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Chris Jericho talks WWE future, Saudi Arabian culture entering Greatest Royal Rumble

Jericho will be part of the historic 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble match in Jeddah

Far from your normal WWE pay-per-view, Friday's card (WWE Network, 12 p.m. ET) from King Abdullah International Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has received the kind of booking and publicity that's typically reserved for super shows like WrestleMania and SummerSlam. It also kicks off a 10-year business partnership between the company and the host nation.

There remains, however, a large of amount of questions for fans and journalists to ponder as to the timing (so close to WrestleMania), duplicate title (two Royal Rumbles in three months?) and reasoning why WWE, amid a self-proclaimed women's wrestling "evolution," would compromise to the level of booking an exclusively all-male show.

Still, it's hard not to get caught up in just how loaded this 10-match card is on paper and how it essentially feels like an extension of what was already an incredible WrestleMania 34 show just 19 days earlier. Along with an inaugural 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble match, the show features seven title bouts and an all-hands-on-deck approach as to how many top superstars have already been announced.

In addition to just about every top full-time star, the card has also triggered the return of part-timers and legends like The Undertaker, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Triple H and even Chris Jericho, who aside from an appearance at Raw 25 in January, was last seen wrestling in a much-hyped dream match with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

The 47-year-old Jericho, who put on a five-star classic against top independent star Kenny Omega at January's Wrestle Kingdom 12 show in Tokyo, which serves as NJPW's equivalent to WrestleMania, received a call about adding his name to the Greatest Royal Rumble and didn't hesitate to accept.

"It's just one of those things where it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Jericho told CBS Sports' "In This Corner" podcast on Wednesday. "Obviously, you are getting a chance to work with Saudi Arabia at the highest levels. We have been there in 2015 and had some great shows but it seems like they are kind of trying to change the way things are done over there. And it's really cool to have been asked by WWE to be a part of it. As you know, I'm not working there full time right now but still part of the family."

The immediate question for most fans regarding Jericho, a free agent who recently said he's "finished" with NJPW, surrounds what exactly his relationship is with WWE and chairman Vince McMahon. Currently on tour with his band Fozzy, Jericho also has self-financed a Rock 'n' Wrestling Rager cruise in October featuring non-WWE talent.

"It's good enough that they called me when this show came up," Jericho said. "I have a really good relationship with the company and with Vince in that I've been working there for 17 years pretty much, on and off. Up until this year when I did the show with New Japan, I have never wrestled in any other ring other than the WWE ring since 1999 and Vince knew about [NJPW] right from the start. It's one of those things where WWE is my home base for wrestling. I'm not a full-time performer in the wrestling world, nor have I been since 2010."

Jericho is quick to point out just how rare it is to have a superstar his age with 27 years' experience who is "still sort of at the top of their game" and performing at such a high level. But he stopped himself in mid-sentence when talking about what the future of that relationship between he and the company might look like.

"The WWE needs me as much as I … I shouldn't say that," Jericho said. "I enjoy working with the WWE and they enjoy working with me and I don't expect that to ever change."

As far as Jericho's role on Friday's card, it has been a fluid situation. Originally announced as a member of the 50-man Greatest Royal Rumble, he was then subbed in to replace Rusev in a casket match against The Undertaker. Just days later, WWE moved Rusev back into the bout. Although fans instantly began to read into whether backstage issues facilitated the switch, Jericho was quick to point out how often moments like this take place.

"Whether they want me to be part of the Royal Rumble or work against The Undertaker or work against Funaki in a lingerie match — whatever needs to be done, I'm happy to do it," Jericho said. "That's the good thing about kind of my legacy and where I am at this point in my career is I can come and do whatever needs to be done — opening match, main event, whatever it is — and it's going to be good. Things change, this is part of the world of WWE and happens all the time. For me, until I actually walk into the ring, sometimes you never know what is going to happen. Things get changed during the show sometimes. I think sometimes fans get a little bit too excited about certain things that happened."

One thing Jericho knows from experience is just how much of an adjustment WWE superstars will need to make within the new culture. In fact, he playfully chided against the use of his own catchphrase "drink it in, man" considering Saudi Arabia is a dry country "where you can't drink it in, man, at penalty of death."

It's also the Saudi Arabian culture that prevents WWE women from competing on the card. And to illustrate the differences between countries, Jericho recalled the time limitations that were in place surrounding his match there in 2015.

"Last time we were there, the show started at 5 p.m. and we had to stop at 6 p.m. so the entire audience — who were all made up of males, by the way, there were no women allowed in the show — could go out and pray at 6 p.m.," Jericho said. "So that was kind of weird."

Jericho had a match scheduled for 5:45 p.m. and was told to be done by 5:55 p.m. at the latest because the whole audience was leaving.

"It's one of those places where you go to Jeddah, it is very Saudi Arabian in that you go over there and things are very different than they are in the States," Jericho said. "Whereas when we went to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, it was much more of kind of a United States holiday area. But when you go to Saudi Arabia, it is Saudi Arabia. You are in the desert and you are living by their rules and their culture.

"It's one of the things I enjoy so much with traveling and seeing the world is how different countries work and how different countries operate. It's almost like Star Trek with the prime directive in that you don't go in there and change the culture, you go in there and adapt to the culture and live amongst that culture. It's not up to us to change it or to mess with it so you respect the way things are done over there and act accordingly." (CBS Sports)

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