Jon Moxley is as captivating as they come. He’s unique and has been able to adapt to any style, becoming an undeniable star. He originated in CZW as a deathmatch specialist, creating a vicious reputation for violence which has served him well as his career has advanced. Jon currently sits on top of All Elite Wrestling as their first two-time champion, holding interim gold and filling in for the injured CM Punk. He’s been on one hell of a journey, battling through some harrowing struggles, so let’s take a look back at the brilliance of Jon Moxley.
Like most wrestlers, Jon’s passion for wrestling began by watching WWE as he developed a liking for Bret Hart. Though, it was extremely unlikely the big company would come calling for Moxley due to his style being the polar opposite of the image that the promotion portrayed. So, it was a huge surprise when he was signed to FCW, WWE’s then developmental brand, under the name Dean Ambrose. The arrival at Florida Championship Wrestling even followed three unsuccessful tryout matches with the company as he was deemed too vicious to fit in with what the WWE were after. He spent a fair amount of time in FCW and even feuded with fellow WWE newbie Seth Rollins while there. But, it wouldn’t be long before the two would be seen together on a more global scale.
On November 18, 2012, the memorable debut of ‘The Shield’ took place and nobody could’ve predicted what would happen next when they first walked onto the main roster stage. Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns leapt into the ring dressed in riot gear and took out Ryback just as he looked ready to capture the win. They aimed to seek out any injustice in the company and began this mission by saving CM Punk’s title reign on numerous occasions. Everything about the group felt different and special, from their instantly recognisable music (featuring audio from the members themselves as the introduction) to them walking out through the crowd. They stood out among the roster WWE had at the time, which was crucial.
Once the ties to Punk faded, The Shield became their own unique entity. As the group progressed, it became clear that Ambrose was positioned as the front man for the group as he was the most comfortable on the mic. He was bold and memorable, many fans believed he would be the breakout star of the group and this seemed to be backed up by the company when they had Ambrose capture the United States Championship. The group all held gold with Rollins and Reigns as the Tag Team Champions but the trust that WWE showed in Ambrose giving him the first singles title run in The Shield and having this turn into the longest U.S. title reign in the modern era was immense for Ambrose and his career (despite the obvious joke that he never really defended the title very often).
The Shield dominated the company for years, although there were small seeds of dissension. On the surface, the group seemed to be as strong as ever but there were hints of a power struggle. This was an absolutely genius move by the company as it steadily built each of the three as genuine contenders for leadership and stars in their own right. The position of leader gradually disappeared. It rotated from Ambrose to Rollins and, towards the end of the group’s run, the focus was more on Reigns (a direction we all know the company was looking to go in following the eventual split). While they had a relatively short time together as a group, The Shield ran roughshod over the entire roster. They had a heel run in late 2013, siding with The Authority and becoming their hitmen against people such as CM Punk. It wouldn’t be long before they also had a face stint though, facing authority figures like Kane, covering all bases for a successful WWE run. To finish ‘The Shield’ in truly awesome fashion, the group had a selection of dream matches, checking iconic foes off the list such the Wyatt family as well as two legendary matches with Evolution.
The Shield beat Evolution twice, which really set them up for success before disaster struck. Rollins would turn on his Shield brothers just 24 hours later, having been recruited by Triple H to join The Authority just as the group was at its peak. Ambrose cemented himself in the WWE history books with a faction that’ll be remembered forever but once the group dissipated, Ambrose didn’t quite follow suit with the rest of his Shield members. Reigns was separated from the rest and placed into a feud with Randy Orton while Rollins captured the Money in the Bank briefcase. Ambrose was hell bent on getting revenge on Rollins for ruining the group and this would consume him. They had a lengthy feud with Ambrose attacking Rollins at any chance he got, trying to block every potential contract cash-in. However, Rollins was able to shake off the threat of ‘The Lunatic Fringe’, becoming the first person from The Shield to capture the top championship.
By contrast, Dean’s position in WWE was starting to frustrate fans. He lurked around WWE’s midcard while Rollins remained at the top, Reigns’ push refusing to be slowed by the company. They even tried to get Dean’s popularity to rub-off on Roman by keeping the two interlinked. This ended up working in their favour though, with this and constant circling back to the feud with Rollins, it meant that the Shield members were always intertwined. Ghosts and demons from Dean’s past always kept cropping up which really helped with storytelling. He kept fighting on his own path but it became clear that if he ever wanted success, he would have to go through his former brothers to get there.
