Jon Moxley, formerly known as Dean Ambrose while in WWE, has turned the wrestling world on its head this week. Moxley debuted for brand new company AEW (All Elite Wrestling), attacking Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega after their main event match, followed that up with an announcement that he had also signed to wrestle for New Japan Pro Wrestling and then finally, appeared on Chris Jericho’s “Talk is Jericho” podcast, giving an interview nobody who listened will soon forget. Despite all that, Moxley still has a lot to say and I was fortunate enough to spend an hour speaking with him about a wide variety of topics. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know what you think!
AG: In less than one week, you debuted for AEW, announced that you had signed with New Japan and had a major interview with Chris Jericho come out that has the entire world talking. How are you feeling after this week?
JM: Feeling pretty good. Feeling like I’m right where I’m supposed to be sitting. The podcast seemingly got a bigger reaction than I thought it would. I didn’t know if the response would be positive or negative but I didn’t really care. I had things I needed to say and I tried to do it in the most objective way possible. I tried to emotionally detach from it, which is very difficult to do sometimes when you’re telling some of these stories. I’m happy people liked it. You never know if people are going to judge you or make up their own opinion but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to come off as ungrateful to the WWE, the universe, the Gods, or whatever God you choose to believe in that blessed me with all of these things that I have. My wife and I have a very nice home and I don’t have to be financially dependent on WWE anymore. I’m grateful that they gave me the opportunity to do that.
I don’t want anyone to think that I’m a snotty, entitled kid or anything but some of these stories you wouldn’t believe — some of these stories about how WWE works are so unbelievable. Somebody has got to say this stuff and there are so many people in WWE that can’t. I can. It’s the giant elephant in the room that’s screaming “HELLO”. Everyone knows that everything we’re doing is stupid but we’re still doing it. Something has to happen there. I couldn’t help it from the inside. I tried but they all think I’m some kind of idiot, but I saved all my money so who’s the idiot now?
AG: The obvious comparison to you on “Talk is Jericho” is CM Punk on Colt Cabana’s podcast. A lot of people wondered if we would be getting something similar but I think they were drastically different. You didn’t burn bridges; you told the truth.
JM: A bridge is never burnt in WWE. Vince [McMahon] would have me back tomorrow and would love it if I came crawling back to him. I think Punk had a lot more personal animosity towards WWE and specific people. I don’t know every detail of his story and I haven’t spoken to him since he left WWE. His experience drove him to not like wrestling anymore, I think. For me, I wanted the exact opposite. I just got pro wrestling back after losing it years ago. I’m like “Whoa, I’m back in the game, here we go!” I wanted to make sure that people knew that there’s no bitterness and that my love of wrestling and my desire to perform for the fans, my desire to meet and exceed their expectations and my love for the fans has only gotten bigger. They have stayed with me through thick and thin and they’re going to follow me wherever I go. Now they’re AEW fans. They can still be WWE fans but they’re AEW fans too. Not trying to come off as arrogant but that’s a lot of fans that are now following AEW. We’re garnering a huge fan base and we’ve only done one show. It just so happens that the one show we’ve done was f*cking awesome. Even if this whole thing goes f*cking t*ts up and we never run another show, that was one helluva show. But we’re going to run more shows, a lot of shows. We’re running a show June 29th in Daytona Beach, Florida, me vs Joey Janela. That’s a beautiful, ugly mess [laughs].
AG: It’s been a long time since you’ve been outside of the WWE. What was it like being in a non-WWE locker room after all these years?
JM: I wasn’t in the locker room. I was hiding all day. A lot of these people I still haven’t had a chance to meet yet. I did get to meet some after the show. For me, the experience creatively, the collaboration [pauses] I text Cody and told him that when I was coming back from the ring to make sure he had a camera guy follow me to get a backstage promo in the hall. As I’m coming back from the ring, there’s a camera guy. Not a crew, there wasn’t a producer and a writer there too along with a boom mic guy. It was one guy following me down the hall with a camera and he points the camera at me, hits record and two minutes later, we have a promo. No writer, no fancy lighting. [Raises voice] Point the camera at me and press record! Done, two minutes. Did another thing with Joey Janela for The Young Bucks show. They had an idea, I said cool, added a little to it and three minutes later, we have another promo. They had another idea; three minutes later, we have a third promo. In ten minutes backstage at AEW, we knocked out three quality promos that would’ve taken a whole day in WWE. A ten second shot can take an hour with all the setup. If someone walks by, we would have to shoot it over. Everything’s got to be so perfect. If you were interviewing Phil Jackson at halftime of a basketball game and someone walked behind you, it doesn’t ruin the interview. He’s just a guy in the background. Its real sports.
