The Inner Circle was a Professional Wrestling Power Stable currently appearing on All Elite Wrestling, comprised of Chris Jericho (leader), Jake Hager, Santana & Ortiz, and Sammy Guevara. MJF and Wardlow joined the group in late 2020, only to leave again in March 2021 when MJF tried and failed to take over the group from Jericho.
Months after winning the AEW championship in the finale of the tournament against "Hangman" Adam Page, Chris Jericho gloated about his victory while asking for a 'Thank You'. He got his wish later on when Santana & Ortiz approached Jericho congratulating him fresh off of their own debut after the Young Bucks/Lucha Brothers match. This planted the seeds of the new faction when Santana/Ortiz teamed with Jericho against the Elite (Young Bucks & Kenny Omega) in the main event of the first AEW Dynamite episode. After that match took place, Guevara joined in the beat down alongside Jake Hager (who made his AEW debut) against the Elite. The following week, Jericho dubbed his faction the Inner Circle.
At AEW Full Gear 2020, MJF defeated Chris Jericho in a match, earning the right for himself and his bodyguard Wardlow to join the group. On the March 10, 2021 episode of Dynamite Jericho fired MJF again after a failed attempt to usurp him... only to find out that MJF had started his own stable. MJF's new stable proceeded to annihilate the Inner Circle, ending with Wardlow powerbombing Jericho off the stage through a table. After the Inner Circle returned a few weeks later, the stable underwent a Heel–Face Turn to feud with the Pinnacle. During the feud with the Pinnacle, they even obtained an honorary member of the faction in the form of 'Iron' Mike Tyson as of the April 14, 2021 edition of AEW Dynamite.
With their group feud against the Pinnacle over by the end of AEW Double or Nothing 2021 with the faction war spreading to individual feuds where both sides got wins and losses over each other, and Chris Jericho and MJF having a longer feud culminating in a match at AEW All Out 2021 where Jericho put his career on the line against MJF but won (while leaving reasonable doubt as the win wasn't clean).
On September 29, 2021, Sammy Guevara became the second member of the Inner Circle to win a championship, earning the AEW TNT Championship. In 2022, however, there came some major changes. Due to tensions between Jericho, Santana and Ortiz surrounding the latter two's friendship with Eddie Kingston, Guevara left the group again, this time for good; following this, Jericho along with Hager would turn on Santana and Ortiz to align themselves with 2.0 and Daniel Garcia, disbanding the Inner Circle and forming the Jericho Appreciation Society in its stead.
These are the Inner Circle tropes baby!:
- Arch-Enemy: The Elite (Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, Hangman Page, Young Bucks) as well as Dustin Rhodes by proxy and later Jon Moxley. After MJF's betrayal, he and his faction, The Pinnacle, filled this role.
- Big Bad: First-ever AEW World Champion Chris Jericho became this with his vicious attack on Cody and Dustin Rhodes and the Young Bucks, alongside Sammy Guevara, Ortiz, Santana and a debuting Jake Hager.
- Butt-Monkey: All members of the Inner Circle can be counted on to sell all sorts of hilariously embarrassing injuries like a million bucks. Examples include Sammy Guevara getting hit by a golf cart twice, and Jericho getting dropped into a pool of mimosa.
- Covered in Gunge: Happened to Jericho, Hager, Ortiz, and Santana on the July 15, 2020 edition of Dynamite. After Jericho cut a diss promo on Orange Cassidy, the latter came into the stands, where Jericho continued to cut him down... until Cassidy called for a shower of orange juice to fall from the rafters onto the group, with Jericho getting by far the worst of it.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: During their initial heel run, they got a lot of attention for being strikingly more diverse than their arch-rivals The Elite, with the Puerto Rican Santana and Ortiz and the Cuban-American Sammy Guevara wrestling alongside the white American Jake Hager and the white Canadian Chris Jericho as fully equal team members.
- Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: They are characterized by their surprisingly close, almost family-like relationship despite being very ruthless.
