Before the new professional wrestling brand launched in January of this year, fans couldn't help but speculate as to which WWE talent would jump ship for the allure of a new start that could potentially offer more money, more creative freedom and a lighter workload. Which high-profile wrestlers could AEW possibly lure away? Near the conclusion of Double or Nothing, the wrestling world found out.
Jon Moxley, formerly known as Dean Ambrose in WWE, made his AEW debut after weeks of speculation he had signed with the company. Moxley became the first wrestler in his prime to leave WWE for the new promotion, and his move could potentially leave a lasting impact on the business.
Here are four effects we think Jon Moxley's in-ring debut can have.
Brings Legitimacy to AEW
Moxley is only 33, a prime age for a wrestler who—barring any setbacks—has at least another decade of his best work to offer the business. Moxley was one of the most recognizable names in WWE for the better part of eight years, but his dissatisfaction with the path his character took drove him away from the company that put "Dean Ambrose" on the map and into the arms of a fresh start with AEW.
AEW's promise of more creative freedom, a lighter workload and the ability to work the occasional independent wrestling show was enough to seal Moxley's signature. When you take into consideration the lucrative investment Jacksonville Jaguars and Fulham FC owner Shahid Khan and son Tony Khan have made into the AEW product, it's clear no other promotion in the world can offer this sort of deal.
For AEW to entice a wrestler of Moxley's caliber is a major statement and bodes well for the perception of the new company as a genuine alternative to WWE.
Adds to the Reported Rift in WWE's Locker Room
The crowning achievement of Dean Ambrose's WWE career came in 2016 when he surprisingly cashed in his Money in the Bank contract the same night he won it to defeat Seth Rollins for the WWE World Championship.
No one could've known that Ambrose's time at WWE would be over three years later.
A few months after leaving, Moxley recounted his departure from WWE on Talk is Jericho. He decided to leave after McMahon made him cut a promo where his character would get inoculated from various diseases out of fear of catching a virus from the fans:
"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."
Although Moxley made it clear he was leaving, he was still handed a contract. He said he never looked at it and asserted, "There's literally no number they could put on a piece of paper that would get me to stay."
There are reportedly many current members of the WWE roster who feel similarly. After years of not having an alternative stateside that can match the money of WWE, now AEW can do that and then some with the added bonuses of creative freedom and lighter workloads for its roster members.
If Moxley's in-ring AEW debut and subsequent storylines turn out to be hits, and if WWE allows wrestlers out of their contracts to join AEW, the grass now appears greener on the other side for many of them.
Potentially Draws in More WWE Talent
Speaking of the grass potentially being greener.
Leading up to Double or Nothing, AEW revealed signings of ex-WWE stars like Shawn Spears (formerly Tye Dillinger), Dustin Rhodes (formerly Goldust) and Chris Jericho.
Spears, a fan favorite during his time with WWE, told WSVN's Chris Van Vliet he grew tired of "missed opportunities" to plan around him and thought the company was insulting the audience's intelligence. Rhodes is nearing the end of his career but still feels he has things to offer a company like AEW where his brother, Cody, is a vice president. Jericho wanted the freedom of continuing work with New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Moxley could relate to Spears and Jericho but also may be looked at as a cornerstone of the company for years to come. Spears looks to find his footing after a less-than-ideal WWE run, and Jericho is in the tail end of his career.
Just like Moxley, most of the rumored talent who have asked for their release from WWE in recent months would be expected to play large roles for the foreseeable future if they joined AEW. That's why they'll be so keen on paying attention to his run with AEW while they figure out the future path their careers take.
And if Twitter is any indication, they're definitely paying attention:
Moxley Continues to Command the Attention of the Wrestling Universe
Fans who didn't have an interest in AEW before Double or Nothing may be more likely to tune in now than they were before. That's due in part to the buzz DoN garnered but especially because of the dramatic debut of Moxley.
A lot of eyes will be on his first in-ring AEW match against Janela, but that comes with high expectations, too. What direction will Moxley take his character, and is it better than what he left at WWE?
Moxley said on the Talk is Jericho podcast that he wants to help show WWE's creative process "sucks," and if he enjoys success in AEW that exceeds what he did in WWE, it could go a long way toward proving his theory.
You can watch Moxley's first AEW match for free on Saturday, June 29, when he takes on Joey Janela at Fyter Fest on B/R Live.