Professional wrestling is a unique entertainment medium, one that I have been fascinated with for most of my life. I always find myself vouching for its unique storytelling approach to my non-wrestling friends, and though they understand its appeal, the one aspect that has been difficult to quantify to them is the emotional attachment I feel for certain wrestlers.
What makes wrestling stand out from other media is its formula for evolving character arcs. Since it relies significantly on long-term storyline progression, we, as fans, are able to witness growth, change, and development from the wrestlers we admire, and this multiplies tenfold if one follows wrestling for years. We gain appreciation for them, whether they move promotions or climb to the top of the title picture—and this introspection can be emotional.
Many of us started watching wrestling as children, including me. Out of all the wrestlers I’ve followed throughout the years, only one name comes to mind as the one I “grew up” with.
And that wrestler is Jon Moxley.
What separates Moxley from any other wrestler I’ve become a fan of is how long I’ve stuck with his career, and the parallels of his progression to my own personal life. While I consider Shawn Michaels to be my childhood favorite, he retired when I was very young, at an age where I couldn’t quite grasp the weight of wrestling’s time progression. At least not yet. And despite my Twitter timeline being filled with nothing but cathartic Adam Page/Kenny Omega memes, I discovered their careers when I was in college, well after I established my own beliefs and identity in this world.
Jon Moxley fits a special mold for me; he’s the road map that guided me from childhood to adolescence, and from college to the real world. All in the span of a decade. I’m delighted and honored to show you how he did that.
Let’s travel back in time to 2012. CM Punk was WWE Champion, Aces & Eights ruled TNA programming, and moustaches adorned just about anything you could find at the store (I will never understand why). I was barely halfway through high school, and if I wasn’t at marching band practice or studying for those awful AP exams, then I was sitting comfortably in my basement watching wrestling videos on Youtube. I would watch everything I could get my hands on. I didn’t care. If it was wrestling, it was an immediate click.
One of my suggested videos on the side bar was a compilation of Jon Moxley promos. I had never heard of him, but he had a cool name, so I quenched my curiosity and clicked on it. Not even a minute into the video, and my mind was blown.
No one from the WWE talked liked this. In fact, no wrestler that I’ve known had EVER manifested the raw energy he radiated into every promo and match. Sure, CM Punk was a master on the microphone, but this Jon Moxley person? He elevated the game. I felt the heartbreak of his character’s backstory, the violent rampage he carried across the independents, and the determination and desire to break into the main event scene.
But hold on. Jon Moxley…..he looked familiar. It felt like I’d seen him before. And I did, in NXT. He evolved into Dean Ambrose, and I had never been more thrilled than anyone to discover that he was now working in WWE. I stuck to him like glue; I was sold on his potential.
As months passed, a rumor started to swirl online. A crazy one, one that would transform professional wrestling if it was true: Dean Ambrose would be breaking away from NXT to traverse Monday Night Raw’s main event scene. And not just him, but Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins too.
I was ECSTATIC. I vividly remember pulling out my Samsung Blackberry during class to catch up on updates, and running home from the school bus to the wrestling forums that dominated my search history. Honestly, any update on the trio that I could get my hands on – I was hungry for. I’d seen the matches, and seen the promos. I believed in everyone, but especially in Dean Ambrose. To say that I was thrilled about his arrival was an understatement, and when I checked WWE.com the morning after Survivor Series (I was only allowed to order PPVs once a year), all of my hopes were confirmed. This iconic photo on the homepage made me scream. I don’t regret waking my parents up.
I was immediately a fan of the Shield from their attack on Ryback. Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose injected a new, fresh energy into Raw’s storylines, which was significantly carried by CM Punk at the time. Their instantaneous impact, their incredible chemistry in interviews and video packages – everything about the Shield was what WWE needed, and everything that the Shield did was what I needed. The industry’s future was truly in front of my own eyes. I looked forward to Mondays again because of the Shield, and to no surprise, Dean Ambrose was the star of the group for me.
As a 16 year old during the Shield’s peak, it meant so much to have such a confident character to look up to. Ambrose embodied the energy that I desired, and he was formative to my late adolescent years. While CM Punk gave me a reason to continue watching wrestling, Dean Ambrose ensured that I stay tuned: for he was the future of both WWE and professional wrestling. The Shield’s mid-2014 split resonated with me. In many ways, it provided parallelisms to the changes in my personal life. Graduating high school and preparing to attend college out-of-state were significant experiences. I always looked to wrestling for escapism, but this time, I found myself empathizing with Dean Ambrose’s character because of my struggles. His group, the home he had known for years, was shaken to the core, and like myself, he was suddenly confronted with unexpected changes in his life too. I related to his anguish. And if he could take his pain, his anxiety, and create a new approach to his anxieties, then I could replicate the same aspects into my life to grow as a person.
I continued to support Dean Ambrose throughout his singles run in WWE, which was fittingly during the entirety of my university years. If these old tweets weren’t evident of how hard I went for him, then what was?
As the end of college loomed and the pressure to pursue a job opportunity slowly crept up on me, I found myself in a state of professional limbo. As any early twenty-something year-old can tell you, it’s hard to find your own trajectory in life, and the right path that fate, destiny, or other driving force of the universe pushes you towards.
