Mike Tyson was getting physical in the ring again — it just so happened to be a wrestling ring.
The former heavyweight boxing champion, who has said he is close to announcing a charity boxing match between him and a still to be determined opponent, got into a wild pull-apart with All Elite Wrestling star Chris Jericho to close Wednesday’s “AEW Dynamite.” The segment wasn’t perfect — and there is plenty of work to be done — but it was a big step in creating a mainstream buzz a new company like AEW is looking for.
Just as important as Tyson being in the ring was who he brought with him. The 53-year-old was flanked by UFC legends Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort and newly retired UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo. The entourage, along with Tyson’s star power, can create the type of attention AEW needs in just its second year of existence as it looks to build off its solid ratings.
The storyline issue between the 49-year-old Jericho and Tyson dates back 10 years to something that happened in WWE when the “Baddest Man on the Planet” turned on the Fozzy frontman and “knocked him out” during a segment with D-Generation X. Jericho referenced it this week on social media leading up to the Dynamite appearance by Tyson, who also presented AEW’s TNT championship to winner Cody Rhodes at the “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view Saturday. Jericho called out Tyson during a “pep rally” for his faction The Inner Circle, which includes wrestler-turned-MMA-fighter Jake Hager.
What followed was not exactly unique. Jericho kept mouthing off to Tyson, who failed to fully rip off his shirt before flexing to show off his ripped physique. A shove by Tyson and then Jericho ignited a frenzy in the ring. The pull-apart that followed felt all too reminiscent of the scene between Tyson and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on “Monday Night Raw” in 1997. Jim Ross just so happened to be on both calls, too. Still, AEW President Tony Khan was likely nowhere saying, “You ruined it dammit!” like Vince McMahon was in character back in the Attitude Era.
Criticize AEW all you want for this feeling like a WWE ripoff, but don’t do it before looking at the bigger picture for the company. Tyson, even at his age, has name recognition. MMA Twitter and other sites were likely buzzing, especially with Cejudo’s appearing so soon after his retirement announcement. Tyson has also been in the news recently because he is expected to get a more than $20 million offer to fight for the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship.
The Dynamite show exhibited the balance AEW is trying to present. The show opened with the long-awaited debut of FTR, formerly The Revival in WWE, one of the best pure wrestling tag teams in the industry right now, and closed with Tyson, still one of the more recognizable sports names in the world.
Tyson said in a video after the show that “This is not over, I’m coming back and Jericho’s gonna get his ass kicked.” Still, it’s unclear what this feud will become and when it will come to a head. Will it be Tyson and Jericho one-on-one in street-fight type match or will it be Jericho and The Inner Circle versus Tyson and his crew? A straight wresting match seems out of the question. Maybe the extra participants from their factions serve as lumberjacks to the Tyson-Jericho encounter.
AEW’s next big show is Fyter Fest, which is being billed as “sometime this summer” because of the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. The most obvious place for Jericho and Tyson to happen is at the All Out pay-per-view on Sept. 5 — AEW’s signature show.
Tyson is a wrestling fan and got hooked on AEW after having a good time at last year’s Double or Nothing, the company’s first pay-per-view. Rhodes said during a media call last week that Tyson was “one of the last touches” put on this year’s Double or Nothing as they wanted someone with some gravitas to present the TNT title.
Tyson got friendly with the AEW roster over Memorial Day weekend, as many posted pictures with him at the company’s BBQ on Monday. Tyson was even seen playing cornhole in a video posted by wrestler Joey Janela.
It appears Tyson is having enough fun to keep coming back. As long as whatever his feud with Jericho becomes feels fresh and logical and avoids an in-ring disaster, it can be a big win for AEW as it looks to expand its audience.