Jon Moxley is a professional wrestler. At Forbidden Door, he recaptured the AEW (interim) Championship in what can only be described as a bloody banger indicative of the style he has brought to basically anywhere in the world there is a ring and fans. Since he left WWE he appears to be on a mission to bring “unscripted violence” to the world. Traveling to events big and small taking on whoever, wherever, whenever. His finisher is now called “Paradigm Shift” a Babe Ruthesque shot call that for the last several years has shown anyone with a pair of eyes his intent. To be the best professional wrestler on the planet.
We all remember The Shield. A vehicle with a seeming singular purpose. Strap a rocket to Roman Reigns’ back and fire him into the stratosphere. Dean Ambrose (Moxley) was the enforcer, the hot tag, the lunatic fringe, and sadly in hindsight one of the most misused wrestlers in the history of that company. Roman was protected to the point where much of the audience rejected him while Moxley seemed to languish. Many people remember his brief title run. Him being the crowd favorite in matches with Reigns, the so-called “babyface”.
We remember Jon Moxley looking bewildered on The Stone Cold podcast as Austin implores him to “push the envelope”. This comes with some retroactive irony because if anyone is the spiritual son of Stone Cold, it’s Mox. To his credit Jon does express an awareness of his responsibility to be a role model etc however, after the fact he seems to be a man trapped in a place that doesn’t understand him or allow him space to be who he is.
This has become a familiar tale to wrestling fans. Stories of beat up warriors pushing their bodies beyond the limits while raging inside the machine. In his Starcast interview, Moxley lets it loose. Frustration about his character, having idea after idea rejected. Wrestling an insane house show schedule with a jacked-up elbow and then getting sick. Its essentially the CM Punk story with different dates and people. This fact adds more intrigue to his future due to the fact that his win at Forbidden Door places him on a collision course with Punk provided he holds onto the title until Punk is ready to return from injury.
Jon Moxley arrived in AEW like a house on fire. A blistering run only briefly interrupted by a a staph infection. A sort of macabre final gift from his previous place of employment. After winning the title and being the first person to hold titles in NJPW and AEW simultaneously, he went on a great run with some top tier defences. Moxley was the PWI 2020 wrestler of the year. A stamp of validation for basically every decision made to that point.
All of this leads him to one man. Kenny Omega. Death match malfunction not withstanding (wink wink) he and Omega have a terrific program. Challenging each other in matches that best represent each others styles. Eventually he would drop the title to Kenny with an assist from Don Callis. All this during the pandemic. In the words of Excalibur on the Forbidden Door commentary “Nobody quite like Moxley, a man who during the pandemic put this company on his back”. Truer words have rarely been spoken about anyone who steps between the ropes. Jon Moxley was the standard barer during the most difficult time for professional wrestling perhaps ever. After the loss to Omega, Jon Moxley came face to face with his most difficult foe, himself.
Oct 27 2021 was Jon Moxley’s abrupt final appearance on AEW TV. Unbeknownst to the wrestling community, Moxley had been struggling with alcohol abuse. In a very candid interview on “The Sessions with Renee Paquette” (his actual wife) Moxley describes the day to day horror of acute alcohol abuse. Fear of seizures on live TV, feeling like the world is closing in, friends and family deeply concerned and the awful existence that alcoholism requires. Paquette despite or perhaps because of her obvious connection to her husband does a masterful job during the interview. Gently guiding it while giving him space to express himself. “The Sessions” is a terrific watch and has become my go to place for long-form wrestling interviews.
When Jon Moxley made the brave decision to attend treatment AEW railed around their guy. CM Punk went on AEW TV and praised Moxley, the camera cutting to “We Love You Mox” signs in the crowd. Punk expressed pride in Moxley’s decision and urged anyone struggling to reach out for help. It was a banner moment for an industry that has a wretched history of chewing up talent, cutting them loose and putting up a goddamn R.I.P. banner before we all move on. Much like Moxley’s finisher this moment was a paradigm shift for the wrestling industry. In a very visible way AEW was deciding to put the health of their wrestler before ratings, merch sales, ratings and the “bottom line”. This turned out to be a very wise decision.
