While it may seem inconsequential, Le Champion‘s debut against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12 could be one of the most important matches in wrestling history. Keep reading to find out just how Chris Jericho made that years Wrestle Kingdom one of the biggest of all time and how his stardom helped create AEW.
Chris Jericho Made NJPW Millions In Revenue
Chris Jericho made his NJPW debut on November 5th, 2017. While it wasn’t his first appearance ever in the promotion, it had been his first appearance in 20 years, with his early appearances being brief and inconsequential.
He appeared on screen after Kenny Omega’s match to challenge him to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 12. His appearance caused huge waves in the world of wrestling, being the first time he’d performed outside of the WWE since the fall of WCW 16 years prior. There wasn’t even a rumour that he would appear at the promotion, given that he had wrestled Kevin Owens earlier that year at Wrestlemania 33 for the United States Championship.
Chris Jericho challenged Kenny Omega to wrestle him at the January 4th show in 2018. This match had an extra layer to it, given that both men were from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and were two of the top wrestlers of their respective generations.
His first match in New Japan took place on the biggest stage possible – Wrestle Kingdom. His maiden outing was against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12, pitting “Alpha vs Omega” as the two Canadian stars battled in Jericho’s first match outside of WWE in nearly 20 years.
The bout itself was one of the matches of the year, with the anticipation for the match reaching fever pitch. They fought for Omega’s IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship, which he was the first holder of after winning a tournament in the United States.
When the match was first revealed, the buzz surrounding the event was extraordinary. While Kenny Omega and the rest of the Elite had helped bring the hardcore fans over the New Japan, Chris Jericho bought instant mainstream appeal. WWE fans who had never seen Japanese wrestling were suddenly tuning in to see Y2J, who had been a key figure in the WWE just the year prior.
Kenny Omega won the bout, but it was New Japan who were the real winners. Chris Jericho revealed during an appearance on the “AEW Unrestricted” podcast that his appearance immediately sold an extra 15,000 tickets for Wrestle Kingdom and improved the streaming numbers massively over the previous years. He also noted that it was that which was the catalyst behind Tony Khan believing that AEW would be possible.
“I think it was the fact that there was so much of a buzz, but the cold hard fact of the business that it did, because New Japan World, which is New Japan’s streaming service, I believe subscriptions went up like 300 percent, if not more, when that match was announced,”
“I know in the arena, in the [Tokyo] Dome, it sold an extra 15,000 tickets, which out of 50,000 tickets, think about that. That’s 30 percent of the tickets sold just from that match. So, I think a combination of the tickets and the business of the streaming is where Tony really thought, ‘I could do this.'”
He wrestled six matches in total for New Japan before the pandemic hit and he could no longer travel to Japan. it is expected that Chris Jericho will wrestle for NJPW in the future, once a story worth travelling over for reveals itself and he can be in the main event once again.
He Helped AEW Get A TV Deal In 2019
When speaking to Inside the Ropes on an episode of Talk is Jericho, the former WWE Champion revealed it was the star power of two men who helped AEW get their initial TV deal with TNT. They inked a deal with the network in 2019 to launce AEW Dynamite in October, which has since drawn huge numbers and moved onto a bigger network (TBS).
Chris Jericho, who had just finished a stint with New Japan Pro Wrestling before the launch of the promotion, claimed that is was him and Jim Ross who gave TNT the confidence to put AEW Dynamite on the air. Both men were huge stars during the Attitude Era, where over 10 million people would tune in to watch wrestling on a weekly basis.
With their name value, AEW had a built in casual fanbase ready to go and gave the network the confidence to give AEW the TV deal which would eventually net them over 1 million viewers per week.
Speaking to Inside the Ropes, Chris Jericho said;
I remember at some point, we were talking about maybe going on Showtime. At some point we’re thinking maybe streaming it on, I don’t know, Amazon Prime or something along those lines, and it’s like, ‘This isn’t, it’s not good enough.’ You know, you can’t just put it on a Showtime or whatever.”
“And then TBS started to get interested, I think, because Chris Jericho was involved, and Jim Ross, I think those two names were the two names that got us the TV deal along with Tony’s [Khan] passion and his commitment, and all these other factors I told you, so it was a little bit. I think that’s why we announced when we did [that] the show doesn’t start till May but we have this TV deal. So we did the press conference.”
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Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.