Jon Moxley, formerly known as Dean Ambrose, is that so-called lunatic, the free-speaking loose cannon of sorts who isn't afraid to call it like he sees it and divulge behind-the-scenes information while directly taking shots at his former stomping ground.
McMahon has a CM Punk situation on his hands again—except this is miles worse for WWE.
Punk walked out, lawyered up and was so disenfranchised with the whole thing he didn't keep wrestling. Ambrose played out his contract, trying his best to make the shoddy writing work in the process, hit a podcast or two and—most importantly—linked up with All Elite Wrestling, the biggest threat to WWE since the WCW days.
We've written for months and months how WWE has itself to blame for Ambrose's exit.
In January, it was clear the relationship between WWE and The Lunatic Fringe was severed permanently. What should have been a historic feud between him and Seth Rollins based around the former's heel turn the night Roman Reigns announced he had to leave to fight leukemia quickly devolved into Ambrose taking a needle in the butt on live television and his "pee-yewing" the crowd while wearing a gas mask.
Call it an irreparable botch and an easy excuse to leave for greener pastures.
Moxley himself confirmed this in a tell-all interview with Chris Jericho on the Talk Is Jericho podcast. While he stressed there weren't any hard feelings toward WWE, he used the word "sucks" to describe the company's creative process headed up by McMahon himself:
"I remember leaning on a road case and just feeling actual exhaustion. Just like emotional, physical, mental exhaustion. Not so much because of that day, but because of six of years of this. Six years of having to go into this man's office, this old man, and trying to explain to him why wearing a surgical mask is a stupid idea, why carrying a little red wagon to the ring is a stupid idea, why maiming a mannequin in the ring is a stupid idea. I was done."
The whole thing is worth a listen, but the gist of it is simple: Most of the dissatisfied wrestling fans these days are right on the money with the company's stiff behind-the-scenes creative process, which includes writing teams working with Superstars before it all goes up and has to work through the McMahon filter at the very top.
Naturally, Superstars either deal with it or they don't. Moxley dealt with having to put over Nia Jax on his way out. He details getting paid all of $500 for "The Shield's Final Chapter," an event strictly built around him because of his impending departure. That's industry standard for extras who show up to events, not money for a WWE Grand Slam champion being celebrated on his way out the door.
Also baked into the interview is one of the crushing blows beside the vaccination needle in the butt: the creative process weaving in Reigns' battle with cancer. Those above Moxley made him use the line "answer to the man upstairs" while referring to Reigns and how he fought back about another line McMahon wanted him to use that would have allegedly caused an uproar with sponsors of the program.
The line about Reigns' battle that made it on air (3:20 mark):
It should go without saying, but this clearly isn't Moxley making things up or trying to work fans. The situation has been there the whole time right under observers' collective noses if they looked hard enough. Simply consider Moxley the magician spoiling how the tricks are done behind the scenes.
And that's ugly for McMahon. The company managed to lose a Grand Slam champion. Interestingly, his "fans are disgusting" angle that was originally meant for the Ambrose character has now, at least in a way, gone to Sami Zayn.
While WWE has some in-the-mirror observations to do, Moxley has briefly used his newfound freedom in the creative sense to not only become a headlining act of AEW, but he's also openly looped in some of his dissatisfaction with his former employer:
Like comedy, some of the best outright stuff has a heavy dose of truth ingrained in there somewhere.
Moxley alone doesn't guarantee anything for AEW, but it does get the ball rolling. The company put on a stellar show at Double or Nothing but still has to secure television rights outside of the United States and has to successfully transition to a weekly program in the near future.
But with Moxley aboard and McMahon's process finally exposed for what it is? WWE has a serious problem on its hands because other talents (did anyone say "Sasha Banks?") are guaranteed to follow the Moxley model, playing out contracts and then bolting. The more Superstars bolt for AEW or the independent scene, the more fans will too, perhaps even the casuals who realize something must be wrong.
Which, of course, brings up the specter of change. McMahon is stubborn, but in the face of an actual threat he's shown an ability to adapt and innovate. Right now, the company is concerned with week-to-week ratings (hence the briefcase on Brock Lesnar and weekly teases) and a show in Saudi Arabia.
Admittedly, the breaking point for the WWE chairman is far off. But with each subsequent Moxley interview, each AEW event and surging numbers for competitors, which will align with a ratings crunch as SmackDown gets ready to move to Fox, the pressure on McMahon will continue to build.
This isn't a single event but a steady swelling of a nightmarish problem for McMahon, whose practices just got exposed publicly by a guy who can't be discredited, or denied.
If it weren't so damaging, McMahon himself might actually admire what Moxley is doing.