2020 was undoubtedly the year of Jon Moxley. As AEW World Champion and IWGP United States Champion, the 35-year-old reaped accolades left, right and centre, and well and truly cemented his place as arguably THE top guy in the wrestling industry – all after making the decision one year previous to bet on himself.
In an exclusive interview with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy, Jon Moxley opened up about whether 2020 vindicated his decision to leave WWE, just why we need to be watching his Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match at AEW Revolution, where the “Forbidden Door” could take him and about a potential working partnership between AEW and WWE!
Hi, Jon! First things first, congratulations on your impending fatherhood – and your recent Bloodsport victory! I know you’re no stranger to brutal encounters but how are you feeling?
Yeah, really good. Just walking out of the gym to get my bearings back. Got to make the doughnuts, man. Got to work hard to play hard.
Nothing that will keep you out of that Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, I’m sure! Your opponent in that bout, Kenny Omega, recently said you inspire him creatively. This is probably a stupid question – but whose idea was that match?
I have no idea, to be honest with you. That came somewhere from the think-tank, somewhere… I first heard the idea actually a long-ass time ago, but these clouds come to light and I’ve had a lot of unscrupulous individuals, a lot of rogue guys, who do evil deeds, who have tried to take me out over the years by throwing me off of cages or putting me through tables and chairs. It’s the first time they’ve actually tried to explode me!
So, this will be another same old story about – they’re trying to destroy me like Wile E. Coyote, I keep coming back somehow, but this might be the end of this thing where I finally get destroyed. So, if nothing else, you know, you might see me finally, finally get blown up on March the 7th, on pay-per-view. If that happens.
No, I’m looking forward to it. I never would have imagined that I’d get the opportunity to do one of these, and especially not in AEW or on a mainstream American pay-per-view, so I’m super-excited about it. It’s almost too good to be true. I’m like, “Really, we can do that? Are you serious? I’m in!” Yeah, what an opportunity creatively, what an opportunity, an experience to have. You know, you can’t turn down that stuff, when it comes, to do something really, unique like that and to really live life to the fullest.
I’m pretty excited about it. I’ll have a lot of things to say about it going forward on Dynamite and so forth, as far as my feelings, so I don’t want to spoil any of it right here, but I’ve got a really good feeling about this emotional place I’m at right now. I’ve got a feeling about March 7th, I feel like it’s going to be a pretty wild night in Jacksonville.
You don’t seem like a man who gets particularly upset about what people think of you. I want to ask, that announcement shocked me as we don’t see those kinds of matches on television nowadays – but Jim Cornette would call it “goofy and outlaw” and say it’s risking injury for a “minute set of fans that can’t keep anything alive”. What would you say to those who aren’t keen on the idea of an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match?
I’d say you probably shouldn’t watch the pay-per-view then, or at least turn it off before that match happens.
It’s the good thing about AEW, we’ve got a little something for everybody, but there’s really no way to sugarcoat an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, you know, so if you don’t want to see it, then don’t watch. If you think your kid is going to be a little bit too young to watch it, a little bit too violent for them, don’t watch it.
I think it’s something wrestling has been missing lately. I think it’s something wrestling has been missing in the last several years, or maybe a decade or more, or whatever, is the element of actual danger. An element of… You know, that feeling of, when it’s main event time, when the bell rings and the ring announcer walks down the aisle, this is the moment where all the marbles are on the line and there’s not an element of danger, that element of the Mike Tyson fight or, ‘Well, somebody could really…’ We’re really risking our lives. These gentlemen are doing something extraordinary here and really putting their body on the line.
Things, over the last decade or so, have just got so… No matter what you advertise, you can put whatever you want on a poster and make it seem like you’re going to see something super-violent or whatever, but at the end of the day, these extreme kind of matches have been watered down and they’re just safe and, you know, the same old, same old and we look like we’re playing f***ing Pattycake, and I think we’re going to bring back a real element of actual unpredictability and actual danger.
I don’t think… I don’t know what to expect, I don’t think Kenny knows what to expect, so I definitely don’t think the fans are going to know what to expect.