And, symbolically, this struggle helped me empathize with Dean Ambrose’s last year in WWE.
With a tricep injury that sidelined him for 9 months, in addition to a subpar heel run that lasted from late 2018 to 2019, it became apparent to many fans, including me, that he was struggling. I expressed frustration with his creative direction, and I knew that it wasn’t his fault in the slightest.
In some parallel way, we were both lost, and in a peculiar twist, it made Dean Ambrose feel even more human to me. The wrestlers we idolize and love aren’t perfect. They’re far from being flawless superheroes and omnipotent gods, and they’re bound to run into obstacles in their own lives.
But what I learned from Ambrose’s last moments in WWE was crucial to forging my own direction. Even in the face of pessimism he persevered: he jumped out of his comfort zone and walked away from the largest professional wrestling promotion in the world to a new promotion vying for a demographic of relapsed wrestling fans. Despite his shortcomings in the industry during this time, I still held onto faith. I had always recognized his potential, and I never gave up on him during his career’s dark spots. Give him the mic, and he’ll create magic. Thrust him into the spotlight, and he’ll craft words into raw poetry.
This is exactly what he strived to do in All Elite Wrestling.
I will never forget Double or Nothing 2019. Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho main eventing the card piqued my curiosity towards AEW’s potential in shaking up North America’s professional wrestling scene. Their second bout together was something I looked forward to for weeks, and it delivered. However, I couldn’t help but hold a passing thought throughout the whole evening.
Dean Ambrose had changed his social media handles and even released a teaser video to signal the return of his original wrestling name: Jon Moxley. I was proud of his next steps as a wrestler, and I thought about something that seemed outside of the realm of possibility at the time.
What if Jon Moxley signed to All Elite Wrestling?
Wouldn’t it be amazing if he showed up at Double or Nothing’s conclusion?
It crossed my mind a few times leading up to the event, but it wasn’t dominating every waking moment of my life. As Chris Jericho grabbed the microphone near the end of Double or Nothing, demanding a ‘thank you’ from the audience, the camera cut away from the ring to someone walking down the ramp, cutting through the crowd, marching towards Jericho and Omega, and to 11,000 wrestling fans screaming and cheering.
It was Jon Moxley. It took a few seconds for me to register what was unfolding on my computer screen, but oh my goodness, it was Jon. Moxley.
My jaw dropped for the next 5 minutes as Moxley thrashed Jericho, dragged Omega to the poker chips, and ended his rampage by breathing in the moment – his iconic pose over the poker chip stack now an iconic moment in All Elite Wrestling’s short history. His return to the main event scene of professional wrestling – his willingness to embark on a new, unfamiliar journey for his own happiness – it was inspiring to me. Once again, I found myself empathizing with Moxley’s resurgence into the professional wrestling limelight. Earlier, I mentioned that my job prospects were murky – that I felt alone in my search. It was around Jon Moxley’s AEW debut that I finally found an answer.
After months of rejection letters and tears, I received an offer for my first full-time job
I packed up my entire life and moved to Philadelphia on June 5th, 2019, which was – by wonderful coincidence – the day Jon Moxley made his New Japan debut against Juice Robinson, winning the IWGP US Championship at Best of the Super Juniors.
I’m in awe of Moxley’s performance in All Elite Wrestling. Through his promos, matches, and attitude, he has truly cemented himself as one of wrestling’s biggest stars. What really made me emotional about his newly found creative freedom was this in-ring promo before Full Gear 2019. I could sense his powerful words and his raw emotion: so raw that I teared up while watching him deliver one verbal punch after another.
Jon Moxley is thriving today, blossoming into his own character that is authentically, 100% him. This is the story that he’s been wanting to tell for years – a story with vast potential that I saw nearly a decade ago in NXT, throughout WWE, and then exploding in AEW. It’s cathartic to have someone like him to look up to. His arc has been there to help me cope with the changes that adolescence brought, the first obstacles of adulthood, and the life-changing decisions that were sprinkled across everything over the years. Everything came back full circle when I was in attendance at the Wintrust Arena to watch Moxley defeat Jericho for the AEW title. Being in the audience for this was indescribable, and it’s one of my favorite moments I’ve experienced as a wrestling fan.
We all have our favorite wrestlers, some that we looked up to as children, and others as we’ve grown older and wiser. We also know that none of our favorites are perfect; they’ve made mistakes, as all humans end up doing. Moxley is not a flawless individual, but I’m so grateful that his story has shaped a significant part of my life. His in-ring character is a complete 180 from my own personality.
While Moxley is an outspoken fighter who wrecks everything in his path, I’m a tiny, soft, woman who has a quiet voice and cowers in fear whenever a flying object hurls towards my path. Regardless of this disparity, I’ve learned about the importance of learning life lessons from those who aren’t like me. He’s taught me to stand firm for myself, and that it’s okay to leave your comfort zone for a happier opportunity. His insurmountable influence leaves a legacy that I’ll carry with me forever; Moxley delivered a paradigm shift to how I view and consume wrestling, and I don’t regret it one bit.