Since All Elite Wrestling launched at the start of 2019, its wrestlers have regularly praised the freedom the company gives them. There’s no team of writers or dictatorial owner telling them exactly what to say and how to say it. Nobody has praised that freedom more—or benefited more from it—than Jon Moxley, the former WWE star who debuted at AEW’s first show and has since gone on to win its World championship. The one-time member of the Shield has revitalized his career as a tough-as-nails loner willing to go to any length in a match, while delivering hardboiled interviews that are often hilarious and always honest to his character. You can compare him to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but you shouldn’t; Moxley’s his own man, a Bukowskian antihero with a thorny sense of humor who’s always ready to indulge in some wanton violence. He’s a throwback to a classic wrestling archetype, but feels entirely fresh and current due to how rarely that type of character is seen today and because of Moxley’s own conviction. After a decade of being restrained and muzzled, he’s able to do and say what he wants, how he wants, and he’s not letting the opportunity go to waste.
Moxley will be defending his World title at AEW’s next pay-per-view, Double or Nothing, which airs on Saturday, May 23. His opponent is Brodie Lee, whose path and career echoes Moxley’s own. Another breakout independent star from the ‘00s, Lee signed with WWE in 2012 and was rechristened Luke Harper. He was one-third of the original Wyatt Family, and feuded extensively with Moxley and the Shield. After growing discouraged by how WWE was using him, he publicly requested his release in April 2019, and continued to work sporadically for the company until they finally released him that December. As soon as he could legally join AEW he did, debuting at one of their first empty arena shows in March as the Exalted One, the leader of the cult-like Dark Order group. Lee immediately took the character in an unexpected direction, turning him into a deeply meta commentary on the alpha male toxicity often found in corporate leadership—and that’s especially found in the owner, chairman and CEO of one particular wrestling company that Lee and Moxley both know very well. Since then Brodie Lee has been built up as one of AEW’s biggest monsters, regularly squashing opponents in a matter of seconds, and using his masked Dark Order goons to terrorize anybody that stands in his way.
It was only a matter of time before these versions of Jon Moxley and Brodie Lee collided in an AEW ring. It’s happening sooner than expected, though, and as with many of the concessions and weird new rules wrestling has had to make, it’s partially because of the pandemic. Still, this isn’t just a match between a champion and a challenger who debuted two months ago. It’s the latest battle in a war that’s been raging between Moxley and Lee for over a decade, and now it’s on the biggest stage and under the brightest spotlight it’s ever known. From the indies to WWE’s midcard to AEW’s World title, Moxley and Lee have fought each other often and with great violence, and no doubt have something memorable planned for Double or Nothing.
Paste recently talked to Jon Moxley about his long history with Brodie Lee, how the two have reinvented themselves in AEW, and what we can expect from their Double or Nothing match. He was kind of like a wind-up toy on this subject—we asked one question and he responded with a long but fascinating answer that offers insight into Moxley’s thinking while also summarizing their relationship and how AEW, once again, provides them with a freedom they couldn’t have at their last job. To preserve his voice and perspective as much as possible, we’re sharing an extended excerpt of Moxley’s comments, minimally edited for clarity but otherwise presented exactly as he spoke it.
Paste: You’ve wrestled Brodie Lee many times in many different promotions, but this is a very different situation. What can fans expect from your Double or Nothing match?
Jon Moxley: It’ll be totally different. It’s new. It’s almost like a third act for us. We never had a big… this will be the biggest major program just between me and him in a singles capacity that we’ve ever had, on the biggest stage that’s just me and him. But we’ve always kind of circled each other over the years. We wrestled in Evolve, in CZW, years later in FCW, and then obviously we were on opposite sides of the demarcation line in the war between fuckin’ SWAT guys and the swamp guys. We had many wars there. We’ve faced off on so many house shows over the years, and that’s a different scenario too, the house show setting in WWE where you’re doing it four nights a week and you gotta maybe not kill yourself every night because you’ve got to do it 20 nights in a row. Brodie’s a guy I always love being in the ring with—we can literally wrestle each other in our sleep if we wanted to. But now it’s a new challenge—I’ve evolved over the last year, he hasn’t had a chance to wrestle in front of people yet [in AEW]… I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure, I think the Dark Order thing was not originally meant for him. He was still under contract with WWE when that was introduced. I don’t know who it was originally meant for. It’s a thing he was able to step into, which is really cool. Didn’t get to have the big pop in Rochester he would’ve got… he was like “I could put it off and wait until we’ve got people back in the building, but I’m just gonna take the opportunity now and do it and step into this Dark Order thing.” The Dark Order thing will kind of evolve and change to whatever he wants it to be and that’s the cool thing, and the cool thing I told him when I was talking about this, it’s whatever you want it to be. Now it’s not 30 writers in a room telling you what the Dark Order is and what your character is, this whole Dark Order concept can be whatever you want to turn it into, dude. It’s totally up to you. That’s pretty cool.