In AEW, I think we’re going to have a lot more of that feel. It might not be super pretty and slick. Sometimes I feel like WWE is so well produced that it takes me out of it. We walk through matches so many times before a major show, plan out every camera shot, every facial. There’s no rawness to it; it’s too well done. I like when cameras are trying to keep up with the action. They don’t know what’s going to happen and it makes it seem so frantic, especially in a Young Bucks match or something like that. So what if they missed a shot, we’ll get it on replay. It happens all the time in real sports. Sometimes a gruesome injury will happen and the camera misses it because it wasn’t part of the main play. So they go back and show a replay and you get the closeup and react then.
AG: In 2009, 2010, you were the best promo guy in the business. To hear you say on Jericho’s podcast that you fell out of love with promos really sucked to hear. Is that passion coming back?
JM: 100%. My filing cabinet of ideas for promos, angles, concepts, moves and big and small ideas got emptied out the moment I left WWE. Everything I had before WWE is lost. Everything I had as Dean Ambrose or as a Shield guy, is lost. I sh*t-canned all that shit. I’m starting over. My cabinet was empty, but it is filling up quickly. I can’t wait to start getting this stuff out there.
AG: The independent wrestling scene is completely different than when you left in 2011.
JM: It’s a whole different world. I never made any money back then, before I came to WWE. You would’ve thought I was some kind of hot deal on the indys, but I was making max, $100, $125 a night, driving all over the country. I only made money if I did a death match. That’s when I started bartering my health for money. Oh if you want light tubes, that’s an extra $200. If you want a bunch of blood, that’s an extra $100. If you want me to take a bump on barbed wire, that’s $500. My point is, the indy scene is totally different now. There’s Impact, Ring of Honor, New Japan is awesome now. Indy wrestling used to seem so bottom of the barrel. You would so rarely see a huge show but now I feel like you see a huge indy show every week.
When I watched All In last year, I didn’t know half of the guys. I had never seen them work before. I was gone a long time, eight years, in the WWE bubble with blinders on and that’s a thick bubble man. Three hundred days a year, no break, your body’s hurt. It’s hard to explain the intensity of a Monday Night Raw. People running up to you in a panic saying we need to do this, this and this before the show even starts. “We need to do a promo, Vince doesn’t like this line, oh we need to get that approved”. People running around, doing rehearsals and then once the show starts, you’re on live TV. It’s very demanding but I don’t give a shit about that anymore. Not my problem anymore. We’re going to be on live TV with AEW and it’s cool that I have that experience. Not everyone has worked live TV before and it’s different.
AG: It’s a testament to the indys and how well they’re doing considering that WWE has been bringing in so many top indy stars to NXT.
JM: I never thought of that until you just said it but its amazing. I thought it was a bad idea when Hunter started buying the indys. You had Seth and me, along with Joey Mercury and we were able to sneak in a few key guys like Luke Harper, Neville and Cesaro. Once I was on the main roster and NXT started, which I wasn’t a part of, every week Triple H was taking an Instagram selfie with some indy guy. I don’t know if he was trying to make himself look cool and get some indy cred or what, or make NXT cool. He basically started buying the indys. I remember thinking that it might not be a good idea. Then where are all of these good ideas going to come from? If they signed Daniel Bryan at 21, he never would’ve become Bryan Danielson and you never would’ve had WrestleMania 30. If they signed Punk before he really became CM Punk, he never would’ve done what he did. If they signed me at 21, I never would’ve become anything good. I had to develop first before getting brought in.
Buying up all of the indy scene was the same as Vince buying up all the territories back in the day. There’s nobody left to cherry pick for talent. It’s amazing that even though they bought up the indys that it has repopulated itself stronger than ever. Makes you very optimistic about the future of pro wrestling. That’s probably the biggest difference between my interview and the Punk interview. He was basically saying fuck pro wrestling, and I was saying that I got my love of pro wrestling back. I want to wrestle everyone. Let’s drop all the bridges, get all the companies together and have a super show that sells out a stadium right now. F*ck it. The sum of wrestling outside of WWE is bigger than WWE. I feel like myself, the entire AEW roster and all of the fans are the same team, reaching for the same goal, to make wrestling awesome. To not be embarrassed to tell people you’re a wrestling fan because they’d say to you “oh that show with fart jokes and they poop on each other or whatever the fuck happens over there anymore”. If you’re a wrestling fan and you show someone some things from WWE, you’d be embarrassed. You’d want to bust out old VHS tapes to show them why you’re a wrestling fan because this isn’t it. I want people to be wearing an AEW shirt and have someone say “Oh you’re a wrestling fan, f*ck yeah, me too”. When I was standing on that poker chip at the end of Double Or Nothing, I didn’t know when we were going off the air. I stayed up there but for some reason, I just wanted to take a f*cking victory lap. Security did not appreciate it but I took a giant victory lap around the arena, off the air and I felt like I was with 12,000 teammates. We are all AEW. We have that common bond.
