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Epitaph On A Champion

On Wednesday night, Kenny Omega won the All Elite Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship and literally ran off with IMPACT Wrestling Executive VP Don Callis, who promised Alex Marvez he would explain on IMPACT’s Tuesday show AXS TV. Pro wrestling fandom was ablaze with rumors and fantasies of what could come in the future. The last time social media circles worked themselves into such a frenzy was on May 1st, 2019. The night Jon Moxley, the man who had lost his title to Omega, announced his return.

IMPACT’s Don Callis hands over the AEW World title to new champion, Kenny Omega

The world is a much different place than it was when Moxley won the AEW Championship in February. Though it’s only been nine months, so much about not only pro wrestling but the world we live in has changed. In times of great change, people need guides to help shepherd them through cultural and psychological shifts. Jon Moxley not only helped guide AEW through uncertainty but became the bedrock of the promotion. He was the champion pro wrestling needed in its most erratic time.

When AEW launched in 2019, Moxley made his surprise debut, attacking Omega at the end of the Double or Nothing pay-per-view. He gave the company credibility, showing AEW was a serious competitor in the market. As Dean Ambrose, Moxley was a day-one main event talent in WWE, holding all of its championships, including a run with the WWE title in 2016. When Moxley announced his departure from the Stanford, CT monolith, many believed it would be the end of his professional wrestling career altogether. Instead, Moxley had intentions to work for Tony Khan, and to travel across the Pacific to work with New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Moxley’s run in NJPW’s 2019 G1 CLIMAX tournament showcased stark differences between the Ambrose character itself, which was often played for laughs on WWE television, and the new Jon Moxley, hard-hitting and intense. He changed up his offense to adjust to the NJPW in-ring style, though his charm and natural connection with fans he had earned from eight years in WWE was now stronger than ever. Even in more light-hearted moments that summer, like in his match with Toru Yano, Moxley showed off a side of himself that was fun but not foolish; Mox may not have won the G1, but he did win the IWGP United States Championship months later, plus the respect of NJPW’s hardcore fans. He was reborn in a promotion known more for its sport than its entertainment.

When Dynamite launched in October of 2019, Moxley and Omega picked up where they left off, building to one of the most violent and destructive matches seen in mainstream North America since ECW. Moxley came out of the feud as the victor and was immediately thrust into the title scene with World Champion Jericho. When the two met at the Revolution, many thought it was too early to take the title off Jericho. Others thought Moxley was just “another former WWE guy” and the wrong person to hold the belt. Some believed that Rhodes or Omega were better choices. But as Moxley held the platinum belt over his head, the sold-out Chicago crowd erupted. Two weeks later, everything changed.

Not since Harley Race has a traveling champion with such a man-of-the-people presence made their way through different territories carrying not only his championship but an entire company’s reputation on their shoulders.

As AEW struggled to find itself in the pandemic’s early days, the company leaned on its champion, who shifted his character from wild madman into a valiant everyman. Always a fantastic talker, Moxley’s promos became a hallmark of the show, highlighting the struggles of a champion trying to make sense of a chaotic world. He talked to people using human words. He spoke from the heart and, in the process, slew dragons like Brian Cage, Brodie Lee, and Lance Archer. He defeated the up-and-coming prodigy MJF and turned in one of the most captivating feuds in years with an epic war of words with Eddie Kingston. With each defense, people assumed it was time for Moxley to pass on the championship. But in the aftermath of each, it was obvious the title needed to stay with Mox. He was literally the top guy.

Even outside the company, Moxley carried himself as a champion. In Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport main event, Moxley entered The Collective and overshadowed everyone else who wrestled in that marathon weekend. He was a star. One can only imagine if the pandemic hadn’t happened and

Moxley as AEW champion could have traveled across the country and promotions. Not since Harley Race has a traveling champion with such a man-of-the-people presence made their way through different territories carrying not only his championship but an entire company’s reputation on their shoulders.

Jon Moxley

In the process, AEW managed to capture something that has eluded Moxley’s former employer for years: a relatable babyface champion. He wasn’t corporate or programed. He was a man opening small pieces of his heart to the fanbase every week. He even told us, the fans, that he would be father, while recalling a moment from his childhood in which his own father told him, “We’re the good guys.” It was a moment of raw reflection that isn’t often seen in pro wrestling.

While the Kenny Omega Era kicks off in AEW, Jon Moxley is still a top contender in the company, though this time around,  he’s a man wronged, like Charles Bronson in Death Wish. Now, he’s a vigilante fighting for vengeance.

There is clearly a renewed interest in not only AEW and IMPACT, but in pro wrestling around the world in general. And we couldn’t have got here without the stability provided by the one of best in the world. Cheers, Mox.

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