From the jump, All Elite Wrestling figured to be the landing point for Jon Moxley after he left WWE. Though his debut was an iconic moment in the early history of the company, many thought that the marquee name would end up on the new brand. Moxley wasn't as sure. He was open to everything, but indicated that the negotiations went smooth.
A candid Moxley opened up, saying that he even considered working anonymously under a mask.
“I didn’t have a real clear vision of where my career was gonna go when I was leaving. I kinda thought I would take myself off Broadway, so to speak for a while. I was like, “I don’t really know what I am or what I want to do any more.” I didn’t even have a clear vision for myself. I figured I’d disappear and go off the grid, and wrestle in Japan or somewhere else. Or put a mask on and do indies. I have no idea. I had no idea. I didn’t have a set plan. I kinda wanted to go wherever the wind took me and the timing of AEW popping up at the exact same time. The first time I sat down to talk with them, it was like, “Okay, this is what I want to do. Does that match up with your goals and what you’re gonna do?” and it does. So, we’re off to the races," he said.
As it turned out, it was a person who also made their exit from WWE that had the initial conversations with Moxley. With a familiar face and experience, it seemed to comfort the former “Lunatic Fringe” into working with the upstart promotion.
"Cody Rhodes, who I’ve known for a long time. For years we worked together in WWE and obviously I’ve been friends with—was friends with Jericho before he stabbed me in the eye. Things took a turn for the worse real quick there. Even back then I knew that Jericho ain’t stupid. He’s always got his finger on the pulse. He’s one of the smarter guys and if he was gonna take a chance that this is for real, and risk his reputation and his time and he believed in it, it seemed like that was a sign that this could be for real,” said Moxley.
That wasn't to say that Moxley didn't have reservations. He was leaving the biggest, most established wrestling empire in history. Though he'd navigated those waters many times before, the landscape was categorically different. But the more things change, the more they stay the same, and that was one of the reasons why Moxley wanted to cover all bases before signing on the dotted line.
“There’s so many things over the years that have popped up like, “This is gonna be the new thing!” and it lasts for a couple of years. “Money Marks” or whatever would start a promotion and it’s around for a little while and then goes in the tubes,” Moxley said, with Lucha Underground, Wrestling Society X, Global Force Wrestling, Ring Ka King, XWF, Pro Wrestling Retribution and others serving as examples since the closing of WCW. “You hear a lot of promises. So, even the first time to AEW and the top secret TV deal nobody knows if we’re gonna get yet, I’m like, “Is that for real?” So, I was like, “Okay, if this is all for real and this is how I see my career going and things I want to do, then I’m on board,"
Now a happy man creatively and professionally, Moxley got there after listening to the pitch from AEW.
The pitch to Moxley was reaffirming many of the rumors that were circulating about All Elite Wrestling. After joining the company, he doesn't feel like he was sold a bill of goods, he feels as if his move from established to brand new paid off.
“All that’s been working out swimmingly so far,” Moxley admitted. “Just to be on the forefront of the cusp of something new is really cool. Like I said, the fans can feel the energy, they feel that they’re apart of something new. There’s so much positive energy, the other day on the boat, all the fans were like hugging and high fiving each other. It’s kind of like ECW, but the opposite. There’s not like fueled by vitriol or hatred at all. It’s just positivity. It’s almost like people are starting to realize, “Oh, you like wrestling, too? So, do I!” The world is so much more in communication with each other now today with social media and so forth. So, now everybody, whether they’re coming out to an AEW show or on the Jericho cruise or whatever, they can be part of a community and it’s cool.”
You can see our full interview with Jon Moxley at the top of the page, and see our full-length long-form feature on Fightful soon. He's scheduled to face AEW World Champion Chris Jericho for the title at AEW Revolution, February 29 on PPV from Chicago, Illinois. You can see him weekly on All Elite Wrestling Dynamite, 8 PM EST, Wednesdays on TNT.