STEP AND REPEAT, 9:13 a.m.
Chris Jericho’s first morning in Miami is spent in front of a total of no less than 25 different cameras within less than an hour. Hosts and journalists from around the globe, from international networks like n-tv Germany, FX Korea and Eurosport, open up televised segments in mixed languages, then engage in casual English conversation with Jericho.
WrestleMania is the topic for the “step and repeat” setup at this media event but Jericho is sure to keep it entertaining, weaving in discussion about his roots in similar nations where wrestling is adored, where he is adulated. When addressing Japanese and German audiences, Jericho speaks about places he once called home and expresses his ties with such countries, not to mention his enthusiasm for his next return. “It’s all part of my legacy, part of my history,” The “Ayatollah of Rock ’n’ Rollah” proudly explains.
DRAGON BIRTHS LION, 9:34 a.m.
After wrapping up his last interview, the lead singer of Fozzy has his attention snared by a beacon ahead on the floor of WrestleMania Axxess. Jericho enters a Show of Shows exhibition where classic attire and other relics rest on display, telling tales of 27 previous iterations of WWE’s greatest annual spectacle.
A moth-to-flame metaphor is appropriate in this instance as Jericho is drawn to the hanging costume of a “Dragon,” specifically, Ricky Steamboat. Jericho examines the ornate reptilian garb worn by Steamboat, the WWE Hall of Famer who was the original inspiration for Y2J’s ring mastery. The mat classic at WrestleMania III between Steamboat and Randy Savage is often celebrated by many of WWE’s top performers and the first-ever Undisputed Champion admits that the feats of The Dragon (who Jericho himself had faced at The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania) encouraged him to break through.
“That’s the match that really inspired me to get into wrestling,” Jericho proclaims. “I saw that match and thought, ‘I want to try to do this somehow.’ WrestleMania X was also special to me because I was already in the business at the time and I saw my favorites [Owen Hart, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels] have amazing matches that night.”
He continues, “These guys weren’t all 6-foot-8, 350 pounds. I was no longer intimidated by the size factor.”
“People were always telling me I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t tall enough, I wasn’t this, I wasn’t that. Then I realized that I was,” he adds, affirming that witnessing Steamboat’s successes fueled his persistence.”
THE THREADS OF JERICHO, 9:36 a.m.
Mere steps away from the scaly, green dragon gear, Chris Jericho takes a time machine ride initiated by his teal attire from his milestone WrestleMania joust with Shawn Michaels in 2003. Seeing his rhinestone encrusted gear from almost a decade ago, The “Ayatollah of Rock ’n’ Rollah” recollects his show-stealing performance and assesses his personal style evolution as he looks ahead to what he believes will be his next conquest at The Show of Shows.
“This is show business, man! I can’t just come out in jeans and a T-shirt,” he proclaims. “You have to constantly upgrade and update your costume like KISS – every album, they’d have a new costume. That was part of the fun.”
It may be a new jacket, sure. Or maybe Jericho will bring back his loose fitting top with his throwback Y2J silhouette, arms stretched out and all. Perhaps a hybrid that all loyal Jerichoholics (if they’re still out there) will soon attempt to reproduce on their own at home.
“For this WrestleMania, I spent a lot of money on my costume,” he brags. “People ask if they’ll be available on WWE Shop and I say, ‘you’d have to mortgage your house to own a jacket like mine!’”
“You can’t make one of these in your house with a glue gun and a Lite Brite.”
(HAIR)CUTTING EDGE, 9:59 a.m.
They’ve had a rocky relationship over the years, but this morning, all issues seem to be mended between Chris Jericho and 2012 WWE Hall of Fame Inductee Edge when they have an unexpected encounter at the Miami Beach Convention Center. You think you know him … but his new haircut is really throwing you off. Same for Jericho, who erupts with “you look like Wheels from ‘Degrassi!’”
The fellow Canadians exchange pleasantries, ironically, in the shadow of a wall featuring images from their clash at WrestleMania XXVI. Of course, most of their conversation pertains to The Rated-R Superstar’s crewcut.
“It was starting to look like Macho Man,” Edge comments, explaining why he chopped off his signature rock star-like locks the night before.
The conversation progresses into other things, like the status of Edge’s induction speech and, for Jericho, a high-stakes battle for the WWE Championship. The last time Y2J competed in a title match on The Grandest Stage of Them All, he served defeat to the man he’s now chatting up. It’s fair to predict that no matter the outcome of his “best in the world” bout at WrestleMania XXVIII, Jericho will not share an exchange of this nature with The Straight Edge Superstar two years from now.
IN PRODUCTION, 2:39 p.m.
This time last year, a discontent CM Punk played a supporting role in the production of Randy Orton’s DVD. But as has been well documented, a lot can change in 12 months. Today, the tattooed antagonist in The Viper’s home video is the (six-pointed) star of the next WWE DVD release being developed.
This fall marks the rise of CM Punk in the first-ever home video to spotlight The Straight Edge Superstar. Presently, The Voice of the Voiceless is speechless while a WWE camera crew captures a healthy portion of the biographical documentary in the emptied, WrestleMania-starved alcoves of Sun Life Stadium days before the event. Shapely shadows are cast upon the locker room cubby while Punk and WWE producers discuss roadblocks the tattooed titan has hit, plus, the role he’ll play in affecting a change that will permanently alter the future of wrestling.
The Straight Edge Superstar also stumbles into a conversation about two WWE show concepts he’s pitched to the WWE Chairman. Sopping in satire, Punk describes a remake of “The Cannonball Run” starring odd WWE Superstar pairings, then moves on to “Raw: The Musical.”
“I said to Vince [McMahon], ‘You’re going to do it in five years anyway,’” he irreverently details. “I’ll dress like Fred Astaire. ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’!”