- Evil vs. Evil: The Inner Circle vs The Pinnacle, a group who MJF had founded specifically to supplant them as the top heel stable in AEW, with the Circle as A Lighter Shade of Black. Later subverted when it became clear the Circle had undergone a full Heel–Face Turn.
- A Father to His Men: Jericho, surprisingly for such a deluded egotistical heel, is very proud of his boys, as well as quite protective of them.
- Foil: The Inner Circle evidently parallels The Elite. The Inner Circle are ruthless cheaters (or at least were until MJF's betrayal) but very closely-knit while The Elite is a team of dashing aces of wrestling who keep bickering among themselves.
- Friendly Rivalry: Possibly uniquely for a heel stable, after MJF and Wardlow joined the group (following MJF defeating Jericho in a match) Jericho instituted a new system where the members of the Circle can civilly sort out any disagreements between each other in the ring, while keeping things friendly and professional to keep grudges from fracturing the group. Wardlow and Hager were the first to clash this way, with Wardlow winning, both remaining members of the Circle and the other members congratulating both men. They also agreed to a three-way tag team match between Jericho/MJF, Sammy/Hager and Santana/Ortiz to determine which pair would officially represent the Inner Circle in the tag division going forward.
- Averted when MJF revealed his own stable, with Wardlow, FTR, Shawn Spears, and Tully Blanchard joining him in pummeling the Inner Circle.
- Good is Not Nice: The Inner Circle may have resolved to stop being villainous pricks after what Maxwell Jacob Friedman and The Pinnacle did to them, but make no mistake, they are still every bit as vicious as they need to be to finish any Mob War you want to start with them.
- Heel–Face Turn: After The Pinnacle showed up to usurp their positions as the top heels in AEW, the Inner Circle resolved to mend their ways after the "wake-up call" the Pinnacle had given them. Jericho even apologised to everyone they'd hurt and insulted in his return promo.
- Ironic Name: Their name has some ironic significance when you consider their initial rivalry with The Elite, who started off as a highly exclusive sub-faction of top-tier wrestlers within Bullet Club formed by their leader Kenny Omega (his "inner circle", in effect). By contrast, the group who actually call themselves "The Inner Circle" were a brotherhood of truly inseparable companions who had each other's backs through every challenge.
- Mundane Made Awesome: During a picture-in-picture commercial break on an edition of Dynamite, Sammy Guevara carried out a large sign of texts so that way the viewers at home can interpret Chris Jericho's promo while the screen is mute for the duration of the break. This also mocked Darby Allin, whom Guevara was feuding with at the time.
- The Mole: During his promo introducing the Pinnacle, MJF admitted that he'd never really intended to take over the Inner Circle, but to destroy it from the inside.
- Power Stable:
- The Centerpiece: Chris Jericho
- The Heir Apparent: Originally Sammy Guevara; MJF would later usurp him in this position, driving Sammy to leave the group. However MJF jumped the gun with his attempt to usurp Jericho and was ejected, leading to Sammy's return.
- The Enforcer: Santana & Ortiz
- The Muscle: Jake Hager
- The Psycho Rangers: Again to the Elite. To go into more detail:
- Jericho and Kenny Omega have both been seen as the best in the world at different points in time, both Canadian blondes with long title reigns under their belts. The difference is mostly in attitude, with Jericho seeing himself as the only reason to watch AEW, asking the audience to thank him for their enjoyment of the show, while Omega is comparatively humble and respectful of the fans. Jericho also presents himself as the coolest guy in the room while coming off more as an out-of-touch dad, while Omega is more willing to present his nerdier side.
- Sammy Guevara and Hangman Page are both (relatively) newer to the wrestling business than their fellow stablemates and are pushed as potentially the next big thing. The difference is mostly in the level of experience - Hangman's challenged for both the World Champion title (where Jericho defeated him) and the Tag Team one (where he, alongside Omega, won it by defeating SCU), while Guevara still has something to prove. Both are also the first to depart their factions, but while Page got kicked out of the Elite, Sammy simply left the Inner Circle of his own initiative. Sammy also quickly returned to his group once he managed to remove the source of his issues within it (MJF), while Hangman initially sank further into depression before eventually finding himself drawn to another group instead (the Dark Order).
