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Jon Moxley: The Story of the Man Behind Dean Ambrose

Capitalization is a key element in media. It’s what keeps the proverbial and occasionally the literal ball rolling. Media outlets arrive on the scene of a murder to get you the latest scoop to feed your quench for information, with this I am going to capitalize on a topic I’ve desired to speak on since the early days of his signing, the man so many are enamored by, the one you call Dean Ambrose.

If you’re not familiar with that name you may just stand alone, because apparently Mister Ambrose is the new savior of wrestling, the new heir apparent to whatever throne is left unoccupied, a sure-fired future WWE Champion, a guaranteed Wrestlemania headliner, hell why stop there? Dean Ambrose is a sure-fired Hall of Famer if you care for the opinion of some.

But this editorial isn’t going to detail the man you know today, instead the man you probably know little about. See before joining the boys down in Florida to “develop,” where WWE officials felt necessary, Jon Moxley was a regular feature on the American independent wrestling circuit. Like Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries; wait, he was nothing like them.

Jon Moxley was a very different creature to the common independent talents of years gone-by or today. It wasn’t about having an arsenal of fifty moves, forty-five of which involved a cool flip or kick. Jon Moxley wasn’t going to headline any chain wrestling promotions any day soon either. Instead he made his name off his character, his style, his look; they all had an aura of “grunge” about them.

You’ll have heard a lot about him, I’m sure.

How many of you know much about him? My introduction to the guy promoters used to market as “Street Dog” was on a show featuring the tag team of him and Sami Callihan, fighting under the name “Switchblade Conspiracy,” sounds cool, doesn’t it?

Two scruffy guys, snarling and staring, menacingly taunting their opponents, Combat Zone Wrestling and violence go hand-in-hand, I can recollect Moxley holding a metal spike in his hand, tearing it across his opponents face, raising it into the air allowing the blood to drip freely onto his face; this is a pretty quick way of getting noticed.

The bigger Jon’s name got the more of his matches appeared on the Internet. I viewed several, some featured his body being pierced by ten thousand thumbtacks (ironically by a guy named Tack), scratched and sliced by the sharp edges of barbed wire, burnt and seared by the warmth of a lit match to lighter fluid which sat atop a wooden table.

My fix of Jon Moxley would soon intensify, through the medium of Dragon Gate USA.

Gabe Sapolsky saw something marketable and special in Jon many didn’t. He was paired off with the likes of Tommy Dreamer, Homicide, Jimmy Jacobs and during his release from WWE, a certain Bryan Danielson.

During this time the former CZW World Heavyweight Champion was given leverage to showcase his wrestling ability, and he was by no means bad.

His character drew people in, his promos caught the attention of viewers and left them wanting more. Jon never main evented where it mattered but he probably didn’t need to. His feud with independent veteran and Ring of Honor stalwart Jimmy Jacobs is to some the defining feud of Jon’s indie tenure, it is to him as Joe was to Punk, or McGuinness was to Danielson.

He knew how to control a crowd, bend and twist a match into any atmosphere he pleased. In an interview with InYourHead radio dated November 13th, 2010, Jon stated on his feud with Jacobs:

“Before Dragon Gate we’d yet to face each other, but it felt like I’d worked with him a million times. We wanted our second match to be much more psychological instead of senseless gore. We took a physical approach and tried to leave the toys where they be.”

As aforementioned his most hyped characteristic is his speaking ability. Its always been humorous to me that so many find it so good, by simply exclaiming “Nope,” it’s as though a majority of the Internet Wrestling Community as one entity creamed in their pants.

It always wasn’t like that. Jon Moxley didn’t have that inside him. There was a time when he had long ass-length hair, colorful spandex tights, a chain around his neck; had you seen him you’d have mistaken him for a Major Brother or an imitation of Chris Jericho. But somewhere along the line he obviously changed. Simply put, Jon decided to be himself.

