In Buddhism, teachers talk about one pebble cast into a pond creating ripples that can change the world. When four friends sat back to record a podcast in their New York City hotel room, they had no clue that their conversation would cause a ripple that would change the face of pro wrestling.
To celebrate his twenty-fifth anniversary as a professional wrestler, Chris Jericho invited his lifelong friends Lance Evers (Lance Storm), Lenny Olsen (Dr. Luther), and Don Callis (ECW’s Cyrus) to attend a major WWE House Show in Madison Square Garden. That night, Jericho lost to Kevin Owens, a performer who would become entwined with Jericho’s comeback the following year.
Jericho and his Canadian friends retreated to their hotel suite to record a special edition of his Talk Is Jericho podcast after the show. The four shared stories of Tony Condello’s “Northern Death Tours” and Bulldog Bob Brown. It was supposed to be just a few friends sharing old stories with a couple of rounds of beer, but the episode was a hit.
In 2016, when Podcast One launched the Jericho Podcast Network, the 25-year veteran recruited Storm and Callis to host a show of their own called Killing The Town. The podcast rekindled a spark for the business that Callis thought long extinguished.
During an episode of KTT, Callis and Storm interviewed New Japan star Kenny Omega. That year, Omega won the G1 and emerged as the company’s top gaijin star. Callis and Omega’s relationship stretched back to Omega’s uncle, The Golden Sheik, training Callis in their native Winnipeg. As the interviewer wrapped, Callis jokingly asked Omega to get him booked. A few weeks later, Callis joined Kevin Kelly on New Japan World’s English language broadcasts.
In 2017, Callis pitched a most unlikely scenario. What if Kenny Omega could face Chris Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan’s largest show, from the Tokyo Dome?
As unlikely as it seemed at the time, Jericho agreed to return to New Japan for the first time since 1997, marking the first time a WWE headliner had appeared in the promotion since Hulk Hogan faced the Great Muta in 1993.
The match between Jericho and Omega did big business for New Japan, which lead to a massive spike in New Japan World streaming subscriptions. Jericho so enjoyed the atmosphere and freedom provided by New Japan, and its booker, Gedo, another long-time friend, that he became a fixture in the company.
Later in 2017, Callis and Scott D’Amore, were hired by Anthem Entertainment, who had acquired TNA from Dixie Carter and rechristened it IMPACT Wrestling, to reinvigorate the product. Part of this reinvigoration saw Callis and IMPACT participate in the ultimate independent wrestling show, ALL IN.
Callis joined Ring of Honor’s Ian Riccoboni and Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s Excalibur on commentary. That night also saw a huge surprise, as Chris Jericho, disguised as Penta El Zero M, attacked Kenny Omega, restarting their feud as an attraction for the up-coming Jericho Cruise.
The successes of All In and Chris Jericho’s run with New Japan were part of the catalysts Tony Khan used as proof of concept when he launched All Elite Wrestling in January of 2019.
As Chris Jericho recently celebrated his thirtieth year in professional wrestling, the landscape has completely shifted. AEW has become a mainstay on Wednesday nights. New Japan has launched its US-based promotion. Callis’ leadership has helped the IMPACT brand achieve much critical success.
Five years ago, no one could have predicted how one podcast could inspire a cultural shift in professional wrestling. From a simple pebble comes an ocean of change.