Jon Moxley knows fans are excited about the possibility of a wrestling war, about AEW potentially going head-to-head with WWE. That's all well and good, he said. But it has very little to do with why he, the former Dean Ambrose, departed WWE on May 1 when his contract was up.
In an open, emotional interview on Chris Jericho's Talk is Jericho podcast that published Wednesday, Moxley discussed a wide range of things regarding his time with WWE, his unhappiness with its creative process and his relationship with Vince McMahon.
One of the things he wanted to make clear? Moxley said he was gone from WWE regardless of whether there was another company around with an impending primetime TV deal with TNT.
"My leaving WWE exists outside of that," Moxley said. "Whether AEW exists or not, I was still leaving WWE. It was good to know the wrestling business was doing so well outside of WWE, but even if it wasn't, I still would have left. If there was no other promotions to work for in the world, I still would have left WWE. If there were no other wrestlers, I would have just started my own promotion, started my own training school and trained my own opponents. I would have re-seeded the wrestling business from scratch if I had to. But the timing of it is just so crazy."
Moxley, who is now signed to a written contract with AEW, said he became an adult in WWE and is grateful for his eight years there, but the promotion's creative process wore on him so much that he became depressed and got "physically sick" every show, so much so that he was searching on WebMD what might be wrong with him. He said he told WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon as much when he informed McMahon he would be departing earlier this year.
"I don't care how many zeroes you want to put on a piece of paper, I am gone." Jon Moxley on his WWE offer
"If there's one thing I want to do [now], I want to prove that your creative process -- the WWE's creative process, sucks," Moxley said to Jericho. "It does not work. It's absolutely terrible. ... It's killing the company and I think Vince is the problem. Not so much Vince, but Vince and whatever structure he started building around himself."
Moxley said that creative process didn't provide the freedom to develop his character. It didn't offer him the leeway to say what he wanted in on-screen promos.
"Promos used to be my favorite part of wrestling," Moxley said. "I loved it. They ended up becoming my least favorite part, the part I dread. Because now it's not me coming up with ideas and coming up with ways to hook you into our story. It's me trying to not look like an idiot. Me trying to appease all these people. Me sitting down with a writer, that's not how it's supposed to be."
Moxley said he was fed "goofy s---" to say and do by writers and McMahon and he grew tired of it. He recollected several stories about how he was embarrassed to say what was in the script, including one particular line about a pooper scooper. Moxley said when he returned from injury in August 2018 he felt like nothing they wrote for him made sense, the story was unclear and no one was "getting over" with the crowd.
On the same show as the pooper scooper line, which he was able to get nixed, Moxley said McMahon wanted him to bring up the real-life leukemia diagnosis of Roman Reigns in a promo. Moxley said he tried to convince McMahon otherwise, but the line stayed in and he said it.
"As soon as that line left my mouth, I was like, 'Oh my god, I can't believe I just said that,'" Moxley said.
A few weeks after that, there was another line written for him about Reigns' leukemia and Moxley said he put his foot down with McMahon and said he would not utter it.
"It is the worst line," Moxley said. "I'm not even gonna say it on [this podcast], that's how bad it was. It was a thing where somebody would have had to get fired -- maybe me. They might have lost sponsors."
Moxley said he knew in July 2018, before he came back from injury, that he would likely be leaving WWE when his contract was up. While he was rehabbing from injuries, Moxley said he was watching a lot of concerts while riding a stationary bike, seeing great performers connect with the crowd the way they wanted and realizing he hadn't been able to do that in a long time. Moxley said he was depressed during his time in WWE, because he couldn't perform on that level; he was told to read scripts verbatim.
"They take away the thing that you love," Moxley said.
The final straw, Moxley said, was a segment where he was supposed to get a rabies shot with a giant syringe during a promo. His heel character at the time was supposed to be repelled by the "disgusting, disease-riddled fanbase." McMahon thought the idea was great, Moxley said, but Moxley hated it, calling it "embarrassing." He said he told McMahon, like he had done previously, that if that's what McMahon wants on his show, he'd be the man for the job. Moxley said he remembered thinking that might have been the last time he would have that conversation with McMahon.
"For whatever reason, we're like Mentos and Diet Coke," Moxley said. "Me and Vince together, we just create this explosion of goofy nonsense that I detest."
When he was offered a new contract by WWE, Moxley said he didn't even look at it. He said he has no idea how much money was offered to him.
"I don't care how many zeroes you want to put on a piece of paper, I am gone," Moxley said he told WWE. "[McMahon has] got the Million Dollar Man complex. He's got to be able to buy everything. That's why he pays Brock [Lesnar] billions of dollars to come in and ruin his company. Because he wants to own Brock. He wants to be like, 'Ahh, Brock is my attraction.'"
Moxley made his surprise debut with AEW last Saturday night on the promotion's debut show, Double or Nothing, at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. He came out after the main event between Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho and seemed to set up a program with Omega, one of AEW's top guys and the former IWGP heavyweight champion in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
Moxley, whose real name is Jonathan Good, has been booked on future AEW shows and will also be taking international and independent wrestling dates, which is permitted by his AEW contract. He will debut for New Japan next week. When AEW's TV show starts in October, Moxley is expected to be a major part of it.
Moxley said he now feels a sense of freedom, "like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders." He'll work mostly for AEW, but take bookings and do different things of his choosing. When he was rehabbing from injury, Moxley said he thought more about going back to wrestle with his old indie Combat Zone Wrestling or in Japan, rather than return to WWE. In essence, he'll be able to do that now.
With AEW, Moxley said he has always been close friends with Cody Rhodes, the former WWE performer who is now an AEW executive vice president. Moxley said he connected well with AEW president Tony Khan, who Moxley said was more of a wrestling fan than McMahon. Moxley said he never even talked money with AEW, because he "vibed" with them on everything else.
"Nothing I do [now] is motivated by money," Moxley said. "Everything I do, whether it's a show I do, a wrestling show I do, a match I have -- anything I do, any project that I'm involved in, I'm chasing and directed by passion, creativity, artistic satisfaction and fun. That's what I'm chasing. And I think the rewards, be they monetary or otherwise, will come."