“I didn’t have a grasp on what I was. I’d walk out, wrestle, walk back and leave. One day I decided to start being me. It didn’t feel… not as forced. I started to like it. I like expressing actual emotions instead of playing a character everybody else can play. Because I’m different.”

“I hesitated to address my real life story because I think when something is said in wrestling, it’s assumed to be fake. What people don’t get with me is, they don’t know what’s real and what’s not.”

It’s something very few will understand, but it didn’t take until the last couple years of his independent run to find who he was as a performer.

All good things have to come to an end, and today before you on television, Jon Moxley stands as Dean Ambrose, a character who still bears that aura of grunge that Moxley walked with but in a much more restricted boundary.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’ve seen multiple people who legitimately followed him on his way up label him a “sell-out” to his roots.

But for every fan he used to have, it seems hes replaced with fifty others. They may be younger, more naive, less knowing on who he is but I guess that’s not a bad thing, is it? Well, when you have a few hundred people on the Internet claiming they know so very much about him, to a degree it’s a fifty-fifty situation, now isn’t it?

The Jon Moxley story of bloody brawls in “bingo halls” may have ended, but as The Shield continues its lamentation as regulars on WWE programming, the Dean Ambrose story of injustice may have just begun.

About Jason Patrick

Jason Patrick is an Irish writer and journalism student, he is the brain behind bringing Ring of Honor content to Wrestle Enigma and is an avid fan of the promotion, as well as others such as WWE, NJPW and some independent promotions. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonPatrickWE
  • WowReallyWTFF

    “by simply exclaiming “Nope,” it’s as though a majority of the Internet Wrestling Community as one entity creamed in their pants.” Haha, this made me laugh. Anyway, I’m glad you just addressed on who he was and how it may affect effect him in the WWE, instead of trying to disprove why he isn’t a “God”. I like the guy, but I don’t think he’ll be as big as other make him out to be. He’s talented from what I saw in FCW and can add much needed competition to the mid card scene until he’s ready to move on.

  • Kevin Berge

    On a more serious note, I knew about Moxley before he came up because of his promos. I stumbled upon his Danielson promo, and I was interested from the start. Some of his work such as his Sick Guy promo and especially his Possessions promo which is still one of the greatest promos I’ve ever seen had me absolutely enamored.

    His wrestling wasn’t big to me until he started working in FCW. I know he was a big star in CZW which I’m not big on as a company, but his in ring style in WWE interests me because it is subtle. Punk and Bryan came in with their huge move sets and flashy styles, but Moxley works in a way that is all about story. Psychology is something that always interests me more than how many moves or how fast/agile someone can be. Moxley’s body language and understanding of when and how to act in a match is what interests me about his wrestling. They don’t teach what he can do in the ring at some level.

    I never cared what other people said about Ambrose, and I never will. The same is true for why I like or don’t like any other wrestler. Ambrose is one of my favorite wrestlers right now because he captures my attention in a way that few others can. His mic work and psychological based wrestling will always make me appreciate him as a star in the making until he becomes that star or fails to do so.

  • SiD

    Judging by his WWE run, no one has seen anything special from him. But when you see his previous performances outside of WWE, and read this article, you realize that Good exists. Good article.

    • Jason “Dragon Saga” Patrick

      I see what you did there.

      • SiD

        Anyway, good article.

  • Joe Burgett

    So yeah, Ambrose is awesome in the ring, on the mic, and has a brilliant character. You may like or hate the man, I really don’t give a crap. Fans like him because he’s unique, and far different from what they see every day on their TV screen with any wrestling show, that includes your Indy ROH, JP. And your TNA, Jacob S. WWE was smart in grabbing him because he showed awesome potential on the Indys with organizations that really had very few stand out stars. CZW is just a hardcore place with rarely talented individuals. It’s a hardcore joint and they look for guys who fit that, like old ECW guys, just a new generational version. ECW hardly ever had talented ring workers barring maybe 10 people in the history of the company. And some of them were stars before they came in.