In 2015, he had a ladder match for the WWE Championship with Rollins which ended when the title fell with both men clamouring for it. It looked like Dean had a case to claim the win but the belt remained with Seth. Even when ‘The Architect’ fell to a knee injury, Ambrose lost out in the final of a tournament to crown a new champion, this time to Roman Reigns. In 2016, he was part of a triple threat to become the number one contender to Triple H’s world championship at WrestleMania but fell short to Reigns again. When the time came for Dean to finally become champion, it would happen in poetic fashion.
Reigns would defend his WWE title against Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank 2016 and, to the surprise of many, The Architect won the title from WWE’s golden boy. But, the biggest surprise of all was yet to come. Ambrose’s music hit and the crowd went crazy, knowing that he had previously won the briefcase earlier in the night. Michael Cole exclaimed “Rollins has seen a ghost of his past!” as Ambrose attacked the newly crowned champion from behind. He cashed-in and won the title in emphatic fashion. This was such a perfect move for his character, as Dean isn’t the kind of guy to hang onto the contract and wait. This can be directly contrasted to the time that Rollins held the briefcase. He was sneaky, he held it for months and strategically planned his heist. Dean knew what he had been through and he wanted his glory now. It created such a unique moment, all three members of a legendary group holding the gold in one night.
His title reign was a part of an awesome year for WWE in 2016, including welcoming back the brand split. Dean soon returned to where he was prior to the world title win and, following many failed Shield reunions, Ambrose suffered an injury keeping him out of action for months. It was here that the real ‘paradigm shift’ occurred. Ambrose eventually came back, but he was struggling behind the scenes. He was unhappy with the creative process in WWE and had reached his breaking point. Surprisingly, WWE announced Ambrose’s decision to leave the company and even acknowledged it on TV, which was completely out of character for them. They gave him a hero’s goodbye and put on a special ‘Farewell To The Shield’ show to treat him as a star before he left.
That’s when he shocked the world. As his contract expired, many would speculate that the star may take a break from wrestling altogether but it wouldn’t be long before we would see him back on our screens. All Elite Wrestling’s early days saw many wondering how realistic the company’s ambitions were. That was until Jon Moxley walked through the door (or should I say the crowd) and burst back into the wrestling scene. After the main event between Omega and Jericho, the audience gradually began to turn their attention to something happening amongst the masses of people. Mirroring his intruder style entrance in The Shield, Moxley marched through the crowd into the ring and attacked both competitors. This positioned him as an anti-hero and one of the biggest gets for AEW since their inception.
It wasn’t long before he captured the AEW World Championship. In February 2020, Moxley took the title from Chris Jericho and led the company through the pandemic. Many proclaim this as the best reign in the company’s history, but it was dampened by the lack of fans and overall effects of the global crisis. Even still, Moxley brought his own unique style of fighting to create masterpieces, elevating others. Fittingly, he was soon desperate to jump head first into the most violent stipulations that AEW had to offer, like an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match with Omega and the second Blood and Guts.
To bridge the gap between title reigns it would be wrong of me to not discuss his personal issues. Earlier, I mentioned the ‘demons’ always coming back in Jon’s career and that doesn’t just mean fellow wrestlers. In November of 2021, it was revealed that Moxley was checking into rehab to seek help for alcoholism. This stunned fans but showed immense bravery on Jon’s behalf. AEW showed great support to Mox, completely respecting his struggles and need for privacy. Thankfully, Mox returned on the 19th of January looking better than ever.
From here, Moxley came even further into his own. Coming back with an even more prevelant mean streak, he looked on top of his game. That’s when Bryan Danielson offered an opportunity to Mox. He wanted to team with the newly returned star and use the chance to find younger talent who they deem worthy of standing side by side with them. Mox insisted he had to go to war with Bryan before they could unite and as the fighters continued to brawl after their match, William Regal stormed down to the ring and made the wrestlers come together, forming the Blackpool Combat Club.
The BCC is one of the most exciting parts of wrestling right now. The genius of Regal helps form the perfect battle plan for any fight. The Brit calls Bryan ‘the perfect wrestler’ and the unpredictability of Jon Moxley makes the pair an unstoppable team. Drawing parallels to WWE, CM Punk and Jon Moxley indirectly crossed paths again. Punk suffering a foot injury meant that an interim champion needed to be crowned. The domination Moxley showed since returning from rehab left him top of the rankings and eventually set up a match with Hiroshi Tanahashi over the gold. This was an absolute war but ultimately, Moxley came out on top, now reigning as champion.
He has a star presence and when he’s wearing the ‘Forged in Combat’ BCC clothing, he looks especially unstoppable. When the thunderous ‘Wild Thing’ hits, fans erupt no matter where the show is. People were right, this guy was the breakout star of The Shield, he just had to leave the WWE to reach his full potential.