Another piece of history we’ve got, probably one of my memorable “WrestleMania moments,” quote unquote, was when he powerbombed me through a ladder. Incredibly dangerous. Probably one of the most dangerous bumps I’ve ever taken, and that’s saying something. There’s nobody on the planet I would’ve let powerbomb me through a ladder like that except him. Probably the only guy on the planet I trust to have done that as safely as possible. And it still wasn’t safe—I got knocked fucking loopy, I got a giant gash in the fucking back of my head. The fucking doctor runs over—he didn’t know if I was going back in the match—he runs over and he’s like, “You have a giant gash in the back of your head. I can see your skull. We’ve got to close it up now.” So I got eight staples, no anesthesia, right on the spot—KA-CHSK KA-CHSK KA-CHSK—and I’m like “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAWWHWWH!” And then I had to get ‘em taken out and reset—it was a mess. And that’s another piece of history between me and him. I put my life in his hands and he’s the only guy I would’ve trusted.
Now it’s a whole new thing. It’s just me and him, there are no partners, no team thing. But there’s a history between us. He’s new in AEW, his new character will now grow and change and evolve into something different, but this is a guy—it’s not like he just jumped the line undeservedly so. He’s not some rookie kid. This is a veteran of the sport who’s toured Japan, Dragon Gate, all over, Ring of Honor, major opponents… during his entire time in WWE he was always kind of an important player even if he didn’t always seem like he was in the main events or anything. He was always a major player, always bludgeoning people—no pun intended there, I didn’t realize what I did—but always killing people and knocking people’s dick in the dirt. He’s been doing it and doing it at the highest level for the last 10 years. This is an experienced, intelligent, dangerous opponent, and I have to take it that way.
I want to be the kind of champion who takes on all comers, and in a situation where everything got screwed up and the booking got screwed up and the plans got screwed up and everything is different than it would’ve been, if the world hadn’t gone into chaos, there’s an opportunity to step up, not unlike [UFC fighter] Justin Gaethje did with his [UFC] title shot last weekend. Same way [Brodie Lee] stepped up in the Dark Order thing and took the opportunity, he came in and I told him if he challenged me I wouldn’t back down from the challenge. Simple as that. Like I said, he didn’t have to beat the shit out of me, he just had to ask.
It’s cool to have this opportunity. I expect us to… not only did he jump me—I’ve been getting jumped since I was fuckin’ seven years old, dude. I’ve been jumped by the Wyatts, by fuckin’ kids in the street who stole my fuckin’ bike, I’ve been jumped by the Inner Circle, I’ve been jumped by fuckin’ everybody. So that’s one thing. But then he went and stole the belt. I do not have the AEW World title belt in my position right now. I’m gonna get it back. I plan to, anyway. But now it’s like he disrespected me. Absolutely disrespected me. And now that requires swift and corrective justice. So from the absolute instant the bell rings, I’ll be attempting to disfigure him. I will open his face. This is going to get very, very violent, very, very quickly. There’s going to be a halestorm of lariats and chops and teeth flying. Anything could happen, I expect an absolute storm of violence. Because I don’t have a choice. I don’t want to defeat him now by outstrategizing him. I don’t want to pin him with a la magistral and pin his shoulders to the mat for three seconds. This man disrespected me; I have to fuck him up.
All Elite Wrestling: Dynamite airs on TNT on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Double or Nothing airs live on pay-per-view on Saturday, May 23.
We’ll have more from our interview with Jon Moxley soon.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.