    Ambrose thrived differently in environments he should never had thrived in and I think that is to be praised. But screwing all of his Indy cred, and what he has done in FCW and on WWE TV, he has been amazing. You don’t have to be a fan of the Indys to respect what Ambrose is doing now, saying that makes someone a jackass. Can anyone safely say they heard of John Cena or The Miz, even Randy Orton ripping it up in the Indys before they came into WWE? No, wanna know why, they didn’t.

    Ambrose came up in a time when the Indys were highlighted well due to the Internet, we all know that. But, like I said, screwing everything he ever did on the Indys and JUST from what I’ve seen him do under the WWE Banner, he has been brilliant. You can also be an Indy star but fall down hard when you reach the big time, Low Ki anyone?

    It takes great ability and what one can do with that ability that makes them great. Ambrose is a PG edgy because he has to be, and he legally does everything right to make you think you’re watching a different show entirely. If WWE was full of people similar to him, WWE would be the only place to watch wrestling programming. But because he is a one in a million talent, many watch for him. Which is why people are fans of him online.

    But hey, I’m just saying

    • Jason “Dragon Saga” Patrick

      “Ambrose is awesome in the ring.”

      You seem to have misread my article. Hes never been awesome in the ring, good wrestler, but nobody has ever compared his wrestling ability to that of a Bryan, Punk, Aries, Angle or Joe. It’s his character, gruesome stunts and promos that got him over and got him noticed. Not his wrestling ability. I’ve seen one match from him I’d consider just below “great,” and it was his match with Jacobs in DGUSA. His matches with William Regal were very borderline.

      “Fans like him because he’s unique, and far different from what they see every day on their TV screen with any wrestling show, that includes your Indy ROH, JP.”

      Kevin Steen’s character is very similar, especially the character that got Steen over big a couple years back when he originally turned on Generico and went on his “descent into madness.” Not so much now as hes much more subtle but still, the promo style is there. Sami Callihan and Ambrose are basically the same character too, Callihan got over the same way, around the same time. And considering within the indy circles of wrestling, Callihan is getting bigger-and-bigger, hes thereabouts at the same height of popularity Jon was before being snapped up by WWE.

      • Joe Burgett

        Apparently you’ve never seen him wrestle Regal who is also considered, as you have mentioned before, to be pretty darn great in the ring. Saying he’s not awesome in the ring is subjective, but from what I saw him do with Seth Rollins in FCW and matches with others on the Indys before his WWE run, he’s pretty awesome to me. I don’t have to be fully invested in his entire Indy career to like him now as well. I didn’t particularly follow him as much as I did guys like Aries or Black. But that is pretty much because I had more access to those two.

        His character means nothing to me when I equate what he does in the ring. The added things he would do with that character such as the things he did with Rollins makes the matches better. But from a technical standpoint, you have to be kidding me if you say he’s not on a high level. Am I calling him the best in the world? No. There are guys better in the ring right now. Tell me this match does not show you how good to awesome Ambrose is in the ring. I dare you. Because if you even try you’d be a complete maroon. Simply because we’ve seen matches like this consistently. And this match, was the first time WWE fans who didn’t know of him before, got to see what he truly could do. Even in a losing effort he looked better than Rollins, who by many Indy critics, is one of the top wrestlers in the world. Yes, his character is good and it helps him in the ring. But that’s like saying Cena only uses his character in the ring. Yes, he has the 5 moves of doom but several other moves in his set

        Kevin Steen is a good character, but not nearly the level of an Ambrose. I’m sorry, he’s just not. Callihan I have nothing bad to say about, just that he and Ambrose are on different levels and Ambrose’s character while somewhat similar is not nearly as impactful. Why do you think guys like a Steen or Sami haven’t been added to FCW yet? It’s not a Richards situation where they denied signing from my knowledge. And WWE picked Ambrose and not Sami, what does that tell you?

