Jon Moxley has opened up about why wrestling is the easiest part of being a wrestler, as well as detailing his own journey from watching larger-than-life stars tell stories in the ring, to doing it around the globe as one of the masters of his craft.
Speaking with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy, the well-travelled AEW and NJPW star – who is set to release his first book – noted how travelling is the hardest part of being a wrestler. Moxley provided the anecdote that he’s actually being paid to travel, and that the actual wrestling is his release.
“When you’re doing it at a high level, yeah, the travel is definitely the hardest part. I used to say, like, and a lot of people say that you get paid to travel, the wrestling is the fun part. It’s the bonus part. Being in the ring for 15-20 minutes every night is your release.”
The ever-honest Jon Moxley candidly said he “feels like crap” pretty much all the time, but the best he ever feels is usually immediately after a match – even if that match might involve a lot of violence and brutality.
“I usually feel like crap most of the day, every day. The best I ever feel is usually right after match, even if it was a very physically demanding match. My adrenaline is high, I’m loose, I’m on a high, I’m feeling good. When I walk into the back and I’m bleeding and sweating and everything and all busted up, that’s usually when I actually feel the best.”
Speaking to something we’re all aware of in 2021, the former AEW World Champion said the one thing about wrestling is that you have to be there, saying “you can’t Zoom into a f***ing pro wrestling match” – and that the travel might actually break down your body as much as, if not more, than the actual wrestling.
“When you’re on the road every single night, that’s kind of the high you’re chasing at the end of the night. The travel’s the hard part. It’ll take years off your career, and when you’re going on well over ten years of just being in chronic pain all the time now, you just get used to it. It’s part of the deal. That’s I guess a byproduct of the whole thing – but travel is probably the biggest component of breaking your body down, but it’s part of what you have to do because you can’t Zoom in a f***ing pro wrestling match. You’ve got to you got to get there. You’ve got to go to Scotland, you’ve got to Japan and wrestle in these places live – and it’s all worth it, man.”
As well as being broken down physically, professional wrestling – like many areas of entertainment, sport and performance – has a history of mental illness engrained within, and Jon Moxley knows that all too well, having lost many peers and friends to depression. While hesitant to give advice, the former WWE Champion had some candid words for anyone out there struggling, saying being comfortable with yourself is the most important thing.
“Any actual good advice should probably come from somebody smarter than me, but I think that just being comfortable with yourself and being happy with yourself and what you do and how you live your life and being unapologetic about it is the place to be and as long as you’re completely comfortable with who you are and what you do, whatever that is and whoever you are and whatever you’re into, as long as you just do you and you’re happy with that, that leads to happiness. If you try and put yourself in a box that somebody else might have created or you’re worried about what other people think or say or you’re worried about responding to somebody else’s thing – don’t. Who cares? Just be who you want to be, do you want to do. This is your life. It’s not anybody else’s life, you know? It all just starts with you, man.”
"Just being comfortable with yourself and how you live your life is the place to be"@JonMoxley talks mental health and AEW's future plans with @WrestlingGary@AEW // @thatKJGuypic.twitter.com/OjD6awj4ON
— BBC The Social (@bbcthesocial) May 18, 2021
Being put in a box is a thing Moxley says also transpires with professional wrestling overall, insisting we don’t have to categorise everything. Speaking to his own viewpoint of wrestling, and the people who try to define it, the AEW star told Cassidy that he simply can’t define the artform, insisting that it doesn’t actually require definition.
“People try to put wrestling in a box and people try to define what wrestling is or is supposed to be – it’s not supposed to be anything, it doesn’t have to be anything. It can be a bunch of different types of things. You know, people say it’s entertainment, people say it’s sport, people say it’s theatre, people say it’s art, people say it’s performance art and then people get mad about that. I don’t necessarily call it that, but I don’t call it anything. I don’t know what to call it. It’s just it’s wrestling!”
Jon Moxley, of course, has been known for both being able to put on incredible technical wrestling matches and brutal, bloody, violent clashes that couldn’t be further apart – but says the most important thing is telling stories.
“That word, especially if you say with the right emphasis, man, ‘It’s WRESTLING, man!’ It’s everything’s all tied into one. It can make you feel things and it can be Shakespearean, it can tell stories and make you feel emotions and tell stories that you remember and ultimately, no matter what the type of match or whatever, we’re put in a cage or if it’s a tag match or a six-man or sporting this or its submission match or whatever the hell it is, it’s just a vehicle to tell stories.
The AEW star, who’s soon to be a father with Renee Paquette, said storytelling is always the epitome of an artform and that everything else is a vehicle, providing the anecdote that Rocky didn’t need to be a boxer as the film was not a boxing film.
“That the river running underneath everything, the current underneath, whatever is on the TV is the story. It’s that somehow people can relate to it. Rocky’s not a boxing movie. He could have been a golfer, he could have been a snowboarder, you could still tell that same story, it was about the character in the person. So whatever the vehicle is to tell your story, whether there’s blood and explosions or whether it’s high flying or whether it’s just people talking on a microphone, like whatever it is, it’s about trying to make people feel a certain way and tell a story that hopefully some people like and people will remember. And that’s what it’s about, man, like, what a great job to have. We’re just going down and down singing songs and telling our stories, man, that’s really what we’re doing.”
While Jon Moxley is arguably one of the greatest performers on the planet in terms of wrestling – earning several accolades in 2020 for reaching the summit of the industry – his backstory isn’t incredibly well-known. Of course, his upcoming book will definitely shed light on such details, but Jon Moxley told me how he first discovered wrestling, noting that he didn’t have a lightbulb moment regarding his career path.
“There’s not, like, one light bulb moment or anything, it’s just kind of my first memories of anything were memories of wrestling. It’s just what we watched on TV. Kids underneath me in an apartment building had wrestling tapes, and we watched them and it just kind of went along with the Ninja Turtles and whatever the hell else you play with as kids and I just was really into wrestling and that’s all I ever liked. Bret, like you said, he was a guy who was just on top when I was nine years old or whatever, he was kind of the guy.
When asked whether the decision came down to it being easier to become a wrestler than a Ninja Turtle at a young age, Moxley joked that “the things aren’t too dissimilar, really” before speaking of wrestling being a complete unknown in terms of breaking in and beginning his career.
“I don’t really have a moment. I didn’t know how to get into wrestling. You can’t take pro-wrestling 101 in school. It wasn’t really an actual tangible goal. It just was this feeling that I had that it just kind of was my life, and it was this thing I was obsessed with and had taken to like extreme levels. I had no idea how to actually get into it or if that was possible or anything.”
Those memories now seem lightyears away for the former AEW World Champion and current IWGP United States Champion, who recalled how he happened to see a flyer on a telephone pole, and that an advert for Les Thatcher’s Main Event Pro Wrestling camp was the closest he came to a “eureka” moment – with an imaginary arrow signalling the first step the 35-year-old had to take on the path to glory.
“I just happened to see a flyer for a show on a telephone pole and went to see that show and, on the back of that flier, like the the event program, there was an ad for Les Thatcher’s Main Event Pro Wrestling camp, and that’s the closest thing I can come to, like a ‘OH!’ ’cause that was like a, ‘Oh, that’s how you do it, you go to a place and you learn’. I had no idea how one becomes a pro wrestler. It was like this nebulous idea, but once I saw, like, there’s like an arrow pointing to ‘you go here and do this’ then it was like, ‘Oh, now it’s on.’ That was like… There was no turning back from that. That was like, ‘Well, this is what I want to be, this is where I’m going.’ I knew that’s what I wanted it to be, I didn’t know how to do it.”