Chris Jericho recalls how he (almost) won the WWE Championship for the first time.
On the April 17, 2000 episode of WWE RAW, Jericho defeated Triple H in State College, PA, to win the WWE Championship, but the decision was ultimately reversed and stricken from the record books for storyline purposes.
Triple H argued over the fast count and ultimately forced officials to reverse the decision as if it never happened, and Jericho’s title reign disappeared almost as quickly as it started. During his appearance on the latest episode of Broken Skull Sessions, Jericho talked about the infamous “State College Screwjob” on RAW, and how the incident was a test and a learning experience.
“We really did [have great chemistry.] He’s a great heel and I was a great foil for him. For me at this point, I was just trying to find my way. John [Layfield] and Ron [Simmons] stop him [because I hired APA.] This is another great story. The blood, I cut my lip open, which it’s a happy accident. It just adds to the drama. I came in, once again, this big debut against The Rock and then just instantly started floundering. You know, losing to this guy, losing to that guy,” Jericho explained. “The week before, I had a match with Viscera, wherever we were, and I lost to [him.]”
Jericho said it was actually a really good match against Viscera, but it still left him feeling like he needed to be doing more in WWF. He explained that he even considered quitting WWE the day of the infamous incident on RAW, but was talked out of it after he’d listened to the plan for that night’s show.
“There had been calls from WCW, ‘come back, come back, come back…’—not that I could have gotten out of the contract anyways. But I remember at the time, there was writers, Brian Gewirtz, and another guy called Tommy Blancha. And I was going to State College and I was like, ‘I’m going to either tell Vince to do something with me or I want out.’ And I’m walking down the hallway, and I see Tommy standing there. And Tommy goes, ‘where you going?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to talk to Vince, I got some stuff to say and I’m gonna tell I want out.’ He’s like, ‘you might not want to do that.’ I’m like Gilligan, ‘you can’t make me, you can’t make me, you can’t make me… What do you got?’ He said, ‘Well tonight you’re gonna win the world title.’
Jericho explained how they laid out the plan to him, noting that if they were testing him, he definitely passed and noted Triple H’s role in giving him advice.
“I would say that I passed because here’s the thing—Hunter said, “slow down and listen to me.” And this is still first six months in. I’d never heard of bump and feed in my life when I got to WWE. Never heard of it. He said “slow down and listen to me” and I said “okay”. And I already didn’t like this guy, and I knew he didn’t like me because of stuff that we had happen to us,” Jericho explained, “but I said I believe in him in the ring. And he orchestrated me to a great match. And you see the end of the match. It was so well done, and the whole match is really good. And I remember just thinking like, “okay, this is a test.” And when you watch the crowd there, they went absolutely ballistic. Whatever Vince was looking for, that was the answer.”
Jericho recalled the moment in the ring with the title, noting that he was OK with how things played out because if the world ended, he was still the WWE Champion in that moment. He then explained that he asked Vince McMahon if it felt weird giving the title back and Vince told him not to worry because “you’ll have it again someday.”
“Vince doesn’t say stuff like that, really. So to me, it was one of things where, well let’s see what he’s gonna do. Both in the match and in the reaction. And I think, once again, I got a 10/10 on both,” Jericho said, “and I think that’s when I finally got out of the funk of being ‘WCW guy who doesn’t know how to work the WWE style, who doesn’t know how to be a main eventer,’ and that proved it all wrong right there.”
Jericho also said the best part of the entire experience was the next night when he accidentally dropped an f-bomb during a promo and had to admit to Vince what had happened.
“The next night, we’re in Philly, and they have a lumberjack match, me vs. Rock. And then something happens where Triple H hits Rock and I get the pin. I get the big stamp of approval, and I was so excited. And in those days, as you know we did it countless times, you grab the microphone and you’d say a promo for the fans after the show was done. You’d always leave them with something extra,” Jericho explained, “so I grabbed the mic and I remember, the crowd was just going crazy and it was such a great moment. I said [they’ve been a f——— great crowd]…”Did I just say that?”
“I look over at Jerry Lawler and he’s staring, and he’s like, “yeah you said it. You just said the f word.” And I was like, “oh my gosh. Thank you good night.” And probably nobody cared, but this is WWE, you can’t go around saying that. And I go to the back and Vince is standing there. And he’s like, “come here, pal.” He gives me a [hand] and like a moron, I go, “didn’t you hear what I said out there?” And he’s like, “what did you say?”
Jericho explained that Vince continued to question what he’d said, and Jericho finally confessed to his slip-up.
“I was about ready for the ‘pal’—how rare are the pal handshakes and the hug—and I was like, ‘oh my gosh I didn’t say anything.’ And I [finally told him and] said, ‘the best f—ckin’ crowd.’ And he was like ‘Ughhh, Jericho…’, [annoyed] and he walked out. And I just stood there like, ‘no!’