        Btw, I use Ambrose because I like the name better.

        • Jason “Dragon Saga” Patrick

          As I mentioned in my first response to you, his matches with Regal were borderline. They didn’t even build it around the matches, they built it around a story. His match with Rollins is good, but not great. I’m personally not all that over on Rollins in WWE to tell you the truth, hes routinely sloppy and I’ve seen countless people bash him for it, people who would watch FCW weekly.

          I’ll agree that his character is much better when you take into account how he portrays it while actually wrestling, his mannerisms and facial expressions are really good addititives, but as a wrestler, again hes never been much of one and he never will be. I doubt even he would deny that. If he was he wouldn’t have needed CZW, the majority of his DGUSA matches wouldn’t have been hardcore or no disqualification. He was a brawler, not a great technical wrestler. A very good brawler mind you.

          And Steen is doing with his character two things Moxley couldn’t a) getting over and making money b) being in the main event. Jon Moxley had one main event run and it was with CZW. Steen has done so well hes had guys like The Rock compliment him several times over on Twitter, not to mention WWE Superstars such as Curt Hawkins have acknowledged they watch him on the indies.

          Sami is more inexperienced. Plus his style is much more unorthodox. He like Ambrose, couldn’t get over as a big wrestler who instead went the extremist “stuntman” route about it and etched his own name out of it. Now though, especially in DGUSA hes showing how great of a wrestler he is, and unlike Moxley hes having feuds based solely around wrestling, instead of going straight to the no DQ matches and stuff.

          You can try to argue with me on this all day long, you simply won’t win.

  • Kevin Berge

    So, this is the origin of God….

    • Jason “Dragon Saga” Patrick

      Apparently so.

  • Magic Sean

    Lol I like this man. I know people treating him like God himself annoys you a bit, so good job using dat emotion.

    Plus the guys story is interesting as hell, taught me a lot. I won’t ever become a super fan of his, but DAMN, the fella has talent and potential.

  • JacobStachowiak

    Why do ya gotta bash people for liking him? I like him (and in gimmick, love him like a God haha) and I already knew that he had to bust his ass in CZW and not ROH or bigger/nicer indy promotions like Punk or Samoa Joe. I mean, I might as well make an article where I bash the piss out of Punk fans. Would that go over well? No because it just be angry bitching, just like this except you’d do it better than me.

    I get it, you are one of his true fans blah blah that makes you a better fan of his than me cause I’m so blatantly ignorant for liking him without following his DragonUSA career. I get it. But lay off, let us enjoy him and if people are dumb enough to put him on a Cena-like pedistool than more power to Ambrose. I don’t think its bringing too much harm to him and the business if people want to believe he can be something. Maybe he’s a false hope to them or a savior like you said but just leave them be. They all said the same shit about Punk too.

    • Jason “Dragon Saga” Patrick

      Actually Punk debuted right as I got into wrestling forums, the main discussion surrounding him at first was how long It’d take for WWE to screw up, because a lot of fans were annoyed they debuted him as a face. The idea he would rise to the place he has now started after Survivor Series and even then people were questioning it.

      Also, this article didn’t really bash people who didn’t know him pre-WWE, it didn’t bash anyone. I mean sure, it bashed the unbelievable overhype surrounding him, especially in the third paragraph but asides from that I stated facts. Few people do know about him. In fact chances are the people who’ll read this will know more about him leaving than before they read it. Which was my goal, to get people invested in who he was and not what some people who “support” make him out to be.

      Consider it a history lesson of sorts.

      • JacobStachowiak

        Damn you and all that other shit that made sense. I still think Punk was put up as a God among men like Ambrose is but whatever, I didn’t crawl around forums to see what most fans thought.

        • Jason “Dragon Saga” Patrick

          The “God” stuff started with the SES. But thats because for the time they had that going Punk was the best thing on WWE television because he was pushing boundaries.