- Santana and Ortiz and The Young Bucks are both well-established tag teams, spent time in TNA and are well known for doing ridiculous things in the ring. However, while the Young Bucks are charismatic, funny, well-adjusted brothers, the former LAX are just bat-shit crazy.
- Finally, Jake Hager and Cody Rhodes are both ex-WWE wrestlers who came off of ridiculous gimmicks (the 'We the people' thing and Stardust), but while Hager went to establish himself in the MMA world, Rhodes became an indie wrestling standout and founder of AEW.
- Rearrange the Song: When Jericho and MJF began teaming up, they used a mashup of "Judas" and "Dig Deep" (MJF's theme) as their entrance music.
- Shout-Out: During the COVID-19 pandemic, when wrestling activities were heavily restricted, the Inner Circle met up with each other on FaceTime in segments called "the Bubbly Bunch".
- Sixth Ranger: MJF became the first man to join the group since its foundation after beating Jericho in a match at Full Gear 2020, with his bodyguard Wardlow joining as well (the Seventh Ranger?).
- Start My Own: After failing to take the Inner Circle over from Jericho, MJF betrayed the group and set up his own faction, the Pinnacle, alongside Wardlow, Shawn Spears, FTR, and Spears' manager Tully Blanchard.
- 10-Minute Retirement: Sammy Guevara left the Inner Circle for all of 4 weeks before rejoining them with an idea to force MJF and Wardlow out of the group.
- Too Dumb to Live: Averted, with Jericho stating on more than one occasion that he watches the show, so he’s aware when people are lying to him.
- True Companions: Surprisingly yes, at least so far. The Inner Circle have stuck by each other ever since the debut episode of Dynamite without any sign of turning on or falling out with each other, pretty much always have each other's backs, and generally seem to actually like each other. Jericho is a surprisingly Benevolent Boss who is genuinely proud of his guys when they win, never hesitates to put them over at every turn, doesn't punish or denigrate them when they lose, and gets angry when they're hurt (such as when Jon Moxley blinded Santana in one eye with a car key). After Sammy, Jake and Santana beat Cody, Hangman Page and Matt Jackson to determine which team would get the advantage in the upcoming 'Blood and Guts' match, Jericho cut a promo where he boasted that the Inner Circle had never argued or accidentally hit each other with misaimed attacks, as a validly-pointed contrast to the Elite who, aside from their tumultuous formative years at the head of Bullet Club, were yet again being shaken by infighting at the time (he also took a shot at Hangman for his drinking problem). While it'll undoubtedly be subverted at some point, the team is remarkably solid for a group made up of such egotistical jerks.
- It initially seemed that the fellowship finally broke in early 2021 thanks to MJF's antics. After causing Sammy to quit the group on February 10, MJF made his play to take over the group, and winning over Hager, Santana and Ortiz to his side in an ouster of Jericho. However, not only did Sammy return that night to blow the lid off the plan, the others turned around again after the tape played, revealing that they were still firmly with Jericho and the group had simply been waiting for him to pull a backstab all along. Unfortunately for them, MJF had created misdirection to obfuscate a different plan, debuting The Pinnacle with a violent beating of Jericho and his crew.
- The Inner Circle actually ended up being an extremely rare, if not unique, example of a heel Power Stable who managed to remain together without falling out with each other long enough to turn face and long afterwards as well, with the group's entire founding contingent remaining solid ever since the very first episode of Dynamite. For comparison's sake, The Undisputed Era may have reigned 3½ years as the focal point of NXT, but only five months of that was spent as faces before that unit was cratered by Adam Cole. The Inner Circle's would pass that handily, lasting literally 364 days between the night they exposed MJF and the night Jericho and Hager replaced them with the JAS. Yes, this group was so tight knit that, in spite of retaining Hager and welcoming Guevara back in short order, Jericho turning heel and replacing Santana and Ortiz with 2point0 and Garcia necessitated an entire reboot with a new name.