How Vince McMahon reacted when Chris Jericho signed to face Kenny Omega

Chris Jericho created shockwaves across the pro wrestling landscape with the announcement early last month that the WWE legend was heading over to New Japan Pro-Wrestling to face Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in Japan on Jan. 4. 

What hadn't been known until now, however, is what the reaction was like from WWE chairman Vince McMahon when he heard the news. Jericho, 47, whose WWE contract had expired, revealed the behind the scenes details for the first time this week during an appearance on SiriusXM"Busted Open" radio show.  

"I know [McMahon] wasn't upset because I called him six weeks before and told him as soon as the deal was done," Jericho said. "I would never surprise him like that. I didn't ask him for his permission, but I didn't have to. I told him what was going on -- and to be quite frank for you guys, he was super excited about it.

"If you know Vince, he loves wrestling. It's what he knows, and it's what he knows best. I think, obviously, his mission is to seek and destroy and kill every other company, but I think he secretly likes it when other companies do good, because it just makes it better for his company."

NJPW, which this year set plans in motion for an expansion into North America, has grown to become WWE's biggest competitor due to its high quality in-ring product and realistic style. Securing Jericho was a big coup for the company, which will match him against its biggest star in Kenny Omega, the fellow Canadian-born wrestler considered by many to be the best in the world today. 

"This is the biggest match in wrestling right now, and there's no match in the WWE that can even match this," Jericho said. "Because they've already done [John] Cena and [Roman] Reigns, and they did [Braun] Strowman and [Brock] Lesnar. Tell me another match that they could put together in the WWE tomorrow that would have a bigger buzz than 'Alpha' [Jericho] versus Omega? You can't!"

Jericho, a WWE legend who enjoyed a renaissance 2016 which many consider to be among the best work of his career, ultimately believes him facing Omega will benefit WWE in the long run, just as much as it will the business as a whole. 

"When Chris Jericho goes to New Japan, everyone knows I'm not a New Japan guy, I'm a WWE guy," Jericho said. "You see Chris Jericho versus Kenny Omega and it's, 'Well, Chris Jericho is headlining the Tokyo Dome.' It's not like it's some kind of behind the scenes screw job. It's taking a great opportunity and helping the business, helping Kenny Omega and helping New Japan. But guess what? It helps Chris Jericho, which in turn helps WWE."

Jericho will also be promoting a "Rock-N-Wrestling Rager At Sea" cruise in October 2018 using competitors from WWE rival Ring of Honor. He revealed last month on the "Ross Report" podcast that his initial request to have NXT wrestlers compete was denied by WWE executive Paul "Triple H" Levesque. 

But when it comes to doing business outside of WWE while staying in the good graces of the company, Jericho credits the trust he has built up with McMahon as someone who stands up for what he believes in. 

"I think when it comes to the business, who else has done as much for the WWE in terms of building other guys than I have over the past five or six years?" Jericho said. "I just think there is a lot of mutual respect there between me and the boss.

"Now, if it was somebody else, I bet you Vince would not have been happy, but once again, he knows where I'm coming from. And I would say you could probably count on one hand the amount of people that had done that over the years, as far as leaving to go somewhere else and telling him about it first. 

"I had no contractual obligation, but it was respect. It was respect for the guy who I still consider to be my boss because I would never want to do him like that. That would be a pretty crappy thing to wake up one day and see that. I think it was the right move to do and I think he appreciated it. "

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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