The way I look at things, the way Kenny Omega looks at things and our kind of drive to take things to a certain level – you put us in these situations, we have a similarity in that we can’t just go out there and… I’ve seen Kenny Omega’s drive to excel in these scenarios up close and personal, and the combination of the two of us, I think, going to make for something unique and special. There’s no restrictions as far as what could happen in AEW and I can’t thank AEW, Tony Khan, and everybody enough that the fact that, when they put me in these situations, I make it very clear, “Don’t put me in these situations if you don’t want… Be careful what you wish for. If you want Jon Moxley at level ten, then make sure that’s what you really want.” I don’t want to get yelled at by sponsors, and TNT, and Bleacher Report, and everybody, after the fact, so make sure this is what you really want and that’s what we’re doing – and that’s what we’re going to get on March 7th. It’ll be unlike anything you’ve seen, definitely any time recently.
Of course, one other major reason to watch Revolution will be to see Sting’s first match since 2015! What did you think when you found out Sting was debuting in AEW, and is he a man you want to work with?
Oh, yeah, man, he’s the Stinger, he’s a legend. What more can you say that’s not already been said?
He’s just a great guy to have in the locker room for younger guys to see walking around backstage, or to see in the ring on the same show as they are because that’s just not one of their regular old peers they see every week – that’s f***ing Sting!
Sorry for that, but that’s a real bona fide wrestling superstar that’s here to chose to be here at AEW because it’s a great platform to maybe… Maybe this is where he’s going to close out his career, and the fact that he’s chosen to do it here at AEW is telling that we’ve got a really good thing going on here that people like Sting want to be a part of it.
It’s a place where people can come to excel and get the best out of themselves. Sting wants to be here and wants to help out this next generation of guys, and this special group of generation of guys AEW has is really cool.
One thing I love about you is that you’re one of the biggest stars on the planet, but don’t use social media. It’s like watching wrestling as a kid, all we know about you is you show up every Wednesday night and beat up some people! That might give people the impression that you’re rather quiet, but Cody Rhodes recently told the story of you giving Shawn Spears a bit of a telling off after the infamous chair shot. What do you recall from that – and do you see yourself as a bit of a “locker room leader” in a pretty young AEW locker room that’s learning in front of the world?
I’m always trying to learn myself and seeing what guys are doing, and what works, and what people like – and what people enjoy and, when I’m working with some young guys that have got all these ideas and all this creativity, and they’re unfettered and everything, I don’t want to come in and just be like, “Well, we’re going to do it my way because I’ve been there, you know, I’ve been at the top and this is the way it’s supposed to be done.” Like, I’m not into that.
You can always learn, especially from guys who’ve been around longer than you and have experience and stuff, but I’m into having an open mind and we can all learn from each other and create new things as far as ways to tell stories. That’s all we’re doing is trying to tell stories. So I’ll be like, “OK, what do YOU want to do?” And if it’s an outside-of-the-box idea that seems a little like, “That’s not normally the way I would do it because maybe I’m thinking too inside the box,” I’ll be like, “Ah, f*** it, let’s try your idea, you know, see if it works. Maybe I’ll learn something from you,” you know? So, I think we’re all kind of learning from each other.
I think people have a conception of me that I’m some kind of a hermit or something because I’m not addicted to social media like the rest of the world. Like, my f***ing wife’s addicted to that s***, she kind of has to for her job. She’ll be taking pictures, like, “Oh, my God, I just posted that.” I’ll be like, “Why did you just post that? Like, for what purpose? Why did you need to…?” Because you can’t stop. That’s how people are now. There’s nothing wrong with it, you know, but it’s funny because people are always trying to get me to post stuff and put stuff up and everything, and it’s like, I just don’t want to. I’ve thought about deleting that thing like 20 times because I only use it… I have it for emergencies. It’s like my emergency broadcast system. I like to have it just so that, in case something happened – like the times matches have had to change or an emergency, it will come directly from me – like we’re changing the card up or something. I like to have it there for emergencies. If there’s like something poignant that needs to be said, right now, that’s important – but I just don’t like it.
I hear so many people just like go like, “Oh, God, I hate Twitter, all the people, everybody saying all this negative s*** on Twitter all the time,” I’m like, “Don’t watch it. Why do you do it? Just stop using it. If you don’t like it, you bitch about it more than you say you enjoy it.” I never hear anybody go, “Man, I open up my Twitter today and it was great! I had a great morning!” Everybody just seems to hate it, which makes no sense. So then why are we using it? I don’t get it.
When people come up to me when I’m doing a movie, or a project, or I do an interview or this or that, people from TV or the toy people or whatever, whoever the f***, they’ll be like, “Anyway, you can share this on social media and the hashtag is this,” and whatever and yada, yada. I’m like, “OK.” When they realise I don’t do it, they look at me like I have three heads.
