Breaking Down AEW Star Jon Moxley's Top Revelations About WWE on Podcast TourJune 9, 2019
Breaking Down AEW Star Jon Moxley's Top Revelations About WWE on Podcast Tour
Watching Jon Moxley work the interview circuit since leaving WWE has been a delight. As one of the company's former top stars, Moxley, better known to WWE fans as Dean Ambrose, is uniquely qualified to talk about WWE's inner workings and its oft-criticized creative process.
The company is traditionally secretive. It's a holdover from the days when professional wrestling was marketed as competitive rather than pre-determined. And fun as they are to read, the dirt sheets can be hit-or-miss; the gossip comes from people who are relaying it secondhand, assuming their sources are legitimate in the first place.
But finally, thanks to Moxley, we have someone with the real information who can attest to what happened backstage because he was backstage while it was happening. Not since CM Punk have we gotten such a clear account of a company in creative crisis.
Here is everything we've learned about WWE from Jon Moxley so far.
He Didn't Like the Little Red Wagon, Other Assorted Goofiness
Moxley's first press stop after leaving WWE and joining AEW was Chris Jericho's podcast, Talk is Jericho. And he spoke a lot about WWE CEO Vince McMahon and, specifically, his concept of the Dean Ambrose character.
According to Moxley, McMahon constantly wanted Ambrose to do off-the-wall, random things. They were the sort "lunatic" stunts that Moxley was embarrassed to perform:
"They weren't things that a cool person does, that a relatable person does...not even things a guy you would root for does. These are the things that an idiot would do. Like, things along the lines of driving backwards on the street on a unicycle."
Moxley would need to go to Vince's office, personally, and advocate for himself to get the line or segment changed. Sometimes it worked. But lots of times, like when Vince wanted Moxley to drag a red wagon to the ring or to beat up a Seth Rollins mannequin, it didn't.
This seems like half-glass full, half-glass empty sort of deal. Vince isn't so isolated that he isn't willing to at least hear out his wrestlers' complaints. But when he has a vision of how something should be done, the wrestler is the one who's going to end up doing it and either reap the reward or the blowback from doing so.
He Regretted Delivering a Roman Reigns Cancer Line
WWE has a notorious habit of inserting real-life drama into its scripted feuds. And when Roman Reigns' leukemia returned, Moxley had huge reservations over the lines that WWE wanted him to deliver.
One of them that made it to air was the following: "You know how the saying goes: What goes around, comes back around on you. And it's come back around on us in a big way, and now we're all going to get what we deserve. I mean look at Roman. For Roman's part, for what Roman did in The Shield? He has to answer to the man upstairs."
And once he said it, Moxley told Jericho that he instantly regretted it: "As soon as that line left my mouth, I went, 'Oh my God. I can't believe I just said that.'
In WWE's defense, Moxley conceded that McMahon talked him into doing it. And thankfully, Ambrose seemed to have known when to put his foot down when it mattered.
He Refused to Say an Even Worse Scripted Line About Roman Reigns' Cancer
As bad as that first leukemia-themed promo was, there was apparently an even worse one that Ambrose refused to deliver. He declined to say what the offending line was on Jericho's podcast—he would tell Jericho once they were off the air—but it was bad enough that Moxley thought they would lose sponsors over it.
It's a pretty shocking anecdote considering WWE has an entire Be A Star anti-bullying campaign, along with a Komen partnership, which should give them some sensitivity over these issues. Moxley, thankfully, saved WWE from its worst instincts.
The Vaccine Promo Was the Breaking Point
In the same promo as the unspeakable cancer line, Moxley was also supposed to receive inoculations against the fans. McMahon talked up the angle, explaining to Moxley that it was not a comedy bit despite the "doctor" using a cartoonishly large prop syringe. Unlike the cancer line, Moxley did not win the battle to nix the bit; you can see the final result above.
After knowing the backstory, it's pretty impressive Moxley delivered this promo with the level of seriousness that he managed to. It's one example (of which Moxley claims were many) wherein he made the best of a bad situation
"This is the day that I knew, 100 percent, I was gone and there was no turning back," Moxley said. "I actually almost walked out."
He Was Paid $500 for His Final WWE Match
Rather than being buried and booted out the door, Moxley got a hero's victory lap during his final weeks with WWE. The Shield reunited, and they had a triumphant main event win at WWE Fastlane. Moxley's final match with the company was turned into The Final Chapter, a WWE Network Special celebrating the faction's legacy.
But don't get it twisted: WWE still knows how to carry a good, petty grudge. According to Moxley, he was paid $500 for the night's work—generally understood to be the bare minimum for working a WWE match.
This is the same company that seemed on a deliberate mission to humiliate The Revival, who will also not be re-upping their WWE contracts, with Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com reporting that the new deals were worth $500,000 a year for a guaranteed five years. This is the same company that fired CM Punk on his wedding day.
It's surprising, to be sure. But in the context of everything else, it's unfortunately not all that surprising.
Brock Lesnar Ruined a Summerslam Shield Reunion
The main event of SummerSlam in 2018, which pitted Roman Reigns against Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, was a weird, disjointed affair.
On Wade Keller's Pro Wrestling Podcast, Moxley revealed the reason: The show was originally going to end with The Shield reuniting and thwarting Braun Strowman's Money in the Bank briefcase cash-in, but Lesnar changed everything at the last minute. The writers, who had spent untold hours crafting the perfect ending to show, had to roll with it.
It's a great example of the disproportionate impact that a protected Superstar, like Lesnar, can have over the writers and producers who are booking his match. It's good, on one hand, that unlike other Superstars Lesnar has enough creative leeway to pitch ideas. But it's important to note that if the idea doesn't work, it's going to be the writers and the producers who end up getting hurt, not Lesnar.
The WrestleMania 32 Match with Brock Lesnar Was Doomed from the Outset
Speaking of Lesnar, the match between Moxley and The Beast at WrestleMania 32 is widely considered to be a disappointment that failed to live up to its initial promise.
On Wade Keller's podcast, Ambroise elaborated upon what he had only alluded to in prior interviews: Lesnar wanted to deliver the bare minimum and figured that he was doing Moxley a favor by appearing in the ring with him.
Moxley states he tried to pitch his creative ideas time and again, only to be shot down:
"I [kept] hoping that like the day of [WrestleMania] something [would] happen that's magic. Because we had magic in the three-way we had before and the little promo we did. It was there. Now, the angle's kind of goofy, but something good could happen."
Lesnar and Moxley didn't earnestly start planning the match until after the show had already begun. And it showed.
It a good reminder of the teamwork required in good wrestling; one person cannot get over entirely by themselves. They need their opponent to sell for them and, if it's a veteran wrestler, often guide them in order to ascend to the next level.
Why the WWE Network 'Stone Cold Podcast' Was so Awkward
One of the nadirs of Moxley's WWE career was his WWE Network interview with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. Moxley seemed unfocused, evasive and sarcastic, and Austin became increasingly frustrated with his guest's lack of cooperation.
We learned the story behind the story on Keller's podcast. During the pre-interview, the WWE producer had asked Moxley pointed questions about his difficult upbringing. Moxley didn't want to answer them, feeling that his family didn't have a media platform from which to defend themselves.
And when Austin began asking the same questions, it caused Moxley to disengage for the rest of the evening.
Good on Moxley for keeping private business private instead of serving it up for audience consumption. It could have served as the proverbial Cinderella story that Ambrose's WWE Championship run needed. But none of that should ever trump a talent's personal comfort.