WWE announced early last year that Dean Ambrose, now Jon Moxley, would be leaving the company. Despite a new contract offer, Moxley was content on leaving. On the first episode of AEW Unrestricted, Moxley talked about his initial plan to take a year or two off to come up with something different. He hoped to leave his career in WWE behind and focus on something new.
"So I knew [that I was leaving WWE] for about eight months prior to showing up in AEW. I didn't know where I was going to go or what I was going to do. I was kind of thinking I would take myself 'off Broadway' so to speak: go wrestle in Japan or wrestle under a mask or something. I couldn't really picture what I wanted to do or how I wanted to wrestle. I wasn't going to be on every show and they're like, 'former WWE superstar Dean Ambrose' and gouge people for money. I was trying to leave that in the past. I figured I would go out of the spotlight for a long time, and once I came up with a new thing and was ready to come back in one or two year, then I would try to come in the national scene again," Moxley said. "I was paying attention to Ring of Honor, Impact, Japan; I knew I wanted to go to Japan for sure because I always loved wrestling over there when we go for WWE. I just love the fans over there, and it's just a different culture and style. I got a real taste for it the couple of times when we were able to go.
"I knew I always wanted to come back, and I always had a feeling that I could in the back of my mind. I was thinking I was gonna disappear and then come back later on when I got a new schtick of some sort. That didn't happen at all. Not even close."
Moxley was friends with Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho from his time in WWE, and they approached Moxley with the idea of coming to All Elite Wrestling. Moxley gave praise to AEW for having a lot of things covered well in advance and talks about AEW being a true alternative that is here to stay especially after the new TV deal they signed.
"They're telling me about this AEW thing, and I'm like, 'it sounds really awesome but I'll believe it when I see it kind of thing.' All the infrastructure was getting put into place before anybody knew about it which was smart," Moxley stated. "They didn't come out with big promises right out of the gate and not deliver like most companies do. Like all of this stuff was set in stone before anybody knew about it.
"It's amazing that this is all real. It's still crazy because a year ago there wasn't a legit alternative. Fans have been wanting this for Wrestlers have been wanting this for years. It's something the business has needed for so many years. It's finally here. It's legit. It's not going away. We just signed a new contract."
Moxley, who resides in Las Vegas, talked about how the fact that Double or Nothing was in Las Vegas was a sign to him. At Double or Nothing, Moxley made a surprise appearance at Double or Nothing, and he felt that there was something that pointed him to that show.
"When it was like the first show, it was Double or Nothing. It's May something. It was like three weeks after my contract was gonna be up, and it was in Vegas. It didn't matter that it was in Vegas but something about it being in Vegas made it even more like a sign," Moxley said. "Like I could just drive over. I don't even need to get on a plane. It was like I didn't even find that show. That show found me. All the signs in the universe were pointing me there. It was like, 'alright. I guess we're doing this.'"
Moxley talked more about why he wanted to take time off. He said that his closing days at WWE including his feud with The Miz where he dressed up in a bear suit. He said this was where he felt that he hit rock bottom in his career.
"At the time too [when going to AEW], to be perfectly honest, I didn't know if people were gonna cheer, if they're gonna boo, if they're not gonna make any noise at all. It's kind of why I had to go off Broadway for a while because I felt like my reputation had been tarnished so bad that I had to start from scratch again.
"You get popped in the a-- with a syringe on TV and dress up like a teddy bear and DDT people and s--t like that. I remember one time standing in the ring in a bear suit for some reason," Moxley said. "I can't even explain to you why I'm standing in the ring in a bear suit, and I DDT'd The Miz or something and take off my bear hat. It's like, you know, you get the Pavlovian kind of response like, 'yay', but I remember just thinking like this is so stupid. This is not even like funny or entertaining. I just remember standing there feeling like I hit rock bottom. I'm just done. This sucks. I'm just like, 'what have I become in this bear suit?'. I've had many moments like that."
He expressed his gratitude towards the fans that cheered him when he debuted at Double or Nothing. He says that he was sacred that people would see the negatives that he felt he carried from his WWE run.
"I'm scared that fans outside of WWE, they want an alternative. They're coming to Ring of Honor or Impact or AEW because they don't want Monday Night RAW. They don't want WWE stuff," Moxley said. "I was so scared that I was so synonymous with WWE crap that I walk out and they'd be like, oh god. The idiot from WWE. Oh god. What are you gonna do? Hit somebody with a hot dog? Jesus Christ. This company has gone to hell. Can't believe they brought the hot dog guy.' I was so scared of that. I can never explain my gratitude towards the people in the building that night for just immediately embracing and accepting me as myself and not putting any of WWE's crap onto me."
Moxley talked about his first match in New Japan Pro Wrestling against Juice Robinson where he won the IWGP United States Championship. He said that he was nervous before the match but felt that he woke up from an extended nap.
"I thought it was gonna be this long rehabilitation process for myself. I was like, 'do I even know how to wrestle anymore?'. It all came back so quickly like almost like I had been asleep for years and I woke up out of a nap. It really is a totally different guy who was in jail. 'Oh Jon's out of jail. Cool. Sweet. He's back.' It's hard to even explain. The first match I had was in Japan, and I remember it was the second to last on the show. It was a big match. It was a debut match. First match for New Japan which is the biggest company over there. I'm following Hiroshi freakin Tanahashi who's like the John Cena of Japan. He's on right before me so I'm like this is a tall order," Moxley said. "I just couldn't picture what I was gonna do or how I was gonna wrestle. I couldn't picture it, so I was like, 'OK, I'm just gonna empty my mind of everything and just not have any expectations: not go out there and try hard to be something because people can see you do that if you try to be something that you're not.' I don't wanna try too hard to be something new or whatever. I'm just gonna relax. I remember before that match I was really calm because looking at the situation I should be so nervous right now. I remember joking about it. I was so remarkably calm right now. I think it's [because] I had already given up everything. There was nothing left to lose. What's the worst that could happen? In my mind, I'm like, 'I think the whole world thinks I suck already so I'm like I don't know screw it. Whatever happens happens.' Then two minutes into the match, all these little gears in my brain start clicking, and I'm like beating the holy hell out of my opponent, a guy named Juice Robinson.
"I couldn't ask for a better opponent right off the bat than him. It's just this wild fight. There's blood. I'm like beating the hell out of him. There's like an energy in the building. It was like it all came back to me. I'm like, 'oh yeah, this is how I used to wrestle all the time. This is what I naturally do.' If you just throw me out there with no plan, this is what happens. I'm like, 'oh this feels so good.' It was like stretching my legs for the first time in years."
He said after that match, he felt he was back. He also talked about the ups and downs of his life, and he said that he's waiting for something bad to happen because a lot has been going right for him so far.
"The response we got after in the building and when I got to the back, it was like, 'I'm f--king back. I'm back. Here we go. I'm off to the races.' It's been continually like that ever since getting to wrestle all these different great opponents like that are in this crazy roster of AEW," Moxley said. It's like a smorgasbord of different styles. I'm just having the time of my life. I'm just waiting for something bad to happen for the wheels to fall off."
You can listen to the podcast by clicking here. If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.