Jon Moxley Returns To AEW
Jon Moxley returned to AEW television in the beginning of January this year. “Wild Thing” hits, he comes to the ring like a man possessed, pacing and primal. The chants rain down from the rafters. Fans are literally jumping in their seats. Justin Roberts hits his note perfectly.
“JEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOONNNNNN MOXXXXXXXXLLEEEEEEYYYY” takes the microphone and walks to the side of the ring. He drapes his hands over the ropes and puts his head down. It is a profound moment. He then proceeds to bare his soul to the world while also cutting one of the most effective promos ever. Moxley describes “demons” and the internal scars that define people. He encourages everyone to unapologetically be themselves. At one point he swallows, ever so briefly. He appears to be holding back tears. He also calls someone in the audience a “piece of shit” which causes JR to muse “well he hasn’t changed much”. Despite this wonderful moment of levity, Moxley is a man transformed. He thanks everyone for supporting him and then promises he is going on a “pilgrimage”. He promises to “grab professional wrestling by the balls” and states now “all I drink is blood”.
Since his return what has he done? Well an incredible match with Bryan Danielson that lead to the formation of The Blackpool Combat Club with Danielson and William Regal. An absolute clinic of a match with Wheeler Yuta where Moxley is giving performer. This leads to Yuta joining the BCC and then heading over to New Japan for an excellent showing in Best of the Super Juniors. He defended the GCW title against Homicide. Moxley was part of a five star affair at Double or Nothing that pushed yet again the boundaries of what professional wrestling can be. Matches with Garcia and Kyle O’Reily with real attention to story telling and details. Finally, Forbidden Door.
Moxley’s win over O’Reily earned him a shot at the interim title at Forbidden Door vs Hiroshi Tanahashi. His promo work up to this point had been incredible. “I’ve been chasing you for a loooooong time my man” he says to Tanahashi when they are finally face to face. He makes you believe without a doubt that beating Tana has been an obsession and singular focus for three years. He added instant gravitas to a card that many people had been calling cursed. CM Punk’s injury, Danielson not being cleared, Hiromu getting sick and other wrestlers having to miss the show created an enormous amount of pressure on the match.
It is the main event of a co promoted show between the best professional wrestling companies on the planet. Quite simply, Jon Moxley was the man carrying the AEW standard into the United Center. Once again “the blue eyed battler from Cincinnati” had the company and the world of professional wrestling on his back.
His music hits. He walks to the ring with Regal. Past a wall hanging in the United Center showing the Chicago Bulls NBA titles. The fans sing “Wild Thing”. It is a moment. I was in attendance and can say with authenticity that “big fight feel” doesn’t do it justice. Tanahashi comes to the ring playing air guitar, wearing excellent robes, and basically being the living embodiment of New Japan.
The match itself is a bloody war. Lots of striking, a nice little arm bar counter to a dragon screw and each man trying to get the upper hand. Jon is busted open at one point, really really busted open. Tana then hits a jackknife pin attempt and comes up with a bloody face print on his back. It is a bit gruesome and very on brand for Moxley’s style. Eventually, after an excellent affair, Moxley beats Tanahashi clean in the ring. One, two, three. He explodes off the mat covered in his own blood and pumps his fist once before falling to the canvas exhausted.
Jon Moxley makes his way to the corner of the ring and sits down. He is covered in his own blood with the belt slung over his shoulder. He appears to make the sign of the cross. His eyes close, and he breathes. He is home. Home in the ring where he has expressed himself for years. Home in the company that supported him and allowed him to be an artist. Home with his family. Home with his wife who believed in him and his daughter who he loves madly. Home in professional wrestling.
This article was difficult to write. In the interest of full disclosure I am also a recovering addict. I have watched and taken inspiration from Jon Moxley on his journey. I would encourage anyone struggling with addiction or mental health issues to follow the guidance of CM Punk and Mox. Reach out, and ask for help. Whatever the situation, there is always love and support on the other side, sometimes it’s just hard to see. It is a big scary beautiful world out there, remember to lace em up.
By Thomas Jay Hayes | Twitter