Since emerging last year, All Elite Wrestling has played host to a range of success stories. In truth, there’s an idealistic element to its mere existence. Even if the product isn’t for everyone, the idea is. It’s a clean slate, a fresh start and one that conceptually at least, comes rich with nostalgia. The thought of two major league promotions, the competition that provides for fans, the options it presents for wrestlers. Jon Moxley was the embodiment of that optimism at last year’s Double or Nothing, placing an exclamation mark on the event’s place in history.
Making his AEW debut just weeks after leaving WWE, Moxley added weight to the promotion’s potential. It was a moment of raw excitement, a clear statement of intent. That went for both Moxley and AEW too, with a common goal ahead of them. Moxley had a point to prove, set on recapturing his own passion while thriving in a fresh environment. For AEW it was much simpler, this was the marquee acquisition to build around and from the outside looking in at least, it appeared to almost fall in their lap.
Moxley stood tall at Double or Nothing’s close and that felt fitting, providing the promotion’s first event with a moment that could feasibly live forever. AEW’s roster was already promising, featuring Chris Jericho alongside The Elite core as well as some exciting prospects. Jericho’s importance shouldn’t be understated, a legend with the motivation to extend his story. The first AEW Champion, Jericho was and is a pivotal piece of AEW’s roster. However, the Moxley signing always felt different. Jericho’s stature speaks for itself but simply put, his scenario is a more familiar one.
Though his longevity has been admirable, Jericho’s career is clearly approaching its final chapters. AEW is the place that his impact can be maximized, the ideal spot for him to reinvent himself one last time. It’s a perfect fit for both parties but one we’ve seen before, with an established hall of famer leaving the WWE system without another accolade to add. Moxley is different, departing just years removed from a world title reign and only months after turning heel in a major angle. This was rare, a headline act’s direct transfer from one show to the other.
Moxley’s decision speaks more to his own motivation than it does to AEW’s existence. With that being said, timing certainly allowed both to prosper. Moxley had the platform to perform and AEW had an identity defining debut. If at Double or Nothing’s conclusion, any fan had to predict where the promotion would be by this year’s All Out, I’d imagine they’d struggle. That sense of the unknown was and at times, still is part of the charm. Emerging stars have shined, established players are reinventing themselves. In contrast, Moxley’s status feels like a far less surprising triumph.
Upon arrival, Moxley was an inevitable choice for champion. He’s simply matching those lofty expectations, even exceeding them with a palpable comfort. If Moxley’s signing appeared integral as the ink dried, his value has only become more prevalent since. This is a main event star at the peak of his powers, a leading man as complete as he’ll ever be. Moxley is combining his current mindset and motivation with years of headline experience, becoming the ideal world champion for any promotion. It’ll always be an indelible part of his path, but Moxley's story isn't about his WWE past.
In fact, it’s quickly become the opposite in my view. Moxley now represents AEW’s major crown in the most authentic way imaginable. He’s their marquee attraction, their own centerpiece. That’s not to say that Moxley is just another member of their growing roster either, he’s the outlier and that’s why it works. Moxley isn’t one of tomorrow’s leaders, he’s not a new name loaded with potential. He’s not a founding member, nor is he a legend looking to finish his journey in style. Instead, he’s the perfect bridge to AEW’s future, the star that doesn’t need development or direction.
That’s been especially apparent since Moxley’s title win too, taking the belt from Jericho at Revolution. Closing the show with a triumphant promo, Moxley had managed to walk a character tightrope masterfully. Any shades of gray had vanished, Moxley was now the clear and obvious babyface, the defiant hero to finally vanquish Jericho. He’d managed that feat too, delivering a speech that established himself as the people’s champion. Moxley hadn’t lost any edge though, still carrying an innate toughness that only made his sincerity more endearing. Six months later, that’s still the case.
As champion, Moxley hasn’t changed a bit, he’s simply highlighted different parts of his personality. Against Jake Hager, Moxley was the gritty gamer, surviving until he could strike. Against Brodie Lee, Moxley was the violent wild man, going just far enough to maintain his grip on the gold. Against Brian Cage, Moxley was the cunning grappler, finding a way via submission. Against Darby Allin, Moxley was the sympathetic veteran, admiring his young challenger’s bravery before almost reluctantly closing the show. Now with MJF in his sights, Moxley’s place as the protagonist has never been more pronounced.
The arrogant, obnoxious villain, MJF is naturally the louder voice in this programme. Understated by comparison, Moxley has provided the perfect contrast to his challenger. Speaking with control as danger looms, Moxley is a champion that has no one left to convince. He’s not disinterested either, he’s just comfortable in his own skin. That shines through the screen too, as Moxley seldom appears to be portraying a character. He’s simply reacting, showing different sides of himself along the way. This isn’t a complex story, but its effectiveness is telling, indicative of Moxley’s greatest strength.
The AEW Champion, Moxley doesn’t need to be front and center at every turn. He understands his own identity and stays true to it, allowing others their comfort zone as he adjusts accordingly. Moxley isn’t always the focus, but he is the constant. That’s the case in general also. Moxley may not be the ‘face of AEW’ in a glossy sense, but he doesn’t need to be. He’s beyond a marketing push or priority, he’s simply setting a standard in his own, unique, violently subdued fashion. Now more than ever, his performance speaks for itself.
Jon Moxley’s value is best captured in that very compliment. We aren’t surprised by his success and even if we wanted to be, his demeanor doesn’t allow it. This title reign could very well have been defined by circumstance, as after just one show as champion, Moxley was without a live audience. For some, that’ll still be the story. For me though, it’s a mere backdrop. In my view, this title reign has rendered Moxley truly undeniable. It’s not attempting to be grand or epic, it’s just such a perfect encapsulation of Moxley’s skill.
This is a champion with versatility, a wrestler with range. Don’t allow Jon Moxley’s effortless manner to fool you, this is an extraordinary performer that currently, is producing work that could very well define his legacy. It doesn’t matter the scenario or setting, Jon Moxley is a champion, plain and simple.