Jon Moxley is set to defend the IWGP United States Championship against Yuji Nagata on Wednesday's AEW Dynamite.
Moxley issued the challenge on April 5 and the bout was made official on April 28. Moxley had the idea for the match back in February 2020 when he was in Japan to face Minoru Suzuki at NJPW The New Beginning In Osaka.
“I was watching Nagata kick the piss out of guys,” Moxley recalled to Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated. “Up until that point, I thought of Nagata as one of those guys where it felt like our paths would never cross and our timelines would never intersect. I’d have put him in a category of Kurt Angle or Bret Hart, where I would have loved to work with him but we couldn’t because we’re from two different eras. But as I was watching him, I thought to myself, ‘F---, Nagata can still go.’ It took me about two seconds to determine I wanted that match. Then I went back in the locker room because I had a lot of s--- on my mind before wrestling Suzuki. That match was a success, and as I was heading to the bus at the end of the night, I saw Gedo, the New Japan booker. I went up to Gedo and said, ‘I’m just throwing this out there, putting it into the ether. Maybe one day, if I can get in the ring with Nagata, that would be really cool.’ I wasn’t asking for anything major. I didn’t want a blood feud where he came to my house or where I’d have to attack him. I just wanted to share the ring with him. Two hours before that, I saw him move around the ring like a cat. And Gedo looks at me and goes, ‘Ohhhhhh, I will keep that in mind.’"
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moxley's bout against Suzuki was the last time he would be able to make it to Japan.
Fortunately, the forbidden door would open with KENTA appearing on AEW Dynamite to set up a bout against Moxley, which took place on the February 26 episode of NJPW Strong.
Moxley revealed that the match against Nagata was also scheduled for Strong, but Tony Khan thought it would be perfect for AEW Dynamite.
“Strong is a great hour of professional wrestling, and it’s great for the young guys and it’s great for the fans,” Moxley said. “I love being a part of it. I heard from [New Japan’s] Rocky Romero, who told me Gedo still wanted to do me against Nagata, and that he was flying him out to America for Strong. So that was our plan, and I thought that was f------ awesome. Tony asked, ‘Why not do it on Dynamite?’ And I said, ‘If we can, then f--- yeah, that would be bigger, especially for a legend like Nagata.’ We both loved that it would be a chance for Nagata to be back on TNT. Before I knew it, Tony talked to New Japan, and now it’s happening. And it’s a chance to celebrate his career.”
Moxley and Nagata would give fans a preview of their Dynamite bout during the most recent episode of Strong as they were on opposite sides with Nagata teaming with Ren Narita while Moxley teamed with Chris Dickinson.
Fightful will have live coverage of AEW Dynamite beginning at 8 p.m. ET.