People have this conception of me being some kind of hermit or something, that I’m locked in a cave or something all the time just because I don’t post on social media every 30 seconds. One time, I was out with an injury for a few months or whatever, a few years back, and I’d still be texting people, talking to people, you could call me on the phone, I’ll answer the phone. I’d be at the gym, I’m around. I’m living life or whatever, but people would be like, “Oh my God, what happened to you? Like, you’ve just been off the grid for months!” I’m like, “I wasn’t off the grid. I was just at home. What do you mean, I was off the grid? I wasn’t up in the mountains in a f***ing hut, like the Unabomber, I just don’t share what I had for breakfast every morning with the entire f***ing world,” people look at you like you have three heads when you don’t use social media, but I’m like, “It’s not for me,” but whatever.
Kenny Omega recently opened up about Triple H’s “open for business” remarks and saying he could see that as at least a possibility. Given your last stint there and the freedom you now have, what would your thoughts be on that?
That would never happen. That’s not even worth wasting any mental energy to… You know. I mean, if you want to fantasy book some cool s**. You know, maybe you could fantasy book it for, like, fun magazine, stuff. You know, Like back in the day, in magazines, you used to always have, like, “Dream match. Bill Goldberg versus Steve Austin,” in ’98. But that ain’t gonna happen.
It’d be cool to think about the cool s**t that could happen, you know, like a big summit at the Tokyo Dome, AEW, NJPW, WWE or some s**t but that s**t ain’t going to happen. So, you know, they do their thing. They stay over there.
A question I need to ask as a Scotsman. AEW is obviously loved on this side of the pond and Cody Rhodes has been vocal about wanting to get the talent in front of the “make or break” Scottish and British crowds. Why do you think it’s so important to get AEW in front of a Scottish crowd?
Oh, yeah, definitely, I mean, it was in the works, we were going to do a little… I don’t think that’s a secret, we were going to do a little trip over to the UK over the summer, I think.
I was going to be going back and forth there a couple times before the pandemic to various parts of Europe, because they’re just such passionate wrestling crowds over there. I used to really love the European tours, they’re like my favorite thing to do, go to all the different towns – Glasgow and London, and towns like that. Wild crowds, you know, I think because we’re not coming through on the same frequency as a lot of towns in the United States.
It’s a real special thing when we come through and we get excited to go over there. It’s just a really special thing. It’s kind of hard to put into words, there’s just a kind of a magic when you go over and wrestle for some of these great European crowds. We know a lot of fans over there are watching Dynamite so we are very excited to bring Dynamite live over there and all the different stars of AEW live and in person, but the pandemic’s kind of slowed everything down, obviously, but I think that would happen probably at the first available opportunity. As soon as the world starts getting a little bit more back to normal and we can have bigger crowds, and international travel becomes a more realistic thing logistically and so forth.
Yeah, I’m looking forward to that, it’s just another one of those things. Everything kind of had to get put on the back burner for a year, but definitely, definitely going to happen in the future. I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s kind of a special, magical thing with some of these shows in Europe, it’s kind of hard to put your finger on. There’s just some buildings in some cities around the world, where there’s a certain magic, where just wrestling comes alive and the connection with the audience and the product – where it’s just a real special feeling between the wrestlers and the fans. There’s many places, Scotland’s at the top that list, and I think we’re definitely excited to go over there, I personally am, so hopefully sooner or later.
I have one other question looking back before we talk about your AEW run a bit more, and it actually features an AEW star. I was obviously a HUGE fan of The Shield in WWE, and Jake the Snake is one of my childhood favourites. You got put in the legendary spot with Jake where you got hit with the DDT and had the snake put on you – and it looked like you had a massive grin on your face the full time! Can you tell me a bit about that moment and have you spoken with Jake about it since?
I haven’t talked to him about that. That seems like it was like a million years ago.
I remember that I was like trying to play dead and that snake is like tickling my face, so I’m trying real hard to not sell that he’s tickling my face. CM Punk was in a ring and he just goes, “That snake s*** on your face!” So I started laughing and I was supposed to be knocked out from the DDT, and I was laughing at him yelling that the snake s*** in my face, which it didn’t – it did not shit on my face, I don’t think.