“He looked at me like I was from Mars.”
STRAIGHT AHEAD, 3:25 p.m.
The narration portion of the WWE Champion’s home video is complete and enough material has been gathered to fill CM Punk’s future DVD and perhaps some of its extra bonus material. Momentarily, Punk is left uninterrupted, which is a very rare commodity in these parts during WrestleMania week. Only a whir of the hallway’s overhead lighting can be heard in the now hushed bunker on the perimeter of Punk’s assumed temple come Sunday. Sun Life Stadium field lies only yards from this perch and on that turf, CM Punk will charge into battle to steal a show that’s his and Chris Jericho’s for the taking. Pressure mounts with each digital blink on his iPhone’s clock. Jericho, beware should this building boil start to truly roll.
UNCLE LARS, 3:58 p.m.
Inside the ovular, open air Sun Life Stadium, a 360-degree scan of the 75,000 bright orange seats reveals two figures in all black seated up in a midsection corner. Not absorbing sunlight, but rather the stunning mid-construction visual in front of them, the WWE Champion and his comrade, Lars Frederiksen, watch as the WrestleMania XXVIII set comes together.
“Uncle Lars,” as Punk facetiously refers to Frederiksen, is the lead vocalist and guitarist for seminal punk band – and all-time favorite of The Straight Edge Superstar – Rancid. One of the champion’s best friends, Lars arrived in Miami this morning to see his chum and fellow artist dance on The Grandest Stage of Them All this weekend.
“In my life, music’s always been there,” Punk explains. “Bad day at school, a crap home life. I grew up listening to all kinds of stuff. Rancid, hands-down, became my favorite band.”
He continues, “They have a song called ‘Radio’ and the chorus is, ‘when I got the music, I got a place to go.’ I was 15 years old when that came out and it just completely resonated with me. Here was a group of guys singing about stuff I’d already experienced and I felt that song was in me, but they just beat me to it. Greatest band ever.”
To his immediate right, CM Punk’s equally inked up buddy squints in the overwhelming daylight and describes how his admiration for The Second City Savior’s ring work drew the two artists together in 2005.
“Right off the bat, we could’ve been brothers,” Frederiksen candidly states. “Every once in a great while, you click with somebody. I don’t have too many of those times, but this is one of them. As a friend, [Punk’s] one of the best I have.”
The tattooed twosome toss insults at one another to balance the perceivably sentimental discussion, but Lars proceeds with his open-book assessment of his friend’s achievements and evolution – not to mention the feat of Punk’s ability, especially in the past eight months, in moving the WWE machine.
“We’re both from working class families, father out of the picture,” Lars points out. “When you have a kinship and you know [the other person’s] coming from the same place you are, morally, there’s a bond there.”
“I’m proud of him. I know the obstacles he’s had to overcome, I know what kind of strength and heart he’s got,” Frederiksen says of the competitor he’d previously only seen perform mostly through tape trading of independent circuit footage. “No one’s going to keep him down.”
THE CALM BEFORE THE SHOW, 4:04 p.m.
Punk and Lars descend the stairs of stadium and approach the still-in-progress nucleus of WrestleMania, a canopy covered ring bathing in sunlight.
“It never ceases to floor me every time,” the WWE Champion quietly utters to himself as he’s drawn to the squared circle.
Only the third outdoor WrestleMania in history, this Show of Shows seems to get larger in feeling with each passing day. Now, Punk stands comfortably at the core of an empty arena that will electrify this scene on Sunday night.
Twenty five years ago, the Chicago Bears beat the Miami Dolphins on the opening day of Sun Life Stadium. If the Windy City can beat the Florida native this Sunday, it’ll mean CM Punk has overcome Chris Jericho and secured the undisputed title of “Best in the World.”
THE “AYATOLLAH OF ROCK ‘N’ YOGA,” 6:02 p.m.
Miles from the site of WrestleMania XXVIII, Chris Jericho is sprawled on his hotel suite floor, forming sculpture-like poses amid intense breathing. It looks like the most intense game of Twister but this isn’t a game devised by Milton Bradley; it’s an extreme form of yoga devised by former WCW World Champion Diamond Dallas Page.
Jericho spends 50 minutes performing a chain of limb-stretching positions as instructed in his good friend’s YRG Fitness System (a.k.a. “DDP Yoga”). This is the same regimen he’s employed four to seven days per week for the past six months ever since the master of the Diamond Cutter responded to one of Jericho’s tweets about a herniated disc that nothing could remedy.
“I couldn’t sneeze, I couldn’t bend over,” he explains in brief between held poses. “When your body changes, you have to change your training too.”
Three DVDs – each with Page on the cover – rest on the table nearby as Jericho undergoes a workout that that blends cardio with strength and flexibility training.
“This changed my life,” he states.
SEVENTH HOUR STRETCH, 7:56 p.m.
The WWE Champion swills from his label-less half-gallon container of “chuice” – his description for a juice-meets-chew liquid blend of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and enzymes – then enters a room with bulbous tables partitioned by curtains.
Here, he greets Jenn, a certified fascial therapist whose provided Punk with “stretch therapy” for more than a year now. The Second City Savior lays down flat and, within moments, has his leg lifted just past his head in an amazing therapeutic contortion act. Following the quick warm-up, Punk is strapped down under wide elastic bands to secure him to the table while Jenn pulls and pushes his limbs in positions that few could endure. In fact, out of a clientele of roughly 60 different athletes, she claims that Punk is “hands-down the most flexible.”
Despite the various twisting directions of his legs that align his calf with his chest, the tattooed Superstar’s face appears at utter rest – the perfect end to a day before he moves into the night.