AG: There seems to be this internet wrestling fan theory that once Vince is gone and Hunter is in control that everything is going to be OK.
JM: Everyone seems to like NXT and there’s no Vince on that product. I think he’s the most capable guy of taking over the whole thing. I’m certainly not. I can’t imagine the expertise it would take in so many areas it would take to sit in Vince’s chair. He’s the only real option. But he’s 50, Vince is 70 and Vince’s mother is like 90 something and still plays tennis every day. If Vince lives until he’s 90, Hunter won’t take over until he’s 70. I’d much rather see it change sooner than later because Vince is out of ideas. He can’t adapt. It would be the best thing for him to at least step aside for a while and see what happens. He’s trapped in this bubble that he’s created around himself. He was a genius in the ’80s and knew how to adapt in the ’90s. Neither of which are true in 2019. You know that Spiderman movie with Toby McGuire wherein the beginning Willem Dafoe was the bad guy and they vote him out of his own company? Why aren’t the shareholders getting together here and saying, “This dude is laughing at his own fart jokes. We’ve got to get him out of here”. Isn’t there a way where we can all band together and squeeze him out? He went from creating modern wrestling to being the one that’s hindering it the most but that’s over there on that side. Over on this side, we’re doing nothing but creating. I don’t have to worry about what’s going on over there.
AG: People weren’t quite sure how to interpret you not saying much about Triple H in the Jericho interview.
JM: My thing was between Vince and me. I had a good relationship with Hunter. There’s no heat. The only person I might have a bad relationship with is Vince and that’s not a bad relationship because of animosity. We just don’t speak the same language creatively. It’s better for both of us to not work together. With everyone else, it’s all good, ya know?
AG: Just from knowing you for a long time, I know how important Japan has always been to you and how much you wanted to work there. Now you’ve signed with New Japan.
JM: At the very least, it was always a bucket list thing for me, to at least have one run in Japan. Of all my favorite places I got to wrestle with WWE, the shows in Japan were always my favorite. I loved the fans, the culture, the respect for pro wrestling. It makes you want to stay in the ring forever. New Japan gave me a buzz shortly after I left WWE and without hesitation, I was in. To go back to Sumo Hall, with New Japan this time, I can’t wait.
AG: Should we be looking for you in more places besides AEW and New Japan?
JM: I could pop up anywhere, man. I’ve got the rest of my year planned, some bucket list stuff. I’m putting my foot to the gas pedal this year because I’m so excited about stuff and then probably let off a little in 2020 and primarily focus on AEW. I’ve got a movie in pre-production, I’m trying to make my own movie, I’ve got a lot going on and at any moment I might just pop up and a fight might break out in any ring around the country.
I wanted to add this final story that didn’t quite fit in the body of the interview but absolutely deserved to be told.
JM: I was privileged enough to be able to work for Vince McMahon and also work with Dusty Rhodes, who was the head of creative at FCW when I was there. I had a very great and fulfilling time there. I would sit in the office with Dusty in the afternoons and just shoot the shit, in between training sessions. We would talk creative and ideas and he was still able at that point in his life to get excited about an idea just the same way he did at his apex in the late ’80s. I was privileged enough to work for arguably the two biggest creative driving forces in our industry. I’ll never get to main event WrestleMania but I got to main event Starrcade in my hometown of Cincinnati and that’s right up there, the top for me. Even though it was WWE’s version, still, it was my hometown and Dusty created Starrcade. I didn’t look at Dusty as a mentor. There are no peers to Dusty Rhodes but he treated me like one. He had this vision of me, of how I was going to take over WWE. These vignettes would be in a smokey bar, the camera zooms in on my back, Dean Ambrose leather jacket, in the Viper Club. He called it the Viper Club but he meant the Viper Room. He had this vision of me as a Johnny Depp, River Phoenix, “you’re James Dean baby”. He literally saw me as the coolest person in the world; that’s how he pictured these vignettes and pitched them to me. Dusty saw me as the coolest person in the world and Vince saw me as an idiot. That’s the difference between the two.
Flash forward to my first promo I released after leaving WWE, the prison one and I knew we were filming in LA. I kept thinking about the leather jacket and the Viper Club and I insisted on getting a shot at the Viper Room, just for me. There was deep, deep meaning to that. What I didn’t know is that the dice on the wall were on a two and five, double or nothing but the conspiracy theorists out there noticed it. The other conspiracy theory I heard was that the dog represented Roman Reigns, the hound of justice. The dog was just a good boy doing his job, but hey, art is subjective and it can mean whatever you want it to.
Final note: This video is of Nick Mondo discussing working with Jon Moxley on Moxley’s post WWE promos and is definitely worth a watch.