Now, the “Forbidden Door” is something you’re familiar with as you’re competing in AEW, NJPW and Bloodsport. We’ve saw AEW talents in IMPACT. Is that something you’re actively pushing for and might we see you elsewhere or may we even see a certain Shooter come in to back you up against Omega, Gallows and Anderson?
I think it’s the cool thing, man. I think the pandemic kind of made everybody think outside the box a little bit as far as how they do shows and present stuff, and the way we’ve got to film TV and everything, it kind of got everybody to think outside the box a little bit, which might help with some of this working together and cross-promotion.
I think it’s great. Working with IMPACT is great. If it’s an easier thing to facilitate people coming to back and forth from New Japan or whatever, it’s great for everybody – and great for the fans. It’s cool. Every company has their own certain identity and the important thing is that all the different promotions keep their identity. That’s what makes them different. That’s what makes the cross-promotional matches cool and keeps them like dream matches.
It’s not like anybody’s got to be married to each other because it’s different promotions with different business plans, doing different stuff, but if the situation is just easier to say, “Hey, we need a guy for this certain thing. Who can come over from IMPACT?” Or, “We need a certain tag team. We need to bring a tag team from somewhere. Who’s NJPW got?” Or, “We’re going to send a young guy over Japan for a few months, just to gain some experience, get different looks, get different styles,” I think it will be beneficial for so many different people in so many ways.
It’s like, “Just chill, man,” it doesn’t have to be like some huge business deal or anything like that, or some huge invasion angle or anything, but when you think all the possibilities for just cool stuff to happen here and there, if the quote-unquote, “doors are open” or the “bridges are down“ or whatever. I’ve been going back and forth through the door whenever I want. I would have been in Japan like a full schedule if it wasn’t for the pandemic. I already had flights booked, I had f***ing matches booked. January, February, I was going back and forth constantly. So I would have been doing that the whole year. I guess it’s always been open, it’s just a matter of what’s some cool creative thing we can do, and if everybody’s cool with it – and the possibilities for IMPACT and everything are endless, so I could definitely… You know, they’ve got a lot of great talent in IMPACT, a lot of guys I’d like to wrestle, so I think of the possibilities are endless, hopefully they’re all kind of realistic now.
Last year, it emerged that Brock Lesnar was apparently a “free agent” – you’ve shared the ring with Brock. Is he someone you’d like to see in AEW?
Sure. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but sure.
You’ve actually shared the ring with a lot of AEW’s “younger” talent or the people casual fans might not know – more recently Jon Cruz, a man who takes his chances no matter what his identity is, Nick Comoroto, Robert Anthony, Faboo Andre and even the likes of Ten, Ortiz, etc competing on the likes of AEW Dark. Has anyone really caught your eye that you wish the fans could see more of?
Yeah, there’s the obvious ones, like the guys we’re kind of building as young stars, like the MJFs, the Guevaras, the Darbys and so forth.
Will Hobbs has got a lot to bring to the table. I think he’s going to take off and, when it hits with him, it’ll hit, you know, you’ll be like, “Oh yeah, he’s got definitely got something that I can see.” But I’ll tell you a guy, though, that I’d say probably is at the top of that list – is Ricky Starks.
Ricky Starks is right there already, and I got the opportunity to work with him a little bit and see his mindset, and his maturity level and so forth. Obviously he’s got the talent in the ring, and the charisma and all that stuff, you know, certain package he brings to the table. But from my experience working with him a tad, I think he’s got the brain and the mindset is already there, too. To me, he’s already there. He’s already ready. So I think Ricky Starks is going to climb the ladder faster than you might have expected if you’re not paying attention.
You’ve obviously been around a few non AEW locker rooms. Who’s the one person you’d love to bring in if you could?
Oh. Maybe… I mean, of people that are like not in IMPACT or NJPW either, because that would be a lot more potentially… To pick someone completely out of the box, I’d say Masashi Takeda from Big Japan.
Obviously Harry Smith would be another one. I just wrestled him a knockdown drag-out f***ing nasty wrestling match this past weekend. That was super fun and I really enjoyed it, and that was pretty dope. You can check that out on good Fite TV – and I think that’s how you watch Dynamite and pay-per-views over there, so check out Bloodsport 5 on Fite TV. It was one of my favourite matches recently, and something I really had a lot of fun doing, I was really excited about it. It’s a pretty cool show, really flies by in about 90 minutes if you watch the whole show. Just pure, pure, violent, in-your-face wrestling top to bottom. I was really, really, really happy with it, I haven’t seen it and nobody was there because it was an empty warehouse, you know, which was pretty cool, actually, because some empty arena wrestling can be tough, but for the Bloodsport style and the aesthetic. If there’s anything built for an empty arena situation, Bloodsport, it fits. So definitely check out Bloodsport 5. I’m pretty excited about it. I think you’ll definitely enjoy it.
Yeah, so Harry, Takeda are two guys, bring them over here.
I’ll tell you, a guy I’d like to see here is Christian. I don’t know if that was a one-off for him in the Royal Rumble but he looked frigging good to me, looked like he was in great shape, he looked sharp, man. I’ll tell you, he’s one of the guys that’s – the wrestlers know it more so than anybody – Christian is so good. Like, his brain and his execution, and his mind for wrestling is just like next-level.
First time we worked with him, you know, we’d come in and we’re doing these six mans with The Shield, really pushing the pace and trying to make the most exciting matches and we’re pushing these guys to like, all these dream team guys, we’re pushing them to be like, “No, let’s do another thing and another thing, let’s add more to do another save and another thing, and let’s do a triple this,” or whatever. And we’re really pushing the pace, you know, and like thinking, like, “All right. Yeah, nobody can keep up with us. This is awesome.”
And then we work with Christian one night. I remember me and Seth looking at each other going, “Damn, Christian is good,” Christian made us feel like, “Damn, he’s like… We thought we were really f***ing good. He’s like next level.” The people who work with him know, in the industry, you know, his respect level is huge, the things that he could do with the wrestlers in AEW – and all the creative kind of freedom.
There’s no hindrance on anything creatively here, obviously, we’re having a frigging Exploding Death Match, so the things Christian could do at AEW, I would be extremely excited to see that. That would be that would be my number one dream guy.
My final question – your wife, Renee, recently compared being in bed with you to the song “Easy Like A Sunday Morning” on Oral Sessions. I want to ask – what song best describes your Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match?
That’s a good question.
It’s interesting, wrestling can be like music in a lot of ways, that’s why it’s cool to see different opponents mix with different guys and you get a different combustion and different types of matches.
Like, a lot of the classic Kenny Omega matches are like classical music, like symphonies, very detailed, long-form pieces of art.
And me, a lot of it, like my match with Harry this weekend, would be like thrash metal, like three minutes, in your fucking face, Anthrax, Slayer, f***ing aggressive, get this s*** down, pedal to the metal. so when you combine are those two things and you create a combustion, you get something entirely new and that’s kind of what has transpired with us in the past and what will happen on pay-per-view, I think.
You know, whatever that type of music would be, I would think, for me, it would probably play different in my head than it would to some of the people watching.
To some of the people watching, it might be like the soundtrack from Psycho or something when the chick is getting stabbed in the shower, like, “Argh! Oh, God, turn away from the screen!”
When I listen to music before matches, it’s important for me to get in the right headspaces. Depending on the scenario and what the story is, and where I’m at character-wise, I might listen to different types of music to get where I need to be at – differently for different types of matches.
For a match with Eddie Kingston, where it’s a personal, deep thing, I might listen to a certain thing, or for a different type of match, I might listen to a different thing. But for something like this, you know, and just in general, I’m not always just like listening to Slayer and Pantera before a match to get all hyped up and aggressive, because that’s not where I need to be at all the time, you know, sometimes it’s more like fun music or more just like lighthearted stuff because I want to just, like, get in a good mood and get loose, and start moving around and if I get to like where I’m almost dancing, like when I’m warming up, like and I’m really in the zone, that’s when I’m like usually at my best and my most aggressive or most violent.
So the stuff I listen to right before the match usually wouldn’t be what you think I would listen to if that makes any sense.
Yeah, so I can write the headline of Jon Moxley listens to Taylor Swift to prepare for death matches?
No, because that’s… No. Something like White Lines, Grandmaster Flash, where I’m just like, “Yeah!” Just kind of getting loose, you know, some Gnarls Barkley, or something, or some Dr Dre, just some “getting the dance floor moving” type music sometimes kind of gets me in the flowy right headspace to just go out there and stab somebody in the face with a sharp object.
Thanks to Jon Moxley for taking the time, and to All Elite Wrestling for setting up the chat.
Jon Moxley challenges Kenny Omega for the AEW World Championship in an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match at AEW Revolution on March 7th via Fite TV for viewers outside the United States.